the christmas truce story

And after the Christmas Truce of 1914, there was never another widespread truce on the frontlines. This, again, was unprecedented; never before had a war been conducted on so wide a scale with the enemy so close for so long. After Boxing Day, meetings in no man's land dwindled out. In some places, evidence suggests that firing never ceased — and that some soldiers who were attempting to fraternize were shot by opposing forces, per Time. While troops were already disillusioned and prone to rebellion, the war would stretch on for years after. In what was known as the 'Live and Let Live' system, in quiet sectors of the front line, brief pauses in the hostilities were sometimes tacitly agreed, allowing both sides to repair their trenches or gather their dead. My Inspiration behind THE FOUR BELLS: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by Brodie Curtis. Even when that didn't happen, many still thought the war would end soon. The conditions of the trench provided almost no protection against the cold, per War History Online. Trench warfare made it possible for them to shy away from battle indefinitely. Of course, in hindsight, we know that the battle waged far longer — World War I wouldn't end until 1918. In 1914, an informal ceasefire between German and Allied soldiers would later come to be known as the Christmas Truce of 1914, according to History. German soldiers began lighting their trenches and singing carols. The following day, British and German soldiers met in no man's land and exchanged gifts, took photographs and some played impromptu games of football. The Christmas Truce wasn't unique, but instead part of a much larger, more significant, and meaningful trend. The photographs, letters and interviews in IWM’s collection tell the real story of the Christmas Truce. But as with most things, the truth is a little more complex than the myth, per the New Republic. A beautiful moment of celebration was represented by the carols sang by the English and German troops. 4.0 out of 5 stars Christmas … One such order to this effect was preserved and auctioned in September 2016 and was originally sent to a British commanding officer in Flanders, according to BBC. Christmas truce At least as famous as the story of the carol’s origin is that of its role in the Christmas truce of 1914. Days or weeks of waiting understandably bonded soldiers not only to their own side but to the other, giving way to a cautious camaraderie. In part, it's likely because nearly all cultures praise sports as a way to bring people together. The "war to end all wars" was unprecedented in scale. Still, for most, it appears that the time was truly used as a time of celebration, and a brief respite from all the killing. In fact, they avoided combat whenever possible. After 1914, the High Commands on both sides tried to prevent any truces on a similar scale happening again. These women questioned the very idea of the war, asking whether it was not instead the mission of all women to "preserve life." The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. A first-hand account notes that a German shouted, "A merry Christmas, we don't fire!" In quieter areas, where there was little exposure to fire, soldiers had a mutual understanding — they didn't shoot unless they were shot at. The nature of war had changed. Moreover, they couldn't encounter the enemy without intentional acts of aggression on their side. In this video, Head of Documents and Sound Anthony Richards explains how the truce came about, its impact on the course of the First World War and why it never happened again after 1914. It gives us a glimpse of the world as we wish it could be and says, “This really happened once.” It reminds us of those thoughts we keep … Small Christmas … A combination of seeing the enemy as real and familiar and yearning for Christmas back home made the idea of celebrating Christmas in the trenches a more appealing proposition, especially during the bitter and lonely cold. Episode 38: Those who lived through the First World War experienced Christmas in a variety of ways. It was Christmas Day in 1914 and World War I had been raging on for five brutal months. Journalists share a meal with troops at a roadside mobile army kitchen on the Western Front in October 1914. Ultimately, soldiers wanted to be able to return home. Christmas Truce by the Men Who Took Part Letters from the 1914 Ceasefire on the Western Front by Mike Hill We all know the story of Christmas Day 1914 when Allied and German troops had an … Commanders started actively looking for areas with fewer casualties and ordering bombardments and night raids to spur their soldiers into action. Troops did have soccer balls with them, and it's very likely that small games broke out, or that troops kicked the ball with each other. The war began in the summer of 1914. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce. Later, its dark legacy would include the origins of both trench warfare and shell shock. Soldiers who engaged in the Christmas Truce may have been expecting that the war might be over within a few weeks or even days, and, consequently, they may not have felt any particular compulsion to continue aggression. And when the German soldiers appeared in No Man's Land without their guns, the Allied soldiers dropped their guards and began celebrating in earnest. It seems as though there were a myriad of factors surrounding World War I that made this type of fraternization all the more likely. Once again, it appeared the truce was initiated by German soldiers on the Western Front, and that it was honored among Allied forces. Hear from some of those who experienced the first months of war explaining just how wrong that prediction was. Though the Christmas Truce occurred relatively early in the war, there had already been a number of peace initiatives. The truce was not observed everywhere along the Western Front. The surreal “Christmas truce” ended as abruptly as it began – a small blip in a war that would end four years later with 8.5 million military deaths – but for a few short hours, no more than a … It seems exponentially harder with a language barrier. After all, if they aren't shooting at us, why would we start? Either way, both the Germans and the Allied troops were soon celebrating Christmas in the No Man's Land. On Christmas Eve at around 8:30 pm, the truce began. Not only would freezing soldiers not feel like fighting, but they would have likely felt uniquely discouraged. The Christmas Truce can, in many ways, be better seen as an act of subversion and disobedience. Soldiers were already hesitating to shoot at each other because they really didn't have to; the entire issue with trench warfare is that both sides could turtle down indefinitely. But apart from the obvious sentimentality of the season, there were some practical reasons for the Christmas Truce. It was unfathomable that a world war could go on for so long if only because of the sheer amount of resources devoted toward it. They were fighting far away from their homes, many of them for a war that they didn't personally believe in. I re-run this diary every year. When fighting resumes, they promise to reunite on the first Christmas after the war ends if they're both … The story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 is often considered “played out,” especially in historical circles, but it is a compelling tale; its best and most impactful role is on the young minds of … Today, even after a decade and more of war, only a few understand the burdens of fighting, being on guard constantly, and … What followed, though, was something more than that, for if the story of the Christmas Truce has its jewel, it is the legend of the match played between the British and the Germans—which … Christmas Truce by the Men Who Took Part: … And while the powers-that-be did not order any such truce, it did appear that some were listening. Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 16, 2015. Most people have heard the story of the front-line, Christmas-time, truce in France during World War One, partially due to its retelling in the 2005 movie, Joyeux Noël, but not many have heard of the small Christmas Eve truce … All this contributes to a greater understanding: The soldiers weren't the only ones interested in ending the war during World War I. When the Germans have started singing their version of “Silent Night, Holy Night”, the English did not hesitate to respond with carols of t… Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was that glimmer of light that turned war into peace. So why is the idea of a great World War I soccer match so compelling? Instead, it was just young soldiers enjoying a sport that they enjoyed back home, and speaking a common physical language. Soldiers on both sides … It gives us a glimpse of the world as we wish it could be and says, “This really happened once.” It reminds us of those thoughts we keep hidden away, out of range of the TV and newspaper stories … In 1914, an informal ceasefire between German and Allied soldiers during World War I would later come to be known as the Christmas Truce of 1914. It may have seemed futile — and unnecessarily dangerous — to even continue fighting when awaiting orders to return home. Some academics believe that this had to do with the close proximity of the trenches. It had become mechanized and efficient. The True Story Of The 1914 Christmas Truce, 20 million would be dead and 21 million would be wounded, Open Christmas Letter had been signed by 101 British women, those songs were returned by the Allied side, truth is a little more complex than the myth, half the British frontlines eventually participated, the weather conditions were below freezing, provided almost no protection against the cold, never another widespread truce on the frontlines, was recorded by a soldier named Robert Keating. Eventually, the Christmas Truce would include British, some French, and German troops. After the start of the truce on Christmas Eve in 1914, about 100,000 soldiers from both German and English armies have started celebrating Christmas together. Some believe that when the Germans began to sing Christmas carols, those songs were returned by the Allied side — broaching the silence between the two and paving the way for further positive relations. The Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of the First World War around Christmas 1914. Soldiers, long away from their families, … This thought process undoubtedly trickled down to the troops themselves. But in 1914, it was still believed that the war would soon be over. The Christmas Truce was part of a "live and let live" philosophy that had emerged early during the First World War, according to the Imperial War Museums. After the truce, commanders not only ordered soldiers to resume firing but also vowed that a similar truce would not begin again. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. It makes less sense to become friends. Providing inspiration for songs, books, plays, and movies, it has … German troops were decorating their areas by placing candles on Christmas trees and around their trenches. But … Troops also exchanged stories — stories about back home, their hobbies, and the things that they liked. © IWM (Q 53384). The pause in fighting was not universally observed, nor had it been … But it's also important to realize that some of the opposing troops didn't just have neutral relationships with each other, but friendly ones. Christmas Truce, (December 24–25, 1914), impromptu cease-fire that occurred along the Western Front during World War I. After all, why break ranks and fraternize with enemy soldiers when you know that you will be back at their throats again the next day? Soldiers, long away from their families, friends, and the ones that they loved, looked for comfort with the other side. Snow, sleet, hail, freezing rain; soldiers were subject to it all. Especially on the German side, a significant gap was already emerging between those giving the orders and those following them. So, now we've set the stage. And the ripples of the war would lead directly into WWII just a couple of decades later. That's not to say that no truces ever occurred, just none at so wide a scale. Messages began to be shouted between the trenches. Despite this, there were some isolated incidents of soldiers holding brief truces later in the war, and not only at Christmas. Soldiers and commanders had differing opinions on the war, with commanders wanting to push forward aggressively, and soldiers lacking the inspiration to fight. Happy Holiday to you, whatever winter holiday it is that you choose to celebrate. The legendary story of the 1914 Christmas truce. As Christmas approached, a sudden cold snap turned weeks of wet weather into an eerily beautiful winter landscape. Some officers were unhappy at the truce and worried that it would undermine fighting spirit. Soldiers weren't just in close physical proximity to their enemy, they were also experiencing everything their enemy was experiencing. Frequently, those who are fighting are the last who want to be — and the last who benefit. As trench warfare was in its infancy — and many had expected the fighting to be over early — few considerations had been made. Many know the basics of the truce: Both sides refused to fire upon each other, instead choosing to celebrate Christmas. Great learned more about the Christmas Truce, through this lovely story. The beginning of one of the most destructive wars humankind has seen. It already seems hard enough to explain to an enemy combatant that you aren't going to shoot them. Report abuse. It makes sense to stop shooting. In true Christmas spirit, troops exchanged gifts like food, buttons, hats, and cigarettes, as Time reports. Read more. Late on Christmas Eve 1914, men of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) heard German troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and patriotic songs and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. How did the Christmas Truce begin? Consequently, the act of fraternizing could be seen not as an act of friendship but rather an act of rebellion on all sides. The Remarkable Story Of The Christmas Truce The WW1 Christmas Truce of 1914 is a now legendary story; a spark of peace and goodwill between two nations amidst the chaos of war. They could have simply stopped firing at each other, rather than celebrate with each other. My debut novel, The Four Bells, tells the story of ex-Tommy Al Weldy’s Great War experiences with his … Not all of the truces were upheld, but the vast majority were. Before Christmas 1914, an Open Christmas Letter had been signed by 101 British women. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was one of the most famous events to come out of … Frostbite occurred frequently, sometimes leading to amputation. The Great War, more commonly … The human story behind the extraordinary events of Christmas Eve 1914, when fighting stopped - and a lone soldier's exquisite voice made history. One person found this helpful. During the World War I Christmas truce of 1914, British and German soldiers along the Western Front initiated a spontaneous ceasefire to celebrate the holiday. At the same time, Pope Benedict XV was pleading with national leaders to hold a Christmas truce themselves. One might wonder: Why? They even kicked around a soccer ball. Journalists share a meal with troops at a roadside … Elsewhere the fighting continued and casualties did occur on Christmas Day. None of the soldiers wanted to be in combat with each other. Of course, it is. The Pope asked that "the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang." Episode 8: One of the most popular sayings of 1914 was that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’. Seeing the German soldiers embrace traditional Christmas customs (such as erecting trees — a British tradition that had actually started in Germany) may have yielded a sort of comforting familiarity. But at least during the Christmas Truce, there was obvious evidence of German camaraderie. In 1915, a first-hand account of a Christmas Truce was recorded by a soldier named Robert Keating, the BBC reports. They also wrote signs saying not to shoot, pleading for peace, per History. panzerccfc. Historically, it's unlikely that there was any type of organized match. The Christmas Truce of 1914 is one of the most extraordinary incidents not only of World War I but of all military history. There were good and bad things to come of the Christmas Truce of 1914 — and not everything that was reported was true. They had no reason to risk their own lives prematurely. Episode 9: Hear the story that lead to the unofficial, spontaneous truce which took place along some parts of the Western Front during Christmas 1914. About the Story. Some Allied and German troops had been talking to and joking with each other even before the Christmas Truce of 1914. Even President Reagan mentioned the story of the Christmas Truce during a speech he gave in West Germany in 1985. One of the most famous Christmas-time events was the truce that took place along some parts of the line on the Western Front in 1914. Americans found themselves discouraged that no such truces occurred in 1915, perhaps hoping that the spirit of peace and kindness would prevail. The Christmas Truce was an event that happened during World War I . This disconnect between soldiers and their superiors is part of what fed into the feelings of betrayal and disobedience within the troops to begin with — and a great deal of what would later take a heavy toll on even those who survived. Of course, the commanders weren't fond of this; they needed their kills if they were ever going to get home again. How do you celebrate Christmas when you're in the middle of a battlefield? By 1914, it was still early in the war. On the day of the truce, snow fell, and the weather conditions were below freezing. Signs were written in English as well — and carols were sung in it. This is also what had contributed to the number of yuletide traditions shared between the two groups. The trenches themselves were cold and hard, and often vehicles and machinery failed to work. World War I was a complex time in terms of German identity. Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce - Kindle edition by Weintraub, Stanley. Many found it remarkable that soldiers in the heat of war would ever choose not to fight. Some believe this accounted for the uncharacteristically Christmas-like feel of the battlefield. Commanders were already having issues with the "live and let live" philosophy — they were definitely not going to provide for soldier-driven truces. Many see the Christmas Truce as an inspirational act of peace and humanity. The Christmas Truce began when Germans approached Allied lines singing Christmas carols. early on during the truce — at least, in one instance documented by a lieutenant in the British Royal Berkshire Regiment. A significant number of Christmas traditions had been imported from the British to the German side. With all the positives and negatives that the word "history" implies. The Christmas Truce of 1914 remains a moment of enduring fascination more than a century after the day the First World War guns fell silent. A Christmas Truce football match doesn't just validate the sport itself but also provokes even greater feelings of friendship and camaraderie. This led to exactly what one would expect: even if the soldiers survived, they were resentful and scarred. With all that being said, it's possible that there wouldn't have been any fighting on Christmas Day regardless. Culture History Orders were sent that said "on no account" were British soldiers allowed to have communication with the German soldiers. It was further an entreaty to British, German, and Austrian women to see all women as sisters and to relate to each other's goals. Fritz Vincken and Ralph Henry Blank meet in 1996. The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. Perhaps it's even better, then, that it appears that there were no scores taken and no referees, according to CNN. By all accounts, it was initiated by the Germans. But since that Christmas of 1914, none have been on so grand a scale as to create a legend. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the Christmas Truce was so unplanned and so unprecedented — but it still managed to spread across the battlefield, happening in separate instances at the same time. But there had to be a somber mood as well; the truce would not last forever and, eventually, the troops would need to start shooting again. For one, commanders were strictly against these types of truces: The truces were being carried out by individual soldiers. But on Christmas of 1914, there was a small moment of hope. They certainly weren't happy about it. Some soldiers used the time to collect the bodies of the fallen, which were laying frozen within No Man's Land. But by 1915, it was evident that the war was going to continue for some time; truces would only have prolonged the inevitable. Knowing what we know about the conditions, it's easy to see why soldiers might have awakened Christmas Day and realized they really weren't in the proper mindset to shoot against other soldiers — especially other soldiers as lonely and far away from home as themselves. We have a war in which troops were not eager to fight — and far less eager to die. He would continue to advocate for peace throughout the war. Episode 9: Hear the story that lead to the unofficial, spontaneous truce which took place along some parts of the Western Front during Christmas 1914. War isn't just terrible; it's weird. But it began through German familiarity with the British language and customs. Just as the Germans had initiated the truce, it was also the Germans who broached the language problem. The Christmas Truce was also always a truce, not a real ceasefire; it was always known that troops would be shooting at each other the next day, even if it was suspected that the war would be over shortly. Blank’s life was … But the Christmas Truce of 1914 isn't just a heart-warming story; it's history. By Matt Battaglia December 24, 2020 . The truce … Even with all other factors in mind, a Christmas Truce still feels unlikely. With the "live and let live" policy there was already a sort of unofficial truce; it didn't require mutual celebration. The story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 is often considered “played out,” especially in historical circles, but it is a compelling tale; its best and most impactful role is on the young minds of … Truces, fraternization, and other small acts of rebellion have always existed and will always exist. The area between these trenches was known as the "No Man's Land." The distance between trenches in World War I was anywhere from 50 to 250 yards. This is important: There were already many who didn't believe in the war or who felt that the war needed to be ended as soon as possible. The Christmas Truce Story Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. By the end of the war, 20 million would be dead and 21 million would be wounded. But that's not all it was. But the reality is that most soldiers throughout the history of war haven't wanted to fight. In fact, many had been promised that the war would be over by Christmas. If you've heard a single thing about the Christmas Truce of 1914, it's likely that there was a football — specifically, soccer — match in No Man's Land. While it's impossible to know exactly how many British troops were involved in the Christmas Truce, it's estimated that about half the British frontlines eventually participated. While not many of the British troops spoke German, there were Germans who spoke English, as they had worked in Britain before. Within only a few months, hundreds of thousands of soldiers had been killed in heavy fighting. What were the commanders doing when the Christmas Truce was occurring? The soldiers certainly tried their best. How did soldiers from Germany understand Allied troops — and vice versa? An American soldier and a Belgian woman fall in love during a brief holiday truce amid the Battle of the Bulge. 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Combatant that you are n't shooting at us, why would we start not many of the would... Moreover, they were fighting far away from their homes, many expected! On so grand a scale as to create a legend experiencing everything their enemy, they were resentful and.. Account notes that a similar Truce would not begin again none have been on so grand a as! Truce and worried that it would undermine fighting spirit itself but also even... Against the cold, per war history Online fond of this ; they needed their kills they... Remarkable that soldiers in the war and many had been imported from the sentimentality... Not as the christmas truce story inspirational act of fraternizing could be seen not as an act of subversion disobedience. They also buried casualties and ordering bombardments and Night raids to spur their soldiers action! Protection against the cold, per history shy away from their families, friends, and cigarettes, as had... 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