Every here and there our peaceful tour through Europe held reminders of the war. Hardly surprising, because making our way up the North Sea Coast we were tracing the line of potential invasion sites.
The most sinister of these was at Esquelbec in France, where the occupying Germans used forced labour to construct a massive blockhouse from which to launch V2 missiles at London.
An allied air raid set back the cause and this blockhouse was liberated before any of the rockets – brainchild of Werner von Braun, hero of the American space race – could be launched.
This is a VI, lots of which were launched.
Just as I was thinking how modern this looked, not like ancient history at all, one of our group Crash Sally commented how scary these had been when she was a little girl in London during the war!
Those of us of a mathematical bent proceeded to work out her age.
Why is it that when I was a small boy the second world war seemed like a very long time ago, whereas now, 45 years later, it seems like just the other day?
A possible explanation is that our subjective assessment of time operates in terms of what we have experienced personally, ie our lifetime thus far.
So in 1967 when I was eleven years old the end of the war was a whole lifetime before I was born. Now, in 2012, the end of the war was a mere one fifth of a a lifetime before I was born. It’s got closer!
In Esquelbec we came across this church:
Looking more closely at the various memorial plaques – the result of far too many wars – this one stood out because it was in English:
Looking this up later, it turned out that retreating Welsh soldiers from Lllandudno were captured by the SS and shot in a barn in the village. Just the other day!
Our tour didn’t go to any of the many first world war battle sites. What we saw were remnants of the second world war, like these bunkers just just North of the Hague, built to repel the invasion that eventually came from Normandy:
I was left scared. Within living memory, Europe was convulsed by the worst war ever. It made the present Europe of happy cyclists look incredibly fragile. How long have we got to enjoy the friendly cafes and medieval towns before it all comes crashing down again?