December 24th 1914: Christmas Truce

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German and British troops play football during the truce

On this day in 1914, troops across the Western Front during the First World War laid down their arms. Soldiers from all sides participated in the widespread, unofficial ceasefires for the Christmas period. Troops, mostly German and British, exchanged Christmas greetings, songs and even gifts. Both sides also held joint burials where they mourned both their dead. They met in ‘no man’s land’, an area which was usually deadly. The truce began on this day in 1914 when German troops near Ypres decorated their trenches and sang carols, which led to responses from the British troops. As the war progressed, and the violence increased, suspicion grew between the two sides and superiors were stricter about ‘fraternisation with the enemy’ and so less truces were held.

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Troops from both sides meet for a conversation during the truce

As the world today is rocked by numerous wars, especially those in the Middle East and Africa, we can remember this poignant example of humanity and peace in a horrific and violent situation. We are approaching the centenary of the start of the First World War and it is important to note not just the violence and barbarity of the war, but also the way soldiers retained their humanity and compassion. Our Christmas celebrations may be a far cry from what happened on the Western Front in December 1914, but we can certainly feel a connection to these carol singing, gift-giving soldiers.

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A cross commemorating the site of the Truce

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