1914: December 25
During the Christmas period of 1914 British and German men were receiving gifts and letters from home. Spirits were momentarily lifted and accounts say that both sides began to shout season’s greetings and sing Christmas carols. Later, some men dared to climb out of their trenches and the rival groups swapped gifts, jokes and stories. The truce also had a more sombre motive; it was an opportunity to retrieve the bodies of comrades who had fallen in no-man’s land between the trenches and give them a proper burial.
Despite having been somewhat romanticised (in reality the truces were sporadic and unorganised in nature) the stories of the Christmas ceasefires are still a touching reminder of the humanity of the soldiers in such a brutal war. It was a brief window of enemy chivalry that would not be repeated. As the misery of years of war took its toll on the spirits of men, less had the motivation for gallantry and any future suggestions of ceasefire were quickly quashed by higher command.