Kids, Keep The Tanks Of The Roundabouts!

I HOPE to God that my kids never have to confront their own D-Day but, increasingly, I worry that they might.

A WW2 tank monument on a roundabout in France

MAYBE IT’S JUST a sign of ageing, but I have been thinking more and more about another world war lately. 

I think it’s partly a result seeing my son and daughter growing up so fast. Officially, by August this year, we will be a household of four adults, and young adults are the people who will have to sort out our problems in future. 

It’s also the constantly accumulating evidence of my own mortality – like finding it harder to run, and the continued presence of someone who looks a bit like my Dad (and my Grandads) in the mirror.

These things make me realise that  I am, militarily speaking, way past it and that it won’t be me and my generation who are called upon to respond, if another catastrophe does occur.

No-one past the age of 40 was conscripted in Britain at the start of World War Two and, even allowing for the fact that 50 (and now 60) is the new 40, I reckon I am Dad’s Army material at best. 

So, logically, frighteningly, that makes my son and daughter’s generation responsible for responding to the daunting-seeming challenges of the future, just like my grandparents faced up to Dunkirk, El Alamein, and D-Day. 

D-Day is, of course, front of mind at the moment for anyone with even a shred of interest in history or politics. This morning, I heard a story on the radio about a boy of 16 who somehow talked himself into the wartime Army, and was one of the first Paras killed after the landings 75 years ago tomorrow.

He was roughly the age of my son, who isn’t quite ready to save the world just yet. In fact, he can’t even be relied upon to tell me that we need some more milk for his breakfast after he chugs it all. 

So it’s not a nice thought, wondering how your youngest would get on if he had to go and fight like his great-grandad. 

But why am I being so gloomy? Partly, I think it is the D-Day commemorations, which feel just a bit less glorious and reassuring than usual, with a man like Trump rocking up to represent the US at them.

If another war started with a Bad Guy like him in office, could America really be trusted to be on the side of the Good Guys again?

Also, it was Nationalism that drove The World to war twice before, so the mushrooming of Nationalists like Trump scares me.

Look: we see them winning support in Russia, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, and even here under Farage. Where on Earth will they take us, if we allow them to?

I’m scared about North Korea and Iran, of Climate Change and the next ISIS. But also, I’m scared of Brexit and the collapse of the European project, which has helped keep generations of our children safe since the year after D-Day. 

In Normandy, which I cycled across a couple of years ago, the last war is very much part of the fabric of life still.

There are hundreds of signposts to the landing beaches and to hushed, pristine War Graves, bearing the names and the bodies of slaughtered, unfortunate young from across the world. 

In Avranches, I stayed at the Hotel Patton, named after the World War Two general who led the US Third Army there. My room looked out onto a roundabout decorated with a US tank that once marauded around the wet, hilly Normandy countryside, looking for young Germans to kill. 

I read a lot of history and I often found myself trying to picture the tremendous, world-inverting scale of the fighting taking place in the countryside I was riding through.

I imagined the massed boats, tanks, ordnance and humanity racing around these same places, bent on confronting and killing one another.

It might just be an ageing man’s nightmare or paranoia, but I can also imagine a war like that coming nearer.

Is it too much to hope that, in the future, my kids will be putting flowers and cheerful art on our roundabouts, with not a tank in sight? 

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