The other day I walked through Battle and noted a number of children disembarking from a coach parked at The Green. They were all from French schools, based on my tenuous grasp of the French tongue. Evidently they had come to rub our Saxon noses in the fact that their forefathers slaughtered ours here 950 years ago. Come October they will be back in even larger numbers to re-enact the whole event as usual. I wonder if there is a reciprocal arrangement at Agincourt?
Recently I watched a ‘legends’ football match on TV, between England and Germany. It was to celebrate 50 years since we beat them in the World Cup. Some of us still recall the event. Not surprisingly the German team took it all very seriously, fielding a squad of ex-professionals, whilst the English squad contained a large number of comics. The English thought it was going to be a light hearted re-enactment of the 1966 thriller. The German’s had not surprisingly come to spoil the party. Who can blame them? In front of 30,000 baying English fans they put the English to the sword 2-7. It didn’t really matter
Every 10 years, old soldiers gather in Flanders or Normandy to commemorate one or other of the two World Wars. Not a glorious re-enactment this, but a sharing of sadness for past aggression. War is not a pretty thing and it does matter.
Wars, be they in 1066 or the Twentieth Century, are caused by a small number of power-seeking individuals misleading a whole nation into fighting a neighbouring one. This, rather than economic benefits, was the initiator of what we now call the EU. The thinking was that countries that have close trading relations are less likely to go to war. Unfortunately the British government of the time did not share the same ideology. It was only once our empire had crumbled around us and we found ourselves in a sad economic state, that we belatedly asked if we could join in the European project.
Over the last 40 odd years the UK has thrived economically and socially. As we have become more integrated into Europe, so the likelihood of us ever going to war with our European neighbours has diminished. Unfortunately the politics of greed and jingoism are threatening to reverse this process through Brexit.
What a pity it took over 900 years for European countries to work together in close political harmony. Had the EU existed in 1066 there might never have been 10 or 20,000 dead on Senlac Hill, let alone the millions involved in European Wars since.
As our children move freely around Europe, working and studying with fellow Europeans, so they will learn to respect and celebrate their differences. In Battle of all places, those who can still recall the misery of wars, or who heard of it first hand from their parents, should discourage divisions based on nationalism, and put their energy into improving, not obstructing, the European dream.