War is, for those of us fortunate enough to live in the UK or mainland Europe, something that nowadays happens somewhere else. We haven’t done any serious warmongering since 1945, although our armed forces have been involved in a variety of conflicts around the globe. And we remember both world wars, every year, in honour of the fallen, and the hope that it never happens again.
The Cenotaph, Whitehall
But this is not enough for some, especially the tedious Max “Hitler” Hastings, self-styled liberator of Port Stanley, another whose services have been found surplus to requirements at the Maily Telegraph, and who now churns out his copy in the service of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail. Hastings wants more anniversaries to be celebrated.
First, though, he wants to whinge about Hollywood. This is because of war movies, which Hastings has belatedly realised favour the view that the USA did it all, aided by a few plucky locals. Well, they’re the ones calling the shots, because they’re the ones putting up the money. It was ever thus. But – something to which I’ll return – we don’t do ourselves any favours in that department.
So what’s with the anniversaries? Well, Max wants us to commemorate the start of the Great War in 1914, the centenary of which is fast approaching. Why? Because the dastardly garlic-chomping French are doing it. And good for them say I. But the French celebrate all manner of occasions that we do not, and vice versa. How many war anniversaries does he want us to mark?
Historically we remember on November 11, that being the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the guns fell silent in 1918. Does he want us to add the start of World War 2 as well? How many more? Korea? The Crimea? We could add a few battles as well: the Somme, el Alamein, Jutland, Monte Cassino, Arnhem, Midway, Okinawa, Stalingrad and Waterloo are all candidates.
The Merlin ... history forgotten
No, the only reason for Hastings’ tedious rant is that he is writing a book on the subject, and goodness, does he bang on about it. But let me return to that retelling of history, and bring it back to right here in Crewe. On the way out to Leighton Hospital from the town centre is a new build pub. It’s called the Merlin. Outside is a pub sign depicting Merlin the magician.
What connection does he have with Crewe? None. Zero. Not a sausage. The sole connection between the word “Merlin” and Crewe is that the engine that powered the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster was built in its thousands at the then Rolls-Royce factory on Pyms Lane. The USA didn’t stop people forgetting their town’s greatest contribution to the war effort. That is our own fault, and ours alone.
Maybe Max Hastings should direct his future efforts a little closer to home.