In November 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, I was solving trematode life cycles in the Marine Biological Station at Plymouth. Before the fighting began I had received an impressive-looking form from the Royal Society asking for details of my qualifications, and announcing that as a scientist I was placed in a reserved occupation and could not volunteer for any form of national service should hostilities commence. I therefore continued with my work (I had already qualified as an air-raid warden) with a patriotic sideline: producing chicken feed made from seaweed. I recall that the product I concocted gave me horrible hiccups.

The laboratory was totally unprepared for any form of aerial attack. The director, Stanley Kemp, adopted the view that (a) there would be no bombing from the air in this war, and (b) if there was aerial bombing Plymouth would escape it. Why? Because it...

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