Sainsbury’s new Christmas advertising campaign is both beautifully made and very worthy and will, no doubt, help the hyper-grocer sell lots of mince pies, turkeys and Christmas puds! It is also reasonably accurate, apart from the men being far too well-groomed and clean-shaven. I don’t suppose grubby Tommies and Fritzes in rat-infested, insanitary trenches is quite the right image for a supermarket sales campaign.
Another missing element from the glossy ad is the burial parties, which spent the day burying the decomposing corpses littering no-mans-land. Also, it was almost certainly the German men who initiated the first contact. Nevertheless, credit to Sainsbury’s for reminding us of the poignancy of war; far more meaningful than penguins or Ant and Dec.
Of course, there have been many truces, protracted or brief, throughout history. Indeed the ending of several wars began with a truce, as happened at the end of the Korean in 1952 and the First Gulf War in 1991.
Perhaps the most meaningful truce was the Ekécheiria, meaning ‘laying down of arms’, the Olympic Truce, which endured in Ancient Greece for hundreds of years throughout antiquity. It was announced before and the Games, which were always held at Olympia in the state of Elis on the Peloponnese, to ensure the host city was not attacked and that athletes and spectators could travel safely.
During the Truce, which lasted for three months, all conflicts were suspended, legal disputes were postponed and death penalties forbidden. Perhaps surprisingly, on the whole, the Truces were respected and in 1998, the International Olympic Committee re-established the Truce for the Modern Games. Sadly, with considerably less impact.
It was Voltaire who said, aptly: “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
Stewart Binns is an author and award-winning documentary producer