France is under attack! Or at least that’s what it sounds like at midday on the first Wednesday of every month when the Réseau national d’alerte (National alert network) undergoes regular testing. Developed before World War II, this network of about 4,500 sirens sounds (unsurprisingly) exactly like the old films of air raid warnings during the war, and every time it goes off I expect to look out my window to see people scurrying to their bunkers.
Coming from Australia, I really didn’t have any sense of proximity to the World Wars before moving to Europe. But hearing this sound every month, along with having visited sites such as the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Mauthausen, the beaches of Normandie and Gallipoli, and the battlefields of the Somme, I am reminded that the tragedy of these wars are a very vivid part of history here, and even form part of living memory albeit for an ever-decreasing number of people.
Let’s hope that it’s a reminder that the people and governments of Europe also heed, and that the sirens of Europe’s population warning systems need only ever be sounded again for peaceful testing purposes.