At a recent talk I gave I was asked from where I, a North London boy, had got my interest and passion in the European integration process. After a few moments’ thought I was able to trace it back to my schooldays and several parallel developments. The first was a production by the school of Oh! What a Lovely War! We knew all the First World War trench songs, but I’ll never forget the statistics on casualties, projected like ticker tape above the stage. One battle, the Somme, cost 432,000 British soldiers their lives. In the same battle 200,000 Frenchmen and 500,000 – half a million! – Germans died. Most of these, we realised, were just a few years older than we schoolboys, playing the parts. Literally, because a year or so later on the same stage I played Mason in R.C. Sheriff’s Journey’s End. Mason provides light comic relief in an otherwise hellish dugout and now we couldn’t escape the horrible truth that we were about the same ages as the characters we were playing. At the same time, one of our English literature O level set texts was Wilfred Owen’s war poetry. We were taught by an inspirational English teacher, Ma’am Griffiths (as she liked to be known), who did not shy away from difficult themes, such as Owen’s tortured homosexuality. But it was the imagery in the poetry – an ‘ecstasy of fumbling’, ‘froth-corrupted lungs’ – that brought across the full horror of that stupidest of many stupid wars. Nobody mentioned Europe to me, but I knew there had to be a different way of doing things. I am writing this today because on this day ninety-two years ago Wilfred Owen was shot dead whilst trying to cross a canal in northern France. He was twenty-one years old. The end of the war was just seven days away – indeed, his mother received the telegram notifying her of his death on Armistice Day itself, with church bells ringing out joyously around her: ‘my friend, you would not tell with such high zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory,/The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori.’