Wednesday, 17 November 2010

My Letter on Remembrance Day and the Christmas Truce of 1914

Pictured: How the Illustrated London News depicted the truce

The following letter was printed in this week's Morley Observer and Advertiser:

As is the case every year, the townsfolk of Morley came out in their droves to pay their respects to our fallen servicemen and women on Remembrance Sunday. It was an honour for me to take part in the parade and ceremony, where I laid a wreath on behalf of my party. Wreaths were also laid at the ceremonies in Churwell and Tingley.

This annual commemoration is based around the date of the armistice that ended the First World War.

By the end of 1914 a number of battles had been fought with significant losses on all sides, and as the year’s end approached it slowly dawned on the various participants that this war would most probably not be over by Christmas after all. The set-piece battles of past conflicts were consigned to the history books and were replaced with the horrors of trench warfare. Though few could have guessed it at the time, the scene was set for a slaughter of Europe’s youth on an industrial scale that would shape the rest of the century to come.

Yet as Christmas Day in 1914 approached, the guns increasingly fell silent. In many sectors troops from opposing sides offered one another a hand of friendship. Soldiers erected makeshift Christmas trees, sang carols together, and exchanged cigarettes and chocolate and other gifts. Some played football.

I find it heartening and yet heartbreaking that such a spontaneous truce was possible. Heartening in that for this short time the youth of Europe could put aside their artificially imposed enmity and join together in the celebration of a common custom, and heart-breaking in that a short time later these young men who had been happily socialising with one another would be killing each other on a colossal scale once again.

I regard the Christmas Truce of 1914 as a beacon of humanity among the unimaginable pain and suffering of the Great War and think that this is a story worth reflecting on as we remember those who have died for their country.

Chris Beverley


Anonymous said...

Very moving, well said Chris.


Chris Beverley said...

Thanks CC.

Jim Murphy said...

An excellent synopsis of the event. When I did research for my young adult book on the truce, I was struck by the number of soldiers involved (over 110,000)and by how many officers int he field went along with the ceasefire (while their commanders, safely back in headquarters over 20 miles away, denounced it and ordered the fighting to go on. It was a brief moment of peace in a terrible war, but a huge symbol about overcoming prejudice, fear, and hate. Have a happy and peaceful Christmas.