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The Christmas Truce of 1914

The First World War had been raging on for only four months. The weather that December was cold and wet. Many of the trenches were continually flooded, soldiers were covered in mud and exposed to frostbite and trench foot that seemed impossible to get rid of. They were dreading having to spend Christmas away from their families. Then something incredible happened on December 24, 1914. Soldiers from both sides put down their weapons, stepped out of their trenches and enemy really did meet enemy between the trenches. For a short time, there was peace.

There were many truces along the Western Front that Christmas, but the truce was not total. Shelling and firing continued in some parts and there were deaths on Christmas Day. Some of the truces had been arranged on Christmas Eve while others were arranged on Christmas Day. There were even arrangements which included a ruling as to when the truce would end. Along many parts of the Front Line, the truce was brought about by the arrival of miniature Christmas trees in the German trenches. Jovial voices could be heard calling out from both friendly and enemy trenches, followed by requests not to fire, then shadows of soldiers could be seen gathering in no man’s land, laughing, joking and exchanging gifts. Amongst the joy, there was sadness to the truce as both sides used this opportunity to seek out the bodies of their dead comrades and give them a decent burial.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 was not a unique occasion in military history. It was a return of a long established tradition. It is common in conflicts with close quarters and prolonged periods of fighting for informal truces and generous gestures to take place between enemies. Similar events have occurred in other conflicts throughout history–and they continue to occur.

While the Christmas Truce of 1914 did not involve any Canadian battalions or regiments, we thought it was a story worth sharing and many of our military personnel have similar stories to tell.

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