It’s Christmas Eve and the 100th anniversary of World War I’s Christmas Truce. It was not a truce hammered out by generals or diplomats, but by the soldiers on the front lines across Europe. Letters home described how the spirit of Christmas led the weary German, British, and French soldiers to reach out to each other. Much of the story has been pieced together from those letters.
First, the rain that had plagued the troops for days on end had abated in the fields of Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, leaving the cold night air still and quiet enough for the troops on either side of the conflict to hear the stirrings of their enemies—in some places, British and German trenches were just a few dozen yards apart. In a letter published on January 9, 1915, in the Hertfordshire “Mercury,” Rifleman C.H. Brazier writes:
“On Christmas Eve the Germans entrenched opposite us began calling out to us ‘Cigarettes’, ‘Pudding’, ‘A Happy Christmas’ and ‘English – means good’, so two of our fellows climbed over the parapet of the trench and went towards the German trenches. Half-way they were met by four Germans, who said they would not shoot on Christmas Day if we did not. They gave our fellows cigars and a bottle of wine and were given a cake and cigarettes. When they came back I went out with some more of our fellows and we were met by about 30 Germans, who seemed to be very nice fellows. I got one of them to write his name and address on a postcard as a souvenir. All through the night we sang carols to them and they sang to us and one played ‘God Save the King’ on a mouth organ.”
The stories of the Christmas of 1914 varied along the 500-mile Western Front, but the result was the same: peace and fellowship between enemies, if only for a day. Read more of the letters home that told about the Christmas Truce at Collectors Weekly.