December 24, 2014

Christmas Truce of 1914

Christmas 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the day during World War I "when the guns went silent."  The Christmas Day truce was an extraordinary event, not just in World War I but in the history of warfare reports Robert M. Sapolsky in the December 20 issue of The Wall Street Journal.  Link

Sapolsky quotes Frank Richards, a British soldier, who wrote these words of Christmas Day 1914:

On Christmas morning we stuck up a board with "Merry Christmas" on it.  The enemy had stuck up a similar one....  Two of our men then threw their equipment off and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their hands.  Two of the Germans done the same and commenced to walk up the river bank, our two men going to meet them. They met and shook hands and then we all got out of the trench....

The author notes that and down the four hundred-odd miles of trenches on the Western Front this scene was repeated as the relaxation of hostilities spread.  Eventually, soldiers prayed and caroled together, shared dinner, exchanged gifts, and played soccer together.  The truce mostly held through Christmas and, in some cases, even to the New Year.  It took senior officers' threats for fighting to resume, and such comprehensive battlefront peacemaking never happened again during the Great War.

"When the Guns Went Silent," by Robert M. Sapolsky
The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2014, p. C1