By Judy Berman
A narrow stretch of land was all that separated the soldiers. Sometimes, the trenches the British and the Germans fought in during World War I were only 200 yards apart. That space in between was known as “No Man’s Land.”
They were so close they could hear each other’s conversations. On Christmas Day 1914, many on both sides began to sing Christmas carols to each other.
Then, they did the unthinkable. They exchanged gifts of cigarettes and plum puddings. This Christmas Truce lasted just a few days.
One British soldier, Staff Sgt. Clement Barker, wrote to his brother on Dec. 28, 1914, from the trenches of Ypres (in Belgium), about the temporary cease-fire.
Barker’s letter, found 98 years after this event, is quoted Dec. 24, 2012, in the online Daily and Sunday Express: “So, in the morning (Christmas Day), a German looked over the trench – no shots – our man did the same, and then a few of our men went out and brought the dead in (69) and buried them, and the next thing happened a football kicked out of our trenches, and Germans and English played football (soccer).”
Many of the soldiers, curious about the unseen enemy, “were surprised to discover that they were more alike than” they thought.
This could be the setting of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” written in 1971.
Lennon asks us to imagine a time of peace when people put aside their differences, when there are no barriers between us, when we are not divided by our different faiths or politics. Instead of focusing on material possessions, Lennon said we should focus on humanity throughout the world.
Author John Blarney wrote that “Lennon contends that global harmony is within our reach, but only if we reject the mechanisms of social control that restrict human potential.”
For a few days in 1914, in several spots consumed by war, soldiers put aside their differences.
“The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of a war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated … but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured,” according to history.com.
That scenario, played out nearly 60 years before “Imagine” was written, makes Lennon’s dream seem less distant. More real.
“Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.”
For now, I can only imagine.
Video – The Christmas Truce -
Music Video – John Lennon singing “Imagine.”
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Main Photo: The Christmas Truce – 1914: German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment photographed with men of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in “No Man’s Land” on the Western Front. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Christmas_Truce_1914_IWM_HU_35801.jpg
Letter found from soldier in “No Man’s Land” Truce – 98 years later. http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/366837/98-years-on-letter-found-from-soldier-in-no-man-s-land-truce
Photo: Christmas Truce – British soldiers fighting in trenches: Illustrating the closeness of enemy lines, this British infantry unit fights from a trench that is within 200 yards of German lines. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS) http://www.history.com/topics/christmas-truce-of-1914/photos#