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D-Day 80: World falling into ‘same traps’ of tyranny says War Horse author

Joining Cathy Newman from Manchester is War Horse author Sir Michael Morpurgo, whose new book, Finding Alfie: A D Day story, was written to mark the 80th anniversary.

Cathy Newman: So Michael, a really poignant reminder of the past there but unmistakeable parallels with the present, with war returning to Europe once again.

Sir Michael Morpurgo: Yes, sadly. I never thought to see it in my lifetime. I’m a war baby born in 43. So I grew up with the shadow of that war all around me, not knowing much about it to start with. But gradually, gradually, I’m beginning to understand what war does to flesh, what it does to families, what it does to buildings, and then coming to the conclusion eventually in my life that peace is the answer. So I write about war because it affected me deeply.

I was affected – I lost an uncle. Actually, it’s not the right thing to say, I never knew an uncle. My uncle Peter was killed, aged 21, in the RAF. And I saw in the family the hurt and the loss that went on all their lives. My mother would always weep on his birthday and on the 11th of November. It was a huge thing in those early post-war years, as one saw the evidence of what had happened. And now, yes, we look at our televisions and we see the rubble and we see the misery and you think, where has it all gone wrong?

Cathy Newman: And you had a veteran there in Andy Davies’ piece saying what they gave their lives for, remembering that. But as the world is once again engulfed by war, what did they give their lives for 80 years ago?

Sir Michael Morpurgo: I’ve had a life until very recently which has been peaceful. We sort of all have. Yes, we have had difficulties and unpleasantness and all the rest of it, but we have lived, by and large, in peace. That was a peace that was given to us by these people. It didn’t happen by accident. They had to get rid of tyranny and fascism before we could live that life. So they gave us that. Now what have we done with it? That’s the interesting thing. What have other countries done with it?

Yes, we seem to be falling into the same traps of tyrannical regimes rising up and then threatening others, and we don’t seem to have learnt. And, I don’t know, maybe there’s something in humanity that doesn’t seem to be able to learn the big lessons. I find that sometimes really depressing. But I mustn’t be depressed because there is hope.

Cathy Newman: I’ll come back to that – is there hope? But I wonder, you meet a lot of children, you write books for children. Your latest book, Finding Alfie, was written with the aim of keeping the memory of D-Day alive for younger generations. I wonder what you think. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice 80 years ago, would they be proud of today’s younger generation, do you think?

Sir Michael Morpurgo: Oh, yes. I don’t doubt that at all. I’m convinced that they were very much like our children when they were children – they grew up and they had to face what they faced. I think our children would do the same. Their society was by no means ideal. Ours isn’t. But I think they’ve had enough of an education and they have had more insights into the world around them than that generation had. I think they mustn’t ever think that these children don’t have the potential to grow into whatever it is that they have to do. I mean, they read books and books are critical. Going to the theatre. They have learnt about empathy and knowledge and understanding and that’s going to be the way forward. It will. You have to have faith in that. Otherwise you might as well give up and shrug your shoulders and walk off.

Cathy Newman: And so – to hope. The King said we wouldn’t flinch if we were asked, if we were challenged again. We had to meet that test. But is there hope?

Sir Michael Morpurgo: Yes, I think there is hope. I mean, I went once to a school in Israel where Arabs and Jews – children – went to school together and I made kites of peace with them. It was the one school in Israel where this happened. But it starts with these small seeds of peace. And there are examples, think of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has been an example. Thirty years ago, 40 years ago, no one ever thought that could be sorted. And I don’t see it’s totally sorted. But you have to have hope. It’s hope that did that – and good people.





















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