Christmas day truce WWI

The history behind the World War One Christmas day truce

Did you know that there was a temporary truce on Christmas day during World War One? This is one of the most re-told war events ever. Some people say that troops from both British and German forces set aside their differences during the Christmas holiday and went on to play a soccer match.

Is that really what happened? What was the real story behind the truce?

During the war on the Christmas Eve of 1914, the British Expeditionary Force heard German troops in the trenches that were opposite to them singing patriotic songs and Christmas carols. They also saw small fir trees and lanterns that were set along the trenches. Messages were then shouted from both sides of the trenches.

Early morning on Christmas day, several German soldiers came out of their trenches and approached the British lines across no man’s land as they shouted ‘Merry Christmas’ in their own native tongue.

At first, the British soldiers thought it might be a trick but after they realized that the German soldiers were not armed, they also followed suit and climbed out of the trenches and began to shake hands with the enemy.

Both sides then went on to exchange gifts that mainly consisted of plum puddings and cigarettes, take photographs, and sing carols and songs from their homelands together. Some of the soldiers from both Britain and Germany also got together and played some soccer games.

Here’s an amazing video depicting the event:

Some soldiers also took advantage of this truce and retrieved the bodies of their comrades who had fallen between the lines of no man’s land and buried their dead accordingly. Others took the time to repair the dugouts and trenches. When Boxing Day ended, the truce eventually faded out, and the fighting continued.

The 1914 World War One Christmas truce came only a few months after the start of the war in Europe and was the last example of the outdated belief of nobility between enemies who are at war with each other. Such a truce was never repeated and further attempts at any ceasefire during the holidays were immediately halted by officers who threatened severe disciplinary action on those who even proposed it.

Despite these threats, there were still a few soldiers who held brief moments of truce later during the war. Some soldiers had established a system whereby both sides would be permitted to repair their trenches or retrieve their fellow comrades on the line sections that were mostly quiet.

A few letters also emerged which revealed a general’s reluctance to associate himself with the enemy during the truce as he feared they would take advantage of the situation and kill him. The general had written his wife a letter whereby he outlined to her how news regarding the soccer match spread fast on the front line.

In the letter, he also said that while he did not get out of the trenches during the truce, he saw a British soldier go out and one of the Germans also did the same and they walked together all day sharing cigars and singing songs.

Many of the soldiers who fought in World War One did not expect a celebration to take place on the battlefield. However, the Christmas spirit prevailed even during a war. The truce, however brief it was, served as a proof that underneath all the brutal fighting, the essential humanity of the soldiers on both sides of the war endured.

What a wonderful time Christmas is indeed.