From the recording Winter Wanderings

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Christmas in the Trenches

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© 1984 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs
Christmas in the Trenches is based on the 1914 World War I Christmas truce where enemy soldiers put down their weapons and met as brothers in No Man’s Land.

Lyrics

My name is Francis Tolliver. I come from Liverpool.
‘T was 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.

‘T was Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas songs were sung.
Our families back in England were toasting us that day,
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lyin' with my mess-mates on the cold and rocky ground
When across the fields 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 singin' bloody well you know," my partner says to me.
Soon one by one each German voice joined in, in harmony.
The cannons rested silent. The gas cloud 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 comin' towards us!" the front-line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone soldier trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that field so bright
As he bravely strode, unarmed, into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into no-mans-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 the squeeze box and they had a violin
This curious and unlikely band of men.

(lyrics continue on next page)

Soon daylight stole upon us, and France was France once more.
With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war.
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"

‘T was 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 crumbled and were gone for ever more.

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell.
Each Christmas come since World War One I've learned it's 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.

© 1984 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs