The fraternisation across no man’s land between enemy troops during the Christmas Truce of 1914 saw weapons set aside, yuletide greetings and gifts exchanged, carols sung and even, it was reported, football matches played on the western front.
The truce was spontaneous, reciprocal and became one of the most iconic moments of the First World War.
Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop was a pupil at Loretto School from 1886 – 1889. After a distinguished military career, he returned to the school in 1908 as a teacher of gymnastics and drawing as well as establishing the Loretto Officer Training Corps in 1910.
He returned to his regiment at the start of hostilities in 1914 and he was instrumental in the now famous Christmas Truce and had with him a copy of the Loretto School Christmas Carol programme. The event made international headlines across the world at the time with The Daily Sketch reporting that ‘Major Buchanan-Dunlop was one of the moving spirits in this wonderful Christmas Truce’.
After the Great War, Buchanan-Dunlop returned to work at Loretto and later became the school’s first bursar.
Now, 100 years on, children from Scotland, Germany and Belgium anddescendants of the British and German officers who took part in the Christmas Truce will come together for the first time in what promises to be an act of unforgettable reconciliation and remembrance.
A weekend of commemorations at Loretto School will take place on December 20-21. During the weekend, Loretto will be joined by 80 children from three schools – Gesamtschule Bergen Feld andWilly Brandt schools in Germany and Heilige Familie school from Belgium.
The two main highlights of the commemorations will take place on Saturday 20 December.
The first event will take place in the Loretto School Theatre – ‘The Christmas Truce Remembered’, with words and music by pupils from Scotland, Germany and Belgium (Ypres), including a stylised re-enactment of the truce, capturing the humour and emotion of the event. It will include the singing of Stille Nacht, a re-creation of the football match and a performance of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting.
The second event will take place in the Loretto Chapel at – the unveiling of a specially commissioned stained glass window in the Chapel by the grandsons of Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop and Hauptmann Maximilian Freiherr (Baron) von Sinner, the commanding officer of the machine-gun company of the Prussian 6th Jäger Battalion – who was also involved in the Christmas Truce. The unveiling will take place during a Commemoration at which Reverend Norman Drummond will preach. Norman Drummond is The Queen’s Chaplain in Scotland and has been appointed by the Scottish Government to Chair the Scottish Commemorations panel to mark the centenary of the First World War.
Jonathan Hewat, director of external affairs at Loretto School, said: ‘The weekend of events promises to be a powerful way to engage and educate people about such an important moment in our history. 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.’
One-hundred-and-forty-eight former Loretto pupils lost their lives in the First World War.