YOUNG visitors to the Museum and Winter Gardens travelled back in time to learn about the war.
A World War One Family Day was held at the city centre venue to remember the moment when German and British troops in the trenches temporarily stopped fighting and celebrated Christmas with football matches, exchanged gifts and sang carols together.
Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “The story of the First World War Christmas Day truce is well known across many generations. Our event at the museum aimed to reveal the real stories of soldiers who experienced the truce, and gave people the opportunity to see and feel real objects from this significant period in our history.”
On display was a letter from the Sunderland Antiquarians archives from a Wearside soldier named Tom, who was caught up in the conflict, which he addressed to his sister Janet.
Coun Kelly added: “It took the horror of the First World War to remind people of the true spirit of Christmas.”
Visitors were also given the chance to make a version of a Princess Mary gift tin with seasonal goodies inside, and write a remembrance message for the fallen to hang on the Christmas tree.
The original tins were the idea of Princess Mary, the 17-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, who organised a public appeal which raised the funds to ensure that every “Sailor afloat and every Soldier at the front” received a Christmas present
Over 426,000 of these tins were distributed to those serving on Christmas Day 1914. They contained tobacco, confectionary, spices, pencils, a Christmas card and a picture of the princess.
Extract from Tom’s letter home
THE Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of goodwill. And then we heard voices raised in song, Stille nacht, heilige nacht… ‘Silent night, holy night.’
I’ve never heard one lovelier – or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quartered moon.
When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing and we all joined in…..These are not the ‘savage barbarians’ we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and yes love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?
Your loving brother,