WAR AND PEACE
by Siegfried Sassoon
The Bishop tells us: When the boys come back
They will not be the same; for they�ll have fought
In a just cause; they lead the last attack
On Anti-Christ; their comrades� blood has bought
New right to breed an honourable race.
They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.�
�We�re none of us the same!� the boys reply. �For George lost both his legs; and Bill�s stone blind;
Poor Jim�s shot through the lungs and like to die; And Bert�s gone syphilitic: you�ll not find A chap who�s served that hasn�t found some change.�
And the Bishop said: �The ways of God are strange!�
The Christmas Truce, 1914
(gunfire in the background)
A Hey, listen!
B Yeah, they�re coppin� it down Railway Wood tonight.
A Nah, not that. Listen. (singing in the background) What is it?
C Singin� innit?
B It�s those Welsh bastards in the next trench.
C That�s Jerry, that is.
B Yeah, it is Jerry. It�s comin� from over there.
D Sing up, Jerry! Let�s �ear yer!
(�Heilige Nacht� in the background)
C Oh nice, weren�t it? (clapping)
F (from afar) Tommy? Hello Tommy!
B Eh! �E� eard us!
F Froliche Weihnacht!
F Happy Christmas!
ALL Oh! �Appy Christmas!
F Hey, yeah, it�s Christmas!
I = Interviewer
GW = Graham Williams
HS = Harold Startin
I That scene from the West End musical of the 1960s �Oh What a Lovely War!� is a pretty accurate illustration of the kind of thing that happened in several places on the Western Front on that Christmas Eve of 1914. Listen to the account of someone who was actually there. Graham Williams, a rifleman with the London Rifle Brigade, was on sentry duty that night.
GW On the stroke of 11 o�clock, which by German time was midnight, �cos they were an hour ahead of us, lights began to appear all along the German trenches, and er… then people started singing. They started singing Heilige Nacht, (stutter) Silent Night. So I thought �Well, this is extraordinary!� And I woke up all the other chaps, and all the other sentries must have done the same thing, to come and see what was going on. They sang this carol right through, and we responded with English Christmas carols, and they replied with German again, and when we came to Come All Ye Faithful, they joined in singing, with us (mumble) singing it in Latin, Adeste Fideles.
I So by the time you got to that carol, both sides were singing the same carol together?
GW Both singing the same carol together. Then after that, one of the Germans called out, �Come over and see us, Tommy. Come over and see us!� So I could speak German pretty fluently in those days, so I called back… I said, �No, you come over and see us!�, I said, �Nein, kommen … zuerst kommen Sie hier, Fritz!� And nobody did come that time, and eventually the lights all burned out, and quietened down and went on with the usual routine for the night. Next morning I was asleep, when I woke up I found everyone was walking out into no-man�s-land, meeting the Germans, talking to them, and… (mutter) wonderful scene… couldn�t believe it!
I Further along the line in the perfect weather, Private Harold Startin of the Old Contemptibles was enjoying that morning too. He couldn�t speak any German, but that didn�t stop him making friends.
HS We were �Tommy� to them, and they were all �Fritz� to us. (mumble) They couldn�t have been more cordial towards you, all sharing their goodies with you. They were giving us cigars (laughs) about as big as your arm, and tobacco.
I Were you frightened at first? Were you suspicious at all? Because these were people …
I … that you�d been trained to hate, weren�t they?
HS No! There was no hatred, we�d got no grudge against them, they�d got no grudge against us. We were… we were the best of pals, although we were there to kill one another, there were no two ways about that at all. They helped us bury our dead, and we buried our dead with their dead. I�ve seen many a cross with a German name and number on and a British name and number on. �In death not divided.�
I Did you do other work during the truce as well? Was it just burying the dead, or were there other things …
HS Oh, there was strengthening the trenches, borrowing their tools….
I You actually borrowed German tools to strengthen your trenches?
HS We borrowed German tools. They … then… they�d come and help you strengthen your defences against them.
I = Interviewer
HS = Harold Startin
I Not only was the truce more extensive than anyone has realized before, it also lasted much longer than has been believed until now. In some areas, the war started up again on New Year�s Day, but in the part of the line where Harold Startin was, the truce lasted a lot lunger than that.
HS Ours, it went on for six weeks. You can read in the history books about Sir John French, when he heard of it, he were all against it. But our truce went on for six weeks. And the Wurttem-berg Regiment, they got relieved before we did, and they told us they thought it we� the Prussian Guards goin� to relieve them, and (stutter) if it was, we should hear three rifle shots at intervals, and if we only heard three shots we should know that the Prussian Guards, that we� opposite us then, and we�d got to keep down.
I Because they would be fiercer than
I … than the Wtirttembergers?
I Can you remember particular Germans that you spoke to? Over six weeks you must have made friends?
HS I spoke to one, Otto comes from Stuttgart, as �as been over to England to see me.
I So you made friends during the truce and kept in touch after the war?
HS Made friends during the truce, and friends after.
I = Interviewer
MB = Malcolm Brown
I By early February 1915, the truce was over.
Two people, Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, wrote a book about the Christmas Truce, determined that this should be an event that should not be forgotten.
MB This was the f… the first year of the first total war, a war which has become legendary for its viciousness and brutality. And we think it�s really rather remarkable that in that war, there occurred, beyond question, the greatest instance of friendship and fraternization between opposing warring forces. And though at the time, that event disappeared over the horizon as the great battles of 1915, �16, �17 came on, now when one looks back on it, one can see that this was, as it were, the lighting of a light, the shi … er, er … a shining light, the making of a gesture, the laying down of a sort of a first glimmer of protest against the concept that nations should be locked in massive and total war together.
(Soldiers� song from the 1914-1918 war.)
Wipe the tear, baby dear, from your eyee!
Though it�s hard to part, I know,
I�ll be tickled to death to go.
Don�t cryee! Don�t sighee!
There�s a silver lining in the sky.
Bon soir, old thing! Cheerio! Chin-chin!
Au revoir! Toodle-no! Goodbyee!
1 What made it an army was discipline and organization.
2 What I like about John is his honesty.
3 What made it an army is the way it was organization.
4 What I like about John is the fact that he is so honesty.
5 Drill is what transformed these men into an army.
6 Money is what makes the world go round.
7 It was pairs of individuals who thrust at each other.
8 It was John who broke the vase.