The Christmas Truce
The recent commemoration events of 'The Great War' coupled with Sainsburys use of this topic as an advert has brought this wonderful story to the forefront of many peoples minds. It is a story that has been told for a 100 years and is a great story to explore with children in the run up to Christmas.
Sainsbury's retelling of the story.
The sound of gunfire in the WW1 trenches is replaced by the singing of Christmas Carols from both sides.
One brave soldier, Jim, decides to venture into No Man's Land. Where he meets a German soldier called Otto. After the initial meeting, men from both sides wander into No Man's Land, playing football, chatting about their lives back home, burying their dead and for just a moment forget about the horrors around them.
CBBC Animated Special 'War Game' Extract
In this version based on Michael Foreman's 'War Game' a German is the first to enter No Man's Land planting a christmas tree in the centre.
Will is the first of the English to climb out of the trench but his officer doesn't seem too happy, the others take some persuasion. "Should we be doing this?" says one of them.
This could be discussed with the pupils - should they have played football at such a serious time?
War Game by Michael Foreman
Will is proud of the fact that he is the first of his family to be in the army. His battalion is made up of family and friends from his village. They were part of a 'Pals Battallion.'
Will describes what he has seen in the war so far which can be used in class to begin to demonstrate the 'horrors' of the trench warfare.
There is a beautiful sequence of images which show the 'football match.'
This film shows what happened afterwards, when the fighting returns and they go over the top.
It does not show the ending to the story, in the novel all of the family are killed, as the dedication in the book shows, four of Michael Foreman's uncles were killed in the War.
A short 'Fox Sports' documentary telling the story in a documentary style.
The children can use the documentary evidence to create their own interview with survivors or diary entries.
UK Poet Laureat Carol Ann Duffy wrote this poem in remembrance of the soldiers in the German and British trenches in World War 1, who declared a momentary unilateral truce in the slaughter at Christmas 1914, in recognition of what united them as human beings, rather than the war that divided them as killing machines.
Christmas Eve in the trenches of France, the guns were quiet.
The dead lay still in No Man's Land –
Freddie, Franz, Friedrich, Frank . . .
The moon, like a medal, hung in the clear, cold sky.
Silver frost on barbed wire, strange tinsel, sparkled and winked.
A boy from Stroud stared at a star
to meet his mother's eyesight there.
An owl swooped on a rat on the glove of a corpse.
In a copse of trees behind the lines, a lone bird sang.
A soldier-poet noted it down – a robin holding his winter ground –
then silence spread and touched each man like a hand.
Somebody kissed the gold of his ring;
a few lit pipes;
most, in their greatcoats, huddled,
waiting for sleep.
The liquid mud had hardened at last in the freeze.
But it was Christmas Eve; believe; belief thrilled the night air,
where glittering rime on unburied sons
treasured their stiff hair.
The sharp, clean, midwinter smell held memory.
On watch, a rifleman scoured the terrain –
no sign of life,
no shadows, shots from snipers, nowt to note or report.
The frozen, foreign fields were acres of pain.
Then flickering flames from the other side danced in his eyes,
as Christmas Trees in their dozens shone, candlelit on the parapets,
and they started to sing, all down the German lines.
Men who would drown in mud, be gassed, or shot, or vaporised
by falling shells, or live to tell, heard for the first time then –
Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles schläft, einsam wacht …
Cariad, the song was a sudden bridge from man to man;
a gift to the heart from home,
or childhood, some place shared …
When it was done, the British soldiers cheered.
A Scotsman started to bawl The First Noel
and all joined in,
till the Germans stood, seeing
across the divide,
the sprawled, mute shapes of those who had died.
All night, along the Western Front, they sang, the enemies –
carols, hymns, folk songs, anthems, in German, English, French;
each battalion choired in its grim trench.
So Christmas dawned, wrapped in mist, to open itself
and offer the day like a gift
for Harry, Hugo, Hermann, Henry, Heinz …
with whistles, waves, cheers, shouts, laughs.
Frohe Weinachten, Tommy! Merry Christmas, Fritz!
A young Berliner, brandishing schnapps,
was the first from his ditch to climb.
A Shropshire lad ran at him like a rhyme.
Then it was up and over, every man, to shake the hand
of a foe as a friend,
or slap his back like a brother would;
exchanging gifts of biscuits, tea, Maconochie's stew,
Tickler's jam … for cognac, sausages, cigars,
or chase six hares, who jumped
from a cabbage-patch, or find a ball
and make of a battleground a football pitch.
I showed him a picture of my wife. Ich zeigte ihm
ein Foto meiner Frau.
Sie sei schön, sagte er.
He thought her beautiful, he said.
They buried the dead then, hacked spades into hard earth
again and again, till a score of men
were at rest, identified, blessed.
Der Herr ist mein Hirt … my shepherd, I shall not want.
And all that marvellous, festive day and night, they came and went,
the officers, the rank and file, their fallen comrades side by side
beneath the makeshift crosses of midwinter graves …
… beneath the shivering, shy stars
and the pinned moon
and the yawn of History;
the high, bright bullets
which each man later only aimed at the sky.
Hour long documentary of the events
War Games Documentary
The Christmas Truce on Radio 4
Football Remembers - Schools Resource
Mr P's ICT Blog