Reuters reported on Monday, November 21, 2005
in a story by Peter Graff
The last known surviving allied veteran of the Christmas Truce that saw German and British soldiers shake hands between the trenches in World War One died Monday at 109, his parish priest said.
Alfred Anderson was the oldest man in Scotland and the last known surviving Scottish veteran of the war.
“I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,” he was quoted as saying in the Observer newspaper last year, describing the day-long Christmas Truce of 1914, which began spontaneously when German soldiers sang carols in the trenches, and British soldiers responded in English.
“All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices.
But there was a dead silence that morning across the land as far as you could see.
“We shouted ‘Merry Christmas’ even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again.”
Troops in the trenches swapped cigarettes, uniform buttons and addresses and even played football in one of the most extraordinary episodes of the war.
Parish priest Neil Gardner of Anderson’s Alyth Parish Church in Scotland said he had died in his sleep and was survived by a large family, including 18 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.
“He was a wonderful old man: he was gracious, gentle, he had a great sense of humor and a fine sense of wisdom from his experience spanning three centuries,” said Gardner, who also served as chaplain to Anderson’s regiment, the Black Watch.
Anderson also served briefly as a member of the household staff of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle, Fergus Bowes-Lyon.
With Anderson’s death, fewer than 10 British veterans of the war remain alive, of whom only three or four were veterans of trench warfare on the Western Front.
Attention has turned to the last survivors in recent weeks, with filmmakers bringing out documentaries in time for this month’s Armistice Day holiday, marking the day the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918.