Here is the latest from the Today in History site at BellaOnline:
The Christmas Truce of World War I
On Christmas Eve in 1914, Europe was at war, and yet a number of soldiers laid down their weapons and celebrated Christmas with the enemy. Here’s what happened.
There was so much to say on this topic that I found it difficult to write such a short article about it. Mostly, I wanted to quote some of the soldiers’ letters at length. Many excerpts were published in the Daily Mail last year, and you can read them all here -
Not all the English soldiers were amused, of course. General Walter Congreve, who was in charge of the Staffordshire Regiment, allowed his men to take part in the Christmas truce, but he himself stayed away. He was afraid the Germans would not be able to resist shooting him, as he was a high-ranking officer. In a letter to his wife published in the Daily Mail last year, Congreve wrote about “the best shot in the German army, then not more than 18. They say he’s killed more of our men than any other 12 together but I know now where he shoots from & I hope we down him tomorrow.” You can read an excerpt of the letter, published as images, here -
However, most of the letters were very touching. Wikipedia quotes a substantial excerpt from Henry Williamson, who would become a nature writer. Only 19 at the time, Henry wrote to his mother on Boxing Day, describing with glee the pipe he was smoking. “In the pipe is tobacco,” he wrote. “Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench.” He goes on to describe the events of Christmas Day, nothing that many of the Germans “are gentle looking men in goatee beards & spectacles.” In the afternoon, the English participated in a funeral service “over the dead Germans who perished in the ‘last attack that was repulsed’ against us. The Germans put ‘For Fatherland & Freedom’ on the cross. They obviously think their cause is a just one.” You can read the entire letter, also published as images, on the Henry Williamson Society website –
I hope you’ve found these thought-provoking. Feel free to send me a personal note by clicking on my name at the top of any Today in History page, which will take you to a page with a comment box. If you have an idea for a future article or a discussion topic, don’t hesitate to send me a note or even post it in the forum -
Have a wonderful rest of the week!
‘Today in History’ Editor