December Painting of the Month (3)

The Christmas Truce of 1914 is one of the great romantic stories of the First World War. Whether it was a truce or a few local unofficial ceasefires is conjecture but certainly some soldiers popped their heads out of the trenches and met in ‘No Mans Land’. This image was painted by  Angus McBride in 1969 and captures the surreality of the truce. Look at the supposed joviality of the scene.

The Christmas Truce, First World War, trench warfare, 1914, Angus McBride
Angus McBride, British and German soldiers hold a Christmas Truce during the Great War, oil on canvas, 1969, Private Collection.

The English soldiers might have been moved by hearing the carols sung from the German trenches, Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles schläft, einsam wacht. Maybe there was a football match. Certainly the incident has come to represent Mankind’s enduring spirit in the face of adversity.

London Illustrated News, Jan. 1915,  The Christmas Truce
The London Illustrated News, January 9th 1915 edition, The Christmas Truce of 1914

The London Illustrated News of January 9th 1915 published this artist’s impression. The caption read “Saxons and Anglo-Saxons fraternising on the field of battle at the season of peace and goodwill: Officers and men from the German and British trenches meet and greet one another—A German officer photographing a group of foes and friends.” This view, maybe, also highlights the romantic representation of the event.

The truce is more likely to be a confusing event at a confusing time, somewhat like our current war against Coronavirus. In this contemporary photograph the jovial reality has been replaced by a more confused view, with officers not sure of what to do next, and a group of privates on the left, almost pushed into the view.

British and German troops meeting in no man's land during the unofficial truce (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux–Rouge Banc Sector
British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux–Rouge Banc Sector) Imperial War Museum , London.

The war was only a few months old and the horrors of the stalemate of the next three years had not unfolded. Let us hope that we can win our current war sooner.

As for my 1971 question

A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, Let’s hope it’s a good one …… 

Any ideas yet?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. tedca says:

    I am sure it must be John and Yoko – Happy Xmas – War is Over

    Like

  2. Merry Christmas to you too

    Like

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