During the winter of 1914 British and German troops were facing each other for the first time in the trenches of Europe. Not yet shocked by the horrors of the First World War, the men in the trenches found that they sometimes had more in common than their leaders were willing to admit. Along stretches of the front spontaneous games of football (soccer) were breaking out between the two sides during the Christmas truce. Sometimes they had a ball, while other times they just kicked a can.
The Truth and Myth of the Christmas Truce 1914 is an audio story produced by the BBC in 2014. It is an intriguing look at the unofficial truce between the warring nations, and how the human condition was still present even during the most horrible conditions. There is sadness in knowing that these men were probably living in one of the last “gentlemanly” times of war where they could still put down their guns and enjoy each others company. War was about to change into a technology driven mass killing event with the introduction of chemical weapons, flame throwers, armored vehicles, massive bombs, and more. Not that any war is good, but as the producers of this story point out, there is no-telling what may have been if the truce between these men could have lasted.
One of the strengths of this production is the use of period songs to express the feelings of those at home and on the battlefield. The songs are spread throughout the production, and they are sung in the voice of the people of the time. The songs are used as a powerful emphasis to the story that is being told. In addition, background sounds are used quite effectively to provide a better sense of being in the story, whether it’s the sounds of guns in the background, or men laughing and drinking together, it enhances the emotions of the story. At a little over 6:30 minutes long, this is a story that, although sad, is also a testament to the spirit of the men and women of that age.
- Originality, voice, creativity – As mentioned earlier, one of the strengths of this story is the voice that it uses. The songs from the era are perhaps the strongest part of the story and leave a lasting impression of what many of the people probably felt. And the story is told as that of an impartial observer which adds to the sense that it wasn’t about the Germans or the Brits. It was about people who are very much the same no matter where they might meet. Football is used as a device to emphasize that these people had much in common.
- Presentation and performance- As an audio story, the piece uses a variety of means to get our attention. Whether it was the singing, or the sounds of war, or the men laughing together, the production provided a rich environment that was easy to follow. Even the voice of the narrator was that of a knowledgeable person who seemed optimistic that better things could have come from the truce. It was an evenly paced story that provided quite a bit of information in a short time-frame.
- Media application – This story was well suited for the audio format. The multiple components of the audio, and the production quality of the story, provided for an interesting experience. There was one picture that accompanied the story (see above), and although it was an interesting and relevant image, I would have liked to have seen more images of the men in the trenches coming together.