COLUMN: Christmas war truce was real

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Stories tell of the British and German soldiers playing football together in No Man’s Land on Christmas Day - but is this just a legend?

The Christmas truce of 1914 really happened. It is as much a part of the historical texture of WWI as the gas clouds of Ypres or the Battle of the Somme or the Armistice of 1918.

Yet it has often been dismissed as though it were merely a myth. But the truce did take place, and on some far greater scale than has been generally realised. Though Germans and British were the main participants, French and Belgians took part as well.

It began on Christmas Eve, the Allies heard singing coming from the German trenches which appeared to be Silent Night sung in German.

The English troops joined in singing in English.

On Christmas Day it is told a German soldier was seen to climb out of the trench and over the barricade into No Man’s Land carrying a Christmas tree with lights on it.

This was a first sighting to the majority of our troops of their first Christmas tree.

It was a moment of humanity at the start of WWI. On Christmas Day 1914 the guns fell silent and British and German troops emerged from their trenches to shake hands, exchange cigarettes and chocolates and even have a game of football.

Christmas during wartime is an unusual experience.

For those who found themselves in 1914 fighting on the Western Front in the conflict that would be called World War One, the combatants found a way of celebrating the season.

On Christmas Day, in a spontaneous gesture, both sides across most of the “front” stretching 600 miles, laid down their arms and met to have a few hours of merriment.

There never was another Christmas truce, but it is felt if the generals on both sides had listened to what the troops wanted over ten million lives may have been saved.

By Elaine Lovell, Matlock in Bloom