Imagine a Time for Peace

The Christmas Truce of 1914: German and British soldiers stand together in No Man's Land on the Western Front
The Christmas Truce of 1914: German and British soldiers stand together in No Man’s Land on the Western Front

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.”

This British infantry unit fights in a trench that is within 200 yards of German lines. (1914)
This British infantry unit fights in a trench that is within 200 yards of German lines. (1914)

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Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of a war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare.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

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.”  

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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.

Letter found from soldier in “No Man’s Land” Truce – 98 years later.

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)

      1. My solution is to neuter aggressive men. Works great with cats.

        note from earthrider to Kate Crimmins:
        Urk! I’m not sure that would fly under the terms of the Geneva Convention.

  1. I will always believe Lennon’s dream of peace will happen one day.

    This reminds me of a quote I read once, I can’t remember the exact words, but the gist of it was, peace will only come once man believes the power of love is more important than the love of power.

    1. Darla, I hope we do achieve peace one day soon.

      The version of that quote that I love best is attributed to Jimi Hendrix, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

  2. A timely, touching reminder, Judy, that we are more alike than different. These are powerful pictures, and you did an excellent job of connecting the many dimensions.

    1. I was reminded of The Christmas Truce on a broadcast on Christmas Day. I’d heard it before and wanted to include it in a story. “Imagine” by John Lennon is one of my favorite songs. It’s so hopeful. Thank you, Marilyn. I’m glad the two came together.

    1. Thank you, Madhu. When we can get past those borders and see each other as individuals, instead of a collective group, I believe we will have made great strides towards peace.

  3. This has always been one of my favorite stories about Christmas, even better because it’s historical fact and it involves some football (truly the beautiful game). 🙂
    In the Philippines, the communist rebels and the army traditionally declare a ‘ceasefire’ every Christmas, which however fleeting is always welcome.

  4. It’s a beautiful story, Judy. It was the inspiration for John McCutcheon’s song, Christmas In The Trenches. In the song, the story of the truce is told by a fictional British soldier named Francis Tolliver. I go into a trance whenever I hear it.

    Here’s the Wikipedia link:
    And you can listen to the song here:
    Nice of you to promote peace– except, of course, when you bang pots and pans on New Year’s Eve!! : P

    1. An absolutely haunting, beautiful tune. Thank you for sharing, Mark. It’s my opinion that few glamorize war who have served in it.

      About those pots and pans on New Year’s Eve, the natives do get restless ya know.

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