A Moment of Peace
New Crown English Series 3 (2021) appendix pg. 7-10
I hope you have received my letters, but you know what the post and censors are like. Did you get my Christmas greetings before the twenty-fifth?
Christmas here in the trenches was amazing. You may not believe what happened, but the following story is true, a true Christmas story.
On the morning of Christmas Day, George and I were on guard duty in the front-line trench. It is an unpleasant job made worse by the cries of the sick and wounded. That morning, however, there was silence. We wondered why. Was it the calm before an attack?
Then we heard singing from the German trenches. I could not understand the words, but I recognized the melody. It was a Christmas song that we often sang together. The voices grew louder as they got to the end. It was a very strange moment. We stayed on guard. In fact, the tensions rose. After a moment of silence, the singing began again.
When they started the third song, George sang along with them. He smiled, "Join in, old boy." I hesitated, but I finally found my voice. Though the words were different, I knew the tune. We heard the sweet melody and words across the damaged land between their trenches and ours.
During a pause, George and I started to sing the fourth song. At first, George and I were the only ones singing, but soon the rest of our unit joined in. The Germans softly clapped their hands in time to the music. We led two more songs.
Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, a German soldier popped his head above the mounds of earth. We held our rifles ready for battle. He slowly rose and waved his empty hands above his head. "My friends," he shouted. Today is Christmas. No shooting. Friends." George put down his rifle, pulled away from me, and stood up. "Yes. Peace today. Peace for Christmas."
We gathered in the land between our trenches. Broken trees and shell craters surrounded us. The Germans brought some wine, bread, and cheese. We brought sausages and mince pies. We ate together. We talked about our families and friends. Some played cards. Others played football.
As the sun set, we sang one more song. Then slowly, regretfully, we returned to our opposing trenches. The next day, the war resumed. We were enemies again, but for a moment, there was "peace on earth, good will to men."
Your loving son,
New Crown Book 3 (Heisei 24) pg. 100-103
We were face to face with the German army. We were close enough to hear each other. Sometimes we called to each other a morning greeting. Sometimes we listened to the cries of the sick and wounded. Each day the fighting started again. We were close enough to be friends, but the war made us enemies.
The afternoon of December 24, the Germans decorated a tree. It was Christmas Eve, even on a battlefield. I was close enough to see the shining candles on the tree.
The Germans started singing "Silent Night". When they finished, we sang "Home, Sweet Home". That night, the two armies exchanged songs until darkness came. Then silence fell.
The next day was Christmas. A German soldier called out, "Happy Christmas!" I shouted back, "Same to you!"
Later, a German soldier appeared. He was waving a white flag. Then another stood up. He was holding a bottle. "It's Christmas Day. We have wine and sausages. Please join us."
I turned to my friend Paul.
"Is it a trick?" I asked.
"Who knows? Who cares? It's Christmas," Paul shrugged and stood up.
With that, the two armies met on the battlefield, for peace, not war.
A German approached me. We shook hands. "My name's Abel. I'm a clerk at a hotel." "My name's Sam. I'm a teacher. Happy Christmas." He showed me his family's photo. We exchanged addresses.
One of the Germans was a barber. He gave some of us haircuts. We were very glad and thanked him. Paul knew some magic tricks. He delighted all of us, Germans and British.
We shared drinks and food. There was a lot of talking and laughing. I took some photos.
Then someone brought out a football. The game began and lasted for some time.
The wonderful time passed quickly. As the sun set and the stars came out, everyone knew it was over.
"Bye now. Take care," I said to Abel.
"Same to you," he said to me.
I waved to Abel one last time as a friend.
The next day we were enemies again. Friends from the day before shot at and killed each other. Many were wounded, many died.
But I will always remember that special moment of friendship. The impossible thing happened. Armies met in peace, not war.