Month: November 2014

Christmas at the trenches or it could have been something else ?

Christmas Truce of 1914

That’s not a story about family gathering or cozy atmosphere around the table while all of us are happily curled up, eating delicious meals and exchanging presents. No, it is a story about something which we could feel if we only came across with it, it is a moment of immense courage, humanity and goodness. It is a story of people wishing to touch the warm of the lighting hope, even for a while, a story which aspire million people, despite the fact that it is hundred years old.

It was 1914, the first year of the great war, in the western front around Christmas time, British, French and German solders made something phenomenal for that time, they created few days of ceased unofficial fire hostilities between one another. For that time such a thing was extraordinary one, not because it did happen, but because the scope of it.
Historians dive deeply in order to discover the reasons for such a truce. One of them point the conditions and the position of the trenches, in fact, they were only a yard apart which made them a twisted game for playing and inevitability for any strategic thinking. As Private R Fleming of the 2nd Durham Light Infantry explained it much more vividly and simple: “It is not war this. It is who can kill the most in the shortest possible time” ( The Newcastle Evening Mail January 13, 1915). Another point out the weather as decisive element, as it is reported that previously before Christmas there was a heavy rain which resulted quickly in flooding half of the trenches. The british and german soldiers were forced to climb above being fully exposed to another. However, no one of them shot or started fire. Speaking of the weather, it is worth mentioning that despite the fact that the whole November was raining, but the temperature was not extreme, on the Christmas eve heavy snow and frost covered the trenches and the soldiers there. Could we speculate about health condition of many individuals on their limits?

However, another series of unofficial truces were recorded and they should be put into consideration in order an object estimation of the situation to be made. For instance : “In one section the hour of 8 to 9 A.M. was regarded as consecrated to “private business,” and certain places indicated by a flag were regarded as out-of-bounds by the snipers on both sides. (Morgan 1916, pp. 270-71) “ . Nevertheless , such an attempts of friendly relation with the enemy were soon suppressed by the generals and many people even battalions were reprimanded severely for such violation of their duties.

Despite the punishment, the Christmas ‘ truce took place, making its history for many years to come. Everything started with singing of carols, on 24th of December, as the Germans celebrate that day before 25th with a festive mood and families around them. But at the year 1914 they were away from home, instead of warm the cold penetrates their bodies, no families, only the enemy on the other side, not far away from them. But then a white flag was waved in hope of fragile peace and rest from the war, only for a while. The singing of the carlos were accompanied by trees enlightened with lanterns ,which were placed above the trenches.
But how the truce began, according to one letter :
From out trenches: “Good morning Fritz.” (No answer).
“Good morning Fritz.” (Still no answer).
“GOOD MORNING FRITZ.”
From German trenches: “Good morning.”
From our trench: “How are you?”
“All right.”
“Come over here, Fritz.”
“No. If I come I get shot.”
“No you won’t. Come on.”
“No fear.”
“Come and get some fags, Fritz.”
“No. You come half way and I meet you.”
“All right.”
One of our fellows thereupon stuffed his pocket with fags and got over the trench.. The German got over his trench, and right enough they met half way and shook hands, Fitz taking the fags and giving cheese in exchange.”
Letter from Private H Scrutton, Essex Regiment, published in the Norfolk Chronicle on January 1, 1915”.
According to Staff Sergeant Clement Barker in a letter to his brother : “A messenger come over from German lines and said that if (our side) did not fire, they (the Germans) wouldn’t in the morning (Xmas day). A German looked over the trench – no shots – our men did the same, and then a few of our men went out and brought the dead in and buried them and the next thing a football kicked out of our Trenches and Germans and English played football.”

At the first down at Christmas day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches, facing the Allied lines , shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ in their native tongues. Firstly, the allied soldiers speculated that this might be a trick, but eventually after seeing the Germans unarmed they showed up,too. That was the begging of exchanging box of cigarettes and plum puddings.
During the truce the soldiers negotiated with one another to bury their men properly. Another interesting fact is that after the truce ended, after the armies were given command to attack one another for the first day after Christmas many of them,if not all of them, refused to disobey their orders. Here we could sense the emotional bond formed for such a short period of time, given the circumstances it was still extraordinary one.

One question arises : if the scope of that even or even the duration of it had been greater, would the ww1 have been stopped in its very begging or not? What if those people were given medal for courage and peace, what if others had done so? Could we have escaped the atrocity of the great war? What better knowledge from someone who have fought there and chose peace over war?