Remembering the Christmas Truce

I am leaving a Cross of Remembrance to honour ARTHUR FREDERICK CHALK who was killed near Ypres on 27 September 1917. 

I first became aware of Arthur when I visited Ypres and the battlefields with a Mercat Tours International group to commemorate the Christmas Truce of 1914. On Christmas Day of that year, the men lay down their weapons, crossed no-man's land, shook hands, smoked and played football together. Little did they know there was years of war still to come.

During our trip we visited Prowse Point Cemetery and, on that bitterly cold Christmas Eve with the stars shining in the sky above us, we sang carols and songs just as those men did 100 years previously. After our simple commemoration, we each placed a poppy on a grave. After placing mine, I stood back to shine my torch onto the headstone and read that it was the last resting place of Arthur who was a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. This was all the more poignant as I was wearing a Royal Engineers sweatshirt given to me by my nephew, a Sapper in the Parachute regiment attached to the 23rd division RE. It was the most moving experience and I resolved on my return to find out more about Arthur.

I found a mention of him on a website about the cemetery. His granddaughter, Irene, living in Australia, hoped to have the chance on the 100th anniversary of his death to pay her respects at his grave. I tried to find her using Facebook just to let her know that I had paid my own respects and the circumstances which took me there. I never did find her.

But this year, remembering the 100th anniversary of his death I tried again to find Irene and, with the benefit of an ancestry website, this time I did find her. She has told me that Arthur was only 20 years old when he was killed and had only one daughter, Irene’s mother, Irene Phyllis Chalk, who never knew her Dad or saw a photo of him before she also passed away.

Granddaughter Irene purchased a Somme Pin (which has embedded some soil from the war sites) to commemorate the first soldiers who died in 1914 and with it came the name of Corporal Matthew Smithers. She decided to research him and sent all the info to the Poppy people. They passed the info onto a team who were compiling photos and info for the Thiepval Memorial. In her communication Irene told them about her Grandfather and last Christmas she received an email enclosing a photo of Arthur (see left).

Thank you Arthur – you have my respect and admiration and I bow my head to you.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, I will remember you. 


As submitted by S Black

The site of the Christmas truce, WW1 ARTHUR FREDERICK CHALK ww1 soldier

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