Dec 24, 2008

The Christmas Truce of 1914

It's Christmas Eve; we are safe and warm in our homes, hopefully in the embrace of loved ones. My prayer for today is that somewhere on our troubled planet, someone's heart will be made lighter by a gesture of peace by another.

"Friday, January 8th, 1915: A Christmas Day Scene

Rifleman J. Reading, writing to his wife, Mrs. Reading, of Germain Street, (Chesham) refers to the fact that the English and Germans fraternised on Christmas day.

Referring to the Christmas fraternising he says: "I hope you all had a merry Christmas; let me tell you how I spent mine. My company happened to be in the firing line on Christmas eve, and it was my turn - with a non-commissioned officer and four others - to go into a ruined house and remain there until 6.30 on Christmas morning. During the early part of the morning the Germans started singing and shouting, all in good English. They shouted out: "Are you the Rifle Brigade; have you a spare bottle; if so we will come half way and you come the other half." At 4 a.m part of their Band played some Christmas carols and "God save the King", and "Home Sweet Home." You could guess our feelings. Later on in the day they came towards us, and our chaps went out to meet them. Of course neither of us had any rifles. I shook hands with some of them, and they gave us cigarettes and cigars. We did not fire that day, and everything was so quiet that it seemed like a dream. We took advantage of the quiet day and brought our dead in."

As far as I know, nothing like the Christmas Truce of 1914 has taken place since. And there is a wonderful group in the UK who has put out the call for letters, some of which can be found here. The most spectacular is what is known as the Heath Letter; it tells an amazing story, and serves as a reminder that we all want the same things in life, we just have to remind ourselves that the other guy does too.

I first became aware of the Christmas Truce via Garth Brooks "Belleau Wood", and I weep every time I hear it. Given that we're still firmly entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think it's appropriate here. So when you wish friends and family a Merry Christmas, maybe you'll whisper a silent holiday wish for those far from home.

Take it away Garth!

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