THE TWO MIRACLES
OF DECEMBER 23rd 1914
Great War (WW1) commenced in August 1914 and the first five months the
fighting was relentless. Thousands
and thousands of men had been killed or wounded but neither side had
gained more than a few yards. The
repulsion of trench warfare was that so many were dying for so little
When the winter months arrived the conditions
became almost insufferable. The
trenches flooded with rain and snow.
It was freezing and wet. Mixed
with the slime lay half-submerged bodies.
Often soldiers slept standing up leaning against the dripping
trench walls whilst standing knee deep in muddy water.
While rats invaded their meagre rations, lice infested their
bodies. Toilets were
non-existent. You can forgive
the soldiers from becoming animalistic whilst living like this but by
December blood lust was giving way to fellow feeling.
A ‘live and let live’ attitude was developing, which worried
the British high command.
first miracle of December 23rd 1914 started as day give way to
At first the men of the Berkshire Regiment could not believe their
Something strange was happening right in front of them, where
the German trenches faced theirs.
A small, sparkling, conical shape appeared above the German
Then another appeared followed by another and another.
Soon there was an entire row, which twinkled in the dark empty sky.
|They were Christmas trees.
Spellbound, the Berkshires began crawling out of their trenches.
Although fraternising with the enemy was forbidden, their officers
turned a blind eye to what was going on.
The German infantrymen were Saxons of XIX Corps, and they too left
Cautiously the two groups met amidst the barbed wire and bomb
The Saxons explained that the candle lit Christmas trees were of
greater importance to them than the war.
thousands of little conifers had been sent to the front line so the
soldiers would not forgo this most cherished symbol of the festive season.
Word got back to the Saxon major that two British officers were
waiting, by the wire, to speak to him.
It was agreed there would be an informal truce for the whole of
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. During
the next forty-eight hours similar ceasefires broke out along the whole
length of the Western Front.
the disgust of the Generals of both sides their men simply laid down their
arms and befriended their enemies in a spontaneous gesture of peace and
article appeared in The Scotsman newspaper stating that the two sides,
which were only sixty yards apart, were becoming ‘very pally’.
Shouts of ‘Englander’ or ‘Tommy’ would be answered with
‘Jerry’ or ‘Fritz’.
most of the Germans had at one time worked over the Channel language was
not a problem.
The Army top brass issued a directive forbidding the fraternisation
but it was ignored.
Alarmed at this the British high command, twenty-seven miles behind
the trenches issued the following warning, “It is thought possible the
enemy may be contemplating an attack during Christmas or New Year.
Special vigilance will be maintained during this period”.
|The threat was largely ineffectual as the Christmas spirit took
The Germans had received Christmas trees and presents from home.
The British had each received an oblong box, from the daughter of
King George V, Princess Mary.
Inside was tobacco or sweets for the non-smoker and a card from the
King stating, ‘May God protect you and bring you home safely’.
Even the weather turned seasonal as the rain stopped and a heavy
frost solidified the mud.
reports that followed included alternate singing of carols and folk songs,
the sharing of drink and food, and the burying of bodies by unarmed men
from both camps working side by side. But perhaps the most frequently
reported event was a regulation football match, using caps as goalposts. The final score was ‘3/2 fur Fritz’.
the unutterable hell of the Flanders and Normandy battlefields, the sudden
cessation of hostilities seemed like, or perhaps it was, a miracle.
Boxing Day Captain Stockwell of the Welsh Fusiliers had three shots fired
into the air, posted a sign reading ‘Merry Christmas’ and climbed atop
of his parapet. The Germans
quickly displayed a sign saying ‘Thank You’ and their company
commander stood proudly on his own parapet.
The two officers faced each other bowed, saluted and then descended
into their own trenches. The
German captain then fired two shots into the air.
The war recommenced.
yes, the second miracle of December 23rd 1914 was the birth of
Mary Poole, my mother.