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Students Reenact World War I Christmas Truce with Trench Project

Monday, December 12, 2016

Upper School students in history, English and language classes have been working for 2 ½ years on a recreation of the trenches along the Western Front in France during World War I. The trench project brings the experience of soldiers in World War I to life in remarkable detail, not only through the trenches and associated structures themselves but also through an impressive collection of artifacts.

On the evening of December 9, Upper School students and teachers offered a "living history" experience at the trench project: a reenactment of the Christmas Truce of 1914. As the invitation to the event put it:

"December 1914, and Europe had been at war four months. In the midst of this great tragedy, a spontaneous truce broke out on both sides of the Western Front. For a few precious days, there was 'peace on earth and good will towards men.'"

Those who attended the event were taken on a candlelight tour, in which they were cast in the role of British refugees whom the Germans were allowing to be repatriated. German Red Cross guides took them to the British lines. Walking in the dark along dirt paths through the woods, they saw French refugees huddled by a fire, arrived at the British fortifications, where they were cheerfully harangued by jolly British soldiers and then witnessed the arrival of German soldiers who initiated the spontaneous truce.  Both sides exchanged pleasantries in “No Man’s Land” between the trenches and then everyone joined in a verse of “Silent Night” (Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht).  The tour ended with the “British refugees” being processed through a Casualty Clearing Station run by a British doctor and nurse.

Plans are already underway to repeat this event next year, and other activities/lessons are being planned for the trench site.