by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent
Carrying forward the news from yesterday, the Oregon Statesman published the following belated article regarding the Christmas truce:
ENEMIES SWAP WAR REPARTEE
Germans and English Mix During Brief Holiday Truce
Germans Treat British Officers to Drink and All Quaff Toast to Better Times – M.P.’s Christmas Dinner an Egg and an Apple
London, Jan. 18. – Belated but interesting details of how men at the front passed the holidays continue to come in. Reuter’s Agency has received a letter from a subaltern who says:
“Christmas has come and gone – certainly the most extraordinary celebration of it any of us will experience.
“In the yard of the farmhouse where my company was billeted there is a huge cauldron. In this no less than 125 pounds of pudding in tins were boiled at a time. We turned out to see them dished out. It was a Gargantuan spectacle. The next day we returned to the trenches groaning under loads of comestibles and condiments destined to alleviate our lot on the morrow. That night it froze hard and Christmas day dawned on an appropriately sparkling landscape.
Brief Truce Welcome
“A truce had been arranged for the few hours of daylight for the burial of the dead on both sides who had been lying out in the open since the fierce night fighting of a week earlier. When I got out I found a large crowd of officers and men, English and German, grouped around the bodies which had already been gathered together and laid out in rows. I went along those dreadful rows and scanned the faces fearing at every step to recognize one I knew. It was a ghastly sight. They lay stiffly in contorted, attitudes dirty with frozen mud and powdered with grime.
“The digging parties were already busy on the two big common graves but the ground was hard and the work slow and laborious. In the intervals of superintending it we chatted with the Germans, most of whom were quite affable if one could not exactly call them friendly, which, indeed, was neither to be expected or desired. We exchanged confidences about the weather and the diametrically opposite news from east Prussia.
“They spoke of a bottle of champagne. We raised our wistful eyes in hopeless longing. They expressed astonishment and said how pleased they would have been, had they only known, to have sent to Lille for some.
“A charming town Lille. Do you know it?”
“Not yet,” we assured them.
“Their laughter was quite frank that time. A tiny spruce little lieutenant, spoken of, to his manifest chagrin, as ‘Der Kleine,’ by his comrades, attached himself to me and sent back for a bottle of cognac, and we solemnly drank “Gesundheiten.’”
Lees Smith, member of parliament from Northampton, who is at the front writes:
Dinner Hardly sumptuous
“My Christmas dinner was not sumptuous. It consisted of an egg and an apple. But later I found myself seated on a platform. It was a Christmas ‘sing-song,’ with a Christmas present for all, and even a Christmas tree.
“The Germans, I am told, sing patriotic and serious songs, and cannot understand how it is that our soldiers march to death singing a music hall ditty. The explanation is probably that the words count for nothing, but that it is the lilt and swing of the chorus that makes it so stimulating.
“Mankind is indefinitely adaptable. To many at the front war has become so much the normal life that even its most trying experiences seem natural and even enjoyable.
“A certain number of men – who must have the blood of the old cave dwellers still in their veins – have grown so accustomed to this existence that they are indignant when they are relieved. Men have complained to me,when for some reason they have been withdrawn from the fighting zone, that they cannot sleep in the unnatural quiet of a world where no shells are to bbs head in the night.”
“Neutral Vessels Are To Be Attacked” read the headline. “Germans sound the warning which may force other nations into warfare” referred to a German government announcement establishing a war zone in the waters surrounding Great Britain. In that zone, German submarines would sink Allied ships on sight, and because the Allies frequently used neutral flags to disguise their ships. The German government warned that neutral ships might also be in danger and should therefore avoid the zone. This announcement threatened the allies’ economic lifeline.
As reported in the paper, “the declaration followed published reports that the British admiralty had ordered English merchantmen to use neutral flags in order to escape German warships.” The paper continued: “‘The British order,’ continued the editorial, ‘is practically an admission by Great Britain that it is no longer able to protect its flag. The order, too, is a violation of international law, and as a consequence, a neutral flag can no longer protect neutral shipping because German naval officials will be unable to tell whether the flag is rightfully borne.”
The 1% were active even in 1915, as this headline and article illustrate:
PORTLAND HUNTERS WIN FIGHT ON DUCK BAITING QUESTION
Silk Stocking sportsmen Still To Be Favored With Monopoly
BILL MAKING FEEDING UNLAWFUL IS KILLED
In the words of Senator Dimick the “Silk stocking crowds of Portland won a victory over the valley in the senate this morning when Senate Bill NO 53 by senator Dimick making it unlawful to feed or bait ducks for the purpose of killing them was indefinitely postponed.
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The senator from Clackamas made the further statement that the only ones benefiting in Multnomah county were the silk stocking crowd who owned the entire feeding grounds and that the other lakes near the scene of the annual slaughter had been officially designated as resting lakes by the State game Warden thus confining the duck hunting exclusively to ponds controlled by the moneyed sportsmen, so called, who draw the ducks right up to their blinds and the slaughter them by the hundreds.