THEY exchanged gifts, played football and even sang festive carols in what became the most poignant symbol of humanity from one of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.
From opposing trenches on the Western Front, British and German soldiers laid down their weapons and celebrated Christmas 1914 on No Man’s Land – sharing a brief respite from the horrors of the First World War together.
It is one of the most famous scenes from the Great War but the story of a key architect behind the unlikely truce is largely unknown.
Major Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop, a student and later a teacher at Loretto School, will be saluted by present-day pupils as they acknowledge the man who was said to have “stopped the First World War”.
Armed with a copy of the school’s Christmas carol programme – sent by his mother – it is said he led the men over the top to revel in some festive cheer with the enemy.
The event made headlines around the world, with The Daily Sketch reporting how “Major Buchanan-Dunlop was one of the moving spirits in this wonderful Christmas Truce”.
Now children from Scotland, Germany and Belgium – as well as relatives of British and German officers involved in the truce – will come together for the first time to honour the memory of Major Buchanan-Dunlop and the 148 Loretto pupils who perished in the First World War.
His grandson and a descendant of a German commanding officer involved in the uplifting accord, will unveil a special stained glass window in the Chapel of Loretto,
Jonathan Hewat, the school’s director of external affairs, said: “We all grew up with the story of soldiers from both sides putting down their arms on Christmas Day, and it remains wholly relevant today as a message of hope over adversity, even in the bleakest of times.
“Evidence of football matches, exactly where they took place and between whom, is fragmented. Reports of frontline matches between enemy troops emerged in letters home on both sides.”
Major Buchanan-Dunlop returned to the Musselburgh-based independent school in 1908 to teach gymnastics and drawing following a distinguished military career. In 1910, he even established the Loretto Officer Training Corps.
A weekend of commemorative events will take place from December 20.
Platform – Page 25