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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

 
The Christmas truce

by digby

If there's one thing that perfectly illustrates the total insanity of war, it's the Christmas truce of WWI. In the middle of one of the bloodiest, meat-grinding wars in history, they took the day off to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

This is from a cache of letters sent home from the front:
THE WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES: Sergt. A. Lovell, A Company, 3rd Rifle Brigade, writing to relatives at Walthamstow, on Christmas Day, says:

"Christmas Day! The most wonderful day on record. In the early hours of the morning the events of last night appeared as some weird dream – but to-day, well, it beggars description. You will hardly credit what I am going to tell you. Listen. Last night as I sat in my little dug-out, writing, my chum came bursting in upon me with: “Bob! hark at ‘em!” And I listened. From the German trenches came the sound of music and singing. My chum continued. “They’ve got Christmas trees all along the top of their trenches I Never saw such a sight!”. Climbing the parapet, I saw a sight which I shall remember to my dying day. Right along the whole of their line were hung paper lanterns and illuminations of every description, many of them in such positions as to suggest that they were hung upon Christmas trees.

And as I stood in wonder a rousing song came over to us - The Watch on the Rhine. Our boys answered with a cheer, while a neighbouring regiment sang lustily the National Anthem. Some were for shooting the lights away, but almost at the first shot there came a shout in really good English: “Stop shooting!”. Then began a series of answering shouts from trench to trench. It was incredible. “Halloo! Halloo! you English; we wish to speak.” And everyone began to speak at once. Some were rational, others the reverse to complimentary. Eventually some sort of order obtained, and lo! A party of our men got out from the trenches and invited the Germans to meet them half-way and talk. And there in the searchlight they stood, Englishman and German, chatting and smoking cigarettes together midway between the lines. A rousing cheer went up from a friend and foe alike. The group was too far away for me to hear what was said, but presently we heard a cheery “Good-night.” A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all,” with which the parties returned to their respective trenches. After this we remained the whole night through singing with the enemy song for song. “Give us Tipperary”, they cried. Whereupon an adjacent Irish regiment let loose a tremendous “whoop,” and complied with the request in a way as only Irishmen can.
Some of the soldiers walked across no-man's land and exchanged gifts and even played some friendly games of football. And then the next day they started killing each other again!!

In subsequent years the brass brought the hammer down and harshly discouraged this behavior. After all, if the troops saw the enemy as human beings they might not be willing to go out the next day and shoot each other down for the abstract ambitions of powerful old men. We can't have that.

We are a daft species sometimes. There must be a God because it's a miracle we didn't go extinct.

h/t to LGM



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