Like many “war babies”, Stephen’s experiences encompass childhood memories of World War II and of being called up for National Service as a young man during the Cold War.
He recalls the “musty smell and the smell of paraffin lamps” in his family’s suburban Anderson shelter. His neighbourhood showed the signs of war: a cuboid brick-built shelter stood near his home, and a static water tank to supply water for dealing with incendiary bombs stood at a junction in the area. Aged four, he was taken by his father to see a German plane that had made a pancake landing on allotments in Chesterton. No one was hurt and the crew had bailed out after coming under fire from London.
Stephen went to do his National Service in a hospital at RAF Debden, which was being used as a police training centre. The “mini hospital” was attached by a long corridor to a “bunker” intended for the treatment of the casualties of chemical or atomic attack. It was never used, and Stephen says the corridor leading to it was used for indoor running exercises.
Stephen now sees National Service as “a significant part of my education”, although he undertook it with reluctance.