Author Beryl Kingston has used her wartime childhood for the latest book written in her Aldwick home.
Citizen Armies became her 30th book when it was published on Monday – the day before the anniversary of the start of the Second World War. It focuses on a family where the 1914-1918 veteran father is a warden, his wife is an ambulance driver and their two daughters are nurses.
Beryl, 88, said:
“I kept diaries when I was seven to 19 and so I know how people spoke in the war and what they thought.
“There was a lot of bravery and a lot of kindness but people just carried out with their ordinary lives.”
She lived in Tooting, south London, in the war and watched the capital’s victory parade as a child. A newspaper headline of the occasion still resonates with her today.
“There were armies from around the world there and, in the middle of the parade, there were civilians like air raid wardens and ambulance drivers.
“They got a large cheer because everyone knew they had been out in London every night of the war. A lot of them had been killed and also wounded.
“A newspaper headline the next day read: ‘Citizen Armies On The March’ and I kept that in my diary,” said Beryl.
She also recalled comments from a member of the citizen armies who spoke of helping a man badly injured in an air raid.
“She was trained to never get in a panic, never be upset or cry and she didn’t even when she saw this man’s face had been blown off and his eyes, nose and mouth were just little black holes.
“She wrote that, afterwards, she got changed, was sick and went home. That was bravery of the highest order and she expressed it in simple words.”
Beryl has also undergone a personal emergency in the past year. She suffered a severe heart attack last September and had six stents inserted in her arteries to restore her to full health.
She has started on her next novel – about an obnoxious politician with big blond hair – and has plans for enough to last until she is 100.
“I love writing books,” she said. “It’s easy because I get in with the characters. I only write about characters I like and that’s half the secret of my books.
“I write every day for nine months after I have started a book. I spent three months researching it and do a lot more research when I am writing.
“Everything in it has got to be right. If not, someone will pick me up on it.”
Beryl’s first novel, Hearts and Coronets, was published in 1985. She spent three years writing it and working as Felpham Community College’s head of English.
“I was a teacher for 35 years and I’ve been a writer for 38 years,” said Beryl, who has two daughters, five grandchildren and ten great-grand-daughters.
“I’ve never regretted giving up teaching. I do miss the children but I don’t miss the forms I was supposed to fill in.”
Beryl’s previous book, Everybody’s Somebody, was also published in paperback on Monday.