By December 1914, both sides had been living in the trenches for nearly five months and it was clear that the war wasn’t going to be ‘over by Christmas’ as had been predicted by many people.
Soldiers were becoming increasingly frustrated at the horrible conditions and the terrible wounds and deaths that had occurred to soldiers from all the nations involved.
And then, beginning on Christmas eve, an almost miraculous event occurred when all across the area known as ‘The Western Front’ soldiers from both sides started to sing Christmas carols to each across the trenches.
From across no-man’s land, the British, French and Belgium soldiers heard the Germans singing the carol ‘Stille Nacht’, before joining them with the English version ‘ Silent night’ that we still sing today.
This soon led to some amusing conversations, with British soldiers shouting greetings such as ‘Good evening Fritz,’ and German soldiers replying ‘Good evening Tommy,’ until eventually on Christmas morning 1914, soldiers all across the Western Front started to emerge and shake hands with their enemy.
Although this was never properly organised, many soldiers took part and some even exchanged gifts with their fellow soldiers, even though they were fighting for different sides. There were even several famous football matches, with soldiers playing for their own country among the shell holes and mud of no-man’s land!
After a few days, the Generals from both sides heard what had been happening and ordered this ‘fraternisation’ to stop and for the guns to start shooting again, but even then, many soldiers deliberately aimed above their enemy’s heads until eventually the terrible war resumed again.
However, not all men wanted to restart the fighting, such as one German soldier who spent several days drunk in the British trenches and demanded to be taken prisoner so he didn’t have to go back and fight his new friends (which of course they happily agreed with).