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On Christmas Day 1914, one of the most memorable occasions in war history occured - hostilities between the British and the Germans in the trenches suddenly ceased, and the soldiers from both sides left their trenches and met each other in no-man's-land to play a game of soccer with each other, and even showed each other photos of their girlfriends, wives and families from back home. A few hours later, they commenced hostilities again.

Today, the last veteran of that Christmas war truce died, aged 109, at his home in Angus.



Last veteran of Christmas war truce dies, aged 109
21st November 2005


A temporary truce between two then-superpowers - British and German soldiers during the Christmas Day truce of 1914.



Last veteran of Christmas war truce dies, aged 109

Black Watch veteran Alfred Anderson died at a care home in Angus, Scotland. Born in Dundee on June 25 1896, his life spanned parts of three centuries.

It is believed that his death brings the number of surviving First World War servicemen to eight.

Mr Anderson, who was Scotland's oldest man, died peacefully in his sleep at around 3am today at Mundamalla Nursing Home in the town of Newtyle, where he was born, said a family friend.

The Rev Neil Gardner, of Alyth Parish Church, said: "Alfred passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning.

"He was Scotland's oldest man but he remained lucid almost until the end. He was a very gracious and unassuming man.

"He was the last surviving veteran anywhere to have served in the First World War in 1914 and lived a truly remarkable life."

Mr Anderson was until earlier this year a member of the congregation at the parish church of Mr Gardner, who is a former Black Watch chaplain.

He added: "Alfred was quite philosophical about his wartime experiences - he was never up or down, he took everything in his stride.

"He had a great sense of humour but also a terrific sense of wisdom which came from his great age."

No-man's land

Mr Anderson was 18 on December 25 1914, when British and German troops climbed out of their trenches in France and walked across the shell-blasted mud of no-man's-land to shake hands.

A holder of France's highest honour, the Legion d'Honneur, he never forgot how the bloodshed briefly stopped as the bitter enemies sang carols, shared cigarettes and swapped tunic buttons.

The veteran - who received his 10th telegram from the Queen in June - was too frail to take part in the recent Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Neil Griffiths, of the Royal British Legion of Scotland, said: "Alfred was a fine old soldier who was a brilliant example of old world courtliness.

"Everyone who met him was always impressed by his vitality and great pride in his personal appearance.

"He was gentle and very humorous, with a quick wit. He used to say until recently that his ambition was to die shot in bed by a jealous lover.

"But I think also there was a great sadness in his heart that he had outlived his generation - all his friends had died.

"He was one of those old Scots who represented the finest aspects of the Scottish character and his departure is a sad moment for this country."

Mr Anderson's unit, the 5th Battalion of the Black Watch, was one of the first to be deployed to France in October 1914 when the First World War broke out.

The Scot was billeted in a dilapidated farmhouse away from the front line at the time of the truce on Christmas Day 1914, when the guns on the Western Front fell silent as German and British troops stopped fighting and even played football together.

He had risen to the rank of sergeant by the time he was invalided out in 1916 by a shell explosion which left him with serious shrapnel wounds.

He was already too old for active service in the Second World War but helped set up the Home Guard units.

Two years ago the Prince of Wales paid him a visit after it emerged he had served as batman to Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother's brother, who was among 500 soldiers killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

Mr Anderson is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

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