“In 1938 I took a degree (at the University of St Andrews)...specialising in French and German language and literature...(and) I became the recipient of an exchange scholarship for 1938/9 at the University of Frankfurt...Early in November 1938 I was awakened in the middle of the night by noises and the sight of flames reflected on my bedroom ceiling. I thought the house was on fire. In fact it was the synagogue at the back of the house...it having been set alight as part of the well known ‘Reichskristall’ night...the stepping up of the persecution of the Jews in Germany.
“Early one morning in March 1939 I was awakened by...huge squadrons of German military aircraft heading east. I’d never seen so many aircraft in the sky before ...it was the invasion of what was left of Czechslovakia. There were a number of us...exchange students...we gathered that morning and decided that a scenario might develop within hours as a result of which we would face internment, and so we prepared ourselves mentally for that. But it didn’t come to war there and then...I came back as planned in August 1939, just a couple of weeks before the war actually began.
“I volunteered for the Royal Artillary...I found myself in October 1940 down in Berkshire at Arborfield heavy anti-aircraft training centre. Within a few weeks we were in action firing...at the planes attacking London.
“A notice appeared...asking for volunteers with a knowledge of European countries and languages....to transfer to the Intelligence Corps...After successful completion of the training course we came to be lined up for the passing out and posting ceremony...I heard with astonishment ‘49 Field Security Section, Fort William’!
“In September 1944 I was posted to Brussels and then Nijmegen...This was a life of several weeks of static warefare...I remember once...having a conversation with a Dutch village Burgomaster...when all of a sudden we heard a shell coming in. The next second it exploded beside us...Fortunately it had gone into a ditch which was deep in mud and water, but the force of the explosion knocked us on our backs...that was a very near miss.
“In March 1945...we crossed the Rhine at Wesel...everything reduced to rubble and the smell of death in the air.
“Near Lübeck we had to bed down for the night...we chose a small farm house...In the middle of the night a shot rang out. There was immediate alarm, but it was the farmer, who’d killed himself. It turned out...he was the local Nazi party boss...and he hadn’t been able to accept that the war was (virtually) over.
“When we reached Kiel...it was still smoking. People were wondering the streets in a dazed condition. There had obviously been an air raid just a short time before. We were told that the prime minister Winston Churchill was furious...Because we were in the city an 800 bomber raid had to be called off. We had to get to work immediately. The Gestapo in Kiel...their records were still on fire as we occupied their offices...One of the cellars was stacked from floor to ceiling with books...We discovered that they had been libraries of people who had been opposed to National Socialism and had probably ended their days in concerntration camps...”