Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce of 1914.
World War I had been raging since July, with no end in sight. Earlier in December, Pope Benedict XV himself unsuccessfully urged a cease-fire during the Christmas season.
Then on Christmas Eve, somewhere on the Western front, firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped. Then the British halted their firing. All was eerily quiet.A British soldier heard the Germans sing Christmas carols as they decorated their trenches. The Brits responded with their own carols. Then a German soldier challenged the British to come over to share a bottle of wine.
Despite orders against fraternization, German and British soldiers left their rifles behind and cautiously emerged from their trenches into “no-man’s land.” More soldiers on both sides followed. They shook hands, wished each other Merry Christmas, and exchanged cigarettes, schnapps, even names and addresses. Christmas trees and lanterns were brought from the trenches. The Germans produced beer, and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers shared tins of beef and jam. There were even reports of soccer matches in no-man’s land.
The spontaneous Christmas truce lasted all day, spreading along the 500-mile Western front with more than 100,000 soldiers. The next day, the Fusiliers’ captain fired three shots into the air and then climbed up onto his parapet. A German officer (who had given the Fusilier a beer the day before) climbed into his parapet. The two bowed, saluted, and went back into their trenches. A few moments later, two German shots were fired into the air.
The war was on again.
- Little Blue Book, December 25