WWI CHRISTMAS STORIES.
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As the war began, soldiers from both sides began to experience the horrors of war. The new weapons were far deadlier and caused more damage then previous weapons of war. Rats infested the trenches, by feeding on the dead bodies. The stalemate of trench warfare killed the soldiers’ hopes of ending the war quickly and going home by Christmas.
On Christmas Eve 1914 tired from all the fighting and killing, 100,000 British and French soldiers fraternized with their German counterparts, singing Christmas carols and meeting in no-mans-land to exchange gifts.
Here are some of their stories. And there were thousands more like them…
Private John MacGregor, 6th Battalion of the British Expeditionary Forces."It was a memorable day in our trenches as we had a truce with the enemy on Christmas Eve. The Germans started singing and lighting candles about 7:30 on Christmas Eve, and one of them challenged any one of us to go across for a bottle of wine. One of our fellows accepted the challenge and took a big cake to exchange. That started the ball rolling. We then went half way to shake hands and exchange greetings with the enemy. There were 10 dead Germans in the ditch and we helped to bury them. I could have had a helmet from one of the dead Germans, but I did not out of respect. The Germans seemed to be very nice chaps and said they were awfully sick of the war.”
Private Edward Duncan E Company, 6th battalion Gordon Highlanders.“We had a day off with the Germans and exchanged souvenirs. It seemed to be a mutual truce. Certainly it was not official. It all started when a few Germans put their heads up above the trenches and said that they wanted to bury their dead. They then came out of the trenches without their rifles. Our boys also got up to meet them and shook hands. We were not allowed to go near their trenches so we carried their dead half across and they carried our dead to the same distance. The Germans told us that they are all fed up and wish the war was over. Some of them were smart looking chaps and gave our boys cigarettes and chocolate as well as alcohol. They said that if we did not fire they would not fire as well. So no one fired shots from either side.”
Rifleman C H Brazier.“On Christmas Eve the Germans began calling out to us ‘Happy Christmas’. Two of us climbed over the trench and went towards the Germans. The Germansthen said that they would not shoot on Christmas Day if we did not. They gave us cigars and a bottle of wine. More of us got up and met with 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. On Christmas Day we all got out of the trenches and walked about with the Germans, who, when asked if they were fed up with the war said ‘Yes’. We had some fine sport and made the Germans laugh. No firing took place on Christmas night and at four the next morning we were relieved by regulars.”
January 8, 1915: Letter written by an English officer.“We had a most extraordinary day and quite different from others. On Christmas Eve our section of the line arranged an unofficial truce, each side agreeing not to shoot if the other did not. That night lots of English and Germans met between the two lines and had talks; the Germans gave boxes of cigars to our men and we gave them hot tea. We had a game of football, and bicycle races on bikes without tires. One of my men was given some sweets by a German. Some of them really were most friendly and said they did not want to fight us at all and bear us no hatred.”
The military leaders on both sides had become concerned that they would lose control of their soldiers and that the war would stop, costing them a great victory. Therefore, they responded with giving orders to the commanders of the frontline soldiers to shoot “the enemy”. To prevent any more similar events such as the Christmas Truce, the following years the High Command rotated troops so they couldn’t get to know each other. They also ordered airplanes to do aerial bombardments during Christmas to prevent soldiers from both sides to fraternize, as they did during the first Christmas Eve of the War.