Western Front Christmas

As Christmas Day approaches it is time to reflect on the Christmas experiences of the AIF during the Great War.

Photo: Christmas silk postcard [Hosken Collection]

The following poem was written by Private Leslie George Rub
(No 3892) 2nd Pioneer Battalion while serving on the Western Front in 1916. Private Rub died of wounds on 22 September 1917 and is buried in The Huts Cemetery Dickebusch Belgium.

Christmas Day On The Somme

’Twas Christmas Day on the Somme
The men stood on parade,
The snow laid six feet on the ground
Twas twenty in the shade.

Up spoke the Captain ‘gallant man’,
“Just hear what I’ve to say,
You may not have remembered that
Today is Christmas Day.”

“The General has expressed a wish
This day may be observed,
Today you will only work eight hours,
A rest that’s well deserved.

I hope you’ll keep yourselves quite clean
And smart and spruce and nice,
The stream is frozen hard
But a pick will break the ice.”

“All men will get two biscuits each,
I’m sure you’re tired of bread,
I’m sorry there’s no turkey
but there’s Bully Beef instead.

The puddings plum have not arrived
But they are on their way,
I’ll guarantee they’ll be in time
To eat next Christmas Day.”

“You’re parcels would have been in time
But I regret to say
The vessel which conveyed them was
Torpedoed on the way.

The Quartermaster’s got your rum
But you may get some yet,
Each man will be presented with
A Woodbine Cigarette.”

“The Huns have caught us in the rear
And painted France all red,
Pray do not let that trouble you,
Tomorrow you’ll be dead.

Now ere you go I wish you all
This season of good cheer,
A very happy Christmas and
A prosperous New Year.”

Photo: Christmas silk postcard [Curley Collection]

If you are interested in reading about the Christmas Truce that took place on the Western Front during December 1914 follow the link to the posting Christmas Truce.

*****

The Families and Friends of the First AIF applauds the joint Australian–UK decision, announced by The Hon Greg Combet AM MP and the Hon Kevan Jones MP, to conduct a full DNA testing program on the remains of Australian and British soldiers found in mass graves at Pheasant Wood (Fromelles), and for their continuing commitment to identify as many of the fallen as is possible. We also thank the Australian, UK and French governments for affording dignified individual reburials for these soldiers, buried by German soldiers following the Battle of Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916, in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery presently under construction at Fromelles.

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