All Quiet On The Western Front: Christmas Truce 1914

“Merry Christmas.” Now, that seems like a perfectly normal thing for me to say to you today, but imagine a German soldier saying that to you on the Western Front during the First World War, in December 1914. And, now imagine him asking you for a game of football.

Christmas Truce 1914, British & German soldiers gather in No Man's Land at Bridoux-Rouges Bancs Sector
Christmas Truce 1914, British & German soldiers gather in No Man's Land at Bridoux-Rouges Bancs Sector

Bizarre, astonishing, and one of the last examples of chivalry between enemies in war, the Christmas Truce, as it became known, was a series of unofficial and unlikely ceasefires that took place around December 24th and 25th, 1914. World War I was one of the bloodiest wars in history and soldiers on both sides experienced gruelling trench warfare. In the week leading up to Christmas, the remarkable armistice saw soldiers put down their weapons and leave the trenches to play football, sing carols and exchange gifts between their trenches. Often seen as a symbol of peace and humanity, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once said that the Christmas Truce was

“the one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war”.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides—as well as those from a few French units ventured into 'no man's land', where they mingled, exchanging food items and souvenirs. However, it didn’t take place everywhere on the front and in some regions fighting continued throughout the day, while in others, little more than an arrangement to recover bodies was made. It must have seemed strange to have accepted and trusted a truce after so much violence.

The Christmas Day truce between Britons and Germans
The Christmas Day truce between Britons and Germans

Forces War Records have an interesting article from The Great War, I was there – Part 7 in it's historic documents library where apparently a Captain of the Scots Guards who experienced the 1914 truce describes what it was like. Commenting on his experience speaking to a German soldier he says: "I asked them what orders they had from their officers as coming over to us, and they said none: they had just come over out of goodwill." "They protested that they had no feeling of enmity towards us at all, but that everything lay with their authorities, and that being soldiers they had to obey." In the article the Captain goes on to describe seeing "not only a crowd of 150 Germans at the half-way house which I had appointed opposite my lines but six or seven such crowds, all the way down our lines." The 1914 Christmas Truce remained a unique event on the Western Front and was never repeated — future attempts at holiday ceasefires were repressed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action. As the war went on to include the bloody battles of the Somme and Verdun and the beginning of poison gas use, soldiers on both sides increasingly viewed the other side as a true enemy and no more Christmas truces were sought.


Find out more with Forces War Records… Do you know enough about your ancestors who fought in the First World War? Why not log on to Forces War Records and find out more  - there could be a war hero in your family just waiting to be discovered, and remembered… Delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting War diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Discover interesting facts about your ancestors, become more knowledgeable about history, and reveal some of the fantastic characters involved in war…What are you waiting for?

British and German troops fratenize, December 1914
British and German troops fratenize, December 1914
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