This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Weihnachtsgrüße! Christmas Greetings from the Front!

20 December 2013

Wir wünschen Ihnen allen
We wish you all

ein frohes Weihnachtsfest 
a happy Christmas

und ein herzhaftes Neujahr!
and a hearty New Year!


This small postcard photo of an Imperial German Army Band was undoubtedly sent in a letter as it has no postmark or address on the back.  But the writer, presumably one of the 10 musicians, does add a message (which is unfortunately beyond my ability to translate) and a date:  24.12.16Christmas Eve, 24th December 1916 - the third Christmas of the First World War 1914-1918.

The band appears to be indoors in a classroom, perhaps their rehearsal room, but there are no clues to identify their location or to show which regiment they belong to. On the chalkboard are some French words that could be from a language lesson. If you look closely, four of the German bandsmen have ribbons tucked into their tunic. The white/black/white matches the pattern of the Iron Cross award. A typical regimental band would normally have over twice this number of bandsmen, but 1916 was a particularly harrowing year for casualties.

Now nearly 100 years on, it is difficult for us in the future to fully grasp the feelings these young soldiers must have felt to have a place to trim their Christmas tree. Little could they know that they were only halfway though this horrific war, and they would need to endure even more unimaginable adversity and hardship.

Yet even in the hardest of times, the human heart always seeks hope and solace. We must imagine that the sound of their instruments crossed over the empty wasteland between the lines and that German, French, and English voices joined together in singing the musical refrains of O Tannenbaum and for a brief moment shared thoughts of peace.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where I wish everyone a most
joyful and peaceful holiday.


La Nightingail said...

A rather poignant post but fitting with troops from several countries facing uncertainty in the Mideast. Mankind has ever hoped for peace and always will. It's in our soul. Hope you have a happy Christmas.

Brett Payne said...

I must say I'm intrigued, and looking forward to discovering what those German words mean. Happy Christmas to you and yours Mike.

Jackie McGuinness said...

So interesting at the end of the day we are all the same!

Unknown said...

The tree itself is wonderful: imperfect, sparse, sprawling...and that makes this post even more appropriate! Great story.

tony said...

It Is Comforting To Know That Even In The Worst Of Situations The Band Played On..... .Thank You Mike For All Your Wonderful Photos & Information This Year.Have A Great Christmas.

Bob Scotney said...

A fitting reminder to us all.
Happy Christmas. Mike.

Jackie van Bergen said...

I wonder how many of these men made it to the next Christmas.
Merry Christmas to you and your family

Susanna Rosalie said...

The German reads like this to me:

Zum Andenken an Sitzung
Frontkrieg den 24.12.16.

In memory of session
frontwar the 24.12.16.

I think the writer shows a sort of humor here, the kind one can develop in desolate situations.

Very interesting to see the different expressions in those faces.

It looks like there is an engraving on the instrument in the middle front (Tuba?!), on which the soldier is leaning on.

Christmas Greetings from Berlin!

North County Film Club said...

Thanks for another of your interesting musical posts, Mike. I'm looking forward to more next year.
Happy holidays.
Nancy sends greetings, too.

Mike Brubaker said...

Vielen Dank, Susanna! In my imagination the writer is the one musician looking directly at the camera, the trombonist.

The tuba does have an engraving which is a typical manufacturer's mark. In this era brass instruments had very distinct national difference. Rotary valve instruments like these were German and Eastern European, and those with piston valves were British and French.

Tattered and Lost said...

What a grand selection of mustaches! The deconstructed band!

Postcardy said...

Interesting postcard. It is hard to imagine those guys as the enemy.

Little Nell said...

A perfect and timely reminder of that awful time. The cheerful bandsmen send a Christmas message and we receive it almost a century later. Very poignant.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Another great post Mike. Hope you enjoy the holiday season!

Wendy said...

All we can do is sigh as we contemplate what they DIDN'T know. I hope you had a merry holiday. Looking forward to more poignant moments in 2014.

Bruno Laliberté said...

No one in their sane mind would wish for war, but instead dream of peace coming one day [soon]. Better that they didn't know the future, especially WW2...

Music is an universal language.
One would hope they found comforting in this.

I look at some of those mustaches
and it makes me think I should do
something about the one I grew
last November. I'm still undecided
about its fate...

Thanks for all you've shared with us this year, and hoping to read
many more of those posts.

Wishing you the very best for 2014,
to you and your loved ones.
Keep well!!


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP