More than once I had heard the story of a Christmas Truce along the Western Front in 1914, and often as not someone would dismiss the idea. I was glad to find a book, written with the co-operation of the Imperial War Museum that makes clear that the Christmas Truce did occur*
The writers do not see the Truce as an irrelevance, rather a
‘precursor, a portent indeed, of the spirit of reconciliation now powerfully abroad as one century ends and a new age begins. From South Africa to Ireland, and perhaps most noticeably of all in the benevolent arm-in-arm relationship between France and Germany (whose deep-rooted antipathy … made the First World War virtually inevitable.’ p vii.
They tell many stories, using diaries and other records of the time. This was reported in the Daily Telegraph as the account of a wounded French soldier:
‘he said that on the night of December 24th, the French and the Germans came out of their respective trenches and met halfway between them. They not only talked, exchanged cigarettes &c., but also danced together in rings.’ p 79.
There are many other accounts of how ‘we achieved what the pope (Benedict XV) could not do and in the middle of the war we had a merry Christmas.’ p 94.
Which was irrelevant: the Christmas Truce or the Great War?
Let us pray for Peace in this New Year.
*Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Pan, 2001. There are plenty of copies of this and other editions at Abe Books for less than £3.
Here is a link to the European Christmas Truce Tournament . Teenage boys from football clubs across Europe meet to play football, socialise, and visit the trenches, cemeteries and monuments of the Great War.