On the 24 & 25th of December 1914 entered the first Christmas season while the world was at war. However in most parts of Europe in the trenches, there had been some sort of miracle during the Christmas holiday.
Both sides between the English and the German stopped fighting, came out of their trenches, and conducted themselves among each other in fellowship and celebration.
The Christmas Truce of World War I had begun.
Roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in the unofficial cessations of hostility along the Western Front. The first truce started on Christmas Eve 1914, when German troops decorated the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium and particularly in Saint-Yvon.
The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other.
Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats.
The artillery in the region fell silent. The truce also allowed a period of time where recently fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. In many places along the Front, the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year’s Day in others.
It is even reported that a game of football was played between the two sides. One game which ended when it was kicked and it landed into barbed wire, deflating it.
Needless to say that the higher-ups back at HQ on both sides were not thrilled that the fighting had stopped and they sent word of threats, demanding that the soldiers fight. And if they would not fight they would be pulled off the lines and disciplined. Again, this came both English and German commanders.
But nobody wanted to fight. So leaders and soldiers alike on both sides were replaced with new recruits in some places. Other places along the trenches saw that their situation was grave as they were not willing to disobey their commanding officers. One story is told how groups of soldiers reluctantly returned to their trenches and a leader raised his pistol into the air and fired it, signaling that the war would resume.
Had the truce held on for a little while longer, the war to end all wars would have ended itself in just a matter of months. However, the war would go on until 1918. And of course as we look back in history, it would not be the war to end all wars as World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945.
But what a sight that must have been in the trenches to hear and see the Germans decorating and celebrating Christmas and then just the fighting and shooting of weaponry falling silent and people were acting like colleagues rather than enemies.
Personally speaking when I had learned about this many years ago, I thought that it would make for either a good book or a film. And I began a long process of writing, researching, and digging to find answers and stories about this event. Naturally because it was so close to being 100 years ago as it is now… I knew that talking to anyone who had been there or witnessed it would not be possible. So for four long grueling years, I did the best that I could with books, documentaries, and other resources.
When I had finished, I began to take the composition and change it into a screenplay.
And then I found out that there was a film by the title of “Joyeux Noël” which was released in 2005 at the Cannes Film Festival. So all that I had done, was almost rendered worthless. I held on to the works until that computer crashed and I lost it all. But these things are truly fascinating and makes you ask the popular rhetorical question of “What if?” and has you think of what it could have been like had World War I ended shortly after the Christmas Truce of 1914.