Four years after the Second World War, when I was knee high to a grasshopper, my Dad George (Snr) would take me for a Sunday morning stroll through Liverpool City centre where devastation from the Blitz was still evident. Dad, an Auxiliary Fireman throughout those terrible days would relate stories about firefighting episodes. And on a rainy Sunday, he’d show me the eclectic collection of water colours and sketches he’d created throughout the war.
When he died, relatively young and unexpectedly a few years later, his artwork was nowhere to be found. It was many years later, while taking a last look around the family home, that I climbed into the loft, to find in the gloom an ancient tea-chest full of old magazines.
Buried under them, was a cardboard box containing two books, one an old, hard-backed exercise book packed with the pictures I’d seen as a child. The second, an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) Training Manual, with cartoons illustrating the lighter side of Dad’s experiences in the fire service during the Liverpool Blitz. And an old anti-gas tin box with little pots of water colours. It was treasure.
It took a further 30 years before I could start on the project. Six years of research including visits to Ramsgate where dad was born, and to Liverpool to where he relocated – and I was born. Then I began writing…
I’d particularly like to mention my gratitude to the late Simon Ryan, a trustee of the Merseyside Heritage and Education Centre, for fact-checking the sections covering AFS activities and incidents during World War Two.
Flights of Fantasy was published at the end of 2019, shortly after which I had my first radio interview, ever, with Helen Jones of BBC Radio Merseyside…
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