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The Spirit of Christmas

10:50 22 December 2014

Soldiers in Folkestone at the unveiling of the Step Short commemorative arch Photo credit: Manu Palomeque/LNP

Soldiers in Folkestone at the unveiling of the Step Short commemorative arch Photo credit: Manu Palomeque/LNP

Manu Palomeque/LNP

Tunbridge Wells reader Bryan Darby wrote this poem to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the unofficial Christmas truce in the trenches and in the year that marks the centenary of that now-famous 1914 truce, Kent Life is delighted to reproduce it here in full

It was cold in the trenches that Christmas, we were up to our ankles in mud,

And the shells that were bursting around us brought a chill to the bravest man’s blood.

Then the barrage of sound slowly faded and dwindled away to a stop.

Down the line, someone shouted “Get ready. Tomorrow we’re over the top.”

As we waited expecting the order, a mate took a tin-whistle out.

Soon the silence was broken by music as the Spirit of Christmas poured out.

One by one the chaps joined in the singing and the war was a thing of the past;

We forgot that our reason for coming was to kill and to maim and to blast.

In the distance a voice sang a carol. We knew what it was by the range.

Some Jerry had set the words winging; they sounded all foreign and strange.

‘Stille Nacht’ died away into silence; astonished, we waited for more.

“Merry Christmas,” a German voice shouted. With those words came an end to the war.

We cautiously went down to greet them, these men we’d been fighting for weeks,

And we learned that a man is a person, no matter what language he speaks.

Well, we smoked and we laughed and showed photos of wives and of daughters and sons.

And we drank to each other that Christmas; we drank to the silence of guns.

Then one of the chaps found a football. We kicked it around for a while.

Friend and foe played together like brothers, every face you could see wore a smile.

But we said our goodbyes with a handshake, returned to our trenches again.

I can still hear those words, “So long, Tommy”, with a feeling that’s hard to explain.

With a whistle, the fighting restarted. We asked ourselves - what was it for?

There was friend killing friend in those trenches where a whistle had once stopped a war.

For a moment in time we’d been comrades whose friendship had crossed No Man’s Land.

And we’d witnessed how enemy forces can be joined by the touch of God’s hand.

Bryan Darby

The Spirit of Christmas

It was cold in the trenches that Christmas, we were up to our ankles in mud,

And the shells that were bursting around us brought a chill to the bravest man’s blood.

Then the barrage of sound slowly faded and dwindled away to a stop.

Down the line, someone shouted “Get ready. Tomorrow we’re over the top.”

As we waited expecting the order, a mate took a tin-whistle out.

Soon the silence was broken by music as the Spirit of Christmas poured out.

One by one the chaps joined in the singing and the war was a thing of the past;

We forgot that our reason for coming was to kill and to maim and to blast.

In the distance a voice sang a carol. We knew what it was by the range.

Some Jerry had set the words winging; they sounded all foreign and strange.

‘Stille Nacht’ died away into silence; astonished, we waited for more.

“Merry Christmas,” a German voice shouted. With those words came an end to the war.

We cautiously went down to greet them, these men we’d been fighting for weeks,

And we learned that a man is a person, no matter what language he speaks.

Well, we smoked and we laughed and showed photos of wives and of daughters and sons.

And we drank to each other that Christmas; we drank to the silence of guns.

Then one of the chaps found a football. We kicked it around for a while.

Friend and foe played together like brothers, every face you could see wore a smile.

But we said our goodbyes with a handshake, returned to our trenches again.

I can still hear those words, “So long, Tommy”, with a feeling that’s hard to explain.

With a whistle, the fighting restarted. We asked ourselves - what was it for?

There was friend killing friend in those trenches where a whistle had once stopped a war.

For a moment in time we’d been comrades whose friendship had crossed No Man’s Land.

And we’d witnessed how enemy forces can be joined by the touch of God’s hand.

Bryan Darby

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