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The Christmas Truce of 1914

In the week before Christmas 1914, the attitude in the trenches was very different to the usual trench misery that is usually associated with the Western Front. There was a series of unofficial ceasefires and occasions of soldiers singing carols across to each other. By Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, soldiers were crossing No Man’s Land to exchange small gifts and food with one another. They also became friendly enough to play football matches with each other. In all, about 100,000 British and German soldiers took part in these unsanctioned truces. 

The truce did not take place everywhere on the Front, with some sections still fighting on Christmas Day and others only agreeing to stop fighting to recover the dead, but they were relatively widespread. Some truces lasted until New Years Day, whilst others merely lasted through Christmas night. When the high command of both sides heard about the truces, they prohibited such fraternisation in future. Despite this, some truces took place in 1915, however not nearly as many. There is evidence that the soldiers were unhappy with this ban on truces and many tried to disobey and start football matches and gift swapping once more, but most were ordered back on threat of punishment. There is a record that the German soldiers continued to try and start truces, as the British soldiers were being forced to continue fighting. Adolf Hitler, fighting at this time, was apparently opposed to the truces. With the escalation of violence at the Somme and the use of poison gas in 1916, meant that the truces were mostly over by this Christmas. 

Notes

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