Monday, December 20, 2004

"Life in the U.S. Army Cantonment." Christmas postcard sent to Mrs. 30 July 1918

YMCA Xmas Card
Originally uploaded by Pip Wilson.

This is a YMCA Postcard sent home from the front.
The ymca had lots to do in the war - many wars.
You can see - if you peek closely - a ymca environment to care for the humans in need.

I love the stories of humanity coming to the fore at Christmas when we remember love coming in tenderness and .....

during the 1914-18 Great War

Observing the peace of Christmas in the midst of war seems the highest dichotomy, but indeed, combatants on both sides of the lines did mark the day throughout the war. Christmas 1914 saw a brief, unofficial truce between British and German soldiers in No Man's Land. The Americans in 1918 adopted children to give presents to. An American nurse serving in a British hospital bought candy for her patients.

Many references to Christmas during the Great War, like those on this page, are found in documents, photographs and postcards in the Liberty Memorial Museum.

On Christmas Eve [1914] there was a lull in the fighting. The Germans had a Christmas tree in the trenches.
- Gunner Herbert Smith, 5th Battery, Royal Field Artillery.

Christmas 1914
Suddenly a man from my company reported: 'The English are letting off fireworks.' And sure enough across the way from us the enemy trenches were lit up with fires and rockets and so on. We then made up a few banners ready 'Happy Christmas!' with a couple of candles behind and a couple on top.
- Unidentified German soldier's letter

Christmas in the trenches [1914]. It must have been sad, do you say? At midnight a baritone stood up and in a rich resonant voice sang 'Minuit, Chretiens.' The cannonade roared, and when the hymn finished applause broke out from our side and - from the German trenches!
- A Belgian soldier's letter.

Now we are in front of Hill 60 and it's Christmas evening 1915, our company is in the second line in the concrete bunkers.... Now it's Christmas for the second time in this war.... I have to look for a Christmas tree, without a tree there is no Christmas.... It's a wonderful winter day, there is a rare silence over the Front.
What would be the life at home in a little town on Christmas Eve? Everybody would be in a hurry, going home with presents under the arm. And here I am alone with my tree in a small trench. Some candles are fixed on the branches and an old steel helmet.
- Gemeiner Ernst Bergner, 143rd Infantry Regiment, Imperial German Army.

During the Allied occupation of Germany following the Armistice, American troops in Coblenz raised a Christmas tree in front of the Government building. Placing long strands of lights on the pine tree, it soon lit up the area after dusk. As music enveloped the large crowd of soldiers and German civilians, a festive air was made more so when the children received paper trumpets and other goodies pulled from soldiers' pockets. For the first time in years, the windows of the Government Palace were also lit and a lighted cross placed on top of the building.

'Just a few feet from me are members of a typical German family, throwing up a tiny Christmas tree, decorating it thoroughly in accordance with all respect due to the famed Christmas tree.'
- Sergeant 1st Class Charles Stevenson, Co. A, 314th Engineers, 89th Division in a letter dated 24 December 1918.