Alfred Anderson, the last surviving witness to the 1914 Christmas truce on the Western Front of World War I, passed away on Monday, the 21st.
Nearly a year ago in The Observer Anderson reflected on his World War I experiences:
On 24 and 25 December, Anderson’s unit was billeted in a dilapidated farmhouse, away from the front line, so he did not participate in any football matches. ‘We didn’t have the energy, anyway,’ he said. But he can still recall vividly what happened on Christmas Day 1914.
‘I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,’ he said. ‘Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices.
‘But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted “Merry Christmas”, even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.’
He was 109.