Christmas in Bethlehem 1945


I joined the Army in 1941, seeing action in France and Germany. After VJ day, being relatively young at 24,1 was posted to Egypt and Palestine in order to release men who had served many years abroad without home leave.

And so I was able to join hundreds of other service personnel for a carol service in the Fields of the Shepherds outside Bethlehem. Each of us had a candle for illumination. After the service we processed uphill to the Church of the Nativity. There we queued with other worshippers to enter the manger. Peeping through the centre of the Star of the Nativity, one could see the original floor of the stable where Jesus was born. This was a highly emotional experience of faith. And then we
went backto the camp in the early hours.

Christmas Day began with a special Sergeant Major’s tea. Then church parade with more carols. And then a traditional feast in which Officers served the men. In the afternoon, there was a comic football match between officers versus sergeants. And the evening can be imagined.

Boxing Day proved even better. An order came from Headquarters, granting me early release from the Army as there was a chronic shortage of qualified teachers in England. That news was well lubricated later, with there was much envy from fellow officers.

That Christmas the war was over, and I could look forward to married life as a civilian.

Lt. F.N. Snowden,
33rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery
(Now 91 years old)