Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce, 1914

On a beautiful, crisp moonlit night in 1914, voices rose up in the frosty air, carrying out over the bleak expanse of no-man’s land to reach the trenches of the opposing side.  This is the heartwarming story of the Christmas Truce that happened during WWI.

The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce of 1914
An artist’s impression from The Illustrated London News of 9 January 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

Perhaps it was a bit of curious Christmas magic that caused the truce to simultaneously break out over parts of the western front.  Maybe it was the message in the songs sang by both sides on Christmas Eve, speaking of peace on earth, good will towards men.  Regardless of how it started and why, two-thirds of German, French, Belgium, & British troops – about 100,000 men – participated in this Christmas miracle.

Most accounts say that it happened with the singing on Christmas Eve.  As Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled, it was “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere.”  Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it with a bit more detail:

 

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The following morning across the trenches, German soldiers emerged, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English.  Allied soldiers warily left their own trenches to greet them.  In other places, Germans held up signs that read “You no shoot, we no shoot.”  Throughout that Christmas day, troops from both sides exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons, and hats.  The truce also allowed both sides to bury their own dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on no man’s land.  One account mentions a British soldier receiving a hair cut from his pre-war German barber.  Other accounts speak of a pig-roast, impromptu soccer games, and other festivities.

The truce didn’t happen across the entire western front, however. In some places the fighting continued.  While other moments of peace happened over the course of WWI, none came on such a scale as the Christmas truce of 1914.  In one of the most violent times in history, for such a truce to happen is a truly remarkable occurrence.  The truce is symbolic of the human desire for peace and humanity.

We hope this story warmed your heart this chilly Christmas like it did ours.  If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out JMCremps collection of other wartime stories.

 

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