Christmas Truce

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by oldbaldy, Dec 16, 2010.

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  1. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
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  2. I believe localised truces were/are a fairly common occurrence during wars. My father in law told me they hunkered down with a German patrol when both were caught in a sandstorm. He told me they shared rations and memories of home until the sandstorm blew out whereupon they all shook hands and left in opposite directions.
    Then there was the truce between, IIRC, the SRS and the SS in Italy, which was called to tend to the dead and wounded of both sides.
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  3. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
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    Maybe, but the we were given to believe that in WW1 the COC were at great pains to say 'never again, we can't be friends the the dastardly Huns'. Doesn't mean it didn't happen of course and no doubt because of the edict from above the local commanders kept quiet.
  4. Stanley Weintraub covers this in his excellent book "Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914" ISBN 978-0-6848-6622-2

    He certainly gives the impression that it very much mattered where the German unit originated from, quoting a Saxon unit indicating that they were being relieved by a Prussian unit and that the British should give them hell!
  5. Wasn't the war in the desert in WW2 considered quite a gentlemanly affair? Particularly by one German commander, Von Luck
  6. Whilst i agree that localised, post-battle truces to collect dead and wounded were actually not uncommon, the OP was about Christmas truces where the time of year rather than a sense of mercy towards those injured in the immediate past is the case.

    A truce to collect the wounded didn't normally involve the fraternisation that occurred in 1914. And a Christmas truce where both parties agreed not to fire and stay put in their own trenches is very different to actually playing football against each other or socialising in No-Man's Land.

  7. The movie, Joyeux Noel (2005) portrays such an event.

    "In 1914, World War I, the bloodiest war ever at that time in human history, was well under way. However on Christmas Eve, numerous sections of the Western Front called an informal, and unauthorized, truce where the various front-line soldiers of the conflict peacefully met each other in No Man's Land to share a precious pause in the carnage with a fleeting brotherhood. This film dramatizes one such section as the French, Scottish and German sides partake in the unique event, even though they are aware that their superiors will not tolerate its occurrence". Written by Kenneth Chisholm (

    This review: " * Movies

    Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel)

    Movie type: Drama, Romance
    MPAA rating: PG-13:for some war violence and a brief scene of sexuality/nudity
    Year of release: 2006
    Run time: 116 minutes
    Directed by: Christian Carion
    Cast: Benno Furmann, Dany Boon, Diane Kruger, Gary Lewis, Guillaume Canet
    'Noel' is a didactic Christmas card


    It's a heart-warmer, a well-meaning movie that sets out to wring a modern message (and preferably some tears) from a famous but largely forgotten moment in history. Set in 1914 at the start of World War I, "Joyeux Noel" tells the story of how Scottish, French, and German factions carried out a brief, happy cease-fire in time for Christmas. In the interest of symmetry, each army forms a side of the movie's equilateral triangle. But Carion's fidelity to narrative geometry leaves him with a redundant and hopelessly blocky movie. It jumps from the French to the Scots to the Germans, telling a similar story several times. The thrust of each telling is that the war has not robbed its soldiers of their holiday spirit. On Christmas Eve, Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Furmann), a German tenor turned soldier, bravely walks around the trenches singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The Scots play the bagpipes, and soon all are enjoying champagne and chocolate, listening to the yuletide sermon of a Scottish priest (Gary Lewis) and later to a song by Sprink's lady love Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger), a Danish star of the Berlin opera, whom he has brought to the front lines. Kruger also played Helen in "Troy"; she appears to enjoy roles that inspire fighting men to drool".

    Worth a watch, and telling, when, in the following days after the "truce", all sides condemn their men for fraternising with the enemy.

    The soldiers exchange photos of their wives, two soldiers bicker over the nationality of a cat, and the following day a soccer match is played. Amid all the harmonizing, the film's one genuinely intriguing character, a Scottish solder played by Alex Ferns, falls down over the corpse of his best friend".
  8. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
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    All well & good recycling about the 1914 truce or what happen in WW2.
    But the question posed was did it happen at Christmas 1915,16 or 17?
  9. Some evidence reported in the press today seems to suggest it did in one place in 1916. That evidence may be correct but reflect a very localised situation, or may be an example of a wider occurrence, or may be incorrect with the writer just trying to make things seem better for his family. I'd suggest that a lot more letters would need to be found to provide anything passing as a 'firm conclusion'
  10. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    Er, from the War Diary of my great uncle's Battalion, RWF :

    No football match....and very little love lost....
  11. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
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    That may be so Goatman but just because it didn't happen in Ypres doesn't mean to say it couldn't happen elsewhere & if it did, would it really have been put in the War Diary so that the COC would know?
  12. I'd suggest that this was the easy way for GHQ to ensure that the infantry didn't go making any unauthorised decisions.
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  13. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    Not arguing the point either way OB, just relaying a response to yr Q. from info in front of me....better take it up with the guy who wrote the Battalion War Diary.

    Although if you start interpreting primary source material to suit your thesis - isn't that 'situating the appreciation ' ?

    If I'd lost 12 oppos 2 days previously, I doubt I'd want to sing carols with enemy forces too much either.

    As you say, local circs which may not have been the same from Switzerland to the Belgian Coast.

    In my view chumminess must have pretty well vanished by 1917.....too many dead friends piled up on both sides.

    Mr Kipling, as ever, puts it well:

  14. I'm sure while reading the diary of the Royal West Kents ...(wifes grandfathers ) I came across a piece about a truce with the Hun on Christmas day .... no football match but deff some carols sung and an agreement to resume war next day .... will try and find it.