YEARS ago the biggest annual event on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway was its autumn steam gala. Not any more.

The gala still attracts rail buffs galore. Their cameras cover every vantage point, catching not only the NYMR’s resident locos but a host of visiting veterans, doing their steaming stuff against a landscape beginning to be tinted by the glowing colours of autumn. Yes, a glorious sight, but one now well and truly eclipsed – or I might say out-gunned – by the railway’s wartime weekend, which starts this Friday.

Levisham station will once again become a German-occupied French station. Grosmont will be a RAF plotting room, announced with replica Spitfire outside. A Dad’s Army Home Guard unit will parade at Goathland. Pickering will have a wartime street and, to introduce those guns I mentioned, a field gun will be fired nearby at intervals.

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Of course the success of the NYMR’s event has spawned similar weekends elsewhere – Leyburn for example.

It’s all too much.

In fact any of it is too much.

We dwell too much, in a celebratory way, on the Second World War.

I write this from what I believe is a position of strength. Born in 1938, I belong to what will soon be the last generation to have any personal memories of the war. I remember a gas mask drill at primary school, in which we were shepherded into the shelter in the playground. I remember sitting in a Morrison shelter in an aunt and uncle’s back garden. I remember being made a fuss of when my father took me to the observation post where he served. I remember our street party, where, I think, I won a race.

My growing-up world was full of war veterans. A neighbour who had served in Burma gave me a gun holster – too stiff, and, with its flap, awkward to be the cowboy holster I craved. An early colleague at work had been an air gunner – and survived.

Britain was fortunate to win the war and would not have done so (a reprise of the First World War) without the Americans. Their restraint against our persistent taunts that they didn’t come in until near the end earns my admiration. The result would have been very different had they not arrived – whenever.

Would we be staging wartime weekends if we had lost? No. And around the world now there are people experiencing real wartime weekends. Weekdays too, often in cities wrecked more completely than were ours in the Blitz. Many are refugees, tramping hopelessly in search of a new home.

And how many of our war-weekend celebrants have taken note of warnings about our present military capability? Based solely on counter-terrorism we have only sufficient ground-based defence to protect Whitehall – no more. We would be unable to shoot down a missile of the type being developed by North Korea. A recently-retired top general, Sir Richard Barrons, has warned that “in a conflict with North Korea we would have to rely on American warships to defend the country”. The Americans again – whom we’d need even more against a Russian attack.

One real wartime weekend would put an end to the synthetic recreations – the gun firing, the vehicle parades, the ill-fitting uniforms and all. Why haven't they yet replicated the blackout?