At first glance, it may seem like just a list of Christmas carols, many of which are as recognisable today as they would have been to soldiers fighting on the Western Front 100 years ago.
However, it appears that these Christmas favourites were the ones sung by the Allied troops to usher in the famous 1914 Christmas Truce.
The singing of hymns and carols between the trenches is perhaps one of the most atmospheric motifs of the Truce. Today it is the hymn Silent Night (Stille Nacht) most associated with the event but Allied soldiers rarely mention this hymn in their letters.
Research at Loretto School has revealed that Major Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop, a former Loretto pupil, and described as ‘one of the moving spirits of the Christmas Truce’, used carols from the Loretto Carol Service sheet sent to him from home.
An article from the Daily Mail on 4th January 1915 chronicles what happened ten days before;
“‘Carols in the trenches’
A major in the Leicester Regiment with this brother officers and soldiers sang carols in Christmas Day to the Germans, who replied with sacred songs. The major and his men sang;
• Come let us all sweet carols sing
• Good Christian men, rejoice
• The Manger Throne
• Sleep, Holy Babe
• See amid the winter snow
• Good King Wenceslas
The numbers comprised the first part of the programme of a Christmas term breaking-up concert given on December 17 in the famous Scottish School, Loretto. The programme had been sent out to the major who is an old boy of the School.”
Jonathan Hewat, Director of External Affairs at Loretto School, said, “Long have we known of former pupil, Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop’s involvement in the Christmas Truce. However, to have confirmation that Loretto Carols were used is really wonderfully moving. Loretto is proud to have played its small part in this unique event. Out of the darkness and carnage of the trenches, for the briefest of moments, light appeared in No Mans’ Land as the soldiers from both sides.”
Loretto has planned a number of Christmas Truce commemorative events for 20th December, including the unveiling of a specially commissioned stained glass window in the Chapel by the grandsons of Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop and Hauptmann Maximilian Freiherr (Baron) von Sinner, the commanding officer of the Machine-gun Company of the Prussian 6th Jäger Battalion - who was also involved in the Christmas Truce. The unveiling will take place during a Commemoration at which Reverend Norman Drummond will preach. Norman Drummond is The Queen's Chaplain in Scotland and has been appointed by the Scottish Government to Chair the Scottish Commemorations panel to mark the centenary of the First World War.
During the weekend, Loretto will be joined by eighty children from three schools - Gesamtschule Bergen Feld and Willy Brandt school in Germany and Heilige Familie school from Belgium.