The Christmas Truce of WWI | Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours

The Christmas Truce of WWI

Christmas truce WWI soldiersThis holiday season we would like to share with you the heart-warming story of the Christmas Truce of World War I, which has become an enduring symbol of the triumph of man’s spirit over adversity. Below you will find an excerpt of an article that appears on the History channel website. It includes first-hand accounts of this moment in history, when “over Christmas 1914, singing and soccer broke out between British and German forces.”

Wherever your travels take you this season, Happy Holidays and all the best for the New Year!

From your friends at Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours

Photo attribution: “Illustrated London News – Christmas Truce 1914” by A. C. Michael originally published in January 9, 1915.

WWI’s Christmas Truce: When Fighting Paused for the Holiday

A.J. Baime & Volker Janssen

Over Christmas 1914, singing and soccer broke out between British and German forces.

On Christmas Eve 1914, in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the first world war, a remarkable thing happened.

It came to be called the Christmas Truce. And it remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history.

British machine gunner Bruce Bairnsfather, later a prominent cartoonist, wrote about it in his memoirs. Like most of his fellow infantrymen of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he was spending the holiday eve shivering in the muck, trying to keep warm. He had spent a good part of the past few months fighting the Germans. And now, in a part of Belgium called Bois de Ploegsteert, he was crouched in a trench that stretched just three feet deep by three feet wide, his days and nights marked by an endless cycle of sleeplessness and fear, stale biscuits and cigarettes too wet to light.

“Here I was, in this horrible clay cavity,” Bairnsfather wrote, “…miles and miles from home. Cold, wet through and covered with mud.” There didn’t “seem the slightest chance of leaving—except in an ambulance.”

At about 10 p.m., Bairnsfather noticed a noise. “I listened,” he recalled. “Away across the field, among the dark shadows beyond, I could hear the murmur of voices.” He turned to a fellow soldier in his trench and said, “Do you hear the Boches [Germans] kicking up that racket over there?”

“Yes,” came the reply. “They’ve been at it some time!”

The Germans were singing carols, as it was Christmas Eve. In the darkness, some of the British soldiers began to sing back. “Suddenly,” Bairnsfather recalled, “we heard a confused shouting from the other side. We all stopped to listen. The shout came again.” The voice was from an enemy soldier, speaking in English with a strong German accent. He was saying, “Come over here.”

One of the British sergeants answered: “You come half-way. I come half-way.”

British and German Soldiers Meet in the ‘No Man’s Land’

What happened next would, in the years to come, stun the world and make history. Enemy soldiers began to climb nervously out of their trenches, and to meet in the barbed-wire-filled “No Man’s Land” that separated the armies. Normally, the British and Germans communicated across No Man’s Land with streaking bullets, with only occasional gentlemanly allowances to collect the dead unmolested. But now, there were handshakes and words of kindness. The soldiers traded songs, tobacco and wine, joining in a spontaneous holiday party in the cold night.

Bairnsfather could not believe his eyes. “Here they were—the actual, practical soldiers of the German army. There was not an atom of hate on either side.”

Continue reading on History >

FacebookEmail
Matterhorn Travel has merged with Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. Please update your weblinks to https://stephenambrosetours.com and use info@stephenambrosetours.com for all your emails.
[X] Close this message