Tuesday, September 07, 2010

State of the Union

Barroso has little empathy or understanding of history in choosing today of all days for his first State of the Union speech in Strasbourg. Predictably, he makes absolutely no reference to the fact that this is the 70th anniversary of our German "partners" sharing their technology with us in the form of their aviation products, their attempts at creating a Single European Market in bombs leaving 430 dead, 1,600 injured and thousands homeless.

But, as Mr Barroso is obviously keen on symbolism, taking every possible opportunity to cloak himself in the yellow ring of stars, he might just appreciate the symbolism of the other Europa.

This was a 10,850 ton cargo liner owned by the East Asia Company, built by the Danish in 1931 in their Copenhagen yards. With accommodation for 70 passengers, it was built for operation between Europe and the US/Canadian West Coast, providing a service for the Polish Gdynia-Amerika Line

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Europa was in Copenhagen but it left on 8 September for the usual ports on the Pacific Coast. On the homebound voyage the vessel called at Falmouth on 29 November 1939 and stayed until 2 December.

Subsequently the vessel discharged at London, Hull, Gothenburg and Copenhagen and then went to New York to take advantage of the increased demand for passenger transportation between Scandinavia and New York.

From there, the vessel loaded at various ports on the Pacific Coast and after having passed through the Panama Canal, a number of Caribbean ports were called at. In the early days of March the vessel left Vancouver commencing the return voyage to Europe but while it was en route New York, German forces invaded Denmark.

After New York, therefore, the vessel departed for Halifax and was placed at the disposal of the allied powers, whence it was taken over by the Canadian government.

On 27 November 1940, she found herself in Liverpool for discharging and dry-docking. Subsequently a cargo of war materials including a number of aircraft was loaded, the loading was completed by the 20 December with departure scheduled for the next morning.

That evening, however, Liverpool was heavily attacked by German bombers and at 21:55 hrs, Europa was hit and seriously damaged, ending up resting on the bottom. A part of the cargo was discharged and attempts were made to raise the vessel but, on 12 March, the Europa was again hit by a German bomb.

Nevertheless, on 20 March, the vessel was successfully raised and dry-docked for repair. But it was still in dry-dock when German aircraft made one of the most severe attacks on Liverpool, on the late evening of 3 May. Several bombs hit the vessel, which then was beyond the possibility of saving. It was declared a total loss and was later on towed from the dock and set aground for scrapping.

Europa, an enterprise built by the Danes, operated for the Poles and then by the Canadians for the Allies, had foundered in a British port, having been trashed by the Luftwaffe operating out of France.

There is doubtless some deep symbolism here, but I had best leave it to readers to decide what it is. A finer example of European co-operation, though, would be hard to find. "At the end of the day, we are all in the same boat," Mr Barroso says in his speech. He should have a photograph of this one on his desk.