The True Story Behind WWI’s Ending for Enemy Armies to Celebrate December
- Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians died in the first months of World War I, which changed the way war was waged.
- Although the war was supposed be over by Christmas 1914 it was actually stuck in the terrible trench warfare WWI is well-known for.
- On Christmas Eve and Day, a spontaneous truce broke out at the Western Front against the orders from the high command.
World War I is often regarded as one of the most horrific wars in human history.
Millions of soldiers and civilians died in a conflict that changed the way war was waged and set the stage for the rest of the 20th century.
But for one night and one day, some units in the warring parties — the armies of France and Britain on one side, and Germany on the other — put down their weapons for the briefest of moments to celebrate a holiday that brought opposing sides together.
The Great War was supposed end by Christmas 1914. Five months after the war began, the front was still deadlocked. The unprecedented losses at the Battles of Tannenberg, the Marne, and Ypres forced the opposing sides into the gruesome trench warfare that WWI is known for.
On Christmas Eve, soldiers from both sides celebrated the holiday by huddled in their trenches. Soon, frontline soldiers began to leave the trenches and abandon their weapons in order to meet enemy soldiers.
The episode that followed was a remarkable one for humanity. Just hours earlier, enemies were slaughtering each other at an unimaginable level. Now, they were talking, singing and dancing together as if it were friends.
Soldiers described in letters to newspapers and loved ones how a spontaneous truce was formed.
“During Christmas Day, our fellows and Saxons set up a dinner table between the trenches and they had a great time. They exchanged souvenirs and presented each other with small keepsakes,” one British soldier stated. wrote.
“I had a most remarkable Christmas and I have come the conclusion that it would not have been spent out of the trenches in order to save the worlds,” another British soldier. saidIn a letter to loved one. The soldier declared that the truce had been established and that the ground between the two trenches was “full of Germans and Highlanders exchanging cigarettes for cigarettes in five minutes.”
In some areas, soccer games were played in no man’s land. Sometimes, they were against one another, sometimes with mixed teams. “The regiment actually had football matches with the Germans, who beat them 3-2,” a Royal Army Medical Corps officer said. wroteIn a letter addressed to a friend in London.
Soldiers from both sides also buried their loved ones and held Christmas services as if in church.
A British soldier who was a part of the truce said it best. letter to the Carlisle Journal was published on January 5, 1915:
“All this talk about hate, all that firing at eachother that has raged ever since the start of the war was quelled and stayed with the magic of Christmas,” wrote he. “It is a great hope of future peace when the two great nations hate each other as foes have rarely hated, one end vowing eternal hatred and vengeance and setting its venom to music should, on Christmas Day, lay down and exchange cigarettes and wish each other happiness.”
“It speaks to the common humanity in the midst of war, and to the very best of who we are — which is one of those things that we recognize during the holiday season,” Lora Vogt, the Curator of Education at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, told Insider.
Even though truces were established in certain combat areas of the Western Front, they were not enforced everywhere. According to London’s accounts, fighting did occur at times during the holidays. Imperial War Museum.
The actions of soldiers in areas where truces had been established were not approved by the high command of either side. Some units were punished and transferred to other frontlines, and there were no truces ever again for the remainder of the war.
German and British soldiers still play soccer together and celebrate Christmas a century after the war started. They do this as allies, a part of the hope for peace that the 1914 soldiers prayed for on the Western Front. Soldiers from both countries played at a NATO baseAfghanistan
The National WWI Museum and Memorial has created a huge online exhibit with letters from many of which are used in this article. See the exhibit and read the accounts here >>
Ben Brimelow wrote the original version and published it on December 25, 2017.
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