22 December 2006

British Expeditionary Force, Friday December 25th 1914

My Dear Mater,

This will be the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don't think there’s been a shot fired on either side up to now. Last night turned a very clear frost moonlight night, so soon after dusk we had some decent fires going and had a few carols and songs. The Germans commenced by placing lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us - wishing us a Happy Christmas etc ... Some of our chaps went over to their lines. I think they’ve all come back bar one from 'E' Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir.

There must be something in the spirit of Christmas as to day we are all on top of our trenches running about ... We also had some of the post this morning. I had a parcel from B. G's Lace Dept containing a sweater, smokes, under clothes etc. We also had a card from the Queen ... After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches! We've had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week ... About 10.30 we had a short church parade the morning service etc. held in the trench ... Our dinner party started off with fried bacon and dip-bread: followed by hot Xmas Pudding. I had a mascot in my piece. Next item on the menu was muscatels and almonds, oranges, bananas, chocolate etc. followed by cocoa and smokes. You can guess we thought of the dinners at home.

Just before dinner I had the pleasure of shaking hands with several Germans ... I exchanged one of my balaclavas for a hat. I've also got a button off one of their tunics. We also exchanged smokes etc. and had a decent chat. They say they won't fire tomorrow if we don't so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday - perhaps ... We can hardly believe that we've been firing at them ... it all seems so strange.

With much love from Boy.

The author of this description of the 1914 Christmas Truce is untraceable so his fate is unknown. The letter was purchased in an auction by singer Chris de Burgh in November (click here for a report).


Elizabeth-W said...

Strange has got to be an understatement.
I've heard stories like these, that the soldiers would sing Christmas carols to each other in their own languages, etc., Peace on Earth....And then get back to the business of war soon after.
It breaks my heart.

Steve Bates said...

I have always been deeply moved by stories of the 1914 Christmas Truce, and this is a particularly moving and revealing one. elizabeth-w said it well: it breaks my heart that we, and the rest of the world's peoples, keep doing this to each other.

My late father was a gunnery officer on a troop transport ship in W.W. II. One of his duties on his ship involved managing the transport of German prisoners of war to Allied prisons. He remarked more than once about how much they were like him, and what a shame it was that they met in wartime circumstances. And yet war goes on...

And I believe in the future,
We shall suffer no more
Maybe not in my lifetime
But in yours I feel sure."
- Paul Simon

jams o donnell said...

It was a true act of broterhood during insane times Elizabeth. Given the slaughter that took place in the years after it truly is heartbreaking

And we still do it Steve. My dad was in the RAF during WWII as you know. Some years back he was in Italy on holiday when an old german came up and sta by him at the hotel bar. They got talking and it turned out he had been Luftwaffe aircrew. They had a great evening swapping reminiscences. No hatred, no emnitiy but two fliers bonding.

At teh end of the day that saying - A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at both ends is so true