First World War in the News is an edited review of hand-picked World War I (1914-1918) articles - covering everything from the soldiers and generals to the trenches and militaria.

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World War II

1914 Christmas Truce

Latest hand-picked First World War news. See also: See also 'WWI Trenches', 'Battlefield Tours', 'WW1 Uniforms, Flags', 'World War I Letters', 'Reenactment'.

Truce by Jim Murphy (book review)
Truce is a historical account of an unusual act of good will that took place during the First World War. On Christmas morning of 1914, along the Western Front the fighting stopped. There were no orders to that effect - the commanders on both sides had warned their soldiers to be on high alert for a holiday attack - but at many points along the front, soldiers from both sides met in the "No Man's Land", or were invited into the enemy's trenches. They exchanged greetings, shook hands, gave what meager gifts they could find - food, drink, cigarettes - and sang carols.

First World War diaries of Robert Hamilton reveal story behind 1914 armistice
Robert Hamilton was a persistent diary keeper. According to his grandson, Andrew Hamilton, much of the content was "rather dull". Thank goodness Andrew kept looking, however. As he glanced over the diaries, the former history teacher's eye was caught by a slim, hardback volume. Unlike the rest of the collection, the text was typed, and marked: "Diary kept by Captain R C Hamilton from August 5th 1914 to January 12th 1915." The volume contained details about the frontline service of Robert, a captain in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. It tells of the first tentative greeting between the frontline soldiers on Xmas Eve.

Truce in the trenches: Diary of British Army Captain Robert Hamilton
Details of the Christmas truces on the Western Front in 1914 have came out in a previously unseen diary of Robert Hamilton. As one of the officers in the 1st Bn the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he left his trench near the Belgian hamlet of St Yvon. The 48-hour local cease-fire they negotiated was the inspiration for truces up and down the trenches. His diary runs Aug 5, 1914 - Jan 12, 1915. On Xmas Eve he got a message that "the Germans wanted to talk to us". He "heard the Germans shouting, 'Are you the Warwicks?' To which our own men responded, 'Come and see'. They said 'You come half way, and we will come half way and bring you some cigars'."

The Christmas truce of 1914 in trenches along the Western Front
December 1914 the German high command decided it was time to improve morale: a Christmas tree was sent out to every German unit. It seemed such a little thing, but it sparked an unique revolt in military history. On Christmas Eve, French and British troops saw the lights and wondered if an attack was at hand. In some areas German troops sent over messengers with the request: will you join us in a concert tonight, with no shooting? In other regiments, soldiers held up "No Shoot!" signs. One British soldier recited how the two sides swapped carols back and forth: British regiment starting off with "The First Noel" the Germans answering with "O Tannenbaum"...

Don't trust them a yard! - British officer in Xmas Day truce of 1914   (Article no longer available from the original source)
It was a moment of humanity at the start of WWI. On Christmas Day 1914 the guns fell silent and British and German troops emerged from their trenches to shake hands. But while his unarmed men crossed over into No Man's Land, captain Reginald Hobbs remained in his trench on the Western Front fearing it was a ploy by the Germans to entice his company to certain death. "I've just warned my sentries to be extra on the look out because I don't trust 'em a yard... I thought they must be up to some game, digging new trenches or something, so I sent a few of my fellows out to see - they walked up to the groups, shook hands and chatted in a most friendly way for quite an hour..."

WW1 account of historic match between British and German soldiers
Military historians have dug out the diary of Regimental Sergeant Major George Beck, who chronicled the events of the Christmas Eve armistice of 1914 when British and German soldiers engaged in a soccer match in the icy mud of No Man`s Land. His account titled "Not a shot fired" details the events when soldiers of the Kaiser`s army came forward to hand out drinks and cigars to British Tommies and invited them over to a game of soccer. "Christmas Eve, 1914, and not a shot fired. The Germans ask to play football and hand out drink and cigars. They are eager to swop almost anything for our bully beef," the veteran of the Boer War, in a trench near St Yves writes.

When soldiers decided to put down their weapons and play soccer   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Christmas during wartime is an unusual experience. For those who found themselves in 1914 fighting on the western front in the conflict that would be called World War 1, the combatants found a way celebrating the season. On Christmas day, in a spontaneous gesture, both sides across most of the front laid down their arms and met to have a few hours of merriment despite the grim conditions. Wisdom at the time said that the soldiers would be home in a matter of months once they earned a quick victory. Both sides tried to make their trenches as merry as possible, decorating what were mud holes with trees and decorations.

Last soldier serving in 1914 Christmas truce dies, aged 109
The last veteran of the Christmas truce during the First World War died in his sleep yesterday, aged 109. Alfred Anderson, who was born in 1896, was 18 on December 25, 1914, when British and German troops climbed out of their trenches and crossed no-man's land to shake hands, sing carols and share cigarettes. The soldiers famously played football together, kicking around empty bully-beef cans and using steel helmets as goal posts. The unauthorised truce spread across much of the 500-mile Western Front, where more than a million soldiers were encamped.

1914 football truce anniversary
This 2004 Christmas is the 90th anniversary of the WWI truce when British troops took on the Germans at football. The soldiers sang Christmas carols before leaving their trenches to play a match in sub-zero temperatures in no-man's land near Armentieres, France. The Germans won 3-2, according to some soldiers, and the truce gradually came to an end in the same way it had begun - by mutual consent. "By the end of 1915 both sides were far too bitter for this to happen again, " Andrew Robertshaw.

WWI Christmas Truce Started By Thousands Of German Soldiers
The Christmas truce of the Great War in 1914 was started by a "peace movement" of German soldiers who won over their trenchbound British foes by lobbing chocolate cake at them instead of hand grenades, a new book claims. The interpretation of the events on the Western Front on Christmas Eve 1914 is made by Michael Jürgs whose book, The Small Peace in the Great War is the first to be written about the ceasefire from a German perspective.

Soldiers playing football together in No Man's Land on Christmas day
Stories tell of the British and German soldiers playing football together in No Man's Land on Christmas day - but is this just a legend? The Christmas truce of 1914 really happened. It is as much a part of the historical texture of WW I as the gas clouds of Ypres or the Battle of the Somme or the Armistice of 1918. Yet it has often been dismissed as though it were merely a myth. But the truce did take place, and on some far greater scale than has been generally realised. Though Germans and British were the main participants, French and Belgians took part as well.

See also

'WWI Trenches'

'Battlefield Tours'

'WW1 Uniforms, Flags'

'World War I Letters'