Tommies

The Socinian just blogged about the 1914 Christmas truce.

What he didn’t mention — but may have known — is that the last survivor of the truce, Alfred Anderson, died last month, aged 109.

Hubby and I honeymooned in England in 2003 over November 11, Remembrance Day. Then, two or three of the surviving World War One vets were bundled up and driven down Whitehall as a part of the observances. We were amazed at — and the BBC commentor noted — their apparent health despite all being over 100.

Something about the First World War sticks with me. The huge loss of life, and with it the loss of optimism that took a toll on liberalizing movements, including both the Universalist and Unitarian churches. Seeing the last of the World War One vets — none under 104 years old — die reminds me both of the twin frailty and ruggedness of human life, and the lost opportunity for a more progressive world.

A list of the last known 85 or so World War One veterans can be read here. But this may be the last Christmas that generation sees.

Depressed? Irritated? So many men died in WWI that some women — who would have otherwise married — devoted thmeselves to single lives of great service. Of these, the story I know best is Margaret Barr, the British minister with the Khasi Unitarians in India, who even now is remembered for her life of service.

2 Replies to “Tommies”

  1. No, I didn’t realize that the last Christmas Truce vet died last month. Thanks for adding that poignant detail.

    I’ve loved that John McCutcheon song I posted for years. When he performs it live, he tells a story about some old codgers who always used to come to his concerst to hear him sing that song. Finally he asked them “what’s the deal?”, and learned that they were emigres from Germany who had fought on the German side in WWI, and that they loved hearing him because they were there, it really happened, and so few remember.

  2. Expect a lot more on WW1 as the centenary approaches in 1914.

    I think Iraq is in many respects the closing act of that war. The fall of the Soviet Union was the final act of the unravelling of the Russian Empire and Iraq is the final sorting out of the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

    So much of today is rooted in WW1 and what for me is clearly a disaster the Germans wrought for our century. It shapes all of our thinking including much pacifist rhetoric which has never been updated for a coed Army. A friend of mine kept talking about young men fighting a war directed by old Generals and I had to correct her that there were a good many young women out there, both fighting and Generals. I showed her the names of the dead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *