By Amanda Alexander, Graduate Assistant, McLure Education Library
On a freezing Christmas Day in 1914, what would come to be known as the “Christmas truce” of WWI, thousands of exhausted soldiers cautiously climbed out their trenches on the Western Front and entered no man’s land. They buried their dead, shook hands with their enemies, sung carols together, lit each other’s cigarettes, exchanged addresses, swapped family photos, and played soccer. This unofficial truce only lasted for a few hours before fighting resumed, but it shows that even a world war could not crush the hopeful spirit of Christmas.
Poets of the First World War
Co-written by Nicola Barber and Patrick Lee-Browne, this book showcases works from five significant writers of World War I. The book also goes into detail about the experiences of these soldiers who found artistic expression in their poetry for the horrors of warfare, and looks at the historical, political and social background which shaped the poetry of the war.
Michael Foreman’s touching book about four young British soldiers who dream of playing professional soccer for England but join the armed forces instead. During the Christmas truce during WWI they exchange presents and play a game of soccer with German forces. Foreman’s moving work is dedicated to his four uncles who were killed in WWI and shows both the hope and horror of war.
Jim Murphy writes a touching account of the true story of opposing forces defying orders by putting a stop to the fighting to hold a Christmas celebration. On Christmas Eve 1914, soldiers on both sides begin to hear the opposing forces singing carols, which spurred instances of fraternization between enemies that later became known as “The Christmas Truce”. Although the truce came to an end, Murphy’s book is a powerful look at soldiers who decided to choose their own fate –at least for a day.
This 2005 French film, written and directed by Christian Carion, is another depiction of the WWI Christmas truce that took place in December 1914. The story is seen through the eyes of French, German and Scottish soldiers as a musical call-and-response turns into an impromptu cease-fire, trading chocolates and champagne, playing soccer, and comparing pictures of their wives. However, as Christmas ends, the harsh realities of war return. It is an inspirational French film with touching songs and a bit of sadness, but hope and heart as well.
Poets of the First World War, War Game and Truce are all available in the Education School Library in the basement of McLure and Joyeux Noel can be found on the 1st floor of Gorgas in the Music Library and features optional English subtitles.