Anyone that knows me, knows that my studying for a degree in history is reflective of my passion for it. My 2nd year at University was dominated by modules on the First and Second World War’s, these periods are indeed what I specialise in. With this in mind, perhaps you may imagine that upon learning of the Prime Minster’s slip up in historical knowledge, calling Britain ‘a junior partner’ in the Second World War in 1940, would dismay me. However, I have come to learn that people’s knowledge of British history including those major events in our country’s national psyche, are far from perfect.
In a recent pub quiz I attended, one question was exactly what Cameron was meant to be referring to,
‘In what year did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbour?’
The answer is of course 1941, not 1940 as Mr Cameron was alluding to. To be precise it was Sunday 7 December 1941 at 07.55 hours! – But how many people could have really told you that? Indeed at the quiz, out of a room of 50 people, only two teams got the right answer. I even overheard the table behind me, 5 older woman clearly state ‘oh bother I thought it was 1940’. Mr Cameron is clearly not alone in his slip up.
What I was dismayed as were the comments banded around the BBC’s website, for example, Terry Burton the President of the Association for Veterans of Foreign Wars said that the comments would ‘alienate a lot of veterans’. If veterans seriously believe that the younger generation know everything or anything for that matter about the actions they fought in, they are sadly wrong.
David Miliband said that Cameron’s comments were ‘misguided’. I would like to ask Mr Miliband:
How many British soldiers were actually killed on the first day of the Somme?
When the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany occurred?
When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan?
If he can’t answer these, then I too would call him misguided.
In short, it was a simple mistake and nothing more. A mistake that I am sure, millions in this country would also make.