Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chris de Burgh buys rare Christmas WWI letter (1914)

A rare letter by an unnamed British soldier describing the Christmas Day truce with German forces in 1914 sold on Tuesday for around 40 times its estimate, and was bought by Irish singer Chris de Burgh. He contacted the press office at Bonhams auctioneers after paying 14,400 pounds for the manuscript against a presale estimate of between 300 and 400 pounds, explaining why he was so passionate about the subject.“He found the content extremely moving as it documented a very personal account of World War I and he believes it to be a great historical manuscript, charting the surreal events of December 25, 1914,” Bonhams said after the sale.
The pop star's great uncle Thomas de Burgh, was an officer killed in the Great War and his grandfather General Sir Eric de Burgh served in the trenches.
The five pencilled pages of an army-issue notebook addressed to “My dear Mater” and signed “Boy” is an uncensored account of life in the trenches.Felix Pryor, a manuscript expert who acted as consultant on the sale, said,“Letters aren’t rare in themselves. But I’ve been doing this since 1975 and I’ve never come across a letter like that describing the Christmas truce,” he told Reuters.
The author describes a poignant moment in his account of how German forces placed lights along their trenches before approaching the British lines to wish them Happy Christmas.
“This will be the most memorable Christmas I’ve ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don’t think there’s been a shot fired on either side up to now,” he wrote in the letter dated December 25, 1914. “Some of our chaps went over to their lines. I think they’ve all come back bar one from ‘E’ Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir.”
During breaks, the soldiers on either side helped each other bury the dead, played football, enjoyed a traditional Christmas meal, chatted and smoked together.
“We can hardly believe that we’ve been firing at them for the last week or two - it all seems so strange,” the letter read.
The fate of the unnamed author is unknown but his letter reflects the dichotomy of being a soldier bound by certain values and an individual whose plain simplicity and desire to be himself sporadically finds expression in the battlefield.

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