Christmas Truce

I have heard and read this story many times, but I share it today, for unlike most Christmas stories, it is a true story, a story of humanity and one that always touches my heart, as I hope it will yours. Thank you, Erik Hare of Barataria, for sharing this story and allowing me to share it also. The year was 1914 …

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

This is a repeat from 2014.  But I love the story, and in this time of conflict it’s worth retelling.

Christmastime stories all have a touch of magic in them. From spirits of Christmas past, present, and future to a real Santa Claus the light of the season becomes real through some divine spark that illuminates a life. But all of these fairy stories dim in comparison to one with a much lighter touch of providence acting only through the hearts and arms of men. And this story is also true.

The time is a century ago, near St Yves, France. The Great War has stalled into the mud as Germans and English have dug in yards apart. The men of both sides shiver as December settles deep into the trenches. Hired on as murderers, the stench of death around them, they chose instead for a few days to be something much…

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In Flanders Field

My very dear friend David Prosser, whose blog Barsetshirediaries always brings a smile to my face, recently introduced me to his second blog, The BUTHIDARS. This second blog (you’ll have to ask David where he got the name, as I have no idea) is one of peace, love and hugs. It is based on kindness to all, and is a place where “smiling and hugging are the order of the day”. The most recent post on this blog begins with a poem we have all heard many times, In Flanders Field by John McCrae. Reading the story behind the poem, and then David’s beautifully written commentary brought a tear to my eye, but not in a bad way. David calls for peace, for an end to wars so that we can direct our attentions to more important things. Please take a few moments to read this exceptional post … and if you feel so inclined, give his blog a follow! Thank you, David, for pointing me toward this excellent blog and for permission to share! And … HUGS!

The BUTHIDARS

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2nd May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit…

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Review of Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Almost everybody has heard of the RMS Lusitania, a British passenger ship owned by the Cunard Line that was torpedoed by a German U-boat (submarine) as it neared its destination of Liverpool on May 7th, 1915. Those are the bare facts that we all know. But other “facts” you might believe you know may be only partly true or even myths that have been promulgated throughout the past century. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania and, as such, we can expect a torrent of books and documentaries on the subject. If you read no other, I highly recommend Erik Larson’s Dead Wake.

As always, Erik Larson has deeply researched the subject and his book, which could have come out as a dry stating of facts, reads almost like a novel. Even though we all know the final outcome, I found this account to be fascinating, keeping me up reading well past the time I should have been asleep. Mr. Larson provides humanistic characterizations of both the Lusitania captain, William Thomas Turner, and the commander of U-20, Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger. As was the case with A Higher Call by Adam Makos (previously reviewed), we come to see the antagonist as a man, a human being, doing the job he has been ordered to do, rather than a cruel and heartless monster. The sinking of the Lusitania would have a profound effect on the lives of both of these men. We also get to know some of the passengers, some famous, others relatively unknown, but all individuals, human beings, rather than simply passenger #xyz.

Among the myths and half-truths we have come to believe are that the sinking of the Lusitania was what brought America directly into World War I, but as Larson reminds us, the U.S. did not actively engage in the war until two years later, 1917, and that as a result of the decoding of the Zimmerman telegram in which Germany offered to return to Mexico certain lands in the southwest U.S. in exchange for Mexico attacking the U.S. While certainly the sinking of the Lusitania strained relations between the U.S. and Germany, it was not the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. Another is that the ship was hit with two separate torpedoes, while in fact it was the work of a single torpedo that just happened, quite by accident, to strike at the exact right spot to bring the ship down within 18 minutes. And lastly, the reader will learn that which I considered to be the most surprising and scandalous part of the entire episode, which is the involvement of our “allies”, the British, and the role they played, including the fact that it was well within their power and ability to have prevented this catastrophe. But enough said … since the outcome is known, there should be some surprises left for the actual reading of the book, right?

Again, Erik Larson is known as a thorough researcher and excellent, gifted writer of historical non-fiction and in Dead Wake he does not disappoint. I bought the Kindle edition of the book, but wish I had bought the hardcover, as it would make a wonderful addition to my history library.