SOMEWHAT OT: A CHRISTMAS TRUCEgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Trolls--take note and emulate.
The German View of Events - including the Football Match Leutnant Johannes Niemann, 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment
"We came up to take over the trenches on the front between Frelinghien and Houplines, where our Regiment and the Scottish Seaforth Highlanders were face to face. It was a cold, starry night and the Scots were a hundred or so metres in front of us in their trenches where, as we discovered, like us they were up to their knees in mud. My Company Commander and I, savouring the unaccustomed calm, sat with our orderlies round a Christmas tree we had put up in our dugout.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, our enemies began to fire on our lines. Our soldiers had hung little Christmas trees covered with candles above the trenches and our enemies, seeing the lights, thought we were about to launch a surprise attack.
But, by midnight it was calm once more.
Next morning the mist was slow to clear and suddenly my orderly threw himself into my dugout to say that both the German and Scottish soldiers had come out of their trenches and were fraternising along the front. I grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy. Later a Scottish soldier appeared with a football which seemed to come from nowhere and a few minutes later a real football match got underway.
The Scots marked their goal mouth with their strange caps and we did the same with ours.
It was far from easy to play on the frozen ground, but we continued, keeping rigorously to the rules, despite the fact that it only lasted an hour and that we had no referee. A great many of the passes went wide, but all the amateur footballers, although they must have been very tired, played with huge enthusiasm.
Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts - and hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of "yesterday's enemies." But after an hour's play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternisation ended.
The game finished with a score of three goals to two in favour of Fritz against Tommy." An Artilleryman Remembers Gunner Herbert Smith, 5th Battery, Royal Field Artillery
"On Christmas Eve there was a lull in the fighting, no firing going on at all after 6 p.m. The Germans had a Christmas tree in the trenches and Chinese lanterns all along the top of a parapet.Eventually the Germans started shouting, "Come over, I want to speak to you."
Our chaps hardly knew how to take this, but one of the 'nuts' belonging to the Regiment got out of the trench and started to walk towards the German lines. One of the Germans met him about half-way across, and they shook hands and became quite friendly. In due time the 'nut' came back and told the others all about it. So more of them took it in turns to go and visit the Germans. The officer commanding would not allow more than three men at a time.
I went out myself on Christmas Day and exchanged some cigarettes for cigars, and this game had been going on from Christmas Eve till midnight on Boxing Day without a single round being fired. The German I met had been a waiter in London and could use our language a little. He says they didn't want to fight and I think he was telling the truth as we are not getting half so many bullets as usual. I know this statement will take a bit of believing but it is absolutely correct. Fancy a German shaking your flapper as though he were trying to smash your fingers, and then a few days later trying to plug you. I hardly knew what to think about it, but I fancy they are working up a big scheme so that they can give us a doing, but our chaps are prepared, and I am under the impression they will get more than they bargained for." The Royal Welsh get a Barrel of Beer Captain C. I. Stockwell, Royal Welsh Fusiliers
"I think I and my Company have just spent one of the most curious Christmas Days we are ever likely to see. It froze hard on Christmas Eve, and in the morning there was a thick ground-fog. I believe I told you the Saxons opposite had been shouting in English. Strict orders had been issued that there was to be no fraternizing on Christmas day. About 1.30 p.m., having seen our men get their Christmas dinners, we went into our shelter to get a meal. The sergeant on duty suddenly ran in and said the fog had lifted and that half-a-dozen Saxons were standing on their parapet without arms. I ran out into the trench and found that all the men were holding their rifles at the ready on the parapet, and that the Saxons were shouting, "Don't shoot. We don't want to fight today. We will send you some beer." A cask was hoisted onto the parapet and three men started to roll it into the middle of No-Man's Land. A lot more Saxons then appeared without arms. Things were getting a bit thick. My men were getting a bit excited, and the Saxons kept shouting to them to come out.
We did not like to fire as they were all unarmed, but we had strict orders and someone might have fired, so I climbed over the parapet and shouted, in my best German, for the opposing Captain to appear. Our men were all chattering and saying, "The Captain's going to speak to them."
A German officer appeared and walked out into the middle of No-Man's Land, so I moved out to meet him, amidst the cheers of both sides. We met and formally saluted. He introduced himself as Count Something-or-other and seemed a very decent fellow. He could not talk a word of English. He then called out to his subalterns and formally introduced them, with much clicking of heels and saluting. They were all very well turned out, while I was in a goatskin coat. One of the subalterns could talk a few words of English, but not enough to carry on a conversation.
I said to the German captain, "My orders are to keep my men in the trench and allow no armistice. Don't you think it's dangerous, all your men running about in the open like this? Someone may open fire." He called out an order and all his men went back to their parapet ,leaving me and the five German officers and the barrel of beer in the middle of No-Man's Land. He then said, "My orders are the same as yours, but could we not have a truce from shooting today? We don't want to shoot, do you?" I said, "No, we certainly don't want to shoot, but I have my orders to obey." So then we agreed not to shoot until the following morning, when I was to signal that we were going to begin.
He said, "You had better take the beer. We have lots." So I called up two men to take the barrel to our side. As we had lots of plum-puddings I sent for one and formally presented it to him in exchange for the beer.
He then called out,"Waiter," and a German Private whipped out six glasses and two bottles of beer, and with much bowing and saluting we solemnly drank it amid cheers from both sides. We then all formally saluted and returned to our lines. Our men had sing-songs, ditto the enemy.
December 26th He played the game. Not a shot all night and never tried to touch his wire or anything. There was a hard frost. At 8.30 I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with "Merry Christmas" on it and I climbed on the parapet. He put up a sheet with "ThankYou" on it, and the German captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots into the air, and the War was on again."
How 2/Lieut. Drummond got his Photograph - 2nd. Lieutenant Cyril Drummond, 135th Battery, Royal Field Artillery.
"On Boxing Day we walked up to the village of St. Yvon where the observation post was. I soon discovered that places where we were usually shot at were quite safe. There were the two sets of front trenches only a few yards apart, and yet there were soldiers, both British and German, standing on top of them, digging or repairing the trench in some way, without ever shooting at each other. It was an extraordinary situation.
In the sunken road I met an officer I knew, and we walked along together so that we could look across to the German front line, which was only about seventy yards away. One of the Germans waved to us and said, "Come over here!" We said, "You come over here if you want to talk." So he climbed out of his trench and came over towards us. We met and very gravely saluted each other. He was joined by more Germans, and some of the Dublin Fusiliers from our own trenches came over to join us. No German officer came out, it was only the ordinary soldiers. We talked, mainly in French, because my German was not very good and none of the Germans could speak English well. But we managed to get together all right. One of them said, "We don't want to kill you and you don't want to kill us, so why shoot?"
They gave me some German tobacco and German cigars - they seemed to have plenty of those, and very good ones too - and they asked whether we had any jam. One of the Dublin Fusiliers got a tin of jam which had been opened, but very little taken out, and he gave it to a German who gave him two cigars for it. I lined them all up and took a photograph"
and Germans - No-Man's Land, Christmas Day, 1914
(Probably) the most well-known Account Captain Sir Edward Hulse, Bart., 2nd Scots Guards
"At 8.30 a.m. I was looking out and saw four Germans leave their
trenches and come towards us. I told two of my men to go and meet them, unarmed, as the Germans were unarmed, and to see that they did not pass the half-way line. We were 350 - 400 yards apart at this point. My fellows were not very keen, not knowing what was up, so I went out alone and met Barry, one of our ensigns, also coming out from another part of the line. By the time we got to them, they were three-quarters of the way over, and much too near our barbed wire, so I moved them back. They were three private soldiers and a stretcher-bearer, and their spokesman started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a Happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce.
He came from Suffolk, where he had left his best girl and a three-and-a-half horsepower motor-bike. He told me that he could not get a letter to the girl, and wanted to send one through me. I made him write out a post card, in English, in front of me, and I sent it off that night. I told him that she probably would not be a bit keen to see him again.
We then entered on a long discussion on every sort of thing. I was dressed in an old stocking-cap and a man's overcoat, and they took me for a corporal, a thing which I did not discourage, as I had an eye to going as near their lines as possible. I asked them what orders they had from their officers as to coming over to us, and they said none; they had just come over out of goodwill.
I kept it up for half-an-hour and then escorted them back as far as their barbed wire, having a jolly good look round all the time, and picking up various little bits of information which I had not had an opportunity of doing under fire.
I left instructions with them that if any of them came out later they must not come over the half-way line, and appointed a ditch as the meeting-place. We parted after an exchange of Albany cigarettes and German cigars, and I went straight to HQ to report.
On my return at 10.00 a.m. I was surprised to hear a hell of a din going on, and not a single man in my trenches; they were completely denuded (against my orders) and nothing lived. I head strains of "Tipperary" floating down the breeze, swiftly follwed by a tremendous burst of "Deutschland Uber Alles," and, as I got to my own Company HQ dugout, I saw, to my amazement, not only a crowd of about 150 British and Germans, at the halfway house which I had appointed opposite my lines, but six or seven such crowds, all the way down our lines, extending towards the 8th Division on our right.
I hustled out and asked if there were any German officers in my crowd, and the noise died down. (At this time I was myself in my own cap and badges of rank.) I found two, but had to speak to them through an interpreter, as they could talk neither English nor French. I explained to them that strict orders must be maintained as to meeting half-way, and everyone unarmed; and we both agreed not to fire until the other did, thereby creating a complete deadlock and armistice (if strictly observed.)
Meanwhile, Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged, addresses given and received, photos of families shown etc. One of our fellow offered a German a cigarette; the German said, "Virginian?" Our fellow said, "Aye, straight-cut." The German said, "No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!" (Sort of 10 shillings a hundred man, me. It gave us all a good laugh.) The Border Regiment was occupying this section on Christmas Day and Giles Loder, our Adjutant, went down there with a party that morning on hearing of the friendly demonstrations in front of my Company, to see if he could come to an agreement about our dead, who were still lying out between the trenches. The trenches are so close at this point, that of course each side had to be far stricter. Well, he found an extremely pleasant and superior stamp of German officer who arranged to bring all our dead to the half-way line. We took them over there, and buried 29 exactly half-way between the two lines. Giles collected all personal effects, pay-books and identity discs, but was stopped by the Germans when he told some men to bring in the rifles; all rifles lying on their side they had kept carefully.
They apparently treated our prisoners well, and did all they could for our wounded. this officer kept on pointing to our dead and saying, "Les braves, c'est bien dommage."
When George heard of it he went down to that section and talked to the nice officer and gave him a scarf. That same evening a German orderly came to the half-way line, and brought a pair of warm, wooly gloves as a present in return for George."
-- Old Git (email@example.com), December 25, 1999
-- Ron Schwarz (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 25, 1999.
The petty and churlish name callings and "outings" on TB2000, are nothing more than childish distractions from a serious issue. There is no "war" here. There is no territory or turf to be defended or won. If you desire for this foolishness to end then the best thing you can do is set a mature example and simply walk away from the silliness.
-- Good Will (Pe@ce.on.earth), December 25, 1999.
"Goodwill," you must have missed the strafing by trolls today. The point of this thread is that if WWI combatants could rest over Christmas, surely the trolls can, for pity's sake, and leave the sysops to enjoy their Christmas Day.
-- Old Git (email@example.com), December 25, 1999.
Hi, Sock Puppet!
Can't throttle that mouth of yours, can you?
Fancy that, here it is, Christmas Day, and a trolling sock puppet has to crawl out from under a rock to make an unprovoked attack on me.
The irony, is that Herr Sock calls itself "Good Will (Pe@ce.on.earth)"
Stuff it, Sockley. If that's your idea of "good will", then I assure you, you won't want to find out MY idea of "one good turn deserves another".
As to the rest of your rant, I can only presume you're making a barely-veiled-at-all reference to the two threads in which I dusted your pal/self/hand (sorry, Sockley, my S-Ray glasses are at the laundry today).
To which I say, 1) how STUPID of you to NOT let sleeping dogs lay, 2) 'twas YOUR STOOGE who started things by taking a couple of cheap -- and *bogus* -- shots at ME and my WIFE, in the lamest, most self- defeating CYA move I've *ever* seen in my life. It was good ol' Stan the Certified Do-Gooder who (typical of do-gooders) stabbed me in the back to cover his own ass.
I was sitting there minding my own damned business, when I open up a thread, and *blam*, right between my eyes.
Well, guess what, Sockley -- I don't take that kind of sh*t. From ANYONE.
Keep pushing, and I'll put the WHOLE sorry story (yeah, there's *more* that I've spared this forum from) on a website. And I'll seed every stinkin' search engine from here to hell and back. You can rest assured, my light won't be hiding under any bushel basket.
So go ahead, pal. Push. See what it gets you.
Oh, and by the way, you pathetic *paranoid* sock: I was replying to Old Git's post, not to you, your hand, or your sockmaster.
I guess it's true what they say about a guilty conscience needing no accuser. But thanks anyway for reminding us of it.
Now get back in the sock drawer, O Brave Nameless Sock.
-- Ron Schwarz (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 25, 1999.
Merry Christmas (or should I say Mewwy Christmas?) and may we all have a peaceful, blessed New Year!
-- Deb M. (email@example.com), December 25, 1999.
What a bizarre thread.
-- a sad story & then (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 25, 1999.
You skipped a beat. You meant to say, "a sad story & then an unprovoked attack, and then a sick of this crap reply, and then (email@example.com) chimed in."
-- Ron Schwarz (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 25, 1999.
Missed out of these fascinating accounts is the fact that news of this fraternization, which had spread the entire length of the front line as Christmas Day progressed, so terrified the British General Staff that they gave orders to the Royal Artillery to lay a barrage down the length of the British front, on the pretext that the 'dastardly Hun' were mounting a surprise attack on unsuspecting British troops. The Gunners sprang to it, unaware that their shells went whistling off to land in the midst of Tommies and Fritzes who were engaged in nothing more combative than comparing pictures of their wives, girlfriends, and sweethearts. But that effectively put an end to the possibility that the war itself might end! From that point onward, it became - for the first time in the British Army's long history - an offense to 'fraternize with the enemy.'
-- John Whitley (email@example.com), December 26, 1999.
John, despite checking through innumerable sites thrown up by serching on "Christmas Truce 1914," I couldn't find any reference to the abrupt and tragic end of the truce, as you describe. (I did find, however, a smudgy remark to the effect that only the Infantry were involved in the truce, not the Artillery.) I wonder if you would be kind enough to provide a source or two where I could read about the barrage? Having grown up hearing first-hand and news reports of the truce, and it becoming part of the fabric of British culture, I would be most obliged to learn more about such a General Staff decision.
I did come across this BBC account, which lends more emphasis to my original point--that even in the midst of the vilest of all appalling conditions, humaneness emerged to preserve Christmas as a special day of goodwill.
Monday, November 2, 1998 Published at 10:30 GMT
The Christmas truce
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? Historian Malcolm Brown separates fact from fantasy.
The Christmas truce of 1914 really happened. It is as much a part of the historical texture of World War I 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. Or, assuming anything of the kind occurred, it has been seen as a minor incident, blown up out of all proportion, natural fodder for sentimentalists and pacifists of later generations.
But the truce did take place, and on some far greater scale than has been generally realised. Enemy really did meet enemy between the trenches. There was for a time, genuine peace in No Man's Land. Though Germans and British were the main participants, French and Belgians took part as well. Most of those involved agreed it was a remarkable way to spend Christmas. "Just you think," wrote one British soldier, "that while you were eating your turkey, etc, I was out talking and shaking hands with the very men I had been trying to kill a few hours before! It was astounding!"
"It was a day of peace in war," commented a German participant, "It is only a pity that it was not decisive peace."
So the Christmas Truce is no legend. It is not surprising, however, given the standard popular perception of World War I, that this supreme instance of "All Quiet on the Western Front" has come to have something of a legendary quality. People who would normally dismiss that far off conflict of their grandfathers in the century's teens as merely incomprehensible, find reassurance, even a kind of hope, in the Christmas truce.
This was not, however, a unique occurrence in the history of war. Though it surprised people at the time - and continues to do so today - it was a resurgence of a long established tradition.
Informal truces and small armistices have often taken place during prolonged periods of fighting and the military history of the last two centuries, in particular, abounds with incidents of friendship between enemies.
In the Peninsula War British and French Troops at times visited each others lines, drew water at the same wells and even sat around the same campfire sharing their rations and playing cards.
In the Crimean War British, French and Russians at quiet times also gathered around the same fire, smoking and drinking. In the American Civil War Yankees and Rebels traded tobacco, coffee and newspapers, fished peacefully on opposite sides of the same stream and even collected wild blackberries together. Similar stories are told of the Boer War, in which on one occasion, during a conference of commanders, the rank and file of both sides engaged in a friendly game of football.
Later wars too have their small crop of such stories. It is rare for a conflict at close quarters to continue very long without some generous gestures between enemies or an upsurge in the 'live and let live' spirit. So the Christmas truce of 1914 does not stand alone; on the other hand it is undoubtedly the greatest example of its kind.
There are certain misapprehensions regarding the Christmas truce. One widely held assumption is that only ordinary soldiers took part in it; that it was, as it were, essentially a protest of cannon-fodder, Private Tommy and Musketier Fritz throwing aside the assumptions of conventional nationalism and thumbing their noses at those in authority over them.
In fact, in many cases, NCOs and officers joined in with equal readiness, while others truces were initiated and the terms of armistice agreed at 'parleys' of officers between the trenches.
There is also some evidence that while some generals angrily opposed the truce, others tolerated it and indeed saw some advantage in allowing events to take their own course while never for a moment doubting that eventually the war would resume in full earnest.
One other misapprehension about the truce calls for rebuttal. There has grown up a belief, even among aficionados of World War I, that the Christmas truce was considered to be so disgraceful and event, one so against the prevailing mood of the time, that all knowledge of it was withheld from the public at home until the war was over.
In fact, the truce was fully publicised from the moment news of it reached home. Throughout January 1915 numerous local and national newspapers in Britain printed letter after letter from soldiers who took part; in addition they ran eye-catching headlines ("Extraordinary Unofficial Armistice", "British, Indians and Germans shake hands"), and even printed photographs of the Britons and Germans in No Man's Land. Germany also gave the event press publicity, though on a smaller scale and for a shorter period of time.
Publishing a year later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his history of 1914 called the Christmas truce "an amazing spectacle" and in a memorable description, saluted it as "one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war".
The phrase sums up the attraction of the truce: it is the human dimension which means that this relatively obscure event in the fifth month of a 52-month war is still remembered and will continue to catch the imagination.
In a century in which our conception of war has changed fundamentally, from the cavalry charge and the flash of sabres to the Exocet, the cruise missile and the Trident submarine, the fact that in 1914 some thousands of the fighting men of the belligerent nations met and shook hands between their trenches strikes a powerful and appealing note. It is perhaps the best and most heartening Christmas story of modern times.
Adapted from the book Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton
-- Old Git (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 26, 1999.