A couple of weeks ago I posted a letter that my Grandad, Frank Dymoke, wrote to the local Stevenage paper in 1971 in which he described his firsthand experiences of a two week Christmas truce on the Western front in 1914 (read it here) . Since then I have been amazed by the people’s reactions to his letter. The reality of the war seems to get closer each time I share it. The fact that returned home wounded so many times and served in the army for 8 years is astonishing to me. My Dad constantly reminds me that this was a terrible war and that the men who fought in it (including my Grandad) spoke little of it on their return. I wonder, therefore, what provoked him to write such an eloquent letter some 55 years after the event? In the last month the Christmas Truce industry seems to have gone into overdrive – from Sainsbury’s to the Royal Mail and the Poetry Society no-one can get enough of it. Ian Mcmillan’s splendid work with the Barclay’s Premiere League and the Poetry Society culminated in a U12 football tournament in Ypres and a fine commissioned poem ‘The Game: Christmas Day, 1914′ in which he deftly used the young footballers’ words to capture a day which ‘sky opened/To the sunshine of the sun’. Carol Duffy’s Christmas Truce poem ends beneath the ‘shivering, shy stars’. Whatever the weather was like on that extraordinary day 100 years ago I can’t help but think about the rest of Grandad’s family who weren’t there playing with a rag ball: his stretcher-bearer brother who was killed in action; his family waiting at home not knowing if they would ever see their son again.
Published by Sue Dymoke
Sue is a poet, Associate Professor in Education at Nottingham Trent University and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts. What They Left Behind, her third full poetry collection was published by Shoestring Press in 2018. View all posts by Sue Dymoke