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Of love and war

THE news that Tom Hanks, the American star of Saving Private Ryan, is to judge an essay competition that invites British teenagers to explore the relationship between our two countries during World War II, should prove a big hit with schools.

Some might scoff at the film's subtext - that it was the American GI (with precious little help from the British Tommy) wot won it on D-Day. But in reality the Anglo-American bond forged in the struggle against Fascism proved to be one of the enduring legacies of the war.

The competition offers children the chance to quiz heir grandparents about the GIs stationed in Britain - famously described as being "overpaid, oversexed and over here". They will uncover a rich "people's history", involving GI brides and at least 5,000 illegitimate babies born to American soldiers at a time when many young British women succumbed to "war aphrodisia".

We do not have to be in love with Hollywood, or Hanks, to develop a passion for history. But if celebrity can be a spur to children's learning, as EastEnders actress Louise Jameson suggests elsewhere this week (page 11), all well and good.

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