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Christmas at war: 1917 - Brotherhood and bombs don't mix

Updated Thursday 21st December 2017

In a weary editorial, the Daily Mirror frets that humanity's capacity for creating destruction might have wiped out all sense of fraternity - unless this really is the war to end all wars

Christmas Dinner for Aussie soldiers 1917 Creative commons image Icon aussie~mobs under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license A dining hall full of Australian soldiers sharing Christmas dinner at Halton Camp, Buckinghamshire in 1917

Christmas in the age of high explosives

We have the fourth war Christmas with us; but we have not peace with Christmas; and once again, therefore, the festival, for religious people, ought to be purely religious - a season of prayer, and, if not fasting, at any rate not feasting.

For the rest of us, all the usual efforts of eating and present-buying can most patriotically and usefully be diverted into two other channels - into giving the sick and wounded in the hospitals as good a time as they are able to enjoy; and into buying War Bonds as a saving for future and happier Christmases.

The great dearness of the ordinary Christmas goods will, as a matter of fact, impose this course on most of the people. War Bonds are not much dearer than turkeys or chickens! - and they are much less wasteful.

The people have shown strong common sense, in regard to certain aspects of war - its length, for example. They know that, as the King told us some time ago, "the end is not in sight". As they have never believed the short-lived prophets, magicians, mediums and military critics who have told them that it is. Each year "peace before Christmas" - and each year an even more highly explosive Christmas than the last!

What probably they ask, if they be still wise, is that "we should get it over this time" - whenever we do get it over. The German leaders ask the same. "Peace by victory." But peace final, when it comes!

Otherwise, no thought of the true sense and significance of Christmas will ever again be possible.

You cannot have this feast of brotherhood in the age of high explosives. As each new devastating invention is added to the rest, the danger of humanity increases. Slowly, we have been heading for this gulf since the days of gunpowder; the essence of it all being the humanity's power has increased immeasurably beyond its common sense and its morality.

Power without morality means the death, the suicide, of humanity. The next war, if we have one, will see whole cities and people blown and torn to pieces.

Let us strive, then, this coming year, to save humanity from that. Let this Christmas be spent, by the faithful, in prayer; by the doubtful ever, in hope, that these bad times may end with humanity's peril out of sight.

The men who fight and the men who have fought for us are the only ones with a right to regard this year's Christmas as a time of rejoicing and forgetfulness.

From: Daily Mirror, Christmas Eve 1917

Christmas at war: An OpenLearn Live special

In the run-up to Christmas, each day this week OpenLearn is republishing a short article from contemporary newspapers capturing an officially-approved view of life in wartime during the First World War


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