And so this is Christmas…

And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now

And so this is Christmas
John Lennon

The WWI Christmas Truce
December 17, 2019 by Jenny Ashcraft
On December 24-25, 1914, an impromptu cease-fire occurred along the Western Front during WWI.
Amid the battle, soldiers from both sides set aside their weapons and came together peacefully
in an event that has come to be known as the WWI Christmas Truce.
Here are a few first-hand accounts of that historic event.

British and German Officers Meet in (No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce Courtesy of Imperial War Museums)

British and German Officers Meet in No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce
Courtesy of Imperial War Museums
The Canadian Expeditionary Forces 24th Battalion recorded their experience.
“Early in the afternoon shelling and rifle fire ceased completely and soon
German soldiers were seen lifting heads and shoulders cautiously over the parapet
of their front line trench. Encouraged by the fact that no fire was opened by the men
of the 24th, a number of Germans climbed over the top, advanced in
No Man’s Land, and, making signs of friendship, invited the Canadians to join them
and celebrate the occasion. Regulations frowned on such action, but curiosity proved strong,
and a group of Canadians, including a number from the 24th Battalion, moved out
to see what the enemy looked like at close range. Conversation proved difficult at first,
but a number of the Germans spoke English fluently and others, having rehearsed
for the occasion, one must judge, endeavored to establish their benevolence by
constant repetition of the phrase, “Kaiser no damn good.” For nearly an hour the
unofficial peace was prolonged, the Canadians presenting the Germans with cigarettes
and foodstuffs and receiving in return buttons, badges, and several bottles of
most excellent beer.
By this time, news of the event had reached authority, and peremptory orders were issued
to the Canadians in No Man’s Land to return to their own line forthwith.
When all had reported back, a salvo of artillery fire,
aimed carefully to burst at a spot where no harm to friend or foe would result,
warned the Germans that the truce was over and that hostilities had been
resumed…For some days after Christmas comparative quiet prevailed in the front line,
but soon activity increased and the Battalion’s losses indicated that
normal trench warfare conditions again existed.”
Captain Hugh Taylor from the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards led his company in an attack
near Rouges Bancs on December 18-19, 1914. His troops succeeded in pushing back
German soldiers and occupying their trenches. While returning alone to the
British trenches to report, Taylor was caught in machine-gun fire and killed instantly.
For nearly a week, his body lay near the German line. During the informal Christmas Truce,
soldiers from both sides collected the dead and brought their bodies to the center
space between their respective lines. They dug two trenches and buried
British soldiers in one and German soldiers in the other.
An English Chaplain conducted a service. Afterward, the soldiers spent several hours
fraternizing with one another. Captain Taylor’s body was carried to a small military
graveyard at La Cardoniere Farm and buried.


(British and German troops bury soldiers during the WWI Christmas Truce – 1914
Courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

Three Americans serving in the Foreign Legion took part in the Christmas Truce.
Victor Chapman, Eugene Jacobs, and Phil Rader were in the trenches that day.
Rader, a former United Press correspondent, wrote a stirring account of his experience.
“For twenty days we had faced that strip of land, forty-five feet wide,
between our trench and that of the Germans, that terrible No-Man’s Land,
dotted with dead bodies, criss-crossed by tangled masses of barbed wire.”
Rader recounted cautiously raising his head. “Other men did the same.
We saw hundreds of German heads appearing. Shouts filled the air.
What miracle had happened? Men laughed and cheered.
There was Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine.
There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels.
The terror of No-Man’s Land fell away.
The sounds of happy voices filled the air.”
The Christmas Truce of 1914 eventually ended, and the goodwill shared between enemies
for a brief moment during WWI evaporated as fighting resumed.

(To learn more about WWI and the soldiers who fought in it, search Fold3 today!)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red one
Let’s stop all the fight
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
la, la, ah, ah
Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)

(John Lennon)

Christmas 1914

“There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter;
day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood,
and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.
Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another,
that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature,
all members of the same human society?
Who would recognize brothers,
whose Father is in Heaven?”

Pope Benedict XV

christmas-truce-wikicommons
(an artist’s impression taken form The Illustrated London News, January 1915 of British and German soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914)

War is a funny thing.
As in it is an age old oddity.
An ugly, devastating oddity.

Since his fall from grace,
man has been engaged in a constant state of struggle.
Battling and fighting a war within himself as he wages war against all others.
Living in a constant state of destruction…
Conquering, defending, killing, invading, taking…

And yet within man’s duality of his nature…that connection between light and dark…
of both right and wrong,
of both love and hate,
of give and take,
of fair and unfair
of peace and war…
all of which seems to leave him no choice but to create a balance within the chaos
of some sense of fairness or rightness…
as if war should be, could be, conducted fairly or even oddly, justly,
Man continues to yearn for the light, the upright, the hopeful…

As man feels his way through the never ending darkness, he has learned to set parameters.
He creates rules.
Rules of engagement.
Rules of war.
Rules set by the Geneva Convention.
Rules stating that nations are to fight fairly,
as if to say…fight by the rules.

Yet all of this seems to be grossly oxymoronic…
as if war, fighting, maiming and killing could ever be fair,
or just, or right, or proper….

Yet on Christmas Day 1914 man’s conflict and inner struggle with this duality
of his imperfect balance, oddly righted itself…

That in the midst of death and insanity, the arrival of Christmas,
the coming and eventual arrival of the child whose birth brings both the gift of
hope and peace to not merely a few but rather to all mankind,
brought balance, albeit briefly, to man’s seemingly unending inner conflict…

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for
the celebration of Christmas.
The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire,
but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols
to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers
even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day,
some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the
Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick,
but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands
with the enemy soldiers.
The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a
good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task:
the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s
land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war
in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of
chivalry between enemies in warfare.
It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by
officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof,
however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons,
the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield,
but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

History.com

“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

Charles Wesley