We took the motorway to Calais this morning, on our way to the UK. In French Flanders the motorway passes a town called Hondschoote and there is a sign for travellers referring to a battle that took place here in 1793. Each time we pass the sign I vow I’ll look it up and this time I actually remembered. I quote: “The Battle of Hondschoote took place during the Flanders Campaign of the Campaign of 1793 in the French Revolutionary Wars. It was fought during operations surrounding the Siege of Dunkirk between 6 and 8 September 1793 … and resulted in a French victory under General Jean Nicolas Houchard and General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan against the command of Marshal Freytag, part of the Anglo-Hanoverian corps of the Duke of York.”  The Wiki entry makes for interesting reading. The French out-numbered the Hessian and Hanoverian soldiers by more than two-to-one and by the end of hostilities (chillingly, the two armies were within ‘stabbing distance’ of one another) more than five thousand soldiers lay dead. The French Commander, Jean-Nicholas Houchard, aware that his ragged troops were exhausted, preferred not to send them chasing after the Duke of York’s orderly rearguard and for this and other alleged acts of ‘cowardice’ he was later arrested, tried and guillotined. In the overall scheme of things, this was just yet one more relatively minor skirmish, but the presence of Hondschoote, a stone’s throw from Dunkirk and at the head of the First World War Western front is just another demonstration of the way that, for far too long, Europe was a battlefield.