Unthinkable? Treating the second world war like any other Editorial

18th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

in what sense is it right to make one battle or war the defining moment of British history?Last year was the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the second world war. This year we have just had the 70th anniversary of the start of the Blitz. Bentley Priory, the country house in Stanmore, north-west London, from where the RAF commanded the Battle of Britain, is to be restored to its wartime state complete with the large map over the ballroom dance floor. War veterans battle a tube strike to see a Spitfire fighter and Lancaster bomber fly over St Paul's and we are told the spirit of the Blitz is still alive. There are letters in the Times disputing whether German radar was far ahead of that in Britain, and arguments about the proposed statue honouring Bomber Command. ITV is making another documentary on the Battle of Britain. All of which is well and good, but how long can we keep on commemorating the same events with the same intensity? It is true that the Battle of Britain has a special resonance, recalling those virtues bravery, stoicism, self-discipline which seem particularly lacking in today's self-obsessed society. Until, that is, an event like 7/7 occurs and the same qualities are shown by people who had no experience of the Blitz. So in what sense is it right to make one battle or war the defining moment of British history? There is plainly still much unfinished business in eastern Europe to work through from that dark period, but in Britain it is surely time to stop making an industry out of living in the past, and honour the sacrifices made in that war as we would any other.Second world warThe blitzBritish identity and societyguardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions More Feeds

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