It was great to find this photo the other day. There is some love still out there. This letter can be found at Ampersand in Paddington.
As Christmas is nearly upon us I thought it an apt time to share letters from one of the most remarkable and inspiring stories in history the Christmas truce of 1914, World War I. A story of love and humanity surpassing all, when the British and German servicemen brokered unofficial ceasefire and held truce over Christmas. The truce covered nearly two thirds of the British-German front also including Belgian and French servicemen. Beyond a truce, the servicemen connected with other sides, sharing gifts, food and drinks; celebrating their lives and holding shared burials. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described the truce as “one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war” it is an uplifting story promoting peace and friendship amid the aggression and horror of the First World War.Perhaps most incredible, the truce grew out of no single initiative but sprang up in various places spontaneously and independently.
I have two letters to share, I couldn’t decide between the two.
The first was written by Dr Frederick George Chandler who wrote to his sister on December 25,1914
Last night was Christmas Eve. It was a bright starry moonlit night and it froze hard. Opposite our trenches was perfect quiet and soon we began to hear the shouts of our men to the Germans and their replies. Then various musical instruments began, and song and ribald mirth. One of our sergeants got out of the trench and met one of the Germans halfway. He lived in Scotland and spoke English with a Scotch accent! They shook hands and exchanged hats, the German declaring they had no wish to be fighting the English.
‘‘Between the Welsh Fusiliers and the Germans opposite them were passed greetings and words of bonhomie, and also an intermittent fire, whereat I was sorry.
‘‘This morning it was still freezing hard but a heavy mist was over everything… In the afternoon all firing ceased about our lines and an extraordinary thing occurred. Our men and the Germans got out of the trenches and met each other and chatted in great groups. The Germans in fact brought a barrel of beer over to the Regt on our left! One could walk about anywhere with safety – it was a most delicious feeling I can tell you. There was still some sniping going on on our right, but later on this stopped and about 6pm there was absolute quiet. It was perfectly delicious. I have not heard a quiet five minutes for nearly two months. Now, about 9pm, the singing has begun again and there is still no firing. You can’t imagine how sick one gets of the crack-crack of rifles and the beastly singing noise of the bullets. I swear they are worse than shells.
‘‘For dinner tonight we had soup, white wine, haggis, whisky and vegetables, some sort of old fowl, Christmas pudding with rum, savoury, dry biscuits and café au rhum. This morning we came across a dead German. We had him buried properly and I got a couple of buttons off the poor devil. A weird Christmas, n’est-ce pas?
The second letter is from a son to his mother:
Dear mother,I am writing this in the trenches in my ‘dug out’ – with a wood fire going and plenty of straw it is rather cosy although it is freezing hard and real Christmas weather.
I think I have seen one of the most extraordinary sights today that anyone has ever seen. About 10 o’clock this morning I was peeping over the parapet when I saw a German waving his arms and presently two of them got out of their trenches and come towards ours – we were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles so one of our men went out to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas. This continued for about half an hour when most of the men were ordered back to the trenches.
For the rest of the day nobody has fired a shot and the men have been wandering about at will on the top of the parapet and carrying straw and fire wood about in the open. We have also had joint burial parties with a service for some dead – some German and some ours – who were lying out between the lines. Some of our officers were talking to groups of English and German soldiers.
This extraordinary truce has been quite important – there was no previous arrangement and of course it had been decided that there was not to [be] any cessation of hostilities. I went out myself and shook hands with several of their officers and men. From what I could gather most of them would be as glad to get home again as we should. We have had our pipes playing all day and everyone has been wandering about in the open unmolested but not of course as far as the enemy’s lines. The truce will probably go on until someone is foolish enough to let off his rifle – we nearly messed it up this afternoon by one of our fellows letting off his rifle skywards by mistake, but they did not seem to notice it so it did not matter.
I have been taking advantage of the truce to improve my ‘dug-out’ which I share with D.M. Bain, the Scotch rugger international, an excellent fellow… We leave the trenches tomorrow and I shall [not] be sorry as it is much too cold to be pleasant at night.
Your loving son
Merry Christmas to everyone reading this and to your loved ones. Thank you for your support this year.
Here are a couple of recent shots that lovely viewers have taken and put on instagram with #linesoflove
I think the only letter still standing is Adler on Crawford Place (which I recently just saw has some Cliff Dive posters next to it- a bar you should all check out if you’re in Sydney). Room 10 may still have a letter inside, if you’re in Potts Point drop in and have a coffee, say hello to the lovely guys and check it out.
I would just like to say a big thank you to Jewish Care for their lovely article about my project. It was written months ago but I only just found out about it. It was such a nice things to stumble upon. I really appreciate the kind words and support. It’s an important reminder that there are elderly people out there who are socially isolated, who don’t have contact with friends or family. Social isolation leads to depression and health problems so the role of Aged Care support is vital.
After the lovely feedback from my last sale, I am selling another round of one of my love letters “My Darling Annie”. There are 6 prints available.
If you have any questions please email me email@example.com
Talking about Lines of love on the radio this afternoon at 5.35 pm. If you’re in Sydney tune into 89.7 or you can listen online http://eastsidefm.org/listen-online/
My apologies to anyone who has recently gone to 98 Albion St to see the letter (on the wall if Crawford Place) it was taken down – not by the council as originally thought- but by a viewer. I appreciate the compliment but hopefully from now on all letters will remain in place.
I hear the letter on Devonshire St has also been taken unfortunately. However, all other location are in tact and as of this weekend Crawford Place has a new letter and two new letters are up for view on Hughes St (corner of Orwell St, Potts Point)
Next Thursday afternoon I am going to be interviewed on East Side FM. I will be talking about Lines of Love, the concept behind the project and Art & About festival.
The interview will be on October 3rd at 5.35 pm, tune in 89.7 FM !
(Hopefully I won’t embarrass myself)
A few people have contacted me about the location of Lines of Love. There are 4 locations that are part of Art & About festival, which are listed on the website and in the program. The letter on Devonshire St is no longer there. But there has been an additional site added, corner of Earl & Orwell St, Potts Point. Two letters are at this location.
For those of you who don’t live in Sydney and would like to see the letters, here are all 8 in the current series. Soon to expand to 10!