The Christmas Truce in World War One

Blood-red poppies pour out of the Tower of London

A few of the 888,246 poppies in the Tower of London’s moat

Yesterday, TV news kept mentioning the Christmas Truce in 1914, when some German and British troops stopped fighting to play games of football and chat to – even sometimes exchange presents with – soldiers on the other side.

I was talking to a friend yesterday morning.

She asked me something I had never asked myself.

“If you were the commander of a section of the trenches,” she asked, “what would be the first thing you would do if there were a truce and you were fraternising with the enemy?”

I had not thought.

She told me: “Figure out where their best snipers were and the exact layout of their trenches and the exact points in the trenches where their best people went back to. So that, when the truce was over, you could target them.”

She had talked to someone who had been there.

He told her commanders on both sides had done that.

My father’s father was in the Merchant Navy during that war. He survived. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

My mother’s father was in The Black Watch but, I think, was mostly in the Middle East and Africa, He survived. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

There were 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London this year. One for each British or Colonial serviceman killed in the First World War.

So it goes.

Wikipedia reckons the total number of military and civilian casualties in World War One was over 37 million – over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded. That includes 6 million missing presumed dead and 2 million dead from disease.

So it goes.

According to The Queen’s Speech yesterday, no-one who fought in that war remains alive today.

So it goes.

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