Thursday, December 08, 2005

Last survivor of the Christmas truce dies

A very moving tribute to the last survivor of the Christmas truce of World War I:
Gates of Vienna: The Christmas Truce Leaves Living Memory

A Scotsman named Alfred Anderson was the last person alive who could remember the Christmas Truce of 1914. With his death on Sunday at the age of 109, that definitive moment of the Great War leaves memory and enters history.

Sgt. Alfred Anderson
According to the Scotsman, Alfred Anderson was the last of the “Old Contemptibles” - the British expeditionary force which went to war in 1914 - and the last surviving witness of the historic Christmas truce when opposing troops declared a brief and unofficial ceasefire to play football and share drinks and cigarettes in the hell of no man’s land. Mr Anderson served with the 5th Battalion the Black Watch until he was wounded by shrapnel in 1916.
The Great War divides our time from the age that came before. The four years of slaughter on the Western Front tore down the European structures that had existed since the Enlightenment, replacing them with what we call Post-Modern Times.

Men like Sgt. Anderson bridged the chasm between those two worlds. It’s staggering to think that until two days ago there still lived someone who had stood in the stinking mud in Flanders in 1914. He was a relic of what was truly a different age.
Neil Griffiths, a spokesman for the Royal British Legion of Scotland, said: “He was our last surviving link with a time that shimmers on the edge of our folk memory. There was something old worldly about him — he was honourable, dignified and had a tremendously droll sense of humour. He always stood erect and was always immaculately turned out. We will not see his likes again.”

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