The UWC Day on friday was on the same day as the Peace One Day. Last year, we sang the Peace Chant for this day. This year, the Year 1 and Year 2 theatre students gave us a performance on war, peace, strangers and friendship. Steve, the theatre teacher, had transformed a letter about the Christmas Truce of 1914, in which thousands of German and British soldiers participated, into a play. The Christmas Truce is the name for numerous spontaneous unofficial ceasefires between hostile trenches, where soldiers of opposite armies put down their arms and celebrated christmas peacefully together. The theatre performance showed us the events of that night, while Steve read the letter by a British soldier to us. I would love to write the whole letter here, but I guess that would be too long. Instead, I will give you some extracts of it, and pictures of the theatre performance.
“25th December 1914. My dear sister Janet, – It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our soldiers are asleep in their dugouts—yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!”
“Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier! Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled. Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was. “Because many have worked in England!” he said. “Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!”
“I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. “My God,” he said, “why cannot we have peace and all go home?” I told him gently, “That you must ask your emperor.” He looked at me then, searchingly. “Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts.” And so, dear sister, tell me, what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies? For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.”
“Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once? All nations say they want peace. Yet today, I wonder if we want it quite enough. – Your loving brother, Tom”