Remembering the spirit of Christmas

Around Christmas 1914, my grandfather was given a small brass box, its lid embellished with an ornate coat of arms and the profile of a young woman. In it, he found pencils, chocolate and a card from Princess Mary, daughter of the British monarch.

The gift was one of more than 400,000 such tins given by Princess Mary to the soldiers of the British army and the Colonial forces fighting in the field as a Christmas present. It’s likely my grandfather didn’t get it until January 1915 because he was serving with the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry, then in transit from their station at Hong Kong to Britain. as the British recalled all their overseas troops to meet the war emergency. His unit reached the front – one of the last pre-war professional forces the British had left by that stage – in early 1915.

That gift was not the only symbol of that Christmas a century ago. On 24 December 1914, as snow fell over the trenches and ground-works on the Western Front, soldiers began singing carols. At Ploegsteert Wood, British and German soldiers sang to each other across the trench lines – then made their way out of their trenches and walked towards each other in no-man’s land. Haltingly, cautiously, they shook hands.

British soldiers of the Northumberland Hussars meeting German troops during the Christmas truce of 1914. Public domain, IWM  Q 50719, via Wikipedia.
British soldiers of the Northumberland Hussars meeting German troops during the Christmas truce of 1914. Public domain, IWM Q 50719, via Wikipedia.

Elsewhere, fighting continued. But in many places up and down the line, British and Germans who had been trying very hard to kill each other fraternised. Officers frowned upon it. Yet the soldiers swapped hats and coats, food, drink, even played ‘friendly’ soccer. Spontaneous truces happened at other times and places along the Western Front over the next three and a half years. But none had the scale – or feeling – of the Christmas truce of 1914.

As we look back on those times it is easy to think about the foolishness of war. And when I look at the world today I have to wonder, really, what we have learned. But there is hope, a lesson to be drawn from those events of 1914 and the spontaneous gestures of the men. We have within us have the power to be kind, to be peaceful, to remember kindness, if we only let ourselves.

Regular blogging will resume in the new year. There’ll be more writing tips, more science, more writing inspirations. Meanwhile, watch this space – there are fun posts and a wrap-up yet to come. I’d like to thank all my readers this year – thank you for making the time to visit my little corner of the blog-o-sphere, and for your thoughtful comments on my various ramblings. And have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014


12 thoughts on “Remembering the spirit of Christmas

  1. *sniff* I always get teary when I think of that story. It says a lot about the human spirit, and the strange conditions we find ourselves in on this earth. We often find ourselves in war when we never wanted it in the first place. It’s heart-warming to know that some ideals are stronger than the desire to kill each other. To know that sometimes, if we stop to pay attention, those strange people from other lands have more in common with us than differences. That’s one of my favorite war stories. It gives me hope for all of us.

    Merry Christmas, Mathew! Joy and glad tidings to you and your family. 🙂

    1. Thank you – and all the very best for your Christmas and New Year, have a great one…and here’s to some great writing coming up in 2015. Looking forward to your stories!

    1. Thanks – worth a try! It’ll be interesting to find out & I can let you know what happens. I’ve found Stumbleupon worthwhile, too – not as much traffic, but one of my older posts has been fielding a handful of hits daily for the last few weeks on the back of a ‘stumble’. Interesting how it all works.

      1. It is! I’m writing about how to go viral on Reddit. I never understood that site until yesterday. I had a few posts that got 50-75 hits last year on Stumble and one that got over a 1000. None recently.
        I will look at some of your older posts and try again!

    1. One view as of 4 Jan – I guess a lot depends on the reception at Reddit! 🙂 Definitely worth a try, though – many thanks – and who knows what tomorrow will bring?

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