The Story of the Christmas Truce

It’s a wonderful little tale– On Christmas, 1914, an unofficial truce was allegedly declared at one place along the front, and presents and goodwill was exchanged between German and British soldiers. The story even goes that there was a soccer game. Here (http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/christmastruce.htm) is the article from a very good site on information about the Great War.

Here is an excerpt:

‘Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc. One of our fellows offered a German a cigarette; the German said, “Virginian?” Our fellow said, “Aye, straight-cut”, the German said “No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!”… It gave us all a good laugh.’

 

Hulse’s account was in part a letter to his mother, who in turn sent it on to the newspapers for publication, as was the custom at the time. Tragically, Hulse was killed in March 1915.

 

On many parts of the line the Christmas Day truce was initiated through sadder means. Both sides saw the lull as a chance to get into no-man’s land and seek out the bodies of their compatriots and give them a decent burial. Once this was done the opponents would inevitably begin talking to one another.

 

The 6th Gordon Highlanders, for example, organised a burial truce with the enemy. After the gruesome task of laying friends and comrades to rest was complete, the fraternisation began.

 

German officer in a British trench during the Christmas truceWith the Truce in full swing up and down the line there were a number of recorded games of soccer, although these were really just ‘kick-abouts’ rather than a structured match.

 

On January 1, 1915, the London Times published a letter from a major in the Medical Corps reporting that in his sector the British played a game against the Germans opposite and were beaten 3-2.

 

Kurt Zehmisch of the 134th Saxons recorded in his diary: ‘The English brought a soccer ball from the trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvellously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.’

 

The Truce lasted all day; in places it ended that night, but on other sections of the line it held over Boxing Day and in some areas, a few days more. In fact, there parts on the front where the absence of aggressive behaviour was conspicuous well into 1915.

 

Captain J C Dunn, the Medical Officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, whose unit had fraternised and received two barrels of beer from the Saxon troops opposite, recorded how hostilities re-started on his section of the front.

 

Dunn wrote: ‘At 8.30 I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with “Merry Christmas” on it, and I climbed on the parapet. He [the Germans] put up a sheet with “Thank you” on it, and the German Captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots in the air, and the War was on again.’

 

German comrades, winter 1914-15 (copyright Simon Rees, click to enlarge)The war was indeed on again, for the Truce had no hope of being maintained. Despite being wildly reported in Britain and to a lesser extent in Germany, the troops and the populations of both countries were still keen to prosecute the conflict.”

Read the whole thing.

Advertisements

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by steve on February 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    see even bitter enimies are good enough sports for some friendly play

  2. Posted by BACfrom(now)5th on February 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I agree, it seems funny that even in the most harsh of times they were willling to call a temporary truce in honor of a mutual tradition.

  3. Posted by Tom Sarsfield on February 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I believe there was a good movie made about this, actually. I’ve always believed that stagnation on the fronts due to trench warfare led to a certain loss of hate for the enemy. I remember watching a documentary where a British soldier wrote in his journal, “Why would I want to hurt him, he ain’t hurtin’ nobody” Generals, if I am recalling correctly, tried to combat this by demanding soldiers conduct raids on enemy lines, and to then bring back snippets of barbed wire as proof they went.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: