I was a war baby, born during the Blitz in the heart of the industrial midlands of Great Britain, raised on rations and rare black-market treats. I grew up amidst the sounds and sights of wartime and immediate postwar Britain – the air-raid sirens, the ack-ack, the throbbing roar of massed bomber formations overhead, American dance-band music (emanating from my teenage sister’s bedroom), the blackout (‘put that ruddy light out!’), my father in his Home Guard sergeant’s uniform cleaning his rifle on the kitchen table, the bombed-out ruins everywhere, the ubiquitous prefabs that replaced them, my father showing me capsized ships in Liverpool docks, having a Union Jack thrust into my little hand on VE-Day and being told to run up and down our street waving the flag and cheering, while the grown-ups drank and embraced and danced in joyous celebration – all these things would leave me profoundly influenced by the Second World War for the rest of my life and affirmed my resolve to write about that era whilst it remains vividly in my mind.