The Christmas Truce of 1914




I saw something on TV the other day about a truce that took place during the Christmas of 1914, during World War I, between British and German troops fighting in France.

It struck me as odd, albeit somewhat touching as well, that men dead-set on killing each other would then take a break to sing a few Christmas carols and share some make-shift gifts of cigarettes and helmets.

(Apparently, it struck some of the brass of both sides as odd as well — they expressed concern the first year it happened, and then basically banned the “fraternization” in future years.)

Wikipedia has some pretty neat coverage of the event, including some great archival photos and news clips. Here’s one of the news clips from a UK paper on December 26, 1914:

football-truce-christmas-1914

I want to be touched by all of this — and am. But at the same time, something just feels odd about the notion that the men all went out and wished other a Merry Christmas, then the Germans went back and gassed all the Englishman. It reminds me of that old t-shirt about the Marines that read:

Join The Marines. Travel To Foreign Places, Meet Exotic People, And Kill Them.

It also reminds me of the Thomas Hardy poem, “The Man He Killed.” (Written in 1902.)

The Man He Killed
BY THOMAS HARDY

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

And here’s a pretty cool photo from Wikipedia:

British and German troops meeting in No-Mans's Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector). (From the collections of the Imperial War Museums.)

British and German troops meeting in No-Mans’s Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector). (From the collections of the Imperial War Museums.)

Do they know it’s Christmas, indeed.

More info here and here. And there’s a 2005 film about the Christmas Truce — it’s called “Joyeux Noel.” (That’s “Merry Christmas” in French.)


CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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