THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE – IMAGINE A WORLD OF PEACE

Miracles do happen every so often – even in battle. For those soldiers locked in fierce combat near Ypres in the Ypres salient region of Belgium, that miracle was the Christmas Truce of December 24, 1914. The United States had not yet entered World War I and would not do so until 1917.

The British and German troops were mired in heavy mud, biting cold, barbed-wire boundaries, and water-logged trenches. And despair. The war was supposed to be short, but already predictions were being made that it would drag on for months, if not years. Casualties had been heavy – hundreds of thousands had already died since the beginning of the fighting in August. Soldiers on both sides of the battle field – some not more than 60 yards from each other – were weary and dispirited. And, it was Christmas Eve, the night before the birth of the Saviour who would be known as the “Prince of Peace.”

The soldiers had received bits and pieces from their homelands for their muddy Christmas celebration. Soldiers on both sides received boxes of tobacco and food prepared by their governments, but logistics gave the Germans an edge on gifts from home. The British were separated from their homeland by the English Channel and 60 miles of battlefield. The Germans were close to their homeland borders with no intervening natural obstacles. With a direct line to their homeland, the Germans were able to receive small Christmas trees and candles – items which brought the smell of pine and the soft glow of light to their battle-trench celebration.

Perhaps weary of the fighting and longing to go home, perhaps disillusioned by the commands that had brought them to this front, but for whatever reasons given, the Germans began setting the small trees and lighted candles on their parapets – the low earth and stone ridges erected to protect them from the British. Christmas carols were not far behind, and, although the words were of a foreign tongue, the tunes were familiar to British ears.

They watched, and they listened. And, after a while, they began singing too. Amid continuing shouts back and forth of Christmas tidings, the troops became emboldened. By Christmas morning, the “no man’s land” between the trenches was filled with British and German soldiers, sharing gifts and rations and singing. They kicked around a football, which developed into a real match. The unsanctioned but heart-felt truce lasted until around New Year’s Day when, under the threat of court marital, commanders ordered their troops back to combat.

Shaking hands and parting, the Germans and British trudged back to their sodden trenches to begin the killing of those who, only hours earlier had shared in a celebration common to them as Christians. The Great War would stretch on through another three Christmases and beyond, until the Armistice signed on November 11, 1918. In all, 8 1/2 million would die and 21 million more would be wounded.

But, for a short period of time, political philosophies and divisive nationalities were put aside to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Image from firstworldwar. com

A minor Scottish poet of the Great War vintage, Frederick Niven, closed his “A Carol from Flanders” with the following lines:

O ye who read this truthful rime

From Flanders, kneel and say:

God speed the time when every day

Shall be as Christmas Day.

My wish – although many see it as naive – is contained in the following version of “Someday at Christmas” by Mary J. Blige. The song says it all, and as silly as it may seem to many, I will never give up on this wish.

Merry Christmas to all.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Christmas, Europe, Guns, History, Religion, War, World War I. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE – IMAGINE A WORLD OF PEACE

  1. Andy says:

    Fascinating story. I remember hearing this same story in a history class in middle school. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend why the soldiers went back to fighting and killing one another after experiencing a moment of peace. To this day, I still have a hard time understanding how human beings can slaughter one another and wreak so much destruction during war.

  2. Andy:

    I don’t understand either how human beings can commit the atrocities against one another that they do.

    This past week I watched “The Galindez File” (about the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic), “The Lost City” (about the bloody change of power from Batista to Castro in Cuba at the end of 1958), and “Munich” (about the slayings in 1972 of the Israeli Olympic Team and the retribution undertaken by the Israeli government).

    The cruelty of humans to each other is unbelievable; it is horrendous; and, it is inexcusable. And cruelty is a mild word. When you see what is done to human beings in the name of governments and their ideologies, there are no words to express the brutality of these acts.

  3. Brilliant post, and what a telling story to retell for the holiday season.

    My hope is the you and yours had a truly great Christmas!

    Also, is there an award for “Greatest Variety of Blog Labels in One Post”? Because, wow, this deserves a nomination.

    Again, nice post.

  4. Charles:

    Thank you for the kind words. We had a great Christmas, and I hope you did also. I can’t help but look around, especially on Christmas, and think how much I have and how grateful I am for all I do have.

    Have a Happy New Year!

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