This year is rather quiet with regards to Christmas Truce events and that's probably because 2014 will be the centenary year and everyone is waiting for that landmark to hold their commemorations. The Shorncliffe Redoubt based in Sandgate, Kent are working with a major charity to reissue the Christmas Tin for 2014. In 1914, this tin was sent out to all soldiers as a present from Princess Mary and contained cigarettes and chocolate. The 2014 tin won't contain chocolate or cigarettes but will contain jelly sweets and savoury snacks. The plan is to send them to every soldier on the 'front line' in 2014. They will also be available for the public to buy with profits going to support the Shorncliffe Redoubt and a major military charity.
New musical work
I'M delighted to report that a new musical work about the Christmas Truce has been composed.
The Christmas Truce is written by Paul Ayres to accompany the words of the poem by Carol Ann Duffy. The premiere takes place at the Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London on Saturday, November 9th 2013. The concert will be given by the Queldryk Ensemble, the London College of Music Chamber Choir and conducted by the composer, Paul Ayres. Tickets are £15 in aid of the Halo Trust. For tickets phone 07583 519502. Good luck to all involved.
Christmas in summer
IT is always strange writing about Christmas in summer! I've updated the link to our book, Not A Shot Was Fired. Please note you can order black and white (cheaper!) or colour versions of the book - also as a pdf (much cheaper!). One day I'll get round to doing a Kindle version.
THE SEARCH FOR PTE HEATH
THERE have been some exciting developments in our search for Pte Heath. This was the soldier who wrote one of the most remarkable letters about the truce - but sadly we knew nothing about him. Now our friend John Krijnen has made a breakthrough and we may be close to identifying who he was and more about him. I have updated our 'Heath blog' with some details - and more to follow soon!
CHRISTMAS TRUCE CONCERT
MY thanks to Gary Young for pointing out that The Christmas Truce by Judith Bingham is being performed in the University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel, Scotland on Saturday, December 8. It will be performed by Glasgow Chamber Choir accompanied by Amicus Orchestra and conducted by Michael Bawtree. The work was written in 2003 and combines music including German and British carols with text from contemporary diaries, private letters, and news reports. The work was originally a commission by the BBC and was first performed in 2004 by the BBC singers.
BOOK HIGHLIGHTS TRUCE PARTICIPANT
A NEW book tells of a soldier who participated in the Truce - and what became of him. It's unclear what happened to many of the soliders who took part in the Truce of Christmas 1914 but it's estimated that one in three would have died before the end of the war. The odds weren't good.When Andrew Mark Rudall researched his family tree he found an ancestor who took part in the truce and followed his story. I won't give away the ending! But I'd highly recommend, Neat Little Rows, which bubbles wtih Andy's enthusiasm and excitement. It's a terrific tale well told. Neat Little Rows is available from Amazon or Lulu.
CHILDREN'S FOOTBALL ALLIANCE
"WE have many war memorials. We don't have enough memorials to peace" - The words of Don Mullan at the Breaking Ground Ceremony at the Messines Peace Village in Belgium will strike home with many people around the world. The village was an initiative that grew out of the Irish peace process and we urge everyone to click on to the Children's Football Alliance website to learn more about this remarkable and inspirational idea which ripples around the world. The CFA's purpose is to "promote and advance children's unalienable right to engage in football play that is fun, safe, engaging, inclusive and developmental". God's speed to that.
ENGLISH SINGERS AND MUSICIANS WANTED
A DELIGHTFUL project is being planned to mark the centenary of the Christmas Truce. The Internationales Chor Forum hopes to commission an oratorio about the event. Writer Andrea Heuser and composer Moritz Eggert have been chosen to write the text and music. The work is planned for several speakers, singer soloists, choir and orchestra, and will make use of the four languages of the countries involved (England, France, Germany and Belgium). The rehearsals will be held in a summer academy, which will also offer workshops, excursions and discussion panels on the topic. Gerhard Jenemann of the Internationales Chor Forum says: " At the moment we are searching for partners, who might organize and finance the performances. We would be much obliged, if you could help us to make contact with suitable potential partners in England." So over to you English music lovers! Contact Gerhard via firstname.lastname@example.org.
IT must be getting near Christmas judging by the sudden flurry of emails I've received! Although I suspect it's as much to do with the imminent arrival of the centenary of the truce (in December 2014 of course) which is also leading to the greater amount of interest in all things Truce-y. I'm very glad of it - but bear in mind this is a 'hobby' site not a commercial one so I'll reply as soon as possible, and help you as much as I can.
MY apologies. I received this kind email back in April but somehow it slipped out of my electronic intray. Cameron Rodgers got in touch to say he had been researching one Captain Arthur Sydney Bates, Commander of No 4 Company London Rifle Brigade. Arthur had written to his sister on Christmas Eve 1914 to say: "Dearest Dorothy Just a line from the trenches on Xmas Eve - a topping night with not much firing going on and both sides singing - it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. My orders to the boys are not to start firing unless the Germans do! Best love from your loving brother Arthur". It's a firsthand report of the very start of the night of the Truce.
Cameron added the following details about the author: "Sydney Arthur Bates was born on 18 June 1879. to Sydney Eggers Bates and Elizabeth Jessie Malet of Manydown Park, Basingstoke. He married Mary da Costa Crosse, daughter of Lt.-Col. Charles Robert Crosse 3rd Queens Own Bombay Light Infantry on 26 April 1905. Arthur Bates was educated at Winchester College and from the Bates of Bellefield, Gyrn Castle and Manydown" published in 1994 by P E Bates. He was at Moberly's House from 1892 to 1898 and was a member of the School Rifle Shooting VIII in 1896 and that he and Percy (cousin) went together to a German University for a while after leaving Winchester."
It was also during this time between the time at University and joining the London Rifle Brigade Arthur Travelled to Australia to learn about sheep farming. Before joining the London Rifle Brigade, he served for two years in the ranks of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Hants. Regiment. Resigning as a private when he left Winchester. He joined the Brigade in 1900, being gazetted 2nd Lieut. on March 26th, and posted to 'B' Company under Captain E G Stenson Cooke. He was promoted Lieutenant on November 13th, 1901, being posted to 'N' Company on June 12th 1905, and taking over command on promotion to Captain on November 25th of the same year. In May 1906, 'N' Company was absorbed by 'E', and Captain Bates was transferred to the command of 'Q' which he held until it was amalgamated with 'H' in France (He sailed to France aboard the Chyebassa with the original first battalion on 4.11.14) on November 24th 1914, to make (D Company) No. 4 Company. He held command of the latter till January 7th 1915.
From January 8th till March 15th he was Second in Command to Lieutenant-Colonel W.D. (Lord) Cairns, and took over command of the Battalion on March 16th, when the C.O. had unfortunately to leave owing to ill-health. Promoted Major on March 6th, and temporary Lieut.-Colonel on April 16th, he commanded the 1st Battalion through the second battle of Ypres, the period spent at G.H.Q., at St. Eloi with the 3rd Division, and at Gommecourt with the 56th Division.
He was invalided home on August 15th, (records don't mention why he was invalided home or what his illness was but I strongly suspect he was worn out - Gommecourt affected him deeply) handing over command to Major R H Husey, M.C. (another Territorial promoted from within the battalion.), two days earlier.
Information received from his Grandson reveals : 'He and one Private were the only two people in his battalion not to have been wounded, although it is true that he was invalided home and you can see on an old leather jerkin in a photo how the buttons were moved across as he lost weight. He was 35 at the outbreak of the war and, I suspect he would have weighed 15-16 stone but I remember my mother telling me that when he was invalided home he weighed just under 9 stone! It would seem that ill-health was probably the reason for sending him home. After a period of sick leave at home, he was offered the command of the 3/5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, then at Colchester preparing for overseas. Loath as he was, even temporarily, to sever his links with the London Rifle Brigade, he accepted this, and took the Battalion to France on February 28th 1917, in the 66th Division. He commanded it at Givenchy, on the sea coast ( where at one time he had three battalions under him on coast defence under the immediate command of the French ) and at Passchendaele. His permanent promotion to the rank of Lieut.-Colonel was dated June 4th 1917.'
On January 7th 1918, he was sent home on the understanding that he was to become an instructor at the Senior Officers' School at Aldershot. There being, however, no vacancy, he was given the command on January 23rd of the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, stationed at Oswestry. The Battalion was sent to Dublin during the scare in April, 1918, and it remained there until disbanded by Col. Bates on July 5th 1919. Prior to the latter date he was offered the temporary command of a Special Reserve Battalion in Ireland, but, having made other arrangements, was unable to accept it.
Bates was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 23 June 1915 for "For distinguished service in the field." (for 2nd Ypres) , was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with palm, and was mentioned in despatches on four occasions in the London Gazettes of 22 Jun 1915; 1 Jan 1916; 15 Jun 1916; and 7 Jan 1918 and was decorated with the award of Territorial Decoration (T.D.).
Bates was clearly a brave and effective battalion commander and keen Territorial. He was present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert, in 1927."
My thanks to Cameron for the information. I suspect a descendant or two will also be grateful when this all pops up on Google!
Review: The Christmas Truce by Carol Ann Duffy...
IT'S hard to imagine a more perfect Christmas story - warring soldiers stop shooting and start singing carols at each other. Then they get out of their trenches, walk across a snow-covered No Man's Land, shake hands and wish each other a Merry Christmas. Except, of course, this is no story. The unofficial truce on the Western Front really did happen on Christmas Day 1914. The latest writer to use this remarkable event as inspiration is British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. She wrote the poem for Armistice Day but it has been illustrated by David Roberts and published as a book in time for Christmas.
The challenge with a subject like the Truce is letting the story tell itself rather than feeling some strange desire to sweeten it up and over-sell it. Duffy succeeds in letting the facts weave their magic with only the deftest of touches. She includes most of the remarkable events of that day: how the sharp winter frost of that morning froze the muddy fields and gave the day a magical appearance; the Germans singing Stille Nacht (a carol almost unknown at that time in Britain); the first brave soldier to step into No-Man's Land, the shaking of hands and exchange of gifts; and of course the famous football match (the Germans apparently won 3-2!).
As the tale unfolds, the reader is drawn into the wonderment of the event and you'll want to read it over and over again. The book is suitable for the older child or adult and if you combine it with two of Duffy's other books - Mrs Scrooge and Another Night Before Christmas - you'll have an absolutely delightful Christmas gift. - Alan Cleave
I received a nice email from Mary Dibbern, head of music for Minnesota Opera telling me of their plan to stage a full-length opera based on the Christmas Truce film, Joyeux Noel. The opera will be premiered at the Ordway Theater in St Paul, Minnesota (USA) in November 2011 so keep an eye out.
IT was good to see Private Heath's letter widely quoted in blogs, websites and emails over Christmas in relation to soldiers still serving in wars across the globe. Private Heath would have been honoured I am sure - if a little saddened that his description of the tragedy of war was still so apt nearly 100 years later. The Washington Times was also interested in publishing it (I'm not sure if they eventually did) but the journalist was suspicious that the letter might be a hoax (and I thought I was cynical!). I did my best to reassure him. It is obviously written by an 'educated' soldier (we know nothing about Private Heath) and is well-structured but there's no reason to think it was hoaxed by anyone.
THE Right Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon, has been widely quoted in the press for saying carols are a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas. We beg to differ your grace. To the soldiers fighting in World War One on Christmas Eve 1914 they served a very valuable purpose: providing common ground and adding as a reminder of the true message of Christmas. The men sang carols to each other before getting out of their trenches and shaking hands. Here is our suggested Christmas Truce Carol concert based on songs actually sung during the truce:
Sleep Holy Babe
Good Christian Men Rejoice
See Amid The Winter Snow
Good King Wenceslas
Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solenelle
Stille Nacht/Silent Night
Adeste fideles/O Come All Ye Faithful
Les anges dans nos campagnes
The First Nowell
O du Frohliche
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night
If anyone puts on such a concert this Christmas, do let us know.
I HAD a touching email from a lady the other day. She had asked me to suggest a letter to use in a pamphlet being distributed in her village which would reflect on various aspects of Christmas. I suggested the Heath letter of course because it's so beautifully written. She dropped a note of thanks and added that it was particularly poignant as she had waved farewell to her husband the day before - he was flying off to Afghanistan. It made me look again at the Heath letter and it does indeed still seem to ring with a message, even though it's nearly 100 years old. No one knows who Private Heath was or whether he survived the war but he would I'm sure be truly honoured if his letter bought comfort to fellow soldiers so many years after his own death. This passage in particular will strike a chord (the name of the town he wrote about was struck out by the censor but it was probably a town on the east coast of England that had been shelled by Germans a few days before):
"Memory in her shrine kept us in a trance of saddened silence. Back somewhere in England, the fires were burning in cosy rooms; in fancy I heard laughter and the thousand melodies of reunion on Christmas Eve. With overcoat thick with wet mud, hands cracked and sore with the frost, I leaned against the side of the trench, and, looking through my loophole, fixed weary eyes on the German trenches. Thoughts surged madly in my mind; but they had no sequence, no cohesion. Mostly they were of home as I had known it through the years that had brought me to this. I asked myself why I was in the trenches in misery at all, when I might have been in England warm and prosperous. That involuntary question was quickly answered. For is there not a multitude of houses in England, and has not someone to keep them intact? I thought of a shattered cottage in -- , and felt glad that I was in the trenches. That cottage was once somebody's home."
Our thoughts are with all soldiers this Christmas.
I have been contacted by a gentleman who is doing some terrific research on a relative of his who took part in the Christmas Truce. He has a postcard sent by the soldier (Harry Hackett) to his wife, Olive. He wrote:
"Dear O, I am sending you this postcard with two of the German solidiers addresses on, which I got on Boxing Day.
I suppose you saw in the papers about us going across, out of the trenches and having a word or two together. Hope
you are well as it leaves me at present. With Love, from Harry."
Included on the postcards were the names and addresses of two of the German soldiers. He's having trouble translating them so if you can help do get in touch via his website.
A newly-published war diary is always welcome and even more so when it mentions the Christmas Truce. Meet At Dawn Unarmed is the account of Captain Robert Hamilton's part in World War I . Robert’s grandson Andrew Hamilton and Great War enthusiast Alan Reed have published the diary and annotated the contents. Hats off to them for getting this material in the public domain. Our interest, of course, lies with his account of the truce. It is longer than many of the letters our volunteers have transcribed so gives some useful extra information. It is interesting to compare Captain Hamilton's account (he was in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment) with letters we have obtained from other members of the same regiment. I was quite excited when I stumbled upon a Radio Five interview with the authors as there seemed to be much detail in the diaries about the truce including specifics about the alleged football match. But it transpires much of this colour is the work of Andrew Hamilton and Alan Reed rather than first-hand material. Or as it is put on their website: "They have also recreated important episodes in his life, including a fascinating reconstruction of the Christmas Truce between the Warwicks and the Saxons in No Man’s Land". This 'reconstruction' rather muddies the waters and I fear leaves the reader confused as to what actually happened according to eye-witness accounts and what Andrew and Alan have conjectured (the alleged football match is taken as a given whereas many other researchers still have doubts). But I'm reading this from the viewpoint of a researcher anxious to clarify the truce and there's no doubting this book will be thoroughly enjoyed by the general reader. There is an excellent chapter on the authors' search for the location of the Warwicks over Christmas 1914 and this is most useful material. It's doubly interesting following the unveiling of the Truce Memorial at Frelinghien last year. This is a super book, excellent value at £16.99 plus postage. It can be bought online but if, like me, you can't get online payment to work (and strangely it doesn't accept PayPal) you can simply print off and post an order form. - Alan Cleaver
My thanks to Ron Teague for sending me a CD of Christmas Truce music and reminiscences. Those tekkie enough to understand how to download music and clips may have been inspired by the truce and the songs that were sung to collate your own CD. Here is Ron's compilation...
1. We're Here Because We're Here - various artists
2. A Passage Through No Man's Land - various artists
3. Cookhouse - cast
4. The Christmas Truce: British, German,Belgian, French - various artists
5. Living It Up - Coope, Boyes and Simpson
6. Silent Night - Peter Corry
7. Serge Edward Dwyer VC, Wulverghem/Sgt Edward Dyer VC
8. Christmas Truce 1914 - George Ensle
9. For The Fallen - Laurence Binyon
10. The Day Thou Gavest - Albion Band
11. Burial - The Hollywood Edge Sound Effects Library
12. Flowers of the Forest - The Scots Guard
13. Follow Me 'Ome - various artists
14. The Christmas Day Truce - Frank Richards
15. Peace On Earth - Coope, Boyes & Simpson
16. Christmas 1914 - Mike Harding
17. Kick-off - sound effects library
18. Allies v Germans - The Hollywood Edge Sound Effects Library
19. Goal - The Hollywood Edge Sound Effects Library
20. The Christmas Truce - Coope, Boyes and Simpson
21. Well? - Pat Nelson
22. Christmas in the Trenches - John McCutcheon
23. A Silent Night - Jerry Lynch
24. Reconciliation - Coope, Boyes and Simpson
The includsion of the recording of Frank Richards' recalling the truce was particularly poignant as his daughter has just unveiled the Truce plaque at Frelinghien. And I'm a big fan of Coope, Boyes and Simpson so his selection gets my vote!
ONE of those email chain letters going around is devoted to the Christmas Truce and reassuringly gets most of the facts right. The email has been going about since 2003 and is calling for peace in Bethlehem. You'll find full details of it at http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/truce.asp
MUCH of the material on the internet about the Christmas Truce is reasonably accurate - most sites just copy each other of course. I don't normally bother to email the sites pointing out minor inaccuracies - I have a life! - but I had to drop a line to the creator of a History Learning Site which talks indepth about the Christmas Truce - but says it happened in 1915! It is at http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/christmas-1915-world-war-one.htm and so far hasn't been corrected.
Curiously there is also a fairly famous song by Cormac McConnell which is called A Silent Night: Christmas 1915. For the record there were one or two half-hearted attempts at a truce in 1915 but generally they came to nothing. The truce of 1914 was all but unique.
I believe the two re-enactment soldiers who posed in front of the plaque at Frelinghien are Peter Knight and Stefan Langheinrich. And I'm told the helment that Peter is wearing didn't come into 'fashion' until 1916. Oh some people are so picky!
Many articles appear on the Christmas Truce at this time of year. But this one - http://weuropeanhistory.suite101.com/article.cfm/wartime_truces - by Lito Apostolakou goes further than most, describing in some detail other unofficial truces that have occurred throughout history.
Also worthy of a mention is the blog by Fred Child of American Public Radio - http://www.publicradio.org/columns/performancetoday/fredlines/ - which talks about the Christmas Truce. He also refers to the concert by Peter Rothstein and gives a link to a radio extract.
Is this the face of Pte William Heath, author of the famous "William Heath Letter"? A descendant of this William Heath has got in touch and we are now investigating whether he might be the one and the same (he certainly looks learned enough?!). See the Heath blog for more news of this development in our "Saving Private Heath" project. And if you haven't read the Heath Letter yet, then click here for a most astonishing Truce letter.
Our concert was a big success (sound of huge sigh of relief!). Many thanks to West Cumberland Choral Society, Dave Simpson and Willie Dodd. Rosehill theatre was all but sold out and it all went without a hitch (apart from Dave kicking over the Christmas Tree that is!). I will upload to the site the final script which is quite different from the one on the site at the moment).
Busy, busy busy at the moment! Our concert is well underway for Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven on December 11th and there is now a revised edition of Not A Shot Was Fired - it now includes the Heath letter.
I have now added some copyright-free images relating to the Christmas Truce on this site which people are free to use or manpiulate either for press articles or to promote any events and products relating to the truce.
3rd November 2008
SOME SURVIVED: The chances of taking part in the Truce and going on to survive the war were not great. But some did. I mentioned below Ben Calder and his page has now been updated with his picture. My grateful thanks to the family for their help.
2nd November 2008
I have to admit the marvellous picture at the top of our website has been used for some time without proper attribution. It was sent to me some while ago and although I replied and asked if I could use it on the site I didn't get an answer. However, I am now glad to finally find out it comes from The Sailent Remembrance Detachment. Their excellent website is well worth a look - they seem to be a very dedicated and enthusiastic bunch. My thanks to them for letting me use the photo.
25th October 2008
It is very rare - but always welcome - when a descendant of one of the Truce participants gets in touch. Rare perhaps because the death rate for soldiers in the war in 1914 was probably about one in three. We know so little about most of the soldiers we feature on this site but we can at least now tell you about one of them: Ben Calder.
24th October 2008
A PAGE about the truce has appeared on the website of the museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, courtesy of Dr H J Krijnen. Well worth a look.
16th October 2008
LAST year saw Cantus and Theater Latté Da collaborate on a Christmas Truce on a 'words and music' project about the Christmas Truce. The good news is that the concert is now available on CD - and fingers crossed may even be performed on European radio stations in the near future. Visit their website for more detials.
18th September 2008
I HAVE always thought that it would be nice to see a concert featuring songs sung during the truce and letters written by soldiers who took part in the truce. So I decided to produce one myself! Knowing nothing about producing shows at all, I fortunately have had the help of Dorothy Edger of West Cumberland Choral Society, her husband Jack and many other good friends.
The date is now set: Thursday, December 11th 2008 at Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven. It should be a lovely evening with Stille Nacht, O Come All Ye Faithfull, First Nowell, Home Sweet Home and many other of the songs being sung - and the audience joining in with some of them! It is also likely that BBC Radio Cumbria will record this for broadcast on Christmas Eve. Do come if you can!
1st September 2008
TRUCE PLAQUE TO BE UNVEILED
A PLAQUE is to be unveiled commemorating the Christmas Truce.
The memorial will be unveiled at Frelinghien on November 11th 2008 marking the truce between "A" Company of 2/Royal Welch Fusiliers, the MG Company of Jäger-Battalion Nr 6 and a detachment of Infanterie-Regiment Nr.133.
The project has been arranged b y Dr H. J. Krijnen who has written to www.christmastruce.co.uk to inform us about it. The project has the full support of the Commune, the RWF, the CWGC, the VDK and the Arbeitskreis sächsische Militärgeschichte.
Honour guards will be provided for the unveiling by the 1st Royal Welch and the Panzergrenadier Batallion 371 "Freistaat Sachsen". Both will participate in a commemorative football match in the afternoon. The plinth will show the badges of the units involved, with the words "Christmas Truce 1914".
The memorial will be unveiled by Frank Richards's daughter Margaret - Frank was a private in the Royal Welch Fusiliers who took part in the 1914 truce.
Also likely to be present will be the grandsons of two truce participants - Capt Stockwell (left) and Hauptmann Frhr von Sinner (right).
Dr Krijnen said: "Joachim Frhr von Sinner will bring his grandfather's revolver, used to fire the two shots that signalled the end of the Truce on the morning of Boxing Day 1914."
This is a wonderfully exciting project. There has been no official memorial to the truce to date. There is a cross erected during a TV reconstruction in 199 by the Khaki chums and a statue in In Flanders Fields museum, Ypres. But this will be the first proper marking of this historic event.
25th August 2008: As you will see on our home page, there has been some exciting news about the unveiling of a plaque to the Christmas Truce. This is thanks to the good work of Dr John Krijnen who keeps us informed about developments.
It's normally hard to get motivated about anything to do with the Christmas Truce in the heat of Britain's summer! However, the August bank holiday weather is so miserable, Christmas does not seem far away. In addition to updating this site, our book and any cuttings that have come in, Lesley & I are preparing a talk to Cartmel Priory Fellowship in September. It's good to brush the cobwebs off once more!
5th February 2008: Thanks to the internet community I have identified the song Sailor Beware (see Feb 3 entry) as Asleep in the Deep - which included the line, "Sailor take care, Sailor beware".
4th February 2008: I have put together an article giving an overview of the truce to satisfy many general and media inquiries. It also strikes me that a version of this may satisfy the needs of Wikipedia or other similar websites.
3rd February 2008: I have just returned from the city archives at Stoke on Trent where I was trying to trace the identity of the 'Private Heath Letter'. You can read more on the separate Heath blog. I also transcribed a few more letters from The Staffordshire Sentinel including one which included the line: "One of our fellows went across to the German trenches dressed in women's clothes."! One has to ask why a private on the Western Front just happened to have a set of women's clothes with him! The letters also revealed a couple more songs sung during the truce. One was called Sailor Beware is proving elusive - if anyone knows about this song drop me a line. I think it was a German opera song although the letter says it was sung in its English translation.
5 JANUARY 2008: I don't have many more details, but it seems there was a reconstruction of the famous truce and football match staged during Christmas 2007. Some fine photos were sent to me by Philippe Courrier and he said it took place in December at Ploegsteert but apart from that I have no more details. Can anyone send me any more information? Email: email@example.com
4 JANUARY 2008: There is much dispute and discussion about whether a football match actually took place between the Germans and Allies during the truce - and if so what was the score. I thought I would collate all the evidence in one article - if you can add any more, let me know.
ALL IS CALM: Exciting news! Erick Lichte, artistic director of the Cantus singers of Minneapolis, email me about a project they are involved with. The world premiere of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by Peter Rothstein. Not surprisingly all tickets are sold out by don't worry, you can listen online at Minnesota Public Radio. Go to www.minnesotapublicradio.org. Click on the listen button at the Classical section at the top of the page. The world premiere will be heard around the world on Friday, December 21 at 10:30am (GMT -6) There will also be a rebroadcast Christmas morning. This sounds a fantastic project with narration taken from soldiers' journals and 26 songs by the Cantus singers.
JOHN MCCUTCHEON BOOK: Not sure how I missed this but there's a delightful children's book, Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon (illustrated by Henri Sorenson) now available. John is of course the well-known folk singer who also wrote a song about the 1914 truce.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: An American has emailed expressing a wish to take part in Operation Plum Puddings - but not sure how to go about it as she's in America! It can be hard enough finding and transcribing these letters in England so I'm not sure how to suggest she continues. Anyone else any ideas? Obviously any American reports of the truce would be useful and I've also pointed her in the direction of the similar truces that almost broke out during the American civil war.
CINCINNATI PLAYWRIGHT : The Christmas Truce took part along the France/Belgium war front but it continues to reverberate around the world. A week or so ago I had an email from a student in Hawaii doing a school project on the Truce. And this week I learn about Cincinnati playwright Phil Paradise launching his play, Soldier's Christmas about the truce. You'll find more details on Cinnati.com. Good luck Phil!
COOPE, BOYES & SIMPSON: Lesley and I have just returned from Bridlington where we saw the folk trio Coope, Boyes and Simpson in concert. This trio have produced a CD in the past based upon the Christmas Truce and are known for singing acapella songs connected with the war and Christmas. Folk singing is not everyone's cup of tea but to hear this trio sing acapella is fantastic. Catch them if they come near you! Now we have a lengthy list of songs sung by soldiers during the truce perhaps they will produce Christmas Truce II.
FAMILY LINKS: Jon-Paul Carr, Chairman of Irchester Parish Historical Society, sent me a fascintaing email. He writes: "
My Great- Grandfather, William Coles (1885-1977) of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire was a reservist with 2nd Battalion, The Leicestershire Regiment and was called up for service during the First World War. He was somewhere (I haven't done the research as yet) in France when the Christmas Truce occured on Christmas Day.
I have at home a copy of a letter which he wrote to his wife which appears in the local Wellingborough News which I shall email to you in due course if you are interested.
Likewise I also have a report of this Christmas Truce from a National Newpaper which recorded his memories during the 1960s. I believe this tape recording was then deposited with the Imperial War Museum.
I also have the Wellingborough News for 1914-1915 and will certainly have a look for any letters home for the Christmas of 1914 for you.
Finally I read with interest the newspaper article from Northamptonshire Daily Echo for Pte. J.W. Moulton. His parents lived a few doors away from my Grandfather at 38 Farndish Road, Irchester. He was the son of William Moulton who served in the Zulu War. John was one of three brothers and three sisters. One brother, called Frank was killed in the war in 1917. Another sister died quite young. Also another sister I believe she was called Clara married a Thomas Jones of Liverpool. This Thomas Jones served on the Titanic and survived the disaster. He saved the Countess of Rothes and was presented with an inscribed pocket watch which sold a few years ago for £40,000. I hope these tibits interest you." They certainly do!
PROPER PROPAGANDA: Atiya Kalim is a third year student at Durham University and Atiya's dissertation will compare and contrast the use of propaganda on soldiers
before and after the Christmas Truce of 1914 to try to establish what impact
this historic event had on propaganda. If you know of any research that will help Atiya email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS: Caroline Kennedy has included a report on the Christmas Truce in her new book, A Family Christmas. She has used a report from The Times - what a pity she did't check our website and see some of the more remarkable first hand accounts such as The Heath letter!
CALLING CHORAL SOCIETIES: If you're looking for an unusual Christmas concert then why not stage one based on the Christmas truce. Our researches have enabled us to list the songs definitely sung during the truce and I've drawn up a suggested concert interspersed with extracts from the letters. Do let us know if you are going to stage such a concert and we'll advertise it free on this site.
A CHRISTMAS GIFT: Looking for that perfect gift to slip inside your Christmas cards this year? Then download and print-off the remarkable Private Heath letter. You'll recall that volunteer Marian Robson found this astonishing letter in the archives of The North Mail. We have set it up on a PDF so you can download it, print it off and include it in your Christmas cards this year. Print the odd pages first then turn them over and print the even pages. Then trim and fold into a booklet.
SITE UPDATED WITH NEWCASTLE LETTERS: The good work of volunteer Marian Robson means that there are many letters from the North-East newspapers now going online. They are in the Newcastle section and include much vital information. There's even a reference to playing football with the Germans ("The Scotsmen started the bagpipes and we had a rare old jollification, which included football in which the Germans took part").
NEW MUSICAL WORK: Word has reached us via the internet of a new musical work based on the Christmas Truce. All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 was written by Peter Rothstein and its world premiere takes place on December 21 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, USA. But we don't know much more than that so if anyone knows any more about the composer or the work do let us know! The internet simply adds: "The Western Front, Christmas Eve, 1914. Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song.
A young German soldier steps into No Man’s Land singing Stille Nacht. Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, of music, of peace. Based on a remarkable true story, featuring the highly-acclaimed vocal ensemble Cantus ". Whatever the story behind the work, we wish all involved the very best.
TRUCE INSPIRE'S CHILDREN'S NOVEL: Canadian author Geoff Butler has been inspired by the 1914 truce to write a modern children's story. How A Snowflake Helps Put An End To War tells how a grandmother crochets a snowflake which she brings to life with a kiss. Sounds delightful! More details at Novanewsnow.com
ENEMIES CALL TRUCE TO WATCH CRICKET: We're often asked if such an event as the Christmas Truce could ever happen again - well it just has! Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan government forces called a truce so they could watch Sri Lanka in the World Cup cricket. And the good news for them was that Sri Lanka won to go through to the final. Sadly, fighting started again after the match finished but it showed that even today a common love of sport can bring peace. And no doubt there will be another truce for the final on April 28.
EXCURSION TO SCOTLAND: Lesley and I have combined a holiday in Edinburgh with a chance to transcribe Scottish letters. The National Library of Scotland was not the most user-friendly archive we've ever visited but we managed to source many more letters from Scottish papers. They will appear on the site shortly.
THE MOST AMAZING LETTER YET? Volunteers have transcribed dozens of letters but Private Heath's account is remarkable. It was found and transcribed by Marian Robson. The letter describes the truce from start to finish and is beautifully written. Sadly we know nothing else about Private Heath. I've asked any publisher using this letter to give due credit to Marian who has worked tirelessly on this project for many weeks, transcribing by hand dozens of letters. Her diligent work has certainly paid off with the finding of this letter. We now want to find out more about Private Heath and have started a 'Saving Private Heath' project - see separate blog.
NEW ACCOUNTS TRANSCRIBED: Our thanks to Gordon Platoon History Society for the latest contributions. They have covered the January 1915 newspapers found in the Colchester archive; The Essex County Standard, The Essex Chronicle and The Essex County Telegraph. The transcriptions will appear on this site soon.
To contact Alan or Lesley, send an email to email@example.com.