My parents are older and English. They were school-age children at the start of WWII, and teenagers by the time it was over. They have many tales of going to school with gas masks (or “forgetting” them at home so you got to miss class to go and retrieve them!), bomb shelters, air raid sirens, blackout curtains, barrage balloons, unexploded bombs that dropped in the schoolyard, incendiary bombs that burned the scenery for the school play, and shrapnel collections. It seems that children are very adaptable, even in extreme circumstances.My paternal grandfather served on the front lines in WWI. He never, ever spoke of it.
In the safe, comfortable world that I live in, it is hard to imagine what life was like for my parents or grandparents during that time. What if bombs started dropping on my town? What if my children went to school with gas masks? I am sad that there are people in this world today who know what all this, and worse, is like.
I am sure my parents’ and grandparents’ generations hoped that those two terrible wars would be the last. Surely we as a species should have learned our lesson then. But of course, humans always seem to find something to fight about.
I remember my father telling me as a child the story of The Christmas Truce of 1914. That Christmas German and British soldiers decided amongst themselves to have a temporary ceasefire. The Germans lit little Christmas trees along their trench. The trees had been sent to them from their families. Both sides sang Christmas carols, sometimes together (apparently “Oh Come All Ye Faithful – Adeste Fideles, is a universal one).
They finally left the trenches, met in the middle, swapped cigarettes, played cards and, in one place, soccer (the Germans won 3-2). They exchanged little trinkets such as buttons, hats or small gifts from care packages with one another. They also helped each other bury their dead. In a few areas this unofficial ceasefire (which alarmed the authorities on both sides) lasted until New Year’s, at which point they began the job of shooting each other once again.
I am not a historian and I have read that there is some disagreement as to the exact details and extent of the Truce, but my wish here is to highlight the spirit of this ceasefire. People are the same. People can get along if left alone.
Dona Nobis Pacem…Grant Us Peace – PLEASE!!!
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