the Christmas truce of 1915

December 24, 2011

I’ve heard the story lots of times; surely you have too.

I believed it, and then doubted. But, in this case, it turns out that belief was right and doubt was wrong.

It did happen: Christmas first arrived in the trenches of the “great war”. The soldiers — along one section of the western front – stopped shooting.  Artillery and machine-guns fell silent. Their horrible racket was replaced by Carols.

All this took place about sixty years before I was born, so take this picture with its deserved grains of salt:

Men are caked in frozen mud, most traumatized towards ruin, the others doomed to be likewise soon.

The artillery, far behind the lines, must have stopped their noise first.

Did some one solider begin to sing?… I doubt it. I imagine that a gaggle, huddled against that miserable winter, was already begun singing to comfort themselves.  A mirror image, was doing the same in the enemy trench.
In sad pause, half-deafened ears of infantry-men overheard the carols of the enemy. In an act of odd rebellion, enemies began to take turns. I would have been startled with delight. There must have been laughter.

That wonderful moment lasted into that night. Indeed, it grew more bizarre still.

The wisest (and bravest) of souls began a football game… a magic exchange: a ball took the place of bullets, shells and poison gas.

Of course, all nights end. The magic dissolved back into violence. That was the Christmas of 1914.

The following year, a British solider suggested that they repeat whole affair. He was put up against a wall and shot. That was the Christmas truce of 1915.