The real story behind World War First Christmas truceCredit: Illustrated London News - Christmas Truce 1914

The First World War was one of the worst wars in human history.

Over 15 million military soldiers and civilians died in a four-year global conflict that claimed millions of lives. During that violent and horrific period, leaders deceived their people and spread lies to incite further violence.

The war started in July 1914, and although there had been propaganda in Britain that said it would “all be over by Christmas,” by December of that year it was obvious that this would be a drawn-out conflict to the very end because trench warfare, a new tactic in warfare, saw opposing sides “dig in” on either end of “no man’s land.”
The “Christmas Day truce” is one bright spot in the First World War’s history, nevertheless. During this brief ceasefire, soldiers from both the English and German armies came out of their trenches to play football with the people they had been trying to kill only hours before.

On the Western Front, it all began on Christmas Eve. The deluge of rain had stopped, and frost was starting to form on the ground, simulating snowfall on Christmas. On the usually busy battlefield, silence descended, and suddenly an unexpected event occurred.

“It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white everywhere,” Second Queen’s Regiment Private Albert Moren recalls in his life narrative. There was a lot of disturbance in the German trenches around seven or eight in the evening, and I’m not sure what these lights were. They continued with “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht.” That was one of the joys of my life, and I will never forget it. What a lovely song.
Since then, the sight of German soldiers lighting candles in their trenches and the sound of their soft singing has come to symbolize the death zones of no man’s land.

The Germans are said to have then waved white flags and signs warning people not to shoot. The sworn foes soon found themselves singing together, cracking jokes, and even hurling the occasional lighthearted insult at each other as they started to experience something close to “Christmas spirit.” As reported by London Regiment member Marmaduke Walkinton, “A German said, ‘tomorrow you no shoot, we no shoot.'” When daybreak finally arrived, neither they nor we fired.
On December 25, when the sun rose, people on both sides cautiously peered over the edge, realizing that this was not going to be another day of death but rather a sort of Christmas miracle.

Soon after, British and German soldiers were exchanging cigarettes and mementos, joking in their platoons, and displaying photos of their loved ones back home. According to Lieutenant Johannes Niemann’s recollections, a soldier arrived brandishing a football and started kicking and making jokes before starting a football game. We used our caps to indicate the goals. In a match played on the frozen mud, teams were formed swiftly, and the German Fritzes defeated the British Tommies 3-2.

The Christmas Day truce is a monument to the love and empathy that mankind always retains deep down in its heart, even in times of gloom and bloodshed. Although hostilities soon resumed, for one day, peace seemed to reign over areas of the Western Front.

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