November 22, 2005, 12:36 pm
The passing of Alfred Anderson at the age of 109 leaves, according to the AP, less than ten surviving World War I veterans in Britain. Various obituaries have identified him as the last surviving member of the Christmas Truce of 1914, one of the most famous episodes of the war, when British and German troops mutually agreed to celebrate Christmas, fraternized with one another, and even participated in burial of each other's dead. Paul Fussell once called it "the last gasp of the 19th century," and it resonates particularly now, as we are locked in combat against an enemy with whom we share no such common understandings. A life as full as Anderson's (he served in WW II as well) deserves more than the brief wire service treatment. The Times of London has a nice tribute, one that interestingly enough does not even mention the Christmas Truce.