Christmas truce

From Academic Kids

The so-called "Christmas truce" began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, during World War I, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting holiday greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land", where small gifts were exchanged — whisky, cigars, and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respect. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm:

"The lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures. He leaveth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his namesake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."

The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there is a perhaps apocryphal story of a football match between the opposing forces, which ended when the ball struck a strand of barbed wire and deflated.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day.

British commanders Sir John French and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien vowed that no such truce would be allowed again. In all of the following years of the war, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to ensure that there were no further lulls in the combat. Troops were also rotated through various sectors of the front to prevent them from becoming overly familiar with the enemy. Despite those measurements there were a few friendly encounters between enemy soldiers, but on a much smaller scale than the previous year.

During Easter 1916 a similar truce existed on the Eastern Front.

In 1999, the so-called "Khaki Chums" (officially: The Association for Military Remembrance) visited a region of Flanders and recreated the Christmas truce. They lived as the World War I British soldiers had lived, with no modern conveniences.

A number of books have been written on the Christmas Truce, including Stanley Weintraub's Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce, which chronicles the event itself from first hand accounts.

The Christmas Truce has often been characterized as the last "twitch" of the 20th century: it was the last moment when in war, two sides would meet each other in proper and mutual respect for one another; when they would greet each other with kindness to show that — in spite of the horrible turn of events that had unfolded — they were still honourable and respectful soldiers of war.

Similar events are depicted in William Wharton's autobiographical novel of World War II, A Midnight Clear (ISBN 1557042578, filmed in 1992). The truce is also depicted in the video for Sir Paul McCartney's 1983 hit song Pipes of Peace.

External links

it:Tregua di Natale pl:Rozejm bożonarodzeniowy


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