In December 1914, the “War to End all Wars” was months old. There was trench warfare along the Western Front. By this time, hundreds of thousands of troops had already been killed.
The new pope, Benedict XV, has suggested a Christmas truce during the war. This was not warmly received by the higher ranking military members of the warring countries.
The trenches in some areas were merely half-a-football field apart. Plenty close to see and hear your enemy. Across the field were men trying to kill you. As the rain season came, the trench became a mud pit and there was no way to keep your feet dry. As summer turned into winter the cold and wet became part of life in the trench.
In absolutely miserable conditions and only 50 yards away from the enemy the leaders of the country for which you are fighting nixed the idea of a truce for Christmas.
The war was still new enough and the lack of propaganda machinery to push hatred for the enemy allowed for the men fighting to not have hatred. Not at that moment in time, at least. The area between the trenches was No Man’s Land. Many of the dead were still there because it was too dangerous to get those who had fallen.
In one of the Western Front trenches was Graham Williams, fighting for the British. He heard the sound of Christmas carols coming from the German trenches and making its way across No Man’s Land.
Williams and his fellow British soldiers sang a Christmas carol back to the Germans. This trading of Christmas carols went back and forth. When Williams and his British soldiers started singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” the Germans joined in.
There was a language barrier but a number of the German troops knew some English. Coming from across No Man’s Land, Williams and his fellow soldiers heard the Germans saying something to the effect of “You no shoot, we no shoot.”
In fact, Captain Arthur O’Sullivan said he heard, “Do not shoot after 12 o’clock and we will not do so either.”
As the morning light illuminated No Man’s Land, German soldiers exited the trench without rifles. They were saying “Merry Christmas.” Concerned this was a trick, the British and other soldiers were cautious. But seeing no rifles, they also entered No Man’s Land.
Soon the enemies were shaking hands, taking photos, trading small gifts, singing carols, and having fellowship in the name of Christ. There are some reports that at one place along Western Front the enemies played a game of soccer. While most of the resources I read said this was not confirmed, one website displayed a photo that claimed to have been taken of the soccer game being played. The photos showed men wearing military uniforms playing soccer.
Approximately 100,000 troops held a truce even though those who were running the war didn’t want it. Christmas was bigger than the political issues. In some places along the western line this truce lasted until after the 1915 new year.
While the generals and senior officers did not support any sort of truce, the men on the ground recognized Christmas and its meaning. In the end, no one was brought up on charges. The truce was unauthorized but the military brass knew it would destroy morale if soldiers were brought up on charges.
We are in the Christmas season and today is Christmas Day. Today is a day for joy and celebration. Unless you’re the Grinch, there is no way you want to read about politics and frankly I don’t want to write about politics.
Today is a day to set aside the differences.
Merry Christmas to all!
Anderson is a computer programmerwho enjoys serving the community through various community-oriented service jobs.