The "war to end all wars" was unprecedented in scale. Frequently, those who are fighting are the last who want to be — and the last who benefit. Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce - Kindle edition by Weintraub, Stanley. At the same time, Pope Benedict XV was pleading with national leaders to hold a Christmas truce themselves. Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914 German and British troops celebrating Christmas together during a temporary cessation of WWI hostilities known as the … But on Christmas of 1914, there was a small moment of hope. 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. It makes sense to stop shooting. Especially on the German side, a significant gap was already emerging between those giving the orders and those following them. Ultimately, soldiers wanted to be able to return home. 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. He would continue to advocate for peace throughout the war. Soldiers on both sides … Signs were written in English as well — and carols were sung in it. A beautiful moment of celebration was represented by the carols sang by the English and German troops. 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. 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. Commanders were already having issues with the "live and let live" philosophy — they were definitely not going to provide for soldier-driven truces. But the Christmas Truce of 1914 isn't just a heart-warming story; it's history. It had become mechanized and efficient. 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 … But in 1914, it was still believed that the war would soon be over. 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. Though the Christmas Truce occurred relatively early in the war, there had already been a number of peace initiatives. The Christmas Truce was an event that happened during World War I . World War I was a complex time in terms of German identity. They also wrote signs saying not to shoot, pleading for peace, per History. Of course, the commanders weren't fond of this; they needed their kills if they were ever going to get home again. There were good and bad things to come of the Christmas Truce of 1914 — and not everything that was reported was true. Journalists share a meal with troops at a roadside … Great learned more about the Christmas Truce, through this lovely story. After Boxing Day, meetings in no man's land dwindled out. An American soldier and a Belgian woman fall in love during a brief holiday truce amid the Battle of the Bulge. But the reality is that most soldiers throughout the history of war haven't wanted to fight. This led to exactly what one would expect: even if the soldiers survived, they were resentful and scarred. When fighting resumes, they promise to reunite on the first Christmas after the war ends if they're both … In 1915, a first-hand account of a Christmas Truce was recorded by a soldier named Robert Keating, the BBC reports. Even President Reagan mentioned the story of the Christmas Truce during a speech he gave in West Germany in 1985. Once again, it appeared the truce was initiated by German soldiers on the Western Front, and that it was honored among Allied forces. Some academics believe that this had to do with the close proximity of the trenches. One person found this helpful. Many see the Christmas Truce as an inspirational act of peace and humanity. Instead, it was just young soldiers enjoying a sport that they enjoyed back home, and speaking a common physical language. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was that glimmer of light that turned war into peace. War isn't just terrible; it's weird. My debut novel, The Four Bells, tells the story of ex-Tommy Al Weldy’s Great War experiences with his … Some soldiers used the time to collect the bodies of the fallen, which were laying frozen within No Man's Land. Wonderful for young children who can learn about the story of the Christmas Truce. Even when that didn't happen, many still thought the war would end soon. Providing inspiration for songs, books, plays, and movies, it has … But since that Christmas of 1914, none have been on so grand a scale as to create a legend. The truce was not observed everywhere along the Western Front. Truces, fraternization, and other small acts of rebellion have always existed and will always exist. 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. Today, even after a decade and more of war, only a few understand the burdens of fighting, being on guard constantly, and … 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 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 … In fact, they avoided combat whenever possible. The Christmas Truce can, in many ways, be better seen as an act of subversion and disobedience. The nature of war had changed. I re-run this diary every year. So why is the idea of a great World War I soccer match so compelling? Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce. The Pope asked that "the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang." German troops were decorating their areas by placing candles on Christmas trees and around their trenches. By all accounts, it was initiated by the Germans. How do you celebrate Christmas when you're in the middle of a battlefield? 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. How did the Christmas Truce begin? Within only a few months, hundreds of thousands of soldiers had been killed in heavy fighting. Some Allied and German troops had been talking to and joking with each other even before the Christmas Truce of 1914. By 1914, it was still early in the war. Despite this, there were some isolated incidents of soldiers holding brief truces later in the war, and not only at Christmas. How did soldiers from Germany understand Allied troops — and vice versa? 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. The Christmas Truce Story Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Fritz Vincken and Ralph Henry Blank meet in 1996. Elsewhere the fighting continued and casualties did occur on Christmas Day. The legendary story of the 1914 Christmas truce. Journalists share a meal with troops at a roadside mobile army kitchen on the Western Front in October 1914. With all that being said, it's possible that there wouldn't have been any fighting on Christmas Day regardless. Soldiers, long away from their families, friends, and the ones that they loved, looked for comfort with the other side. The trenches themselves were cold and hard, and often vehicles and machinery failed to work. 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. Orders were sent that said "on no account" were British soldiers allowed to have communication with the German soldiers. 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. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. Report abuse. 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 … One might wonder: Why? early on during the truce — at least, in one instance documented by a lieutenant in the British Royal Berkshire Regiment. 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. It seems as though there were a myriad of factors surrounding World War I that made this type of fraternization all the more likely. panzerccfc. 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. The distance between trenches in World War I was anywhere from 50 to 250 yards. 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. Still, for most, it appears that the time was truly used as a time of celebration, and a brief respite from all the killing. And while the powers-that-be did not order any such truce, it did appear that some were listening. © IWM (Q 53384). Moreover, they couldn't encounter the enemy without intentional acts of aggression on their side. All this contributes to a greater understanding: The soldiers weren't the only ones interested in ending the war 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. After all, if they aren't shooting at us, why would we start? So, now we've set the stage. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was one of the most famous events to come out of … Not only would freezing soldiers not feel like fighting, but they would have likely felt uniquely discouraged. While not many of the British troops spoke German, there were Germans who spoke English, as they had worked in Britain before. But by 1915, it was evident that the war was going to continue for some time; truces would only have prolonged the inevitable. In part, it's likely because nearly all cultures praise sports as a way to bring people together. The pause in fighting was not universally observed, nor had it been … 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. The beginning of one of the most destructive wars humankind has seen. 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 … The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. 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. Americans found themselves discouraged that no such truces occurred in 1915, perhaps hoping that the spirit of peace and kindness would prevail. Later, its dark legacy would include the origins of both trench warfare and shell shock. The truce … Small Christmas … This is also what had contributed to the number of yuletide traditions shared between the two groups. 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? Culture History The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. 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. 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. And the ripples of the war would lead directly into WWII just a couple of decades later. 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. They were fighting far away from their homes, many of them for a war that they didn't personally believe in. The area between these trenches was known as the "No Man's Land." My Inspiration behind THE FOUR BELLS: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by Brodie Curtis. Read more. They had no reason to risk their own lives prematurely. 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. Soldiers and commanders had differing opinions on the war, with commanders wanting to push forward aggressively, and soldiers lacking the inspiration to fight. Snow, sleet, hail, freezing rain; soldiers were subject to it all. Not all of the truces were upheld, but the vast majority were. 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. The soldiers certainly tried their best. A Christmas Truce football match doesn't just validate the sport itself but also provokes even greater feelings of friendship and camaraderie. On Christmas Eve at around 8:30 pm, the truce began. In fact, many had been promised that the war would be over by Christmas. The Great War, more commonly … 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. They even kicked around a soccer ball. Of course, it is. 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. A significant number of Christmas traditions had been imported from the British to the German side. The Christmas Truce began when Germans approached Allied lines singing Christmas carols. The conditions of the trench provided almost no protection against the cold, per War History Online. 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. This thought process undoubtedly trickled down to the troops themselves. Of course, in hindsight, we know that the battle waged far longer — World War I wouldn't end until 1918. Episode 38: Those who lived through the First World War experienced Christmas in a variety of ways. Troops also exchanged stories — stories about back home, their hobbies, and the things that they liked. Soldiers weren't just in close physical proximity to their enemy, they were also experiencing everything their enemy was experiencing. On the day of the truce, snow fell, and the weather conditions were below freezing. But that's not all it was. Eventually, the Christmas Truce would include British, some French, and German troops. Just as the Germans had initiated the truce, it was also the Germans who broached the language problem. The war began in the summer of 1914. Happy Holiday to you, whatever winter holiday it is that you choose to celebrate. But at least during the Christmas Truce, there was obvious evidence of German camaraderie. Some believe this accounted for the uncharacteristically Christmas-like feel of the battlefield. It already seems hard enough to explain to an enemy combatant that you aren't going to shoot them. It may have seemed futile — and unnecessarily dangerous — to even continue fighting when awaiting orders to return home. Before Christmas 1914, an Open Christmas Letter had been signed by 101 British women. Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 16, 2015. About the Story. 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. In true Christmas spirit, troops exchanged gifts like food, buttons, hats, and cigarettes, as Time reports. Many know the basics of the truce: Both sides refused to fire upon each other, instead choosing to celebrate Christmas. Commanders started actively looking for areas with fewer casualties and ordering bombardments and night raids to spur their soldiers into action. Frostbite occurred frequently, sometimes leading to amputation. Either way, both the Germans and the Allied troops were soon celebrating Christmas in the No Man's Land. 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. 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. What were the commanders doing when the Christmas Truce was occurring? Historically, it's unlikely that there was any type of organized match. 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 … 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. Messages began to be shouted between the trenches. As trench warfare was in its infancy — and many had expected the fighting to be over early — few considerations had been made. It makes less sense to become friends. A first-hand account notes that a German shouted, "A merry Christmas, we don't fire!" These women questioned the very idea of the war, asking whether it was not instead the mission of all women to "preserve life." Some officers were unhappy at the truce and worried that it would undermine fighting spirit. 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. Many found it remarkable that soldiers in the heat of war would ever choose not to fight. They certainly weren't happy about it. 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. Episode 8: One of the most popular sayings of 1914 was that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’. After 1914, the High Commands on both sides tried to prevent any truces on a similar scale happening again. 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. 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 … Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. When the Germans have started singing their version of “Silent Night, Holy Night”, the English did not hesitate to respond with carols of t… Christmas Truce by the Men Who Took Part: … That's not to say that no truces ever occurred, just none at so wide a scale. This, again, was unprecedented; never before had a war been conducted on so wide a scale with the enemy so close for so long. The photographs, letters and interviews in IWM’s collection tell the real story of the Christmas Truce. It seems exponentially harder with a language barrier. Trench warfare made it possible for them to shy away from battle indefinitely. While troops were already disillusioned and prone to rebellion, the war would stretch on for years after. It was Christmas Day in 1914 and World War I had been raging on for five brutal months. Even with all other factors in mind, a Christmas Truce still feels unlikely. We have a war in which troops were not eager to fight — and far less eager to die. German soldiers began lighting their trenches and singing carols. Consequently, the act of fraternizing could be seen not as an act of friendship but rather an act of rebellion on all sides. For one, commanders were strictly against these types of truces: The truces were being carried out by individual soldiers. With the "live and let live" policy there was already a sort of unofficial truce; it didn't require mutual celebration. Hear from some of those who experienced the first months of war explaining just how wrong that prediction was. The human story behind the extraordinary events of Christmas Eve 1914, when fighting stopped - and a lone soldier's exquisite voice made history. Blank’s life was … But as with most things, the truth is a little more complex than the myth, per the New Republic. 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. As Christmas approached, a sudden cold snap turned weeks of wet weather into an eerily beautiful winter landscape. 4.0 out of 5 stars Christmas … But apart from the obvious sentimentality of the season, there were some practical reasons for the Christmas Truce. With all the positives and negatives that the word "history" implies. 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. Soldiers, long away from their families, … By Matt Battaglia December 24, 2020 . After the truce, commanders not only ordered soldiers to resume firing but also vowed that a similar truce would not begin again. Christmas Truce, (December 24–25, 1914), impromptu cease-fire that occurred along the Western Front during World War I. 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 … By the end of the war, 20 million would be dead and 21 million would be wounded. 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 … But … The Christmas Truce wasn't unique, but instead part of a much larger, more significant, and meaningful trend. Perhaps it's even better, then, that it appears that there were no scores taken and no referees, according to CNN. 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. 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. And after the Christmas Truce of 1914, there was never another widespread truce on the frontlines. None of the soldiers wanted to be in combat with each other. But it began through German familiarity with the British language and customs. 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. 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