Christmas Truce Commemoration

The grandsons of Christmas Truce hero Major Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop and his German counterpart met up at Loretto School on the Saturday before Christmas to see a specially commissioned stained glass window unveiled in their honour.

Colonel Robin Buchanan-Dunlop and his wife Nicola joined Joachim Freiherr Von Sinner and his wife Ulrike in Loretto’s Chapel on Saturday, 20th December for a special commemoration service at which former Loretto Headmaster, The Reverend Professor Norman Drummond CBE preached.

Mr Von Sinner paid tribute to both their grandfathers, describing the famous truce – which saw British and German soldiers fighting each other in the First World War temporarily lay down their arms for Christmas – as “an act of bravery in a very cruel time”.

A specially commissioned stained glass window was unveiled as part of a weekend of remembrance which saw more than 80 children from schools in Germany and Belgium join pupils from Loretto.

The window, created by Haddington based artist Kate Henderson, pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the First World War. Each Lorettonian who gave his life is represented by a single red poppy, 148 in total, which are painted and sandblasted onto the glass in the striking lower section of the panel. Inspired from the meeting between Major Buchanan-Dunlop and his German counterparts, the central panel shows a British and German solider shaking hands on Christmas Day 1914. This was a gesture during the extraordinary ‘Christmas Truce’, 1914, on the Western Front. The phrase around the shield is Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax (Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace).Loretto pupils have contributed to the design with four symbols that surround the shield created by some of the Year 7 pupils in Loretto Junior School.

Dr Graham Hawley, Loretto Headmaster, explained the special links with the war and Major Buchanan-Dunlop. The major received the Loretto’s Christmas programme while serving on the front line and used their carol sheets to lead singing from the trenches on Christmas Day a century ago. Dr Hawley said: “We believe he also would have gone onto No Man’s Land, he was instrumental in leading the singing and all the events which led to the truce.” Major Buchanan-Dunlop was a former pupil who returned to the school as bursar following his military service. Baron von Sinner was the commanding officer of the Machine-gun Company of the Prussian 6th Jäger Battalion. Mr Von Sinner said he was immensely proud of all the soldiers who took part in the truce and the recognition of his grandfather’s role. He said: “I am very proud of what they did because it was strictly forbidden to fraternise, so it was extremely brave, in my eyes. This is what we should keep in mind, it was bravery in a very cruel time.” As well as the service in the Loretto Chapel, pupils from Loretto and the Belgian and German schools gathered in the Theatre for an event - ‘The Christmas Truce Remembered’ -  which included words and music, including a stylised re-enactment of the truce, capturing the humour and emotion of the event. It will include the singing of Stille Nacht, a re-creation of the football match and a performance of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting.

Thanks to a generous donation from an Old Lorettonian, the service of commemoration was filmed and a DVD will shortly be available in return for minimum donation of £10 in support of service charities from the Development Office 0131 653 4416.

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