My love of books is a gift from my father as is my fascination with history. The easiest thing to do at Christmas is to exchange books. Yesterday, I went into Books etc to look for a Christmas present. I bought him John O’Farrell’s “An Utterly Impartial History of Britain“, which is a wry, humorous book about the panoply of British history (only 479 pages long!). However, it’s not this book I want to write about but a little “extra” book I bought for him.
Entitled “Instructions for British Servicemen in France 1944“, it was written for our troops to acquaint themsleves with France and its people before they liberated France. Flicking through it in the shop, it looked quite amusing. While my father did not fight in the war he was born before the war and many of his childhood memories are of the war.
It’s not very long (55 pages) and is like a small note book. In honesty, I bought it for a bit of a laugh, but reading it made me think again. The whole tone is one of sympathy and respect for the French, exhorting our troops to treat the French with courtesy and honour. It’s wonderful to read. It explains a bit about French history and culture, together with some political background.
It made me rather ashamed of some of the stereotypes that we can have both of foreigners and of our fore-bearers. These were wonderful men who gave their lives so others, including ourselves, could live in freedom. I also want to honour the French, who resisted Hilter, some paying the ultimate price. We must never forget or belittle that generation for what they gave to us. It makes me rather proud to be British.