I prize my first edition copy of Chester Wilmot's book 'The Struggle for Europe', published 1952. It is a classic history of the allied invasion of Normandy and the subsequent campaigns which ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany. Wilmot was an Australian who reported for the BBC. He saw the campaign in the west from its beginning: he flew in on D-Day in a glider. He was present at its end, at the surrender of the German High Command on the Lüneberg Heath.
He was killed in 1954, in the first BOAC comet disaster.
He wrote this about the British reaction to defeat in 1940, and Hitler's misjudgement of the British mood - a misjudgement which proved critical for Germany's eventual defeat.
Once the first shock of the disaster in Flanders had passed, the people of Britain, with their strange capacity for seeing victory in defeat, drew encouragement from Dunkirk.
The miraculous escape of 225,000 British troops from what had appeared to be certain destruction or capture came to be regarded as a divine deliverance which gave men and women throughout the land new faith in themselves and their destiny.
This was not the first time that a continental despot had stood on the shores of France and hurled threats across the channel. Time and again in the past 400 years England had fought to prevent the domination of Europe by a single power. Hitler was now faced with the same British stubbornness that had baulked Philip of Spain, Louis XIV, Napoleon and Kaiser Wilhelm II.
When Hitler looked across the Channel from Cap Gris Nez in June, he saw only Britain's present material weakness; he did not appreciate the strength and courage her people drew instinctively from the past.
Ignoring the warning of history, Hitler clung to the hope of another 'Munich', or at least an 'Amiens', but he was extravagantly optimistic in thinking that the traditional Balance-of-Power could be jettisoned by any British statesman in the summer of 1940, not least by the descendent of its most renowned exponent, John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough."
I understand that on Cap Gris Nez that day, a general reminded Hitler of the words of one of Napoleon's marshals, as they stood on the same spot under similar circumstances:
"There are bitter weeds in England".
We now know now that Hitler's first taste of the bitterness of defeat was delivered by Hurricanes and Spitfires: each carrying eight machine guns, and powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
In the light of this recent history, how should we Britons today respond to the unfolding conspiracy to entrap us in a European super-state, under German-French hegemony? Do we consent to most of our policies being decided by unelected Eurocrats? Is our elected Westminster parliament still to be the 'sole power under God' in this United Kingdom? Do we submit to a future as second-class offshore islanders?
Do we, at last, abandon our Balance-of-Power strategy?
When they say Tony Blair is the best man to be our new, unelected, President, are we expected to applaud? Will they tell us if the new President will have precedent over our Prime Minister - and what is the status of the Queen in all this?
When Edward Heath took Britain into the Common Market [as then it was called], assurances came from all sides that this was not the first step towards our assimilation in a United States of Europe: it was a commercial union, not a political movement. On this assurance I voted 'yes' in the subsequent referendum. How badly we were deceived became apparent as the years passed, and successive governments signed up to increasingly political European treaties.
It is reported that now 70% of the time of parliament is spent passing rules and regulations from Brussels into British law.
It is true that European integration has made war in Europe unthinkable, and that is a huge advance. I believe that for a thousand years until my generation no Frenchman had lived to 70 without seeing his country invaded by Germany.
This most welcome development was already achieved in the Common Market: nothing is added by the ensuing drive for political integration.
I shall never agree the Lisbon Treaty is valid until it has been approved by a free vote of the British people. I believe this opinion is consistent with traditional British values and strategies.
The promised referendum is the bitter weed in England which the Eurocracy has conspired to kill.