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Putnam County Veterans Service Agency

Veterans SitRep News

Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon

16 December 2022

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool. 
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school. 
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here 
I fought for King and country I love dear.
'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung,
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung
Our families back in England were toasting us that day 
Their brave and glorious lads so far away. 
I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground 
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound 
Says I, "Now listen up, me boys!" each soldier strained to hear 
As one young German voice sang out so clear. 
"He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me 
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony 
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more 
As Christmas brought us respite from the war
As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent 
"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Kent 
The next they sang was "Stille Nacht." "Tis 'Silent Night'," says I 
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky 
"There's someone coming toward us!" the front line sentry cried 
All sights were fixed on one long figure trudging from their side 
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shown on that plain so bright 
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night 
Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's Land 
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well 
And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell 
We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own 
Young Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin 
This curious and unlikely band of men 
Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more 
With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war 
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night 
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?" 
'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost, so bitter hung 
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war 
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore 
My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell 
Each Christmas come since World War I, 
I've learned its lessons well

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