Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas 1914

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

This is one of my favorite Christmas stores and songs. Please stay a few minutes to watch the video.

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
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we're the same

~ John McCutcheon


  1. hey i'm the first to comment! that never happens on your blog - hurrah! happy xmas to you and alex, may you both have a superb festive time and may great things happen in 2008.

  2. Wonderful story. Did they play a game of football as well? I can't remember.

  3. Nick that was wonderful, I can remember Paul McCartney showing a similar video with his song "Wonderful Christmas Time", that brought tears to my eyes as well. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wonderful, Mr. Nick. War is always hell, for both sides!

    Christmas blessings,


  5. Great post Nick! A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and Alec. Have a great time!

  6. I have never heard that story before. Now I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. War is so wicked.

  7. Chills, sadness, tears and a smile... all brought on by this wonderful story. "At the ends of the rifles we are all the same," puppets in the hands of the ruthless, uncaring, egomaniac's version of how life should be, on all sides.

    EXCELLENT POST!!!!!!!!

  8. Happiest of Merry Christmases to you and all your lovely readers.

    Hug your families for me and be safe.

  9. A wonderful post Nick.

    I have heard the song before but it never fails to move me. Thanks for finding it and sharing. Happy Christmas to you and yours, and I join you in wishing for Peace. x

  10. wow. i had never read this before. It's a very good poem.. thanks Nick.

  11. Peace out bro.

    Have a great holiday.


  12. oh Nick a wonderful post...
    we must never forget

    have you read Sebastian Faulks

    I wish you and yours and Alex
    a wonderful Christmas and a
    happy and healthy New Year

    love ann

  13. Peace to you Nick. Merry Christmas my good man. Cheers!!

  14. Oops I just noticed that for some obscure reason I have renamed Alex, Alec. Sorry!

  15. Hello, thanks for PEACE!

    My friend,

    I wish you a good end of 2007 and a good year of 2008.

    David Santos

  16. Gives a whole new meaning to "the Peace of Christmas."

  17. Nick, this moved me to tears.
    Do you know if this really happened?
    I want this to have happened!

  18. Marvelous story, song, and video. The final line really hit me hard. Peace!

  19. Yes, I have read that before, Nick and apparently it actually happened that way. Just goes to show who wants war, doesn't it? It's not the soldier on the battleground that's for sure, it's the warmongers safe behind their walls.


  21. ` I read that story in a book about war before. I guess if some old veterans really said it did happen, thanking him for writing the song because their families didn't believe them, that would seem to indicate that perhaps it's true.