Posted by Christine
The Christmas Tree Musical Box
My sister Pat and I were so excited at Christmas when the time came for us to bring out the festive decorations, the highlight of which was the Christmas tree. Ours was not any ordinary tree, ours would be admired by our friends and neighbours with gasps as they took in the amazing sight. The reason for this was the musical box that the tree stood in. The jelly mould shape of the traced pewter box was topped with a cast iron cone shaped holder which the tree was secured in. A large key wound up the mechanism and the sound of Christmas carols rang out.
Dad had brought this, to us a magical box, back from Germany in 1946 at the end of the second World War.
His war had ended at Cuxhaven, the northern German coastal town at the mouth of the River Elbe. Before that the Guards Armoured Division, which was reduced from twelve hundred to less than one hundred men had taken the surrender of the German 6th Parachute Regiment and then travelled to Hamburg to hand over their Sherman tanks to be loaded onto ships to go back to England. The Guards marched after the tanks and Field Marshall Montgomery took the salute. Dad and his fellow soldiers were appalled when they saw the destruction in Hamburg and were speechless as they drove through Cologne which had been flattened by the thousand bomber raids. They were barracked in Bad Godesburg and although fraternisation with the locals was banned Dad got on well with them, one elderly lady even made him a birthday cake for his 24th birthday.
There was a great deal of bartering between the troops and locals and that is how he obtained the musical box.
One day he was approached by a chap who wanted to barter the musical box for coffee and cigarettes. It was obvious that this was a treasured possession but life was so austere for the German civilians that he was willing to let it go for the valuable sustenance and comfort that a large amount of coffee and cigarettes would bring.
There is a dent in the top of the musical box which was caused by a bash it had received as it nestled at the bottom of Dad’s kit bag as he returned to Beverley after the war.
The musical box still comes out every year and grandchildren and great grandchildren gather round entranced as it plays “Holy Night Silent Night” and gently turns the Christmas tree around. They look for favourite toys, some almost 100 years old, as we had done as children.
My thoughts go back to the awful times that my father and his pals had experienced and to the man who had to let his beloved box go and I wonder if his family get the same feeling of wonder as they hear “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” each year at Christmas time.