Near sixty years ago, just after New Year in 1957 a number of us were gathered together for discussion. The senior person, formerly a Sergeant in The Suffolk's in the First War was presiding. It was a session on Modern European History.
He turned to the recently appointed young man, not long before in the Intelligence Corps in the late 40's in the Rhine Army, and remarked that the French in the longer past had always been bad enemies but since had become worse allies.
He looked at me, fresh from the banks of the Elbe in the days before Berlin walls and long fencing, for an answer. It was one word, "logistics", then little used in civilian circles. The reply was also a single word, with a wide grin, "explain".
I said that if in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 the Second Empire French had paid a lot less attention to the detail of their military uniforms and ornamentation of equipment and a lot more to matters of transport, rations and command structures they might not have lost so easily.
So the Germany that came to be might not have been the same and critically may not have been dominated by the Prussians in the form of the highly militarised German Empire. It could have been more federal with perhaps Bavaria and Hannover in charge.
French troops had always been brave in battle and formidable in the field. It was getting there with enough of the right men and kit and other things and maintaining longer campaigns that were the problem notably when faced with men like Wellington and the Prussians.
During the First World War, the French had learned to use railways etc. but almost fatally hindered by the bureaucracy of the routines and running and associated government. Had the smaller number of British not been better at it the Germans or rather Prussians may not have been stopped.
At the outset of the Second World War neither the British nor the French had realised the full implications of motor transport and the potential capability of armoured forces for flexibility and movement. The result was the collapse of France.
After the war in the age of the Iron Curtain, the French were supposed to be a major force in the Western alliance but were semi-detached from the beginning, partly distracted by loss of Empire but mostly because of pride and the density of their governing systems and distaste for American thinking.
So in the discussion the question arose, what of this new Europe in part brought together in the just signed Treaty of Rome? The thinking was it was likely to be an alliance governed by French bureaucracy, modified by Italian chaos and corruption with West Germany doing the heavy lifting.
With the Prussians then under the heel of the Red Army in East Germany, the remaining Western Germany, created as a Federal State would be both more tractable and much less inclined to ideas about dominating Europe and the East.
Which is where the discussion left it. It was thirty plus years later when the Berlin Wall came down, the frontier barriers were dismantled and West Germany reclaimed the East with a great deal to do.
It was not long however before the EU created the Eurozone, in reality the Deutschemark writ large, only without the safeguards. If accidents can happen they will and it did. But the ensuing disasters in effect strengthened the central German position.
Now if Ms Merkel's speech in Australia recently is any guide, The Prussians are back and looking for whatever forms of international domination might be available. Then there is the Ukraine. The lady is complaining that the much put upon President Putin should be taught how to behave to former parts of Tsarist and Soviet Russia.
Today we have an EU, very French in the nature, detail and complexity of its bureaucracy and its reach into every nook and corner of daily lives and economic activity. We have an Italy which is more or less as expected, possibly a lot more corrupt. America is disappearing over the horizon.
And Berlin is one again held by The Prussians. The British, who joined the EU in the lunatic hope that they might somehow become the steersman cum navigator of Europe are now the footstool on whom all the others stand to gain a little height.
Throughout the period of UK membership it has been a long hard struggle to try to persuade the French to unbend. For all the prattling of our politicians we have had endless trouble with them.
The chaos of our government and loss of freedom is largely due to the dead hand of France on the internal governance of the EU, which it sees as a junior branch of the ENA, the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the training stables of the French elite.
In the meantime, EU foreign policy is now in the hands of Berlin and the New Prussians. The fearful think that if we left the EU, the French might in some way become our enemies.
If so, we might be much better off than having them as allies.