World War 1 might have been one of the most horrific examples of warfare in mankind’s history. This is because it was during this war that many “modern” forms of warfare was introduced, this included poison gas, mechanized tanks, and machineguns. These modern weapons were faced by soldiers, which did not have the training or the equipment to face this new form of warfare. To make matters whose, their leaders still used old-fashioned strategies, attacking in straight line formation and using cavalry, etc.
In December 1914, trenches were dug on both sides. Trench warfare was not the common way to fight. In the months before, August to December, over a million had already died. The soldiers huddled down into these trenches, which in many instances were filled with water, mud or bits and pieces of their dead comrades.
The truce first started out as each side stopped shooting, allowing the other to retrieve their wounded and dead.
It was late on Christmas Eve, when the British heard something amazing. The German soldiers were singing. When they looked at the opposition’s trenches, their eyes could not believe what they saw, small Christmas trees and decorations.
Not to be outdone, the English soldiers themselves began singing Christmas carols. At first, both sides were singing different Christmas or patriotic songs, but soon the two sides were singing in unison.
One by one, the soldiers came out of the protection of the trenches, and met in between the area known as “No Man’s Land”. Here they exchanged cigarettes, and small gifts to one another. They spoke of the war, and the suffering that each had to endure. For a short period of time, 10,000 men saw the other as neither as a soldier, nor an enemy, but as a human being.
The truce lasted until Christmas day, in some instances, to New Year’s Day, but after that the killing of war resumed.
To make sure this never happened again, the commanding officers on both sides had issued orders the next year to the artillery to shell the “No Man’s Land” on Christmas Eve, ensuring no one would leave the trenches to meet the enemy in the center. Generals also threatened their soldiers with court martial if any of them were caught “fraternizing” with the enemy on Christmas Eve.
Although this was a brief interlude to World War I, it demonstrated the humanity in soldiers. It was not the commanders, politicians, or generals who negotiated the truce; it was common soldiers. Men who had lingered in a trench, who had seen the horror of war close up, and had participated in it; it was these men who during a chilly night in December decided to observe the celebration of Christmas.
There have been movies, TV shows and stories written about the Christmas Truce. My first exposure to a Christmas truce story was the Snoopy Christmas, aka Christmas Bells, by the Royal Guardsmen. It tells the story of Snoopy in his plane, at the mercy of the Red Baron. Instead of shooting him down, the Red Baron invites him to share a drink on Christmas Eve. Sometimes it is too bad, that the miracle of Christmas is delegated to a song, or merely stories of a war long past.
I want to take this time to wish all my readers, Happy Holidays. May the coming year bring you tidings of great joy and happiness.
Next Time: A recap of the past year.
W.A.Rusho is a semi professional wrestler, marital artist and author of Legend of the Mystic Knights.