Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Christmas Truce brainteaser

The new Sainsbury's advert has created a lot of debate with the depiction of a full-blown football match and also with the more general issue of using the event to sell more groceries - in the local area there has been some comment about the company producing this advert also being involved in a plan to demolish the Memorial Stadium in Bristol (the clue is in the name) as part of a scheme to provide a new stadium for Bristol Rovers FC

What the debate has shown is that people care a great deal about the events of the Truce and also as a historian of sorts there has been a rewarding debate about exactly what level of proof is required when deciding the truth of an event - there are plenty of records of football matches played and scores recorded but for many that is not enough - they are based on hearsay or may have been exaggerated - follow Taff Gillingham on twitter if you have enough stamina as the debate has been going on for a fair few days as I write. From what I have seen there is evidence of informal football - Rob Schafer recently tweeted a translation from a German account where the soldier stated he had "played ball" with the English.

This also matches what I would regard in a slightly unscientific way as the most likely scenario - lots of young men standing in the open on a cold day after being stuck virtually underground may want some exercise but given the conditions recorded in the Somersets War Diary (in Ploegsteert and involved in a lengthy truce) - mud and lots of it, in addition to the damage caused by shellfire an organised match seems unlikely

To the question.

What connects the new Katherine Jenkins album, the cartoon below, the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry and the 1914 Christmas Truce?

If answers are submitted on a postcard please ensure they are of a suitably patriotic nature and that they also meet the requirements of the field censor (see example below)- otherwise use the contact link on the blog. I will tweet the answer and update the post on 24 December


Update with answer - 23 December

The War Diary of the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry contains the following entry for 25th December

"There was much singing in the trenches last night by both sides - the Germans brought up their Regimental Band and played theirs and our national anthems (same tune at that time?) and "Home Sweet Home" "

Therefore the connection is as follows - the new Katherine Jenkins album is called "Home Sweet Home" - the cartoon above contains the most famous lyric from the song and it was sung by the Somersets and the Germans opposite at PlugStreet Wood on Christmas Eve (not Silent Night)

It is a song with a surprising history - it dates from the US Civil War and was not popular with senior officers as it was felt to encourage homesickness and possibly desertion - so an interesting choice by the Germans - there are 2 links to the song below so have a listen to the lyrics yourself - the first is a more new-age Christmas version and the second an acoustic US version

Merry Christmas & thanks for taking the time to read this..



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