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Even a world war could not destroy the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Truce of 1914

The Christmas Truce of 1914

The first Christmas during World War I, only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe, was bleak, cold, and soldiers did not expect a celebration.  Some had received gifts from home and support from their country in the form of food, tobacco, sweets, and tokens from loved ones.  Thoughts were turned to home and times of peace.
Christmas Eve, December 24 1914, an eerie quiet stole over the dangerous front line.  The commonplace sound of hissing, cracking and pops from machine gun fire and artillary, was replaced by German voices drifting over the frozen battlefield, “Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht.”  The tune was hauntingly unmistakeable to the British troops entrenched close by the enemy line.  “Silent night,  holy night.  All is calm, all is bright.”
More Christmas carols came from the German parapet… and lights.  The British troops gazed over their trenches in curiosity to see the flicker of tiny candles on makeshift Christmas trees.  Then something extraordinarily remarkable took place!  Shouts of Merry Christmas ensued with requests of “You no shoot, we no shoot”.   The unthinkable happened as men climbed out of their trenches to exchange good will and gifts.
Here are some excerpts taken from the letters, journals, and memoirs of German and British military members who experienced this amazing Christmas Truce of 1914:
Captain Josef Sewald, Germany’s 17th Bavarian Regiment, was moved by the Christmas carols being shared across enemy lines:
“I shouted to our enemies that we didn’t wish to shoot and that we make a Christmas truce. I said I would come from my side and we could speak with each other. First there was silence, then I shouted once more, invited them, and the British shouted “No shooting!” Then a man came out of the trenches and I on my side did the same and so we came together and we shook hands – a bit cautiously!”
Corporal John Ferguson, the Second Seaforth Highlanders, recalled how quickly the enemies of war became friends:
“We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Christmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans – Fritz and I in the center talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like street corner orators. … What a sight – little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman’s cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs.”
Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch, Germany’s 134th Saxons Infantry Regiment, witnessed one of the many recorded soccer games that broke out in no man’s land:
“Eventually the English brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as our friends for a time.”
Captain Charles “Buffalo Bill” Stockwell, the Second Royal Welch Fusiliers, recalled how both sides were ordered back to their call of duty on Dec. 26:
“At 8:30, I fired three shots into the air and put up a flag with “Merry Christmas” on it on the parapet. He [a German] put up a sheet with “Thank You” on it, and the German captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots into the air, and the war was on again.”
I believe, the 1914 Christmas Truce proves, though we stand on different sides of an issue, the essence of humanity will always endure, bringing hope to us all that peace on Earth is possible.  Let’s all continue to spread that spirit this Christmas holiday!!
Posted by on December 17th, 2013 :: Filed under: Blog,History,Military,Christmas Truce,Military,SOT