A Christmas Miracle:
In the celebration of 100 years of the signature the Armistice that ended the I World War in 11/11/1918
In the context of the celebrations of the centenary of the ratification of the armistice that put an end to World War I, this article bringing perhaps one of the most peculiar stories of this war, showing the humanity existing even in those that the objective is to kill.
The Christmas Truce was an (informal) ceasefire that took place in the nearby trenches of the city of Ypres in Belgium. This battle was between the German soldiers and their English and French rivals. On the 24th and 25th of 1914, the unthinkable took place.
Before 1914 Christmas, the war reached Belgium, in particular, Ypres region that was the scene of the first phase of a very long battle in November. Both the German imperial army and the French and British troops had marked their positions through trenches dug in the area of Ypres. The attacks were diverse and consisted of bombings, shootings with assault rifles and attempts at territorial progression.
Through the days of October in which the beginning of the battle took place, this was the routine of the combatants. However, in December, the unthinkable happened. The German soldiers decorated their trenches with Christmas themes, sang German songs used to celebrate the date. The British responded by singing songs of their own and began to celebrate with the other soldiers. For six days there was a cease-fire.
This the testimony of an English soldier who wrote a letter to report this event:
“Our trenches are only 30 or 40 yards away from the Germans. This led to an exciting incident the other day. Our fellows have been in the habit of shouting across to the enemy, and we used to get answers from them. This is what happened:
From our trenches: ‘Good morning, Fritz,’ (no answer), ‘Good Morning, Fritz,’ (still no answer). ‘GOOD MORNING, FRITZ! ’
From the German Trenches: ‘Good morning.’
Our trench: ‘How are you?’
‘Come over here, Fritz.’
‘No, if I come, I get shot.’
‘No, you won’t, come on.’
‘Come and get some fags, Fritz.’
‘No, you come halfway, and I meet you.’
One of our fellows thereupon filled his pocket with fags and got over the trench, the German got over his trench; and right enough, they met halfway, and shook hands, Fritz taking the fags and giving chocolate in exchange.” – H. Scrutton, Essex Regiment
Even more unusual was the performance of a football match on the so-called “no man’s land”, an area between the trenches, between English and French soldiers. Christmas and football united for a few days the enemies of war. This was perhaps one of the most curious moments of World War I since this was an informal truce that happened spontaneously and was not planned. This moment shows the humanity that unites the soldiers and that despite being on opposite sides of the battle are all the same.
Soldiers playing football during the Christmas Truce, 1914
At 8:30 p.m. on the 26th, I fired three shots into the air, raised a flag with the words ‘Merry Christmas’ and climbed up from the trench. The Germans raised a sign with the words ‘Thank you’ and their captain appeared at the top of the trench. We salute and return to our trenches. Then he made two shots into the air. The war had begun again. – Captain CI Stockwell – Royal Welsh Fusiliers – British Army