Remembering the Soldiers’ Truce on the Western Front 105 years ago, Christmas Day 1914.
The festive miracle continued throughout Christmas Day and is recorded in the War Diary of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.
“At dawn 25th, the Germans shouted out ‘Merry Xmas’ from their trenches and danced and sang in front of their parapets.”
Message from Brigade, 8:40 am
“So long as Germans do not snipe, there should be no sniping from our lines today but greatest vigilance must be maintained as Germans are not to be trusted.”
“Our guns will not be firing today unless asked to do so by infantry or unless the German guns fire.”
Report from OC 1 RIR, 11:30 am
“All very quiet along my front. Has been no sound of sniping on either flank even for some time.”
“Situation seems [to be] evolving into a kind of mutual armistice terminating 12 m.n. [midnight] tonight.”
“Germans are moving about on their parapets doing odd jobs which seem quite harmless. At dawn this morning, enemy came out on their parapets and cheered and danced and called out ‘ Merry Xmas’ etc.”
“Reconnaissance last night points to conclusion that enemy’s trenches and advanced posts were strongly held apart from those who were fraternising and singing..”
“Position in our trenches is careful guard by those held on duty [sic], while allowing those off duty to relax. This seems to be the German attitude also.”
“(Later) Germans are walking up and down outside their trenches. Our men were mostly in their trenches – those out in rear of their parapets. Actual communication with the enemy is forbidden.”
“It is very doubtful how one should regard this Christmas Soldiers’ Truce.The German soldiers themselves are probably simple-minded enough about the thing but only time will show whether there is not something behind all [of] this and whether we have not made a mistake in permitting this to take place.”
“The following notes are recorded:
- The truce is sought entirely by the enemy.
- The enemy have asked for 2 days of this which has been refused by the officers of the Bn [Battalion] in the firing line.
- The mutual arrangement is that if either side construct works or carry out repairs to works that the other considers not playing the game, they will fire shots over the other side’s heads.
- Captain O’Sullivan… Captain ‘B’ Coy [Company] will fire his revolver at m.n [midnight] tonight (25th/26th) at which signal the truce ends.
St. Stephen’s Day 1914
“Only a few shots fired by the enemy after the midnight signal was fired by Capt. O’Sullivan from our trenches. Shortly after midnight, a party of Germans came over towards ‘B’ Coy’s trenches but were ordered back.”
The killing continued soo after, though.
Happy Christmas to you and yours.
Rifleman Robert Arthurs was killed during the renowned Battle of Neuve Chapelle a few miles south and less than 12 weeks later.
🎧 You can listen to his story here.
Ciarán MacAirt is founder and manager of the charity, Paper Trail. He is author of the critically acclaimed book, The McGurk’s Bar Bombing. His new book, Trope: Essays and Articles, is now available on Kindle, with all proceeds going to Paper Trail to help other families in their pursuit of truth.