Stand to! My fox hole mate is shaking me, Tearing me away from my wife’s arms, I wake with a start to the crump of mortars firing!
Whoop, whoop, whoop! Thwack! A star shell bursts over head We look out across the field of death to the jungle dark and dripping from the recent rain.
The star shell illuminates the ground in ghostly light and like wraiths appearing out of a mist!
Our enemy is seen advancing across the field, Their cloak of darkness gone, they charge screaming their cries of war and terror!
“Here come the buggers again,” my mate says with a snarl!
We raise our rifles the bayonets gleaming in the light, flame spitting from the barrel ends, we fire, our actions automatic becoming one with our weapons.
Some have got through the withering fire. We rise from our pits and face them, our rifles becoming lances and we engage our foe in ancient combat.
And then it is over, our bayonets no longer gleaming but a dull red, the wood work on our rifles smoking from the heat of the barrels.
We survey the scene of carnage, twisted bodies lying on the ground.
“Don’t they know it is Christmas,” snarls my mate?
I look at him in shock. I had forgotten it was Christmas.
Grinning he says “merry Christmas mate”!
He reaches into his haversack and hands me a small parcel, it is wrapped in a banana leaf bound by trip wire.
“I have nothing for you” says I. “That’s ok” he replies laughing.
I open the package. There is a small wooden cross carved from a single piece of wood.
“I’ve been working on it for weeks” he say’s with a grin, pride in his work showing on his face.
I thank him. A solider turns to spiritual needs to help them through these horrific times.
A lump is in my throat, such is the emotion wrought from the giving by some one with no expectations.
We talk awhile about home and loved ones and Christmas.
There is a single star in the sky shining so bright through the clouds and our talk turns to the one who gave his life for all mankind. And yet! Here we are killing one and another.
A mist suddenly roles in. A feeling of peace invades our bodies; we are startled by the appearance of a solider out of the mist.
“Steady mates” he says, “I’m a friend.”
His presence calming. He is tall and young, yet old. His uniform tattered and torn like ours, his slouch hat battered. A glow of white light seems to surround his body.
“Merry Christmas”, says he with a laugh.
“You had better get down,” we says.
“Nay“ he replies, “our foes have had enough. They will not bother us again tonight.”
We talk for a while, his voice soothing our tired souls. Then he says, “got to go, I’ve a long ways to go before the night is through! But before I go, a gift for you, a taste from home to help you remember why you fight and our lord above watching over you.”
He gives us a package each and waves. Before our eyes he disappears.
All along our line that night our Platoon is visited by that stranger.
My mate turns to me and in a voice hushed in awe says, “did you notice the uniform he was wearing?”
“No” I says.
“It was the same uniform my dad wore in the Great War,” he whispers to me.
We look at each other, and then our packages. We open them and they contain fruit cake.
From home a taste.
He was right. As we sit there eating the cake, we remember we are fighting to keep our families and friends secure from an enemy who would dominate and shatter their lives.
I start to sing a carol, Silent Night, and all along the line voices join in. The world at peace for a short while.
Story by Richard Davies
FILE PHOTO: Aussie soldiers in New Guinea during World War II