By Mark McConville
THESE STUNNING colourised images of Christmas during wartime act as a timely reminder of just how lucky we have it.
The striking pictures show American soldiers at an advanced dressing station with a handmade Christmas tree decorated with surgical cotton wool and cigarette cartons in 1942, Gunner H S Hadlow of 15th (Scottish) Division in Holland announcing that the Christmas pudding is ready and Private Thomas Childs of 1st Herefordshire Regiment, 11th Armoured Division, reading a letter from home in his dug-out near Sonsbeck.
Other vivid colour snaps show an American soldier sharing out rations with local children during the Battle of The Bulge, American soldiers singing around the Christmas tree in Fort Lee VA and US soldiers sorting through mail in 1940.
The original black and white photographs were painstakingly colourised by Welsh electrician Royston Leonard (55), from Cardiff, Wales, with each snap taking between four and five hours to complete.
“The pictures show that community is all that matters, not buildings or material things,” he said.
“Their message is that the more people try to destroy us, the more we will smile and carry on.
“I learned colourisation by trying out ideas by myself. I have learned so much from colourising, I feel it has helped my photography along the way.”
There was famously a Christmas truce during World War One in 1914 when roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in the unofficial cessations of hostility along the Western Front. The first truce started on Christmas Eve 1914, when German troops decorated the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium and particularly in Saint-Yvon, where Capt. Bruce Bairnsfather described the truce.
The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent.
The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year’s Day in others.