“We had a sort of truce on Christmas Day, and we were out in between the two trenches talking to one another. A German officer gave me two cigars, which were very good, and the men exchanged good wishes and smokes, etc. They told us that they didn’t want to fight us, as they had no grudge against us. They were mostly young fellows, and the officer was only about 21 years of age, and said he had only seen one year’s service. Nearly all the Germans spoke English, and there was one there about 12 years old and also one or two old men with bald heads, and one or two in civilian dress, so you can see they are rather a mixed crowd. It hardly seems credible, does it, but I saw it with my own eyes.” ~ unknown officer from the 8th division
It seems almost unthinkable now, as we look back at modern warfare, where war stops for no man. But that was a different age. there were actually three men killed that day. A young British (Pvt Percy Huggins.) a sentry was killed by a German sniper (Name unknown). His place was taken by a British sniper (Sargent Tom Gregory) who in turn spotted the German sniper and killed him. Just as he spotted the second German sniper he was killed by the same snipers bullet as he had spotted him first. there were a further 149 Commonwealth servicemen who passed away that Christmas Day from previous injuries. (And surely many Germans too.) However it goes down in history as the Christmas Truce.
Too lightly on life’s scales, compassion weighs.
It was quiet on that day…
Once all the smoke and dust had settled,
I could even hear the birds singing.
Unlike today, today there is no silence, only continuous noise!!
Then it all stopped, just for a while…
There ahead of us we could see them, not more than a few hundred yards separated us.
They gazed back, no doubt with similar thoughts.
Today we just keep on loading and firing … loading and firing!!
Then from somewhere a ball appeared,
And we both started to climb out of our trenches,
Mud caking stiff limbs up to our knees, feet long since numb from the cold.
They are your enemy…. kill….. kill….. kill!!
We walked right up to each other, stopping only inches apart and stared into each other’s eyes,
I took his hand in mine as if he were a long lost friend,
And we smiled.
If you don’t kill him, he will kill you!!
I broke a small bar of chocolate and shared it with him,
He in turn, took out a picture and showed it to me, a woman holding a baby,
His wife and son.
What are you waiting for, destroy, maim, kill!!
Then we advanced into the no-man’s land that separated us,
and for which we had been fighting for for weeks now,
We played soccer,
Before finally coming together to sing carols.
Death….. death …….. death all around me!!
That day so long ago now was Christmas Day 1914,
The birth day of Christ And a time to give thanks.
Today it is Good Friday 1915 The death of Christ But today there is no peace,
no truce, no rejoicing no time.
Today I killed the soldier whose hand I had shaken and child I had seen,
Today I cried for him and what I have done, and for all humanity,
For today there is no time to morn Christ on this day of his death.
In 1914 we remembered his birth,
By 1915 there is no time to remember his death, or our redemption,
Today, too lightly on Life’s Scales, Compassion Weighs.