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The Rock-itt : January 2012
Our Diggers in World War 1 Can you imagine what it would have been like to spend YOUR Christmas in the Trenches of World War 1? No, I thought not. W hile we these days are all worried about making sure we have enough presents or Turkey on the table, or that we have got enough grog in for Christm as Day or that we are saving money to rush off and spend it all in the post Christmas sales, cast your mind back to the Christmas of 1914 in Europe. Luckily for the Diggers, they were not there for the famous Christmas Day Truce of 1914. Perhaps looking back many wished they had been, because they had all signed up to be in France and Belgium before the end of 1914 and they all wanted to be in a “war” before it fizzled out by Christmas. No, the Aussies were either in training in Egypt around the Great Pyramid of Mena or on board ships bound for the Suez Canal. Rumours of a war with Turkey and an attack on the Suez Canal were rife at Christmastime in Egypt. However while most Aussie soldiers, training in the Egyptian desert, were moaning about the sand, flies and heat and the quantity of tough training undertaken at this time, the Old World armies were doing it really tough, in the freezing cold open trenches of northern France and Belgium. On Christmas Eve, across No Man’s Land, the familiar sounds of the well known carol, “Silent Night” could be heard drifting across the snow covered wasteland and men, dreaming of home and a warm night’s sleep could only join in and sing their own versions of carols. All of a sudden a different atmosphere had crept up and as dawn broke on the morning of the 25th December, there was no shout of “stand to” but a nervous shuffle as guns were laid on the trench parapet and soldiers from both sides gradually climbed out into the snow covered and eerie landscape. For some reason the regular bombardment had stopped on Christmas Eve with perhaps the High Command offering both sides a respite from the terror of exploding shells at this tim e of year, but whatever it was seem ed to be a sign to the worn weary soldiers, freezing cold from a night under the stars. Suddenly the odd person rapidly became a large group of soldiers who tentatively stepped up to each other wrapped against the chill of the early morning and exchanged gifts of cigarettes or chocolate and some conversations. In som e sectors it was rumoured that a game of soccer was organised, British against German, but it must be recalled that over a 500 mile front line this breakout of familiarity was very much restricted to a small section of the front line. At the platoon level, this slackening of the offensive spirit could be overlooked or even tolerated at this tim e of year, but further up the chain of command, once this was discovered, the mood was distinctly hostile and officers were instructed to cease such fraternisation with the enemy lest it breed a seed of lethargy towards the enem y and even By Simon Lyon Brit ish and German soldiers fraterniz e during the 'Christ mas Truce' of 1914