Many people know of the famous Christmas Eve truce in World War 1 in 1914 – 1915. Days prior to this event both sides were determined to kill each other. Soldiers endured the extreme conditions of weather and psychological harm, day after day, week after week. All of them, no doubt, wishing to be home with their families and far away from the trenches.
During some genealogy investigation performed by a good friend of mine, I found out my grandfather was taken P.O.W. in Croislles, a small village eight kilometres south-east of Arras. This village is just over an hour’s drive from Ypres, the site of a Christmas truce. My grandfather was part of that truce, although he was not forthcoming with many details. After all part of the truce was to retrieve the bodies of friends and fellow soldiers from both sides and bury them. It must have been a bitter-sweet relief during such horrors for those men.
The singing of Stille Nacht (Silent night) began the truce as the British troops responded with the English version, Silent Night. Candles decorated the trees and seasonal greetings were shouted across no man’s land. Eventually, gifts were exchanged between the two sides.
How must those men have felt face to face with an ‘enemy’, who was a man like himself. Told that they were fighting for their country but deep down wanting to be at home, safe and in the heart of their families.
Without my grandfather’s account, I have no idea what happened after the truce and if any of the soldiers he enjoyed Christmas Eve with were those who captured him in Croisilles on 16th June 1917. We do know he was wounded in his left hand by shrapnel and was initially taken to Dulmen P.O.W. camp and later transferred to Sultan P.O.W. camp. He was part of D company of the London regiment (Royal Fusiliers) from 1914 to 1919. He battled for Bullecourt in June 1917 prior to his capture.
If war can stop for a moment, why not forever?
My wish is for everyone to stop and look at your family, your neighbours and the faces of those suffering and ‘stop’ – we are all the same under our skins. We all want those we love to be happy, healthy and safe no matter the season.