WORLD WAR ONE CENTENARY
TISBURY AND THE GREAT WAR,
The most memorable incident in December 1914 occurred on Christmas Day when troops, including those from the Wiltshire Regiment, left their opposing trenches on the Western Front and gathered in a spirit of friendship to shake hands, exchange gifts and even play a game of football (which the Germans won 3 - 2, sounds familiar!). Yet all was not peace on that day: 81 British soldiers died as a result of sniper fire while naval seaplanes carried out a raid on Cuxhaven.
The Navy had a reasonably good month for on 8 December Admiral Sturdee's squadron sailed out of the Falkland Islands and destroyed Graf Von Spee's force, sinking six ships with only one escaping. Thus was the defeat of Admiral Craddock at Coronel six weeks earlier avenged. However, in the North Sea, the German fleet bombarded Hartlepool and Scarborough killing 137 civilians and calling into question the Royal Navy's control of those home waters.
On 24 December Britain experienced her first air-raid when bombs were dropped on Dover by a single aeroplane, badly bruising one gardener.
Earlier in the month the British suffered heavily in a series of attacks in Flanders while the French took 90,000 casualties in the Battle of Champagne which was launched on 10 December and lasted until 17 March 1915.
At the start of December Pope Benedict XV had called for a "cease of the clash of arms" over Christmas to which the Germans agreed, provided everyone else did so as well. They didn't; that too sounds familiar.
Finally 2,166,088 small oblong boxes were sent as Christmas presents from Princess Mary (King George V's daughter) to all those serving. They contained mostly cigarettes and tobacco, with the simple message "May God protect you and bring you home safe".
THE DECEMBER POEMS
Rupert Brooke joined the Royal Naval Division early on in the war in sufficient time to be sent to serve in the defence of Antwerp. During leave between then and his despatch to Gallipoli he wrote five poems of which this, written in December 1914, is the most famous and a startling contrast to Wilfred Owen's poem of disillusionment that follows.
If I should die, think only this of me;
War broke: and now the Winter of the world
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