A ceramic Christmas cake sculpture to honour the memory of the Christmas truce is on display at the Rathbone Gallery. The exhibition, Time For Reflection also features a poem by the artist entitled The Game.
Artist and writer, Jean Maskell said, “The Christmas truce was a remarkable event and reminds us of the strength of the human spirit to keep compassion and hope alive, whatever the circumstances.
As a Ceramic artist, I chose to make a cake from clay, because mud and clay caused the soldiers so much difficulty and discomfort. It was as if Nature and the very Earth was in turmoil under their feet.
A Christmas cake would have been an important reminder of home for the troops, particularly as it was their first Christmas away from their families. The cake, detailed with photographs of British and German soldiers, represents the trenches, which is now their new home. Like the Christmas truce, the cake turns something negative into something positive.”
The truce was unofficial and came about informally as the British troops heard the Germans singing carols and noticed small trees being erected. Both sides reached out to each other and men came out to talk and exchange gifts. The soldiers were able to bring in their dead from no-man’s land to bury. The truce is best remembered for the football game which took place.
It was cold and frozen but among the death, destruction and bitter weather there was still life in their hearts and they were able to live it for a brief while. The evidence of the Christmas truce is contained in letters home.
The truce was never repeated. It was seen by the authorities as a threat to discipline and also the horrors that followed meant that troops viewed each other firmly as enemies. The Christmas truce is a moment frozen in time.
Time For Reflection is open until 24 January 2015 at the Rathbone Studio (Tuesday to Saturday: 2- 5pm) at 28 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Merseyside. CH41 6AE.
The Game – Christmas 1914
The ball stops by my foot.Like players on a chess boardWe hold our positions.Waiting for the next move.
Frozen silence.Only a mist of breath on our lips.Cold, cold lips,Unmoving.
Just the rattle of halters,Like altar bells at a distance,As the horsesShake and flare at the stabbing frost.
A sob in my throat.I was a boy once.The Hun, misty through tears,Watches.
I lift my foot in the old familiar way,And kick.Under the arching ball,Men, who will soon die, come alive.
The game has begun.
Copyright Jean Maskell 2014