University of Glasgow graduate John Esslemont Adams played an important role in one of the famous Christmas truces that occurred on the Western Front in 1914. He was the chaplain the 6th Gordon Highlanders. The Christmas truce was recorded by D Mackenzie (1921) in The Sixth Gordons in France and Flanders, with the 7th and 51st Divisions. According to Mackenzie, on Christmas Day Adams joined men in No-Man’s-Land to meet amicably with Germans, against the initial protestations of the CO Colonel MacLean. They agreed upon a truce to bury bodies. After the burials, Adams convinced the COs to hold a service. At 16.00 officers and men from each army lined either side of a dividing ditch. Adams, along with an interpreter and a German divinity student, read the 23rd Psalm, first in English and repeated in German. A short prayer was said in English and repeated in German. Adams then saluted the German CO and they shook hands while men met in No-Man’s-Land and traded souvenirs and provisions.
By Jennifer Stewart, Club 21 Intern
By the close of 1915, the stark realisation of the incomprehensible reality of the Great War had begun to be fully realised, as the scale of human destruction continued to exceed expectations. With the conflict passing the one-year mark Britain began to understand the need for memorialising her war dead and recognising the sacrifices already made to this conflict, one without comparison. It was steeped in this atmosphere that Glasgow University Magazine published its Memorial Edition on 15 December 1915.
The relationship between the First World War and early cinema in Britain is both highly complex and far from predictable. In 1914 the visual styles, narrative conventions, exhibition practices, and social roles of moving pictures were still in flux and wartime upheaval inevitably defined the context in which the cinema’s process of institutionalisation crystallised. The already entrenched popularity of cinema with the British public made it a potentially vital force in the war effort. This article examines a number of local topical films produced in Scotland during the war, arguing that their shifting modes of address are indicative of a strategic alignment which took place between the early cinema trade and the state. Rather than being engineered as propaganda or state intervention, this alignment emerged organically as both the cinema trade and the British state sought to legitimate their projects of market expansion. Moreover, the article draws attention to an often overlooked group of films, suggesting that their local and ephemeral logic affords today’s viewer an experience of historical contingency as a counterpoint to hegemonic discourses.