A Legendary Christmas Truce

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KG Erwin
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A Legendary Christmas Truce

Post by KG Erwin »

This is excerpted from an article written by Wally Bock, and published on Dec 17, 2001:

"... On Christmas Eve [in 1914], all along the Western Front, British and Welsh and French and German soldiers put down their weapons and exchanged gifts and songs and talk for a few short hours.

In front of [the Brititish lines] unit, the truce began with the Germans singing 'All Through the Night,' a beloved Welsh song. The Welch Fusiliers responded with 'Good King Wenceslas.' Then they all sang 'Silent Night,' together, in harmony and in two different languages.

On Christmas morning, the soldiers approached each other cautiously in No Man's Land. They mingled and exchanged gifts and greetings, bartered for souvenirs and began an impromptu soccer game. ... [ a witness to that event stated] 'It wasn't a game as such-more of a kick-around and free-for-all. There could have been fifty on each side for all I know. No one was keeping score.'

The game and the fraternization ended when a British Sergeant-Major arrived on the scene, bellowing 'You came out to fight the Huns, not make friends with them!' Not every officer or NCO felt that way, though. In some places it was the officers who initiated the truce.

The truces took slightly different shape in different places. Sometimes it was initiated by the Germans, sometimes by the English. In some places there was a soccer game, in others not. But there are a few inaccurate stories that seem to keep popping up.

One holds that stories about the truces were kept from the public back home. But pictures and stories appeared in both English and German newspapers. Coverage went on for over a month in Britain, under headlines like 'Extraordinary Unofficial Armistice.'

Another myth is that the soldiers had to be forced to fight after the truces. But the evidence doesn't support that. The soldiers involved in the truces on both sides fought as hard and honorably after the truces as before. A soldier of the time, Bruce Bairnsfather, put it this way, 'Not for a moment was the will to win the war and the will to beat them relaxed. It was just like the interval between the rounds in a friendly boxing match.'

The Christmas Truces are immortalized, somewhat inaccurately, by John McCutcheon in his wonderful song, 'Christmas in the Trenches.' 'They're worth thinking about in these days when young men with weapons are going into caves, searching for other young men with weapons, and when we seem to be celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace with gunfire and explosions, instead of joy and prayer and singing.'

Here, then, are the closing words from McCutcheon's song.

'My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well.
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we're the same' "

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RE: A Legendary Christmas Truce

Post by tracer »

I saw a link to a news story (at the Depot) reporting that the last surviving 'participant' of that incident had passed away in December...IIRC it said he was 106 years old.
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RE: A Legendary Christmas Truce

Post by Goblin »

Another song:

Artist/Band: Brooks Garth
Lyrics for Song: Belleau Wood
Lyrics for Album: Sevens

Oh, the snowflakes fell in silence
Over Belleau Wood that night
For a Christmas truce had been declared
By both sides of the fight
As we lay there in our trenches
The silence broke in two
By a German soldier singing
A song that we all knew

Though I did not know the language
The song was "Silent Night"

Then I heard my buddy whisper,
"All is calm and all is bright"
Then the fear and doubt surrounded me
'Cause I'd die if I was wrong
But I stood up in my trench
And I began to sing along

Then across the frozen battlefield
Another's voice joined in
Until one by one each man became
A singer of the hymn

Then I thought that I was dreaming
For right there in my sight
Stood the German soldier
'Neath the falling flakes of white
And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here's hoping we both live
To see us find a better way

Then the devil's clock struck midnight
And the skies lit up again
And the battlefield where heaven stood
Was blown to hell again

But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's just beyond the fear

No, heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's for us to find it here

Very good song, better when heard with the music...

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RE: A Legendary Christmas Truce

Post by Goblin »

Link for the actual song, (Real Player) right under the on-page lyrics:

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RE: A Legendary Christmas Truce

Post by Fradar »

A french film about these truces has been released around Armistice Day and had a lot of success.
It is actually very well done.
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RE: A Legendary Christmas Truce

Post by soldier »

Just saw a doco on christmas eve/day in 1944 featuring stories from both sides of the conflict. Not much sentimentality or good will was shared in the years when "total war" really matured as a concept. It seems a bit strange nowadays to hear about gentlemans conduct or fairness in war in the years prior to WW2.
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