History conflict Silent Night: This Day In History: Back in Britain, German battleships shelled the coastal towns of Whitby, Hartlepool and Scarborough, killing 122 and injuring 450 civilian men, women and children. And bad news on both sides had left soldiers with plummeting morale. England won 1-0.
Yet there were still odd moments of joy and hope in the trenches of Flanders and France, and one of the most remarkable came during the first Christmas of the war, a few brief hours during which men from both sides on the Western Front laid down their arms, emerged from their trenches, and shared food, carols, games and comradeship. The most detailed of these stories comes from the German side, and reports that the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment played a game against Scottish troops.
What followed, though, was something more than that, for if the story of the Christmas Truce has its jewel, it is the legend of the match played between the British and the Germans—which the Germans claimed to have won, 3-2.
Christmas on the Western Front. View Sample.
On Christmas Eve 1914, in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the first world war, a remarkable thing happened. And it remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history.
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The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. Not a Shot was Fired: Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The Germans too received small gift boxes — alongside table top Christmas trees and festive wreaths with which to celebrate the season. And as darkness fell, the entrenched German and British soldiers engaged in a carol sing-off. Men returned to their trenches at dusk, in some cases summoned back by flares, but for the most part determined to preserve the peace at least until midnight.
During World War I , the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.
To this day historians continue to disagree over the specifics: Just how many soldiers participated in these informal holiday gatherings has been debated; there is no way to know for sure since the ceasefires were small-scale, haphazard and entirely unauthorized. And though the Christmas Truce may have been a one-off in the conflict, the fact that it remains so widely commemorated speaks to the fact that at its heart it symbolizes a very human desire for peace, no matter how fleeting.
One British soldier, a rifleman named J.