‘Re­mem­ber those of last 500 years’


IN the last few days let­ters in these columns have rightly drawn at­ten­tion to the va­ri­ety of fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the de­feat of Nazi Ger­many.

This cor­re­spon­dence is a re­sult of this be­ing the week of the cen­te­nary of the Ar­mistice which ended the First World War.

It should be re­mem­bered that these have been only the most re­cent and de­struc­tive con­flicts dev­as­tat­ing the re­gion.

Look­ing back­wards, in 1870 the Prus­sians de­feated France at Sedan – a vic­tory which united the Ger­man states into one, with earth­shak­ing re­sults.

From 1792 to 1815, the armies of the French Revo­lu­tion and Napoleon were used in ex­pan­sion­ist wars – which ended at Water­loo in Bel­gium.

Sev­eral times Louis XIV had sent armies to in­vade the Low Coun­tries and been de­feated by Wil­liam III and the Duke of Marl­bor­ough.

In the 30 Years’ War – 1618 to 1648 – France, Spain and the Dutch con­tested the area. A gen­er­a­tion ear­lier Philip II of Spain’s ef­forts to con­quer the Dutch and dom­i­nate North­ern France caused thou­sands of deaths.

Be­fore him, in the 15th Cen­tury, the Dukes of Bur­gundy had fought French mon­archs for rich towns on the banks of the Somme. Amiens and Cam­brai are not new names in mil­i­tary his­tory.

In short, only for the last 70-plus years has blood not soaked the soil of what is now re­mem­bered as the Western Front.

In the 20th Cen­tury more was shed be­cause big­ger armies with bet­ter weapons were in­volved.

It is a fair guess that more blood has been shed, in terms of gal­lons per square mile, in that rel­a­tively small re­gion than any­where else in the world.

Let us spare a thought this month for all those who have died vi­o­lently there in the last 500 years.

Our an­ces­tors died with­out record and with­out their kin know­ing. They have no memo­rial, but they suf­fered just as much.

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