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Christmas in the Trenches

John McCutcheon


      D                     Bm         G                     Em

My name is Francis Toliver, I come from Liverpool.

        A7 (2)                                   G                         D
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.

     D                     Bm         G                     Em
To Belgium and to Flanders, Germany to here.

   A7 (2)                                          D (2)
I fought for King and country I love dear.
            A7 (2)                                          G                     D
Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung.

        Bm                   Bm/A                             G                      A7
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.

        D                   Bm                  G                     Em
Our families back in England were toasting us that day,

          A7 (2)                                    D (2)
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

          D                    Bm                     G                     Em
I was lying with my mess mate on the cold and rocky ground.

              A7 (2)                                    G                         D
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.

       D                     Bm                      G                         Em
Says I, "now listen up me boys." Each soldier strained to hear

      A7 (2)                                              D (2)
As one young German voice sang out so clear.
         A7 (2)                                       G                     D
"He's singing bloody well y'know," my partner says to me.

        Bm                   Bm/A                        G              A7
Soon one by one each German voice joined in in harmony.

        D                    Bm                  G                           Em
The cannons rested silent, and the gas clouds rolled no more.

        A7 (2)                                             D (2)
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.


D      Bm     G        Em

A7 (2)        G        D

          D                    Bm                    G                         Em
As soon as they were finished, and a reverent pause was spent,

          A7 (2)                                     G                              D
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Ghent.

          D                             Bm                      G                      Em
Oh the next they sang was "Stille Nacht", 'tis Silent Night says I.

       A7 (2)                                               D (2)
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.
               A7 (2)                                        G                       D
"There's someone coming towards us", the front line sentry cried.

      Bm                   Bm/A                        G                      A7
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.

        D                      Bm                         G                        Em
His truce flag like a Christmas star shone on that plain so bright

           A7 (2)                                           D (2)
As he bravely strolled unarmed into the night.

          D                    Bm                     G                      Em
Then one by one on either side walked into no-man's land.

          A7 (2)                               G                              D
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand.

          D                          Bm                G                         Em
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well.

               A7 (2)                                        D (2)
And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell.

        A7 (2)                                        G                       D
We traded chocolates, cigarettes and photographs from home.

      Bm                        Bm/A             G                      A7
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own.

             D                             Bm                        G         Em
Young Sanders played the squeezebox and they had a violin.

           A7 (2)                             D (2)
This curious and unlikely band of men.

D  Bm  D  G

G  D  A7  D


          D                    Bm                     G                      Em
Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.

          A7 (2)                                   G                    D
With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war.

             D                       Bm                    G                             Em
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night.

               A7 (2)                                D (2)
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"
        A7 (2)                                        G                       D
’Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung.

       Bm                    Bm/A                         G                             A7
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung.

             D                            Bm           G                     Em
For the walls they kept between us to exact the work of war

                  A7 (2)                                     D (2)
Had been crumbled and were gone forever more.


D      Bm     G        Em

A7 (2)        G        D

      D                      Bm          G                 Em
My name is Francis Toliver, in Liverpool I dwell.

           A7 (2)                                               G                            D
Each Christmas comes since World War I, I've learned its lessons well.

             D                       Bm                    G                            Em
For the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame,

                    A7 (2)                           D (2)
And on each end of the rifle we're the same.

D  Bm  D  G

G  D  A7  D (hold)

This file is the author's own work and represents his interpretation of this song. It's intended solely for private study, scholarship or research.