Christmas Truce Centenary for 1914...
THIS Christmas will see the centenary of the 1914 truce so I'm hoping there will be many enw additions to the site in the next few weeks. I have now launched a page devoted to centenary events. Feel free to email me details of your events so I can share them with everyone else. My email is email@example.com. I am, however, drowning in emails at the moment due to the centenary so my apologies if I fail in getting everything on to the website as quickly as I would like.
A LETTER FROM THE FRONT
Ian Wilson from Queensland, Australia sent this Truce letter which until a few years ago was in his family's possession. He's not sure of the identity of Fred but the line about Fred and Gert's Christmas card being given to a German as a souvenir is lovely. I wonder if any German family still has it?!
I received your letter yesterday pleased to say. I am keeping fit and well. We are having very trying weather but are looking forward to the spring. The Battalion has had a very rough time of it up to this present as I dare say you have seen by the papers. I am sorry to say I have not received Fred's parcel. I have had 5 parcels sent out that I know of and have only received one. We had a funny experience this morning. Firing became slack and we had the order not to fire unless the Germans fired. Soon after one of the Germans got out of their trench and called to us to go half-way (our trenches and theirs are about 150 yards apart in places). About a dozen of us went forward and soon all our chaps were out of the trenches shaking hands with the Germans and exchanging cigarettes. One gave me some cigars and biscuits and as I had nothing else handy I gave him Fred and Gert's Christmas Card as a keepsake. You might tell Fred and Gert when you see them that their card will travel further than they expected. Must close now as I have not much time. Hoping you and Nelly are keeping well and wishing you both a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Your affec. cousin
[There follow some indecipherable initials that may be a censor's mark clearing the letter for sending?]
The ‘Will’ to whom the letter is addressed was my maternal grandfather William Arthur Bentall, who died, sadly at only thirty years of age, in the Spanish flu of 1918, when my mother, Doris Bentall, was only three. ‘Nelly’ was my maternal grandmother Nellie Agnes Bentall, née Greenwood, who died when I was a London schoolboy. ‘Fred’ was evidently William Bentall’s cousin, and probably a member of the rather prolific Bentall family of Felsted, Essex. Among them was a Frederick Thomas Bentall who was a lance corporal in the Essex Regiment, wounded in 1916, and awarded a Military Medal in 1918, though I can’t yet be sure it was definitely he who sent my grandparents the letter.
SILENT Night is the song that symbolises the truce in Europe (although it was little known in Britain in 1914) but I hear form Gavin Marriott in Christchurch, New Zealand that Snoopy's Christmas is equally significant in that country. In 2014 Gavin, a New Zealand member of The International Military Music Society and The Passchendaele Society,came up with an idea of commemorating the centenary of the historical origins of this song. It was promoted to play or sing 'Snoopy's Christmas' before Christmas dinner in people's homes in honour of an event which could have changed the world. A reading has been suggested for people in conjunction with the playing of this song. As an alternative he suggested people could sing 'Silent Night' ... "This song reminds us before our Christmas feast, that a century ago today, soldiers, as depicted in this song, lay down their arms in Flanders Belgium for a truce, in the spirit of the Christmas we now all enjoy today. If allowed to continue, this truce could have meant 100,000 New Zealanders not going to war and there may not be 18,000 of those not returning. This song reminds us of the sacrifice of those that did go, so we can enjoy this song, this day a century on and our Christmas feast.” What a lovley idea.
CHRISTMAS TRUCE FOR CHILDREN
A delightful book for younger readers has been put together by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey. The Christmas Truce is beautifully illustrated and the story is told in rhyme. The price is only £7.99 and it is available online.
LATTER DAY SAINTS PRODUCTION
It's possibly slicker than the Sainsbury's advert! The Church of Latter Day Saints are staging a nationwide production about the Christmas Truce during December. Take a look at the video and I'm sure the hairs on the back of your neck will stand-up. The events are free.
SAINSBURY'S TRUCE AD LAUNCHED
Sainsbury's have used the Christmas Truce as the backdrop for their Christmas advert this year. It is available on YouTube. There is also a video about the making of the advert.
PTE HEATH: THE MAN BEHIND THE LETTER
THERE is one letter that stands out from the crowd among the hundreds of truce letters on this website: the remarkable Pte Heath letter. It is a letter which describes the truce from beginning to end and it's one which is beautifully written. The letter was unearthed by volunteer Marian Robson and first appeared in the North Mail of January 9, 1915. But sadly we knew nothing about Pte Heath. He was obviously well educated but did he survive the war? Now, thanks to the diligent work of Charles Woollam and Gill Joye, his story can be told. It's quite a story. Read his biography here.
A CHRISTMAS TRUCE SONG
The Christmas truce has inspired many songs, stories and plays. Here's one delightful song composed by Alan Gray: The Reserve.
IT'S ALL FREE!
A reminder to anyone visiting this site that all the material on it is free to use - either word for word or adapted to suit your own needs. The material is either out of copyright or, in the case of the pictures, given away free. The importance of the message of the Christmas Truce and the men who lost their lives in World War One, would make it an insult for us to add any copyright to their remarkable letters!
CHRISTMAS TRUCE PLAY
I was delighted to hear from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon that they are performing a play, The Christmas Truce, written by Phil Porter. It looks superb and is suitable for families (recommends children over nine). See other Centenary events..
Truce poem :
I received an email from Gordon Hutchins telling me of a book of his poems he has had published to raise money for a good cause. One of the poems concerns the Christmas Truce. Read more...
Heath letter now available in German
We are grateful to Mathias Probst for translating the remarkable Pte Heath letter into German. You can read the letter in English here and there is a link at the top of the page to the German translation.
Children to mark truce
The Duke of Cambridge is leading a campaign to get children involved in commemorating the truce. See Guardian newspaper article.
National War Memorial
There are plans to erect a monument to the Christmas Truce at the National Arboretum in England. This will be the first memorial to the truce in the UK. See more details.
Read some of the letters
THE main purpose of this website is to serve as an archive for many of the letters written by soldiers who experienced the truce first-hand. The letters are out of copyright and you may use the material as you wish. Start reading the letters...
MASTHEAD PICTURE courtesy of The Salient Remembrance Detachment.