Through millennia of warfare, the armed struggles of nations have produced some of the most remarkable stories of the human experience.
Few, however, compare with the Christmas Eve Truce of 1914, just months after the great powers of Europe battled to a stalemate on the Western front and settled down to trench warfare with opposing forces facing each other from the width of a football field.
Public radio 91.3 WCPI continues its Christmas week lineup of special broadcasts today as members of the McMinnville Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offer a dramatization of that real-life episode. In the chilled air of that first Christmas Eve of World War I, soldiers began singing carols they learned as children, recalling happier times back home.
Slowly, cautiously the soldiers began crawling out of their muddy trenches and into the No Man’s Land that had witnessed industrial-scale killing just hours earlier to experience camaraderie with their foes.
British, French and Scots crossed into the frozen darkness to meet their German adversaries. Enemies that had been shooting and shelling each other laid down their weapons. Medics evacuated their wounded comrades while burial squads collected the frozen corpses of the fallen.
The fighters, many just barely out of their teens, shook hands and exchanged greetings. They shared food rations, cigarettes, chocolates and brandy. The men pulled out cherished photos of family and sweethearts and proudly showed them to those who spoke a different language, but who all yearned for the same peace the angels proclaimed at the birth of Jesus. Soldiers formed soccer squads on Christmas Day and played their favorite national sport.
The half-hour narrative of the Christmas Truce will be aired today at 1:05 p.m. on WCPI. An encore presentation will be heard at 1:10 a.m. Christmas Eve. The Southern Standard is offering the special broadcast as a gift to the community and as a business supporter of locally focused public radio 91.3.
“The Southern Standard had been covering the news for 35 years when World War I started, and this newspaper carried news of that catastrophic conflict of nations,” said Standard publisher Patricia Zechman. “After the United States joined the war on the side of the Allies in 1918, our local paper shared news about its Warren County soldiers on the battle fronts. We are honored to be able to support the radio broadcast of this local dramatization of that brief but unforgettable moment when the guns fell silent.”
Other major events on WCPI’s Christmas week schedule include an historic broadcast of the traditional Festival on Nine Lessons and Carols from All Saints’ Chapel at the University of the South. Presented by special arrangement with the university at Sewanee, WCPI’s airing will be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at 2 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. both days. The Middle Tennessee Dr Pepper Bottling Company is the exclusive underwriter of those presentations.
“The Sounds of Christmas,” the yuletide concert by the Warren County High School Choir, can heard on 91.3 Thursday and Friday at 9 a.m. and 9:05 p.m. both days. Support for the 200-voice choir, directed by Kennette Dixon, comes from McMinnville State Farm Insurance agents Leigh Holland, Neil Helton and Bill Zechman.
McMinnville’s Silver & Gold Band, the oldest continuously functioning community band in Tennessee, presented two concerts in the 2015 season, both recorded by WCPI. With Security Federal Savings Bank serving as exclusive underwriter, the religious-themed program will air Thursday and Friday from 10 to 11 a.m. both days. The band’s salute to the season in a popular tunes will occupy WCPI Thursday and Friday from 4:30 to 5:30 pm.
Rounding out the slate of locally originated programming will be the First Baptist Church adult choir Christmas program, which was presented live in the church sanctuary Sunday evening. The 91.3 broadcast, with Debbie and Rodney Boyd and Gateway Tire & Service as underwriters, will be Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. and Christmas morning at 6:05 a.m.