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Pte Frank Holmes Armitage, R.A.M.C. Field Ambulance, has written to his parents giving an interesting account of how he spent Christmas in the army. Since joining the army I had hoped to keep up my record of spending Xmas in a different country each year It was the Dardanelles 1915, East Africa 1916, France 1917 and 1918 (?) I had hoped it would be Blighty but owing to the signing of the Armistice leaves came through a little quicker and I was back in France again for the festive season. Only five are left Of the 17 of us who came out here 12 months ago, only five are left; the others have either been put out as casualties or passed on forever. In the afternoon, the day before Christmas, I, along with a pal, had a walk to a small village about six kilometres from here. We had a good look round and paid a visit to the church. It is of Gothic structure and of superb design and the inside is very pretty. There is a fine display of oil paintings and the stained-glass windows are in the most gorgeous colours I have ever seen. This village is lighted by electricity throughout and it is the first village that I have seen in
France with this modern arrangement. We had an excellent tea at the Café-des-Allies and after listening to a few selections on the gramophone, we made our way back to Fontaine and spent Christmas Eve by a big log fire in our billet On Christmas morning the bells rang merrily from the old village church and on getting outside we found the weather very seasonable, for everything was covered with a white frost and the air was crisp and clear. There was a service in the school to which we were cordially invited and the decorations of holly and mistletoe, along with the silence of the guns, helped our minds to wander back to the dear homeland where we all hoped to spend our Xmases of the future. The real festivities did not begin until five o’clock in the afternoon. We had a first-class
dinner of roast pork and vegetables and plum pudding, and each soldier was allowed a pint of beer. And for dessert we had apples, oranges and nuts, also cigars and cigarettes were there to go at. Before we commenced our C.O. made a short speech and thanked us for the work we had done in the past and wished us all the good wishes that are applicable at this time of year. After dinner the tables were cleared away and the Divisional Concert Party, ‘The Duds,’ came along and gave us a really fine concert. They were assisted by some of our men and I was induced to give a solo on the whistle. I felt frightfully nervous but the applause I received bucked me up somewhat. Uproarious hilarity The N.C.O.s attended to our wants splendidly. A few of our chaps dressed up as civilians in male and female attire and the fun was fast and furious and the uproarious hilarity caused by the antics they cut entirely baffles description. There was a good number of French civilians present and at the end of the programme (1 a.m.) a Frenchman played their National Anthem on the cornet and a never-to-be- forgotten day was brought to a close by singing ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ Shipley Times & Express 3-1-1919
More of Frank’s story More of Frank’s story More of Frank’s story
First post-war Christmas but still away from home
“There was a service in the school to which we were cordially invited and the decorations of holly and mistletoe, along with the silence of the guns, helped our minds to wander back to the dear homeland where we all hoped to spend our Xmases of the future.”