There's not much obvious evidence of WW2 where I live now, though just before I
wrote this I came across the little monument in the picture below, a
few miles away. There are however plenty of reminders of earlier
wars. Nearby Thouars played a major part in both the first Hundred
Years' War (the Capetian-Plantagenet wars of 1159-1259) and the
later, better known, Hundred Years' War of 1337-1465. The Wars of
Religion (1562-1598) were vicious here. Although the Battle of
Moncontour lasted only four hours on October 3
casualties are estimated at 6,000-8,000. That's about 3-4% of the
population of France at the time, though not all the combatants were
French: there were Swiss on the Catholic side, and Germans on the
Protestant side. For comparison, the population of the UK today is
roughly 60,000,000. Imagine a battle on British soil that led to
20,000 casualties in four hours. It puts terrorism into perspective.
Memorial to the Maquis (Resistance). The inscription translates as: In this place, in the summer of 1944, Alexandre Bouet, a farmer, transported and hid several tons of weapons and ammunition for the Maquis of Scévolles and the liberation of France.
the Thirty Years' War nor the Napoleonic Wars touched us too badly:
the actual battles were fought far away, in others' villages, towns
and fields. Here, women and children and the old were spared until
starvation claimed them. Distant battles were no guarantee of safety,
though: local war memorials from World War 1 typically list a dozen,
or two dozen, or three dozen or more dead from each tiny village.
Those in bigger towns and cities list scores and hundreds.
quite recently, most people lived in houses or hovels that burned
quickly and easily; they did not leave ruins like the gutted churches
that are seen in so many cities as 20
th century war
memorials. Local ruins here are much more likely to be the result of
what the French call
the disappearance of agricultural jobs and the consequent migration
from villages to towns and cities, though given the way historians
give the name "Hundred
Years' War" to a series of wars spanning 116 years and "Thirty
Years' War" to a series of wars from 1618 to 1648, we might as well
consider WW1 and WW2 as another Thirty Years' War: 1919-1939 was
never much more than a truce. There were after all plenty of truces,
cease-fires and lacunae during both Hundred Years' Wars.
. This is my garden beside the river, detached from the house.
The spheres on top of the water-gate are almost certainly artillery
balls, whether from the Hundred Years' War or the Wars of Religion.
In the former case they would have been fired by siege engines; in
the latter, by cannon. Either way, imagine one of these falling on
your house or rolling through the ranks of an army, crushing and dismembering men and horses.
has not yet been a single war between two members of the EU. Before
they joined the EU, yes. Non-EU members since the founding of the EU,
yes. But EU nations don't have wars with one another. There have been
the Irish Troubles, of course, and ETA in the Basque country. For
that matter, there have been Baader-Meihof and the Red Brigades. But
they haven't had access to tanks, bombers and heavy artillery.
They've not been able to destroy whole villages and towns and
slaughter the inhabitants. This sort of thing doesn't just belong to
a mediaeval past. In June 1944 it happened in
couple of hours' drive from where I live. Six hundred and forty two
people were killed by the SS. Many were burned alive. Look at that monument to the
Yes, the same
sort of thing happened in Vietnam. It's still going on today, in
Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. But it's easier to understand when you
live where it happened. My own comfortable house must stand on the
site of someone else's house that was burned or razed in or around
1371. Outside Karlovac in Croatia in 2008 my wife and daughter and I
saw perfectly ordinary 1960s or 1970s housing estates abandoned, the
walls perforated by tank fire and pocked by small arms rounds. Think
about that. Wife and daughter. What would war have done to them 30
years ago or 650 years ago? Suddenly 1371 is recent history. Whoever
lived here then almost certainly had a wife and children too. History (war) lies
thick on the ground.
The EU isn't perfect. Nor is it the sole reason there have not been
more European wars since 1945. No-one pretends it is. But it is
infinitely better than war, and it is a major contributory factor in