A BOLTON professor whose life’s work was inspired by a wartime bombing raid which once brought him to the attention of the feared East German secret police has been honoured.

David Childs was presented with the Cross of the German Order of Merit by the German ambassador at a ceremony held in the German embassy.

He received the honour in recognition of years of academic and journalistic work in helping people to understand Germany in the post war era.

Professor Childs has met some of the leading figures in German and British politics, including the late Margaret Thatcher, East German leaders Egon Krenz and Walter Ulbricht, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, anti-Hitler pastor Martin Niemoller and General Hans Speidel, who, after being adjutant to Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, became Commander-in-Chief of NATO ground forces in Central Europe.

The 79-year-old’s interest in Germany stemmed from when he was a boy during the Second World War.

The professor, who was born in Ainsworth Lane, Tonge Moor, was aged only seven when, in January, 1941, two bombs fell close to his home and narrowly missed the Odeon cinema — which was full at the time.

The incident stayed with him throughout his life, and he said: “It’s where it started.”

He began to watch war films, which inspired him to think about the people involved and how they were perceived, and he went on to do research on post-war German social democracy at Hamburg University.

He joined the Department of Politics of Nottingham University in 1966 after working as a journalist for ATV, and later discovered a lecture he gave at Dundee University in 1981 — where he forecast the downfall of Communist East Germany — had brought him to the attention of ths Stasi, the infamous state secret police.

He retired as emeritus professor in 1994, but continued to write and lecture on German affairs.

His son, Martin, said: “We’re all exceptionally proud. It is something he has spent his life doing.”

Professor Childs still delivers lectures to voluntary and educational groups about Germany.

He said: “I really felt pleased indeed, especially for my family.

“They had to sacrifice quite a bit as I travelled a lot to Germany, so I am pleased for them as much as I am for me.”