Photo: Robin Savage
THE GREAT WARRIOR
Episode 6 – SILENT NIGHT: good will to all men
THE BAGPIPES PLAY: ‘DRUMMERBOY’
THE MOTHER PLUCKS AN ENVELOPE FROM THE LONE TREE / SHE GIVES IT TO THE NURSE / SHE OPENS THE ENVELOPE
THROUGHOUT THIS EPISODE ALL BECOME THE SOLDIERS IN THE LETTER / IN THE STORY / THE BOY AND THE GIRL WILL PLAY FOOTBALL
25 December 1914. Christmas Day (The Truce).
The 7th letter: silent night.
It is now evening and today has been extraordinary.
At around mid-morning we were about to fire on a small group of Germans walking towards us across no man’s land when we noticed they carried no rifles – and there were no white flags!
One of our men stood up, went ‘over the top’, and greeted them. Within minutes there were more than a hundred of us all shaking hands and wishing everyone a merry Christmas.
It makes you wonder what all the fighting is about if this can happen. Perhaps there need to be more Christmas days if it brings about this sort of peace.
It only lasted about 30 - 45 minutes but we swapped cigarettes and took photographs and some exchanged autographs. Soldiers shook hands and one or two even hugged. From what we could understand, the German soldiers just want it all to end and to get back home and be with their families, too – like us.
Some of the men were even talking about another truce, on New Year’s Day, so that everyone can see how the photographs came out.
There was even a football match: we played football! I am sure you will not believe me when you read this: I can barely believe it myself.
And then everyone was ordered back to the trenches.
There wasn’t one shot fired all day and the peace and the quiet were exquisite.
The Germans even put up a notice saying “Merry Christmas”. And so we did the same. They then put up another one which said: “Gott mit uns” which means “God is with us”. And so we put up another one: “We got mittens too”. [PAUSE] I don’t know whether they got the joke.
We cooked bacon and porridge for breakfast and we’ve just had a Christmas stew. The food is not like this every day, though!
I even managed to go for a Christmas walk along the lines. Like we do back home. Can you imagine? There were quite a few of us walking atop of the parapet: strolling, thinking, and wishing one another a Merry Christmas – or just smiling as we passed.
I hope we can still smile when it is all over and done with…
What was even more extraordinary was that later in the afternoon we buried some of our dead together and had a joint burial service with some of the Germans. It was not like they were even our enemy. There were many bodies, and parts of bodies, scattered across this No Man’s Land but we gathered what we could.
What a name for a place that is so full of men – dead and alive: no man’s land…
Afterwards, we gave them some of our English tobacco and they gave us some of theirs. And then we shook hands and wished each other good luck.
One chap gave me some letters and asked me if I would send them to his girlfriend in Glasgow. So I took the letters, franked them, and sent them off to his girlfriend when I got back.
It certainly makes you think about the pointlessness of this war if we can be burying our dead together on Christmas day.
And it was all supposed to be over by Christmas…
THE WARRIORS SING ‘SILENT NIGHT’
THE NURSE BEGINS TO SING FIRST / THEN THE MOTHER / THE SOLDIER / THE CHILDREN / AND THE FINALLY THE ANCIENT INDIAN KING
THE ENVELOPES AND LETTERS USED THROUGHOUT THE GREAT WARRIOR SO FAR ARE TIED BACK ONTO THE LONE TREE / THE LETTERS MIGHT ALMOST BE DECORATIONS / THE TREE MIGHT EVEN LIGHT UP AT SOME POINT / IN FACT IT MUST LIGHT UP
There has been singing tonight and I saw a couple of the young lads crying. I think I cried, too. But I should not be telling you this. They should not be here. They are boys and too young to be here. It makes me angry if I think about it too much so I must not think about it.
I am writing this from my dugout in our trench; it is bitterly cold now but we have managed to get a wood fire going and have plenty of straw to keep it going until we fall asleep.
I want soap. I want a bar of soap. And I want to wash. I want a bath. A long, hot soapy bath. For a week. And for the water to be changed every hour.
You wouldn’t recognise me I am so filthy. Anyhow. I love you.
I wish it could be Christmas every day! Merry Merry!
With love and good will to all men. Laurie.
P.S. Save me some Christmas dinner!
It makes you wonder what all the fighting is about if this can happen.