Antony Beevor on Christmas Eve during the battle of the Ardennes (1944)

In Bastogne, the less seriously wounded [besieged Americans] received rations of brandy and listened to the endlessly repeated song ‘White Christmas’ on a salvaged civilian radio. North-east of the town in Foy, German soldiers packed into houses and farms to get warm. A young German soldier quietly told the Belgian family in whose house he was billeted that he intended to go home alive: three of his brothers had already been killed. On other parts of the perimeter American soldiers listened to their enemies singing ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’… Some of their luckier comrades to the rear attended a midnight mass, such as the one in the chapel of the Château de Rolley, packed with refugees and the family of the owners. In most cases, they also sang ‘Silent Night’, thinking of home. In Bastogne, about a hundred soldiers assembled for mass in front of an improvised altar lit by candles set in empty ration tins. The chaplain in his address to them offered simple advice. ‘Do not plan, for God’s plan will prevail’.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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