The Great War, I was there - Part 7

53* December 25,1914 AMAZING ARMISTICE! The Historic Christmas Truce of 1914 by Capt. Sir Edward Hulse, Bart. Despite the bitter fighting which had been ongoing for over four months, a remark­able armistice was observed in many sectors on Christmas Day 1914, and English and German soldiers ceased killing each other for one day and fraternized in a most genuine manner. In the following chapter a Captain of the Scots Guards describes the extraordinary scenes enacted between the lines during this highly unofficial truce. The author held a regular commission in the Scots Guards in 1914— he was killed inaction, France, March 12,1915, aged 25 O theN 23rd we overtook the trenches in-the ordinary man­ner, relieving the Grenadiers, and during the 24th the usual liring took place, and sniping was pretty brisk. We stood to arms as usual at G.30 a.m. on the 25th, and I noticed that there was not much shooting this gradually died down, and by 8 a.m. there was no shooting at all, except for a few shots on our left (Border Regiment). At 8.30 a.m. I was looking out, and saw four Germans leave their trenches and come towards us I told two of my men togo and meet them, unarmed (as the Germans were unarmed), and to see that they did not pass the half-way line. We were 350 to -100 yards apart at I his point. My fellows were not very keen, not knowing what was soup, I went out alone, and met Barry, one of our ensigns, also coming out from another part of the Byline. the time we got to them they were three-quarters of 1 he way over, and much too near our barbed wire, so I moved them back. "They were three private soldiers and a stretcher-bearer, and their spokes­man started off by saying that he thought it only right to overcome and wish us a happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce. He came from Suffolk, where he had left his best girl and a 3 - J h.p. motor-bike !He told me that he could not get a letter to the girl, and wanted to send one through me. I made him write out a postcard in front of me, in English, and I sent it off that night. 1 told him that she probably would not abe bit keen to see him again. We then entered on along discussion on every sort of thing. 1 was dressed in an old stocking-cap and a man’s overcoat, and they look me for a corporal, a thing which I did not discourage, as I had an eye to going as near their lines as possible.... I asked them what orders they had from their officers as to overcoming to us, and they said none they had just overcome 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. I believe they were speaking the truth when they said this, and that they never wished to afire shot again. They said that unless directly ordered they were not going to shoot again until we did. ...We talked about the ghastly wounds made by rifle bullets, and we both agreed that neither of us used dum-dum bullets, and that the wounds arc solely inflicted by the high-velocity bullet with the sharp nose, at short range. We both agreed that it would be far better if we used the old South African round-nosed bullet, which makes a clean hole. ...They think that our Press is to blame in working up feeling against them by publishing false “atrocity reports.” 1 told them of various sweet little cases which 1 had seen for myself, and they told me of English prisoners whom they had seen with soft-nosed bullets, and lead bullets with notches cut in the nose. We had a heated and at the same time good-natured argument, and ended by hinting to each other that the other was lying !TIPPERARY’ FOR THE GERMANS pIke tit up for half an hour, and then escorted them back as far as their barbed wire, having a jolly good look round all the time, and picking up various little bits of information which 1 had not had an opportunity of doing under fire! 1 left instructions with them that if any of them came out later they must not overcome the half-way line, and appointed a ditch as the meeting place. We parted after an exchange of Albany cigarettes and German cigars, and I went straight to 272 EYE-WITNESS OF 1914 ARMISTICE Sir Edward Hulse who, “dressed in a man’s overcoat and a stocking-cap,” ashe describes his “uniform ”at the time when he witnessed the events related in this chapter, is here seen in the undress uniform of the Scots Guards just before the war. headquarters to report. On my return at 10 a.m. 1 was surprised to hear a hell of a din on,going and not a single man left in my trenches they were completely denuded (against my orders), and nothing moved! 1 heard strains of '‘Tipperary’ floating down the breeze, followed by a tremendous burst, of“ Deutschland fiber Alles,” and as 1 got to my own company headquarters dug-out I saw, to my amazement, not only a crowd of 150 British and 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, extending towards the 8th Division on our right. 1 bustled out and asked if there were any German officers in my crowd, and the noise died down (as this time 1 was myself in my own cap and badges of rank). I found two, but had to talk to them through an interpreter, as they could neither talk English nor French.... I explained to them that strict orders must be maintained as to meeting half­way, and everyone unarmed and we both agreed not to fire until tlio. other did, thereby creating a complete deadlock and armistice (if strictly observed). ...Meanwhile Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged, addresses given and re­ceived, photos of families shown, etc. One of our fellows offered a German a cigarette the German said, “Vir­ginian ?”Our fellow said, “Aye,
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