They were just ordinary men with families, jobs and hopes. They stood and chatted with each other, comparing notes about family and friends, showing photographs of loved ones and sharing food, drink and cigarettes. Only a few hours earlier they had been shooting at each other on a battlefield and only a few hours later they would recommence on the ground they were standing on and kill those same men just like themselves with the same hopes and ambitions.
The 1914 unofficial Christmas truce is a well-known occurrence early in the First World War, the war to end all wars or the Great War. In Late December the soldiers and officers of the British Army were disappointed that they were still in France. The popular scenario bandied about was that it would all be over before Christmas. It wasn’t and they weren’t.
At that moment the British Army was made up of full-time professional soldiers whereas the German Army were mainly conscripts. The trench system was still in its infancy but still men were being killed at levels, which can only be described as criminal and would of course later become wholesale slaughter.
The accounts of the truce are better known now, less so the two sides doing the very least they could to shoot each other on a daily basis. No one wanted to die. Why would they? Choices? Oh sure. Take your place in the attack and the enemy shoot you decline to take part and your own side shoot you. So much for choices then.
“We don’t want to fight on this day or any other” is a quote from a German soldier during the truce, it kind of sums up all wars past, present and future. Ordinary men and women who don’t want to fight and military and political leaders who don’t see themselves as ordinary and who want OTHERs to fight on their behalf for aims which are at best dubious and at worst ill considered and meaningless.
At this time of year we’ve enjoyed Christmas and the Christmas spirit bringing cheer to all men. We have New Year to come when we regard the year we’ve survived and look forward with optimism to the year ahead. We take time out to remember those who are no longer with us and to hope that those less fortunate than ourselves find life easier in 2015.
We all should be actively pursuing good works, which give our lives more value and meaning. There are those who will do no such thing and will selfishly pursue their own agenda.
We’ll get lectured on what we should eat, smoke, drink, say, etc.
We just want to be ordinary people doing ordinary things.