Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Christmas Truce

One hundred years ago, rows of trenches bordered a No Man's Land, sometimes only sixty yards apart. Huddled in the muddy trenches with barbed wire, bombs, shells, lice, mice, rats, cats, corpses, cold rain, bullets, and filth were ordinary British and German soldiers. (Also present were French and Belgians on whose land the war waged.)
In this first Christmas season of the Great War, the soldiers lacked strong feelings about fighting and killing each other. The live-and-let-live attitude concerned a British commander. Neither side fired during mealtimes. They shouted friendly and rude banter across the killing field, sometimes tossing newspapers weighted with a stone. Hardly the stuff of mortal combatants.
One morning, a British officer wrote, the Germans came up from their trenches, hands raised, and retrieved their wounded. The British did likewise. Afterwards, they talked all morning and smoked each other's cigarettes. The Germans seemed like "extraordinary men." 

Arthur C. Michael's lithograph "The Christmas Day Truce of 1914"

The Germans took the initiative again on Christmas Day. In one sector, tiny Christmas trees with candles clamped to their branches appeared on the parapets of their trenches. They were serious about observing the day. The sound of singing drifted across No Man's Land.
Four German privates came over on Christmas morning to wish the British a happy Christmas. They told the British captain who went out to meet them that they had no orders from their officers. They simply came over in goodwill.
Fraternization resulted in addresses exchanged as well as souvenirs such as buttons, belt buckles, and German spiked helmets.

The British Expeditionary Force High Command, having reports of unarmed Germans running across No Man's Land with Christmas trees, ordered local commanders to prevent any reoccurrence. Few complied. The troops were eager for a truce.
Where they couldn't speak the language, they made themselves understood by signs, according to a British corporal. "Everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!"
Christmas fraternization was ordered curtailed the following year by both sides, but for one day in 1914, peace reigned over the battlefield.

 Terri Wangard is currently seeking a publisher
 for her World War II series. Visit her blog at


  1. I have heard of this before. It warms the heart.

  2. I have heard of this before, and find it really amazing!

  3. Great idea...wish it extended to today.

  4. Pretty sure this was at the very end of the war and in some cases, I think they simply hadn't heard yet that the war was indeed over. The Germans had surrendered. But the treaty wasn't officially signed until much later.

  5. Great story.. I had Uncles serve in that war.. Very interesting to read a little about where they were..