War turns into Peace – the 1914 Christmas Truce

British and German troops meeting in No man's ...

British propaganda said the First World War would be over by Christmas 1914.

It wasn’t. But peace of a different kind broke out on the Western Front when soldiers on both sides found their common humanity instead of the senseless carnage ordered from above.

It is being celebrated in the Centenary year by a service and dedication at Loretto School with relatives of  British and German commanding officers who played leading roles.

The story of the Christmas Truce or Weihnachten Waffenstillstand (as I think it translates into German) has been well told elsewhere and there some very good digital history sources. Here are some of the best:

The BBC Witness programmes which first aired on the World Service and now on Radio 4 are of consistently high quality. This podcast weaves in stories from British and German soldiers.

So does this Imperial War Museum audio clip.

And this website  is a real delight. It was started by two journalists in Whitehaven, Cumbria –  Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park. It was based originally on contemporary newspaper accounts but now offers much more.

The story of how the New York Times broke the story and why Reuters did not publish because of British wartime censorship is really well told here by Reuters historian John Entwisle who also recalls an interview with the last survivor or the Christmas Truce, Alfred Anderson who died in 2005, aged 109.

By the accounts of all the journalists privileged to meet him, Alfred, who served with the Black Watch, was a wonderful guy.  Here’s Lorna Martin’s excellent piece in the Observer from 2004.

There is also a good piece on the Smithsonian blog.

It all started with German troops singing Stille Nacht (always better sung in the original German), according to Oh! What a Lovely War. Here’s a clip:

Merry Christmas!

Update – December 2018  A gem here –  Frank Richards of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers recalling the truce forty years later:



Categories: digital history, gems from the archive, history on the web

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3 replies

  1. This Truce was part of the ancient chivalry of war, so to speak and was a memorable, indeed formative, experience for, amongst others, the painter and poet David Jones. It is, I think mentioned and examined in Rowan Williams’ early work, The Truce of God.


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