CNN/AP: Last survivor of 1914 WWI 'Christmas Truce' dies
Last survivor of 1914 'Christmas Truce' dies WWI veteran, 109, was Scotland's oldest man Monday, November 21, 2005
LONDON, England (AP) -- Alfred Anderson, the last surviving soldier to have heard the guns fall silent along the Western Front during the spontaneous "Christmas Truce" of World War I, died Monday at age 109.
More than 80 years after the war, Anderson recalled the "eerie sound of silence" as shooting stopped and soldiers clambered from trenches to greet one another December 25, 1914.
His parish priest, the Rev. Neil Gardner, said Anderson died in his sleep early Monday at a nursing home in Newtyle, Scotland. His death leaves fewer than 10 veterans of World War I alive in Britain.
Born June 25, 1896, Anderson was an 18-year-old soldier in the Black Watch regiment when British and German troops cautiously emerged from the trenches that Christmas Day in 1914. The enemies swapped cigarettes and tunic buttons, sang carols and even played soccer amid the mud, barbed wire and shell-holes of no man's land.
The informal truce spread along much of the 500-mile Western Front, in some cases lasting for days -- alarming army commanders who feared fraternization would sap the troops' will to fight. The next year brought the start of vast battles of attrition that claimed 10 million lives, and the Christmas truce was never repeated....
Enlisted men , non commisioned officers and lower ranking officers joined in the truce . It was the Commanders and Politicians that didn`t like it , the people who were out of harms way and were sending young men to fight for them . I remember reading that in the American Civil War , as men from both sides lay wounded and dieing on the battlefield , they would try to help each other .
The humanity of the individual usually exceeds that of a group, especially in a profession with such a groupthink as the military's tends to be. And isn't that sentiment rather telling- that military commanders could be "worried" about peace breaking out?
8. Last survivor of 'Christmas truce' tells of his sorrow
From The Observer last year.
The words drifted across the frozen battlefield: 'Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht'. To the ears of the British troops peering over their trench, the lyrics may have been unfamiliar but the haunting tune was unmistakable. After the last note a lone German infantryman appeared holding a small tree glowing with light. 'Merry Christmas. We not shoot, you not shoot.'
10. The movie, "A Midnight Clear", 1992, surprised me with its intensity.
It tells the story of that fateful Christmas. Usually I scoff at such movies, but this one really got to me. I never found out who sang the title song, but it is the most haunting rendition of "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" that I have ever heard.
In my search for the singer, I went to musicmatch.com and found a lovely version of A Midnight Clear by Diane Taraz. Now all I have to do is find the Sam Phillips version, so I can create a CD of Christmas music for my friends.
...has so many lessons to teach us. Here is one - from Rudyard Kipling who wrote many a verse in support of the ordinary soldier - the Tommies. Who urged his son to enlist. Who so grieved when that sone became one of the missing.
"If any question why we died, Tell them, because our fathers lied."
Support our troops. Bring them home. Beg forgiveness for the lies.
39. Remember the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth?
All the Blackadder tales ended with the entire cast dead. It called for weird plot twists in the first three series.
In the series based on the Western Front, no fantasy was needed. The Generals demanded a Big Push & all the characters realized they were not long for the world. There was a bit of pathos amid the usual hilarity.
Then they all went Over the Top into a cloud of gunfire.
a very well respected British pilot who was shot down and imprisoned in a german pow camp. The pilot was allowed to fly even though he had had one or both legs amputated. The Germans also had a great deal of respect for the man and allowed a RAF plane to fly over safely and drop prosthetic leg(s) for the pilot.
I heard this story some time ago and I think it was WWI, though it could have been WWII I suppose. I am just curious if anyone else knows this story or can correct me if I am wrong. It came to mind reading of the Christmas story.
I regret deeply that this kind of thing has become impossible. There was a time when even enemies could respect the humanity, character, ability (I don't have the right words) of their opponents. *sigh* I often feel like I should have been born in another age.
The RAF pilot you are asking about is Douglas Bader. He was a double amputee. If I am recalling the story correctly, Bader lost his legs in a training accident prior to the war, but was fitted with prosthesis and kept on flying. As you mentioned, he was shot down and in the crash his artificial limbs were damaged. The Germans allowed an unarmed British plane to drop new ones. Bader immediately put them to good use and attempted an escape. After he was caught, the camp commendant (sp?) required that Bader turn in his legs each evening. There were one or two other amputee pilots in the RAF during WWII as well, inspired by Bader.
Yes about the new weapons/tactics too. Soon wars will be fought with machines, remotely operated, and waged as a true video game (more so than it already is). The absence of honor and respect is only going to get worse.
in the reality of being burned to death in the cockpit of a Spitfire. (Or indeed of being spiked on the end of a jousting stick.) The word "honor" in terms of warfare died sometime in mid 1915.(It should have been seen as long dead but by 1915 even the charade could no longer be maintained.)
28. If the generals and politicians who started war were made to fight it
there simply would be no war. The average men on both sides were almost identical, except for language spoken. On any other day, men from both sides would have probably shared drinks, talked of beautiful women, played cards, go fishing, you name it. You can thank the powers that be for putting them in a situation to kill each other... Damn shame isn't it?
41. As those horrors recede, our inclination to repeat them rises.
It was ninety-nine years between the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars and the horrors of the Great War, just long enough to pass entirely out of living memory and into the realm of abstraction.
Perhaps we can view the World Wars as one great conflict with a twenty year armistice in between, thus pushing back the date of our ultimate complacency to about 2044. But as I view the world today, I can see the sprouts of the next world war taking firm root. Soon Hitler will be as distant in peoples' minds as Napoleon, and the stage will be set for the next maniac to set the world ablaze.
Come to think of it, that maniac may already be here.
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