24th Dec Christmas Eve, in the trenches, was a cold night, and from both sides of “no mans land” both British and German troops were trying to keep warm. Singing Christmas carols was one way of doing this.
The German troops began by singing “Stille Naccht, Heilage Naccht” (Silent Night), and for most of the British Troops it was the first time they had heard it.
The British answered with “O, Come All Ye Faithful”. The Germans responded with the Latin version “Adeste Fideles”.
During the course of the evening, the guns fell silent, and a quiet and peaceful night prevailed.
25th Dec Christmas day morning was damp and foggy, but by about 9.00am there were clear blue skies.
A German soldier raised a “Happy Christmas” placard.
Gradually, unarmed soldiers began to climb out of the trenches and met up in “no mans land” for general fraternisation.
Gifts were exchanged, some alcohol was consumed, and even a game of football was played.
Both sides were able to retrieve and bury their dead.
25th – 31st Dec the truce lasted spasmodically, but knowing the truce would not last indefinitely, the British moved their machine guns. This was precautionary only as the Germans were aware of their positions.
31st Dec A pre-arranged signal had been forwarded to the British to say the Germans would fire their rifles in the air to see in and celebrate the New Year.
1st Jan The Generals, on both sides, were unhappy with this unofficial truce and the British were ordered to shell a certain occupied German farm at 11.00am that morning.
Precisely at 11.00am, the farm was shelled as ordered, but by being forewarned, the Germans had evacuated the farm.
A message was forwarded to the Germans with this information.
This action ensured the truce was broken.
It was never to be repeated again.
The Christmas Truce proved to be one of the most poignant moments of the Great War