Europe & Passion
Having recently returned from our summer sailing holiday and before starting our European rail odyssey I reflect on the Brexit vote and why I’m so very upset about it. I’m a passionate europhile and have been for as long as I can remember. Why? Well, in part I’ve enjoyed a reasonably successful career which has been, in no small way, enabled by the ease of doing business which the EU provided. I also may have listened to all the countless experts advising against Brexit. But that doesn’t explain the passion, for that you have to go back to childhood. My father was conscripted into the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade on 13th June 1940 and demobilized on 16th July 1946. He was a desert rat, part of Seventh Armoured Division and fought in North Africa at Tobruk, El Alamein and in many other battles too. Then he took part in the first of two amphibious assaults at Salerno in Italy and fought his way up via Naples to Sorrento. Then he landed in Normandy on D-Day +1 and fought through Villers Bocage, Caen and on finally to Hamburg. I learnt all his war stories at his knee. The only story he was reluctant to tell was of Belsen, the horror must have been too much.
So having fought the Germans and Italians and experienced such horror, you might imagine he’d had enough of Europe? Not a bit of it. My childhood holidays were caravanning all over Europe. Dad simply loved Europe and loved the people. Everywhere we went dad could be found sharing a beer or wine with Germans, French, Italians. I remember him drinking with two Germans of roughly the same age. When one of them didn’t want to talk about his war, dad reached across the table and pulled up his sleeve to reveal the SS tattoo. “Macht nichts, it doesn’t matter” dad said. That was the past and it was important to be friends, work together and ensure it doesn’t happen again. And I guess some of that rubbed off on me.