Ainda sobre a Trégua do Natal de 1914, segue uma matéria muito interessante do The Telegraph sobre o evento, com destaque para a carta de um jovem soldado britânico que viveu aqueles acontecimentos e o dia-a-dia nas trincheiras.
Boas Festas! Paz, Saúde e Prosperidade!
In the British trenches, a young farmer’s son in the Queen’s Westminster regiment, by the name of Edgar Aplin starts up a song. He’s 26, he’s got a good, tenor voice, and after a few verses of Tommy Lad, he hears voices coming from the German trenches, where the 107th Saxon Regiment are dug in, a short distance away.
“Sing it again, Englander,” they call out, in English. “Sing Tommy Lad again.”
He duly does so, thereby setting in train one of the most remarkable episodes ever to take place in the history of armed conflict. It’s depicted, in somewhat idealised form, in the Sainsbury’s Christmas television advertisement currently on our screens.
However, thanks to the letters of Pte Aplin himself, unearthed by his relatives a century later, we have written, documentary evidence of what actually took place.
“Immediately, our pals over the way began to cheer, and eventually we got shouting across to the Germans. Those opposite our front can mostly speak English.
“Soon after dark, we suggested that if they would send one man halfway between the trenches (300 yards), we would do the same – and both agreed not to fire.
“So, advancing towards each other, each carrying a torch, when they met, they exchanged cigarettes and ‘lit up’. The cheering on both sides was tremendous, and I shall never forget it. After a little while, several others went out, and a pal of mine met an officer who said that if we did not shoot for 48 hours, they wouldn’t. And they were as good as their word, too. On Christmas Day, we were nearly all out of the trenches. It was almost impossible to describe the day as it appeared to us here and I can tell you, we all enjoyed the peaceful time.”
The letter was discovered by Pte Aplin’s great-nephew Michael, 82, while going through his late father’s papers. It had actually been published in the local paper in the Devonshire town of Axminster, near the farm where Edgar and his three brothers – who all fought in the war, and all survived – had been brought up.
While the letter itself is a surprise, the contents do not come as a shock to Pte Aplin’s son Ian, now 89, who was born in 1925.
“My father did speak to me quite often about the Christmas Truce,” he recalls. “We were great friends, and often spoke about these things. As it turned out, he got wounded in the legs on March 6, 1915, and was brought back to Britain; when he had recovered from his wounds, he became a captain-adjutant, and was involved in the training of officers.”
Once the fighting was over, Pte Aplin started a milk round, pushing a cart around the streets of Tonbridge. Later, he set up a small chain of tea rooms.
“They were called Aplin’s Tudor Cafés, and they were in Canterbury, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge,” says Michael. “They were the sort of place you would take your Aunt Mary for a nice lunch.”
Over the years the family have regularly gone on battlefield tours, around Ypres and Cambrai, and are very proud to make the letters public, a century after they were written.
But despite the uplifting experience of the 1914 Christmas Truce, and the memory of soldiers in silk hats riding bicycles up and down in full view of enemy guns, Pte Aplin’s letters do not shy away from the reality of the conflict.
“I am afraid nobody at home can ever imagine what the real Tommy is enduring for them,” he writes.
“Some of our trenches are now knee deep in water, and the Tommies sleep very little, but they still smile and are ready for anything.
“Give my old pals at Axminster my kindest regards. Tell them I am still fit and well, and really must not complain.”