JOHN Henry Meller, 95, has incredible memories of wartime Britain, from growing up in Warrington, to serving his country in the Second World War.

Now, 75 years after flying into combat for the first time, he has published his memoirs of life in the RAF Bomber Command, flying in a Lancaster Bomber.

John was a wireless operator in 1945 in 149 and 15 Squadron.

He became one of the lucky aircrew members who survived one of the most dangerous wartime roles.

His illustrated memoir, The Boy With Only One Shoe, is dedicated to the 55,573 RAF Bomber Command aircrew who lost their lives.

John's daughter, Caroline Brownbill, helped to collate her dad's memories into a 300-page walk through history.

She explained: "It was my husband who persuaded my dad to write his memoirs.

"At the time, our daughter was quite young and my husband really wanted her to grow up and know what her grandad had done.

"As a family, we said how much the Second World War changed women's roles, and having a granddaughter my dad wanted her to know how pivotal it had been."

John lived in Winwick Street, Warrington, with his brother and sister, in a terraced house with a tobacconist shop front, which their mum owned and ran.

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Many years later, John's stand-out memories of growing up here was the milkman, a farmer from a nearby dairy farm, who would travel into the town on a horse-drawn cart.

As a young boy, John would wait for him outside his house with a jug, into which the milkman would pour exactly one pint of milk.

John also remembers the sound of workers' wooden clogs on the streets in the morning as they trickled into factories.

He attended Christ Church CE Primary School, which was then known as Padgate CE, and has happy memories of his time there, especially Mr Rice, the head master.

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"The school leaving age at that time was 14 so Mr Rice helped my dad to get an apprenticeship," Caroline said.

"But prior to that, he went to the trouble of buying extra books so my dad could go onto more advanced subjects.

"The school even had its own apiary and they used to take the classes out and teach them about the bees.

"My dad remembers that the head master called him and another boy into his office one day and said, rather than doing their usual woodwork classes, they could make an apiary observation shelter so the classes could go and sit in there to watch the bees."

John joined the RAF aged 18 in 1943.

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Because being part of the aircrew was one of the most dangerous roles in the Second World War, you had to volunteer to be considered.

Caroline said: "My dad passed all the aptitude tests to be offered a role as a pilot or a navigator but two weeks later, when he got his letter, all those jobs had been taken because there was a large influx of volunteers from around the world.

"My dad remembers being quite disappointed but also in awe of the fact that these lads from all over the world, who were not living in a war zone, were coming in and taking on these roles.

"He could still have waited to be a pilot or a navigator but they said there would be a long delay- a close friend of his literally qualified right as the war had ended.

"But he could still join as a wireless operator or a gunner.

"He was desperate to get going, as a young lad, and he couldn't wait to get in there and protect his country."

John started his training as a wireless operator and was finally ready for combat in 1945.

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Caroline said: "The war ended on May 8 and my dad first went into combat in February.

"It was only three months, but that was a long time for aircrew to survive.

"A lot of crews would go down in their first ever flight.

"They were so lucky."

In one unforgettable flight, John and the crew were flying over Berlin when they got caught in the German searchlights and anti-aircraft guns started firing at their Lancaster Bomber.

A fire broke out, both inside the aircraft and the inner port engine, and the crew was instructed to get ready to parachute out, down into the explosions below.

John remembers reciting the Lord's Prayer when the searchlight suddenly went out and they were plunged into darkness.

The pilot managed to shut down the engine which was alight and the fires inside the aircraft had also been put out.

Thankfully clouds arrived to obscure the Lancaster Bomber from view, allowing the crew to return to base.

Against the odds, the crew was safe with no injuries, but the plane was beyond repair.

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In May, the announcement of VE Day was one of mixed emotions for the aircrew.

"In Europe, most people really did believe the war was over because that was the main one which was affecting the UK," Caroline said.

"But, for all the others who were going to carry on, it was not.

"They were then starting their training to go out to Japan, so for them, the war wasn't over."

Inbetween training, John helped with the efforts to bring home prisoners of war.

Just as the training was completed, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and by August 14, the Second World War had officially ended.

When VJ Day was announced, the rest of John's crew demobbed but he remained in the RAF to stay near his future wife, Barbara.

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They married in 1949 and John left the RAF in 1950, when he joined the Metropolitan Police Force.

John and Barbara now live near Cardiff and recently celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.

They have two children, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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In 2012, John attended the unveiling ceremony of the long awaited Bomber Command Memorial, and shook hands with Prince Charles.

The Boy With Only One Shoe, which contains personal photographs, is available to buy on Amazon.

The book's website can be found at

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