the Christmas truce of 1915

December 24, 2011

I’ve heard the story lots of times; surely you have too.

I believed it, and then doubted. But, in this case, it turns out that belief was right and doubt was wrong.

It did happen: Christmas first arrived in the trenches of the “great war”. The soldiers — along one section of the western front – stopped shooting.  Artillery and machine-guns fell silent. Their horrible racket was replaced by Carols.

All this took place about sixty years before I was born, so take this picture with its deserved grains of salt:

Men are caked in frozen mud, most traumatized towards ruin, the others doomed to be likewise soon.

The artillery, far behind the lines, must have stopped their noise first.

Did some one solider begin to sing?… I doubt it. I imagine that a gaggle, huddled against that miserable winter, was already begun singing to comfort themselves.  A mirror image, was doing the same in the enemy trench.
In sad pause, half-deafened ears of infantry-men overheard the carols of the enemy. In an act of odd rebellion, enemies began to take turns. I would have been startled with delight. There must have been laughter.

That wonderful moment lasted into that night. Indeed, it grew more bizarre still.

The wisest (and bravest) of souls began a football game… a magic exchange: a ball took the place of bullets, shells and poison gas.

Of course, all nights end. The magic dissolved back into violence. That was the Christmas of 1914.

The following year, a British solider suggested that they repeat whole affair. He was put up against a wall and shot. That was the Christmas truce of 1915.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Depressed, I do not want anyone to tell me that:

  • life is a gift for which god is to be thanked.
    Life is a curse.
    If god gave it to me, then I want to give it back.. along with a punch in the nose.
  • life is eternal.
    I desperately wanted life to reach an end.
    The worst part of life was that it felt like an eternity. The only comfort was the faith that it would, someday, cease.
  • god loves me.
    No one, I believed, could love me. And I was no fan of love.
    Love was many things:
    a(nother) arena in which to fail… a lie brandished by those who wished that they were happy, a taunt flouted by those who really are, the untrustworthy reach of others towards myself.
    If love is a lie, it is a cruel one. If love is real, only a fool would extend it to me. (If there a god, it seems odd that he would be a fool).
    …To be with church-people — apparently comforted or even joyful in the faith that god loves them — is excruciating. Depending on the moment, it is a reminder that I am unlovable, or a reminder that they have something which I lack…

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Savile Lumley. commissioned by The British Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. 1915. Victoria&Albert Museum. UK.

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…if you have been brought up to be independant and self-sustaining, it is far harder to turn to someone else and ask for help, it’s hard to admit that your mind has just crumbled in on itself… You don’t have the language to reach out, you don’t have the knowledge to reach out, your pride gets in the way…

 

Kay Redfield Jamison
paraphrased from an interview
(TVO Allan Gregg)