An iconic Christmas moment in Western military history

Recently we attended the screening of the Sir Peter Jackson film ?They Shall Not Grow Old?.

We were moved by the impact of the rejuvenation of the black and white ?jerky? silent film to modern colour and the depth of intricacy in interpreting the words spoken by our soldiers at war. The film became alive and relevant and even more poignant when afterwards my darling wife told the tale of her paternal Grandfather who fought in the Great War and was buried alive in a trench. Fortunately, he was dug out and he lived, and consequently, thankfully she is here with me today.

What a bloody awful terrible experience these brave men, and youths endured, realising they didn?t really know what lay ahead of them, and not anticipating some society rejection after they returned home.

A century on from the end of the first world war there has been an academic move to discredit one of the most iconic Christmas moments in Western military history.

The story goes, that on December 25th, 1914, both German and British forces laid down their weapons and took part in a game of football which was to be dubbed as “The Christmas Truce.”

While many have been quick to embrace one of the Great war’s most welcome tales, some academic ?historians? have begun to raise questions about the legitimacy of the legendary football match and whether both sides emerged from their horrible possibly water-filled trenches, laid down their arms, kicked a ball around, traded for cigarettes and engaged in Christmas carols.

A former soldier in the British Army named Ernie Williams, during a television interview back in 1983 recalled the event at Wulverghem Belgium.

“The ball appeared from somewhere, I don’t know where, but it came from their side – it wasn’t from our side that the ball came,” he said.

“They made up some goals and one fellow went in goal and then it was just a general kickabout. I should think there were about a couple of hundred taking part.

“I had a go at the ball. I was pretty good then, at 19. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was no sort of ill-will between us. There was no referee, and no score, no tally at all.

“It was simply a melee – nothing like the soccer you see on television. The boots we wore were a menace – those great big boots we had on – and in those days the balls were made of leather and they soon got very soggy.”

Truces are common in war and often involve both sides ignoring each other in order to carry out common tasks — often burial of dead and retrieval of wounded.

The story further says at Christmas 1914 where the truce occurred most men took part in it in a manner of relief and common religious denominational culture, which is clearly much more ‘romantic’, appealing and representative of ?peace to all men?. Obviously, after Christmas, the war did resume.

Being able to appreciate the Christmas truce element of the First World War is really about western culture; It provides some really key messages around reconciliation, friendship, respect and humanity, integral nostalgia and importantly a Christian affinity that encouraged those men to extend the hand of temporary friendship.

There is a huge difference between a truce and fraternization, the academics tend to merge them together while insinuating there is no ?firm evidence? this event took place.

I do not care what the leftist academics intimate, to me this Christmas tale is not about glorifying the horrors of war, far from it.

It’s about fantastic acts when the ?common traits? of humanity, even for a short time overcome such horror; a Christmas tale to remember.

I continue to believe in Ernie. They shall not grow old, we should remember them.

 

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