LONDON -- Alfred Anderson, 109, the last surviving soldier to have heard the guns fall silent along the Western Front during the spontaneous Christmas Truce of World War I, died Nov. 21 at a nursing home in Newtyle, Scotland. No cause of death was reported.
More than 80 years after the war, Mr. Anderson recalled the "eerie sound of silence" as shooting stopped and soldiers clambered from trenches to greet one another Dec. 25, 1914.
Mr. Anderson was an 18-year-old soldier in the Black Watch Regiment when British and German troops cautiously emerged from the trenches that Christmas Day. The enemies swapped cigarettes and tunic buttons, sang carols and even played soccer amid the mud, barbed wire and shell holes of no man's land.
The informal truce spread along much of the 500-mile Western Front, in some cases lasting for days -- alarming army commanders who feared fraternization would sap the troops' will to fight. The next year brought the start of vast battles of attrition that claimed 10 million lives, and the Christmas truce was never repeated.
"I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence," Mr. Anderson told London's Observer newspaper last year.
"All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machine gun fire and distant German voices," said Mr. Anderson, who was billeted in a French farmhouse behind the front lines.
"But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted, 'Merry Christmas,' even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war."
During the war, Mr. Anderson served briefly as batman -- or valet -- to Capt. Fergus Bowes-Lyon, whose sister, Elizabeth, became queen consort of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II. Bowes-Lyon was killed in 1915.
Prince Charles said he was "deeply saddened" by Anderson's death and recalled meeting him several times. "We should not forget him and the others of his generation who have given so much for their country," the heir to the throne said.
Mr. Anderson fought in France until 1916, when he was wounded by shrapnel from a shell. In 1998, he was awarded France's Legion of Honor for his war service.
Mr. Anderson was Scotland's oldest man. In later years, he spoke often of the guilt he felt over the loss of friends and comrades.
"I felt so guilty meeting the families of friends who were lost," he told the Times newspaper this month. "They looked at me as if I should have been left in the mud of France instead of their loved one. I couldn't blame them. They were grieving, and I still share their grief and bear that feeling of guilt."
Survivors include four children; 10 grandchildren; 18 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.