As someone who has an instinctive aversion to over-praising members of the military (indeed, as someone who cannot help but shudder inwardly every time 'our brave boys' are invoked), I was more than a little surprised that the commemoration of the D-Day landings, which took place last week, brought a tear to my eye.
Arlette Gondrée, a beautiful woman, strikingly dressed in a knitted jacket with a faultless neck-chief, the epitome of Normandy style, stands proudly, having provided us with a delicious home cooked lunch, full of traditional flavours from the region, I slowly gather my thoughts examining the abundance of memorabilia in this sanctuary.
The blurb for the brand new book Out of the West, by Kevin Sullivan, is really very bad. The first sentence lost me immediately as it mentioned two Greek names - both of which I instantly forgot - and then it describes their convoluted love affair in WW2 Greece, with some action taking place in Scotland.
My book about Rudolph Hess is largely based on unofficial archives researched and collected by historians and conspiracy buffs in Britain, Germany, America and Central Europe. I was surprised enough when Scotland Yard's release of the secret report under Freedom of Information legislation coincided with the publishing of my novel Death Order.
World War Two has become an epic of nostalgia entirely disconnected from the cause of anti-fascism, the sacrifices made by the Red Army on the Eastern Front once again hidden from history. Stalingrad, forgotten, scarcely meriting a mention in the mainstream media despite its fixation with all things WW2.
The estate of Bletchley Park can be found, enjoying regal respite, on lavish greens in Buckinghamshire. To the casual observer, there is nothing at all captivating about the site. But to the historian, or, fortunately, many a charming survivor of the old British Empire, this extensive manor is not merely a ramshackle corporation, it is the soul of our nation, hollowed ground, and the very embodiment of that uniquely British spirit, of resilience.
It's impossible to know even a fraction of the personal stories, or the tales of individual acts of patriotism and valour that went on in those four horrendous years, and with the death of Harry Patch in 2009, the First World War has now all but passed out of living memory. But that doesn't mean that we can't be grateful for the collective, incalculable sacrifice that was made so that we've got freedom now.