Merry Christmas

Well, It’s officially Christmas day.

I really don’t feel like writing anything at the moment, yeah, pretty poor effort for someone that’s supposed to be a blogger. But if you are interested in reading something… here’s a SOSE assignment I wrote about the Christmas Ceasefire back in WW1. The task was to watch a movie called Joyeux Noel and then write a letter from one of the soldiers. We were trying to feel what they felt, see what they saw, and smell what they smelt . . . in about two pages.

My letter, I decided, was going to be from one of the Scottish soldiers, I even included traditional (as traditional as a Google search can conjure) Scottish language in the assignment, hope you enjoy reading it.

The Ceasefire
To my dearest children and my sweet Annabel,
I’m hoping that ye’ve been having a wonderful Christmas; hopefully ye don’t receive this letter at a time where Christmas has long come and gone.  It really shames me that I was unable to be there to watch each of yer gleaming eyes dart over that beautiful Christmas tree ye sent me a picture of in our last letter, it certainly looks far greater than any of the decorations we have here in the trenches. Then, there is a bit of snow. Yesterday there was the sound of crunching ice beneath my feet as I walked down the slimy mud floor of the trench, holding onto my cup of slightly-flavoured hot cocoa. I gazed around at all the small decorations hanging all around the pit that we’d been held hostage too, reminding us all that despite the war, it was Christmas, and we were somehow meant to feel festive about it.
“Want me to feel festive? How about they send us some decent food?” None of this scaffy rubbish I’ve been eating for the past week. I’m about to finish the last of my hot cocoa, and quite frankly I’m glad that’s the case.  Derek reckons that if ye imagine the taste of chocolate while drinking it ye can disguise it’s blandness, it hasn’t worked for me yet, though next time I might just pour myself a cup of hot water instead, straight from the kettle.  This cocoa is as far away from being chocolate as I am from being at home with ye.
I must tell ye, though last night was terrible, tonight really took a turn for the better, it was magical. Christmas eve, we were all celebrating by ourselves in our hole, when one of the soldiers near the end of the trench began whispering at us, “Haud yer wheesht!”  We all turned and listened intently, and instinctually most of us began reaching for our weapons, but we stopped . . . because we could hear singing.
The calming sound of “Come O’ Ye Faithful” echoed over the snow, past the dead bodies of our comrades and down into the depths of our muddy trench. Although the words were foreign, we could still understand its tune.  Ian, our group’s musician, stood up and begun to play in unison with the singer on his bagpipes and, for a moment, they played together, the singer pausing for a moment, hearing the connection. He continued to sing as he walked into view, out of the German trench and into no man’s land. The moonlight shone down upon him, and we all felt at peace; although we were all from different places, we all knew that song, it united us.
A few mumbles slushed around in the trench, “Whit is those damn Germans up to now?”  I didn’t question it.  As it wus such a beautiful moment, everything felt cheerful again; and the war just seemed so pointless. In fact, now that I think about it, it still does, why are we even fighting? Why am I here?
It wus whit happened next that surprised me, the German Lieutenant walked up and stood alongside the singer, followed by our own Lieutenant, and finally the French Lieutenant as well, they were all standing together in the moonlight of Christmas Eve. We all watched from the trench as they talked to each other, there wus some nodding, some half-hearted smiles, and then finally, there wus peace; it wus Christmas Eve after all.
Slowly we all climbed out of the trench and towards the centre of the battlefield, just as the French and the German soldiers were.  It wus just yesterday that we’d been firing at each other, aiming to kill, fighting for our country, and now we were walking over to meet face to face like nothing had happened? To start with we all stared at each other, some of us with the same look of disgust that my little laddie back at home has when his mother places a bowl of peas down in front of him.
I wasn’t too keen on giving anything away; I had a small portion of my grannie’s Athol brose left over from last week, a bottle of Tartan and about half a glass of my good old wee heavy. I saw some French soldiers exchanging chocolate with the Germans, others showing pictures of their loved ones to the enemy, I didn’t dare. But I did eventually trade my bottle of Tartan for a small taste of some German chocolate, I must say that if our head of command started sending us that kind of grub I’d definitely be more inclined, perhaps even as dangerous as a German soldier.
I’ll continue this letter tomorrow, the Lieutenants have organised a Christmas service, better get going.
The Christmas service last night was a lot better than I had thought, turns out the Germans had an amazing opera singer stowed away that sung “Ave Maria.” It wus a truly beautiful night under the glistening stars.
This morning I had thought that the ceasefire would have ended, and that we’d continue shooting each other down like pheasant hunting back in Scotland. Instead, we spent the duration of the day burying all of the dead, all of our friends that weren’t lucky enough to survive until the ceasefire. In some ways I feel selfish, guilty, why did they die? It seems like their deaths were all for nothing, as we are now digging their graves hand in hand with their slaughterers. Is this all just a game? We fight, kill, and then clean up all of the dead together so that there’s enough room for another round. I don’t know, perhaps I’m just tired; maybe I’m overthinking all this, I know I should be grateful for this moment.
I noticed that some of the German soldiers had found a way to send their letters home without them being torn to shreds by the military filter, the opera singer from last night was to head home soon, pity she was going to Berlin, perhaps you’d have received this letter sooner, if you ever receive it at all.
After cleaning up the dead, and labelling each grave with the best tatty wood our battlefield could supply, we slowly moved back to the trenches, ready to resume fire. I climbed back down into the trench, feeling my emotions start tearing themselves apart, I guess I’d grown custom to walking outside the trench.
Surprisingly, the German Lieutenant appeared above us, “We agreed that we wouldn’t visit each other’s shelters!” our Lieutenant scolded.
The German Lieutenant told us that their artillery was aimed at our trench, and that it was going to fire in 10 minutes.
Before we knew it, we were all walking over to the German trench, not in anger and not to shoot them down and take cover in their trench. A friendly sign of gratitude, they had offered us cover, and so the ceasefire continued.
No one wanted to stay behind of course, so we took a field trip to the German bunker where we camped out as the heavy artillery shells crashed down into the ice and the snow. Into the mud of our life since we’d arrived here. Our ears rung from the cascade, it rained dirt as the shells exploded ice, snow, and chunks of countless hours digging. That trench took forever to howk, and now, we watched as it was blown into pieces.
Before long, the rumbling had stopped, the ground had settled, and the storm had calmed. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t over; our Lieutenant said that after such an attack from the Germans, he wouldn’t be surprised if our own artillery fired. So off we went, climbing out of the German trench to go take cover in what was left of ours, the Germans and the French walking alongside us as we walked back to prepare for the next cascade of terror.
We took cover the best we could, the shells shook the ground violently, it almost seemed like an angry jolting, like anger from God, we’d made friends with the enemy, and it hadn’t pleased him.
But at least we’re alive. I miss ye all, the trauchle seems to have passed; but I don’t feel the need to fight these folk anymore, these friends. Yes, they’re different, but they’re just like me, they have friends, wives, and bairns.
 
Till I write again,

 

Yer beloved Angus,

 

–   POST SCRIPT:
Oh Annabel, children,
I’m unable to write for long, but I need to talk to ye before they send us away, they’re dispatching us, thankfully I’ve managed to get this letter to ye. We’re being moved to another warfront for not following orders, we’ve been written off as traitors, as the scum of Scotland. Our Christmas Eve has revealed comments of disgust from those in charge, who sit back in the warmth and the comfort as they gluttonise themselves.
It appears that my last letter, along with the rest of the lads’ wus read by those military mongrels. Filtered, I have the smallest clue how much of my letter you received, if you received it at all.
We had a soldier of high command standing behind us in the trench shortly after the letters had been sent off, one of the French we had met earlier, Ponchel, was running across the battlefield. We couldn’t shoot ‘im, why must we? The leader behind us yelled at us to take aims, to fire. It was our disobedience to his order that landed us here.
Annabel, children, you may not hear from me again, and I might not see you again, hope you had a wonderful Christmas as did I.
But I wish it to be that your Christmas didn’t treat you with such consequences.

 

Love ye all,

 

Angus.

 

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