The Story of the Christmas Truce

Of all the stories that came out of World War I, the one about the Christmas truce is the one we most enjoy retelling. It wasn't an official truce -in fact, officers on both sides were appalled and took steps to make sure it never happened again. After all, we can't have soldiers from enemy sides drinking and singing together! But it happened on that magical Christmas Eve in 1914, in several areas of the front lines between British and German soldiers.

The first signs that something strange was happening occurred on Christmas Eve. At 8:30 p.m. an officer of the Royal Irish Rifles reported to headquarters: “Germans have illuminated their trenches, are singing songs and wishing us a Happy Xmas. Compliments are being exchanged but am nevertheless taking all military precautions.” Further along the line, the two sides serenaded each other with carols—the German “Silent Night” being met with a British chorus of “The First Noel“—and scouts met, cautiously, in no man’s land, the shell-blasted waste between the trenches. The war diary of the Scots Guards records that a certain Private Murker “met a German Patrol and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message was sent back saying that if we didn’t fire at them, they would not fire at us.”

Some of the German soldiers spoke enough English to communicate, and whiskey and Christmas carols were understood by both sides. Another thing the soldiers had in common was soccer, and there are several reports of Christmas games. Alas, by Christmas evening all had returned to their respective trenches, and the war resumed on the 26th. Read the entire story of the Christmas truce at Past Imperfect. Link


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