Last night’s Liverpool versus Borussia Dortmund game marked a wonderful moment of sporting unity. Not only did both sets of supporters sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ with full and hearty voices, but the shared minute’s silence amongst some 44,000 British and German fans in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy was both moving and dignified.
One hundred years ago this month there was no such unity or any dignified silence in France.
Several hundred thousand British and Imperial troops of the Third and Fourth Armies were preparing for a full scale assault on the rapidly fortifying German lines by the river Somme. The German army had been ‘bleeding the French white’ at the fortress city of Verdun to the south. The Somme offensive would be a necessary diversion but became one of the greatest disasters in British military history.
British soldiers would find themselves passing through the same fields and lanes just under thirty years later, towards the end of the second of the great conflicts which defined the last century.
Today, what unites Europeans far outweighs what divides us. Our shared culture, values and laws stem mostly from the time when Europe was known differently, as Christendom. The roots of this heritage go deep and give us all much common ground. OSH, itself, benefits from a small but vibrant body of continental Europeans who come from Spain and France, Italy, Romania and Slovakia. These pupils bring a commitment to participate in and contribute to School life. This, they share with their British counterparts whilst bringing to classrooms and boarding houses a different but welcome perspective and a wonderful sense of humour.
British children make friendships with them that then continue for many years after they have moved on and reciprocal visits are not uncommon.
Whilst we can’t say which way our country will vote in the forthcoming referendum, our association with the Europe of values, culture and heritage will undoubtedly continue. What unites us far outweighs what divides us. Liverpool won 4-3, by the way. Another great comeback.