Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Being in the Christmas Truce 1914

During Christmas 1914 the German and British soldiers made a truce during World War II to cease fighting. They sang Carols, shared cigarettes and rationed food, and played a game of European football. The troops on both sides wrote home of a miraculous Christmas had by all. The humanity of us all most be valued in peace and remembered in war. How else will we have peace?

Here is Corporal John Ferguson as quoted in Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton:

We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans - Fritz and I in the centre talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like street corner orators.

Soon most of our company ('A' Company), hearing that I and some others had gone out, followed us . . . What a sight - little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman's cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs. Where they couldn't talk the language they were making themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!


In The Great War: And the Shaping of the 20th Century, by Jay Winter and Blaine Baggett, these memories of the Christmas Truce are given:

They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang 'The first Noël', and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs, 'O Tannenbaum'. And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up 'O Come All Ye Faithful' the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words 'Adeste Fidéles'. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war

The day after Christmas the truce remained; many soldiers were reluctant to even go back to war with those whom they had shared a most memorable Christmas. Although the Christmas Truce did not last indefinitely, it is without doubt a valuable lesson on the importance of fellowship. Let's not forget such lessons.

Fellowship inhibits aggression and fear of the other. Let's fellowship more in our communities and work environments; let's reach out to others around the world in the spirit of fellowship.

2 comments:

Cynthia said...

Judith, I just read about this very
truce in the novel - Fall on your
Knees.

judith ellis said...

Isn't it wonderful? I will now have to get the novel.

Fall on Your Knees, what a beautiful title!