The Christmas truce of Christmas 1914

Essay by wannatouchaHigh School, 11th gradeA-, May 2004

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Perhaps the best recorded and successful unofficial ceasefire was the Christmas Truce of 1914 during the First World War. On Christmas Day, 1914, only 5 months into World War I, German, British, and French soldiers, already sick and tired of the senseless killing, disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with "the enemy" along two-thirds of the Western Front (a crime punishable by death). The ceasefire was a spontaneous and surprising happening that took place in different sectors at different times, along the Western Front, where British, Welsh, French and German soldiers and officers made individual unofficial truces in seasonal goodwill.

The Christmas Truce began first with the German soldier's custom of erecting Christmas trees with lit candles during Christmas Eve, along the trenches at the Western Front. British soldiers noticed these lights across No Man's Land, and were surprised and suspicious of it. They reported this to their officers and the order that returned told them not to open fire, but to observe.

The British soldiers then started to hear the Germans singing Christmas carols in German, and they sang back in English. German soldiers who understood and spoke English called across greetings to "Tommy" (the popular name for the British private), and similar greetings were shouted over to "Fritz". 'Tommy' was invited to step across No Man's Land, to pay a visit to the same German opponents they were trying to kill a few hours earlier. Corporal John Ferguson wrote, "We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans." This then lead to officers from both sides arranging an armistice during Christmas, the agreement was made; if they didn't fire at the Germans, they wouldn't...