Humanity’s Victory: Commemorating the Christmas Truce of 1914

One-hundred years ago today, one of the most miraculous, magical events in the history of modern warfare occurred along stretches of the Western Front during World War I; soldiers on both sides of the conflict put aside their weapons and spontaneously ventured out onto “no-man’s-land” in a gesture of goodwill and peace associated with Christmas.

Watch the 2014 English video advertisement on The Christmas Truce of 1914.

In an examples of the facts being as true as the story told, in many locations along the 450 miles of trenches stretching along the French and Belgian countrysides, German and British soldiers declared an unofficial Christmas armistice of the fighting that began just four months before.

The first inkling of  began around midnight late Christmas Eve (the day most German’s celebrated the holiday) as German’s shouted out holiday greetings and could be heard singing Christmas songs and carols well known and loved by British including “Silent Night, Holy Night.” British soldiers began singing along through the night. British troops could also see the German’s decorating the wire with evergreen branches and candles.

According to countless accounts, letters and reports, on Christmas morning, Germans emerged from the shelter of the trenches to first wave, then cautiously cross onto the strip of land barely one hundred meters wide separating the two foes.

Writing to his mother, Capt. A. D. Chater of the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders described “one of the most extraordinary sights anyone has ever seen.”

About 10 o’clock this morning I was peeping over the parapet when I saw a German, waving his arms, and presently two of them got out of their trench and came towards ours.

We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles, so one of our men went to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas.

I went out myself and shook hands with several of their officers and men,” wrote Chater wrote.

From what I gathered most of them would be glad to get home again as we should – we have had our pipes playing all day and everyone has been walking about in the open unmolested.”

Cigarettes and rations were exchanged, photos taken, in one instance a Brit gave a German a haircut and conversations took place about the war, home and loved ones. Unit buttons were traded and addresses provided. It was also a time for both sides to recover the remains of comrades who were killed earlier.

There is also references to soccer matches between the two sides at different locations with the writer’s side always winning.

It would be the one and only day-long truce to occur during the war that continued for almost four more years, resulting in the deaths of 37 million civilians and soldiers.

Many historians believe the truce took place as many of the combatants in the first few months of the war were professional soldiers rather than conscripts which came after the wholesale slaughter to tens of thousands in single day battles that would begin in the spring of 1915.

Both sides in the trenches saw the men across “No-Man’s Land” almost as respected, brave colleagues in the prosecution of battles.

And for one glorious day, the common humanity within all men triumphed over the call of war.