Saturday, December 13, 2014


Happy 12/13/14! 

Since 2003, we've had a single day each year of sequential month/day/year, but the eleven year streak ends today and it will be another two decades before there will be another sequential set (1/2/34).

Of course, the last 12/13/14 a century ago was the first of four Christmas months during World War I. 

If you try to look back at Christmas 1914, you will find the primary focus, both articles and images, on that first Christmas truce in the trenches when both sides picked up the tune of Silent Night started by the Germans on Christmas Eve 100 years ago. 

From the New York Times:

When Europe marched to war in the summer of 1914, both sides thought the fighting would be over in a few weeks. Instead, by the close of December, World War I had already claimed close to a million lives, and it was clear the fighting would go on for a long time.

Yet on Dec. 24, much of the Western Front fell silent as ordinary soldiers made temporary peace with the enemy. This was the remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914.

It's estimated that about 100,000 men, mainly British and Germans, took part. In fact, the sheer magnitude of the event led many to doubt that it ever happened. As late as 1983, one veteran called the truce a "latrine rumor."

Today, however, it is often seen as one of the few bright moments amid the slaughter of the Great War, in which 14 million people were killed. . . .

Here are excerpts from letters, journals and memoirs of some of the other participants.

The truce broke out spontaneously in many places. Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled the scene on Christmas Eve near the French village of La Chapelle d'Armentières:

It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and about 7 or 8 in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights -I don't know what they were. And then they sang "Silent Night" - "Stille Nacht." I shall never forget it, it was one of the highlights of my life. I thought, what a beautiful tune.

Rifleman Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade recalled how the mood spread:

Then suddenly lights began to appear along the German parapet, which were evidently make-shift Christmas trees, adorned with lighted candles, which burnt steadily in the still, frosty air! … First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up "O Come, All Ye Faithful" the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.

The enemies quickly became friends, as Cpl. John Ferguson of the Second Seaforth Highlanders recalled:

We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans - Fritz and I in the center talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like street corner orators. … What a sight - little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman's cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs.

Not everyone was so charitable. Cpl. Adolf Hitler of the 16th Bavarians lambasted his comrades for their unmilitary conduct:

Such things should not happen in wartime. Have you Germans no sense of honor left at all?

When Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the British II Corps, learned of the consorting, he was irate:

I have issued the strictest orders that on no account is intercourse to be allowed between the opposing troops. To finish this war quickly, we must keep up the fighting spirit and do all we can to discourage friendly intercourse.

And so it goes.


It would be another five years before the U.S. passed the 19th Amendment giving women across the country the right to vote. My Grandaddy Saltsman was just 8 years old. How odd will our Christmas photos from 2014 look to those who are around to celebrate 12/13/2114?

(some really great images here to pour over!)


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