In last June, a group of pupils from Eton College had the privilege of staying a full week in a German bunker on a Normandy’s beach, while outside the setting of the Overlord Operation was recreated thanks to fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices. This immersion in the traumatic German experience of D-Day – the idea of their history teacher, Mr Montgomery – was intended to give our country’s young elite, besides some basic knowledge of World War II, a vivid, metaphoric representation of the current financial state of the UK, and to make them be aware of the kind of virtues they will be expected to show, as leaders, to tackle the economic recession.
The bunker, a real gem of Teutonic architecture, is located on the beach of a small seafront resort in Normandy, Saint-Martin-les-Trois-Églises. Despite its name, the village has not the tiniest church or chapel to offer to its visitors, nothing but some ancient stones at the end of a field and a pancake restaurant called La France libre. We have to admit that the austere, imposing German construction is the only site of interest for miles around. So, it was there that the flower of British youth spent an entire week in Wehrmacht uniforms, while outside fake bombs exploded, day and night. They had the chance of eating nothing but rotten potatoes and Bavarian sausages every day and, each evening, reading some pages of Mein Kampft while falling asleep in their camp bed.
These young heroes did not disappoint their teacher: they managed to stay in the bunker for seven days, much longer than the Germans, who surrendered within only twenty-four hours. Today Mr Montgomery is very proud of his students’ performance: “If these valiant soldiers had fought in 1944, D-Day would have certainly been a failure. We can also reasonably presume that the defeat of Stalingrad could have been avoided the previous year, and that our troops could have reached Vladivostok in a few months. The face of the post-Yalta world would have been completely different,” the enthusiastic teacher tells us.
The experience in Normandy was fruitful at all levels, including the opportunity to test the reliability of our so-called allies. “Once again, Frenchmen were not very useful,” Mr Montgomery observes. “They did not provide any help and just passively watched us bravely fight the enemy single-handed. Our only contact with the locals was when the village’s restaurateur tried to sell us his bland pancakes and his corked cider at an exorbitant price. I hope my students never forget this potent history lesson.”
Another eloquent lesson anyway has to be learnt: despite the credit crunch and twelve years of Labour’s inept government, young people from our elite schools still manifest strong moral values and an exceptional capacity for resistance. After such a military training, they are ‘psyched up’ to work in the City or at Westminster as well as mentally prepared to face extreme political circumstances. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, they will protect London’s financial status against the EU’s regulatory machine with the utmost vigour.
“A new Blitz is hitting London,” Mr Montgomery recalls. “Brussels and a clique of jealous Eurocrats want to whittle away our incomparable banking system, the soundest in the world. We have to gather our strength and defend our positions. But we also need a new war chief to lead the battle. Well, why not Sir Fred Goodwin? To be honest, the whole row about him was quite exaggerated last year. After all, as CEO of the RBS, he succeeded in leading his company towards the biggest bankruptcy of the UK’s history, involving taxpayers in its rescue and eventually leaving the British State in debt for at least forty years – an exploit that will be recorded in history books. Few can claim to have done what he did for his country. Thanks to him, we will experience blood, tears, toil and sweat for decades. So, who can deny that Sir Fred is our new Churchill?”
Today Mr Montgomery is planning another educational outing for his class: next summer, aboard a shaky boat in the middle of the sea, his fortunate students will re-live the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Again a thrilling training for our future leaders – and new ideas to confront the crisis!