Author Clive Birch talks about

Eduard (Ted) and me

The second world war worried me. I was too young to fight but too old to ignore it. When my friend’s brother died at Arnhem, I hated Hitler. When war broke out my father had ground my models of the man and his acolytes underfoot, but I saved the Wermacht troopers. After the war I went to Normandy, and saw piles of tanks. In one of them I found the names of the crew. Ordinary people, just like me – and just like those Wermacht toy soldiers.

Yet when the doodlebugs droned, they were exciting, and the D-Day gliders were emblems of glory I didn’t quite understand. It was all rather puzzling to a youngster brought up on the Armada, Waterloo and Empire. It wasn’t much clearer after two years’ On His Majesty’s Service, blancoing my webbing, burnishing my boots and skiving off fatigues as I counted the days to freedom.

Small wonder then that I opted out of the family business and London to take my chance as a teaboy on a north of England newspaper. My girlfriend had dumped me for a married US sergeant, my father introduced me as ‘my son [long pause] I’m afraid he’s a journalist’, and most of my friends were older – and had had ‘a good war’.

German 'Doodlebug' - V1 Flying BombWorld War II German 'Doodlebug' - V1 Flying Bomb I was in a hurry. Offered indentures, I turned them down and was sacked. On reserve military service I saw an old ad, applied, got a news job as a junior reporter in Kent, and a new girl. She lived near Chesham in south Bucks. So I found another job, as chief reporter, covering the nearby ‘new town’ of Hemel Hempstead. My editor said ’New town? What new town? It’ll never happen’, I disagreed, was fired again, and that’s how I found Chesham – and Ted.