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Friends beyond lines

ADM D Kilkin

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Special Agent

Special Agent


"Perhaps you have heard of the friendship which often springs up between the Allies and their foes. I know something about it. It was at Laventie that the Germans began to amuse themselves by putting a bullseye on a biscuit box and letting us use it for a target. We then returned the compliment and set up a similar bullseye.

Every time the Germans made a bullseye, I would raise a shovel. If they missed, I put up a handkerchief. They did the same for us. And so we, who sought each other's lives, played together while death spoke sharply all around us.

We used to talk back and forth—those German boys and we Canadians. They were the 157th and most friendly. "Hi! Where do you come from?" a voice in French once called over to us. "We are French Canadians," we replied with pride. "Well, we're Canadians, too," came the astonishing answer. "We come from Ontario." There came a pause. There was no firing. Then the German shouted, "Let me see one of your group; let him stand above the trench, and on my word of honor we shall not fire." One of us sprang out of the trench and stood up. There, fell a deep silence upon the two armies. Then many stood up, and finally the Germans, too, were rising. We talked for hours.

One day the Germans threw over a bit of paper wrapped around a stone. "If you don't fire on us, we won't fire on you," some one had written. We kept that strange pact for days, until the officers, discovering this pact of peace, moved us to another part of the trenches.

Some months later, curiously enough, we found ourselves opposite the same regiment. Neither side forgot we were both Canadian, and steadfastly kept our treaty of peace. They did not consider that rough note a "scrap of paper." Not a single shot was fired and only one man was killed, and he by a stray bullet.

Because friendships started easily between hostile bodies, they kept moving a regiment from one part of the trenches to another, that we might not get too friendly with our enemies.
We had no heart in the butchery, for between Germans and Allies as individuals, there was no hate."
- Pvt. Roméo Houle, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

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