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(1914-1918) WWI
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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/17/2019 11:59:23 AM

We know about the Christmas Truce of 1914. Why didn't it happen again? Were the men that much afraid of the orders from higher up. Were most of the soldiers dead or off the lines with wounds that the newcomers didn't have the same closeness with the enemy? Or was the combat of 1915 so nasty with the introduction of gas, the fighting like what happened at Loos, that the feelings that brought on the Christmas Truce was dead and buried in No Man's Land?
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
kaii
Oslo
 Norway
Posts: 2803
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/17/2019 1:20:12 PM

There were local Christmas truces also in 1915, but after that I am not sure.

[Read More]

I think perhaps a combination of harsh punishment, as well as demonisation of the enemy had changed the mood dramatically since 1914.

K
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I’m not worried about the Third World War. That’s the Third World’s problem.
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/17/2019 2:53:29 PM

While notable, the Christmas Truce of 1914 was not complete. Shelling continued. Men died on Christmas day.
There were no Canadians in the line who experienced that truce but by the next year 1915, some were anticipating that perhaps it would happen again. A lot had happened since that truce in 1914 including the infamous gas attack during 2nd Ypres. The Canadians had lost a good number of men but managed to plug the gap in April.

I would guess that all of the soldiers had been watching friends die for over a year and that some were hardened by that.

Senior officers could not countenance fraternization lest it weaken resolve.


Quote:
“We had strict orders to hold no parley with the enemy should he make any advances.

But in spite of this warning, when Fritz called over ‘Merry Christmas Canadians", our sentries bobbed up their heads and returned the compliment.
. Lance Cpl George D'All, Dec. 24, 1915

Read the rest of the story below.

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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/17/2019 2:53:45 PM

While notable, the Christmas Truce of 1914 was not complete. Shelling continued. Men died on Christmas day.
There were no Canadians in the line who experienced that truce but by the next year 1915, some were anticipating that perhaps it would happen again. A lot had happened since that truce in 1914 including the infamous gas attack during 2nd Ypres. The Canadians had lost a good number of men but managed to plug the gap in April.

I would guess that all of the soldiers had been watching friends die for over a year and that some were hardened by that.

Senior officers could not countenance fraternization lest it weaken resolve.


Quote:
“We had strict orders to hold no parley with the enemy should he make any advances.

But in spite of this warning, when Fritz called over ‘Merry Christmas Canadians", our sentries bobbed up their heads and returned the compliment.
. Lance Cpl George D'All, Dec. 24, 1915

Read the rest of the story below.

[Read More]

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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/17/2019 3:57:50 PM

So there were severe punishments by 1915. Understand the 1914 Christmas truce wasn't all along the front. Was there any with the French troops? Eastern Front?
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/17/2019 5:10:43 PM

Apparently the truce happened mostly in the British and Commonwealth sector.

The French, with about 1/3 of the country occupied by German troops were disinclined to be magnanimous. The treatment of Belgian and French citizens had been harsh as well and that did not endear the Germans to the French people.

And I read that the Russians were operating on the old Julian calendar in 1914 and so Dec. 24/25 was not important to them although there was at least one incident of fraternization.
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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/17/2019 8:50:58 PM

makes total sense
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Jim Cameron
Ossining
NY USA
Posts: 914
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/18/2019 7:49:32 PM

I suspect that the 1914 truce wasn't repeated because it was so much the exception to the norm as to be unique and all but unrepeatable. It might happen once, early on, but attitudes and discipline hardened, it became simply a quaint vestige of the past.
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Jim Cameron Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/18/2019 10:35:38 PM

i heard that the British tommies thought the Bavarians were the most civilized of the German Army with the Saxons being the friendliest. They hated the Prussians and the feeling was felt by others. Once as the Saxons withdrew and were replaced by Prussians, the Saxons yelled across for the Tommies to keep their heads down and to give the Prussians hell. Different troops different feelings
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Brian Grafton
Victoria
BC Canada
Posts: 3203
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/18/2019 10:58:56 PM

Different war, different values. In 1914 it was an "old style" war, with armies acting out political/cultural/social differences. But even with the sparse truces which occurred on Xmas 1914, the need for the non-fighting contingents of the war (probably on all sides) to destroy any concept that the poor bastards actually fighting the war didn't hate each other.

France and Belgium had territorial issues to deal with once the trench war began. Britain and Germany had lost no territory whatsoever. Maybe that's why they were prepared, even as late as Xmas 1914, to kick a ball around and exchange trinkets and mementos. I would expect that, as the various "K's" were fed into the pot, and the meaning of how broad this war might become was more apparent, it became more and more important politically and militarily for all sides to dehumanize and "unfriend" the enemy.

I would argue that Xmas 1914 was the last marker of pre-total war. It was well-meant, and it was human, and it was totally unacceptable behaviour according to those whose war involved moving markers on their boards.

I recognize I'm probably off the standard grid when I suggest that the 1914 truce was the norm for the time, perhaps because the men on both sides were "professionals" or "old lags" or whatever "civilian" terms might be applied. It was the amateurs – "frocks" on all sides, young officers who had "bought" their commissions, and civil servants who personally defined regulations and activities to suit their own purpose.

Cheers
Brian G
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"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 5:04:09 AM

December 1914 was a horrible month on the Western Front : well, of course, all months there were....but the weather, the primitive conditions in the recently constructed trenches, and, above all, some really lethal local fighting conspired to make it memorably grim.

Here’s an interesting account from Lt General Sir William Marshall, who was at the time battalion commander in the BEF. He exemplifies the outlook of the British officer class in that time of the war. A hard bitten professional with a long record of service, and very much a front line warrior.

On Christmas Eve the Germans declared a truce and a certain amount of fraternization took place with the East Lancashire , who were then in the trenches. Dilworth’s and Walters’s bodies were brought in and handed over to the East Lancashire, who kindly brought them down to the Headquarters , where we reverently buried them in the orchard.

Note the implication that the Germans brought these officers’ bodies in. The number of British officers killed in this December fighting was remarkably high. The fighting was at close quarters, with men of higher rank taking a disproportionately high fatality rate : this testifies to sniping and the determination of british officers to be conspicuous in their presence in the trenches. I wonder if this kind of combat engendered a bond of sympathy that went hand in hand with murderous hatred....the two impulses in conflict and being exemplified alternately.

Now take a look at this passage a few pages further on :

I have alluded to the Christmas fraternization, and before relieving the East Lancashire , on the night of Christmas Day, I cautioned all my company commanders against allowing such a thing. I told them that if the Germans came out of their trenches next morning they were to be warned that if they did not get under cover they would be fired on ; if that warning was not sufficient , a few shots were to be fired over their heads, and that if that was ineffectual, they were to be fired on.

Next morning out came the Boches. They protested loudly on being told to get back into their trenches, and it needed some shots fired over their heads to make them finally realize that we were in earnest. I was glad that I had given such orders, because that day almost similar instructions came from Army Headquarters.


Note the use of the word “ fraternization “ instead of “ truce” in terms of the Christmas arrangement, although he uses the word “ truce” when the Germans brought in the dead officers. There were a lot of bodies to be buried : between 20 and 27 December 1914, 1,739 British and Indian dead are recorded in the archives of the CWGC for the Western Front., implying several battle thousand casualties, along with additional high wastage from sickness, nervous collapse and frostbite.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 6:57:46 AM

With the large number of dead recorded at that time, does the Christmas Truce fall into the category of myth? Or it is the last grasp of Victorian Era trying to make sense of what was becoming such a terrible experience? Home before the leaves fall and all that. They were staring into a great abyss, right on the edge but couldn't step back.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 11:05:48 AM

Quote:
With the large number of dead recorded at that time, does the Christmas Truce fall into the category of myth? Or it is the last grasp of Victorian Era trying to make sense of what was becoming such a terrible experience? Home before the leaves fall and all that. They were staring into a great abyss, right on the edge but couldn't step back.



It definitely happened . It’s certainly an important part of the folklore of the Great War : is the word “ myth” appropriate ? People tend to use the word “myth” to imply exaggeration or invention, some form of distortion.
I need to check what that word “ myth” really means !

Truce attendant on the burial of the dead has been a recurrent theme in warfare. It happened in the American Civil War at Kenesaw Mountain and in many other places . One of the most famous examples occurred at Gallipoli, after the repulse of a Turkish counter attack left thousands of corpses putrefying in no man’s land in May 1915. There was a degree of fraternization in both these examples : also, I must say, the weather was hot and the stench of the battlefield was becoming unbearable , so the truces were making a virtue of necessity.

I wonder if the same can be applied to the Christmas Truce of 1914. Maybe the mutual agreement to recover and bury the dead was accompanied by an impulse to mark the “ Yuletide “. But, it must be said, the freezing weather did not imply the ghastly charnel house stench that the warmer seasons afflicted soldiers with.
At the risk of being lurid, I wonder if many of the dead had lain there for weeks after the savage Ypres battles of October and November , and the onset of cold weather rendered the task of recovery less revolting. At the first chance, it might have been decided to get the task accomplished then and there, even if the hard ground made burial harder work.

Practicality versus sentiment : with the Christmas spirit lending a special flavour.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 11:26:59 AM

Perhaps "myth" was the wrong word. We know it it happened but looking back 'through the glass darkly" we have given more to it, a last look as a part of a 'civilized' war, where they could still have Christmas truces, wish the opponent Good Will and Peace on Earth.
Men were already being killed at a rate that was truly mindboggling and it would only get worse in 1915 and beyond.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 12:46:34 PM

John,

Here's a rather nice rendition of affairs as given by none other than Arthur Conan Doyle, made all the more pertinent - and poignant - by virtue of the fact that this was written in the middle of the Great War itself, in October 1916.

From the British Campaign in France and Flanders, 1914 :

…..Christmas brought about something like fraternisation between British and Germans, who found a sudden and extraordinary link in that ancient tree worship, long anterior to Christianity, which Saxon tribes had practised in the depths of Germanic forests and still commemorated by their candle-lit firs. For a single day the opposing forces mingled in friendly conversation and even in games. It was an amazing spectacle, and must arouse bitter thoughts concerning those high-born conspirators against the peace of the world, who in their mad ambition had hounded such men on to take each other by the throat rather than by the hand. For a day there was comradeship. But the case had been referred to the God of Battles, and the doom had not yet been spoken. It must go to the end. On the morning of the 26th dark figures vanished reluctantly into the earth, and the rifles cracked one more. It remains one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 12:58:15 PM

Quote:

Men were already being killed at a rate that was truly mindboggling and it would only get worse in 1915 and beyond.


The actual rate of killing in 1914 was so awful that I doubt if it was rivalled, let alone surpassed. In just five months France lost three hundred thousand killed, and the best part of one million casualties all told.
German, Russian and Austro Hungarian losses were immense, in excess of one million each. The little British contingent suffered proportionately catastrophic casualties, as did the Serbian and Belgian forces.

I think that 1915 might have been the year with the highest total number : but, assessed on a monthly basis, I reckon 1914 was the record holder.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Jim Cameron
Ossining
NY USA
Posts: 914
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 1:03:42 PM

The way Marshall's account reads, the "truce" declared by the Germans wasn't necessarily to have included "fraternization" of the sort that ended up taking place. It sounds more like a truce agreed to by both sides to allow collection of the wounded and dead (or at least, higher ranking dead), which was certainly not unheard of in past conflicts, which might involve a degree of contact by collection parties from both sides, but not normally full scale fraternization. It all sounds like an otherwise routine - by the standards of previous conflicts, anyway - truce that got out of hand.
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Jim Cameron Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 2:00:19 PM

As I stated it seems the Saxon and Bavarian units were in the sections where a lot of this took place. I saw "They Shall Not Grow Old" last night at the local movies. Outstanding and amazing film. In it the Bavarians and Saxons come off well. Some footage of German POWs and how they pitched in to help. As part of the code that may have explained the Christmas truce, it appears that POWs were well treated for the most part when brought into enemy lines.
I'm not including the actual frenzy of combat in the trenches where the rule was "Kill or be killed." Yes machine gunners were shot out of hand
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 2:09:02 PM

I saw "They Shall Not Grow Old" as well. Highly recommended.

Re: POW helping. I presume that you refer to the German soldiers assisting wounded and carrying stretchers of allied soldiers.

Tim Cook is an historian who has studied the psychology of surrender and he would say that chances for a man to live once he tried to surrender depended upon timing. If a section had attacked an MG emplacement and lost men doing it, and the MG team may have waited until the last second to have raised their hands to surrender, then the likelihood of survival was quite low. They would have been killed out of hand.

Some prisoners were also killed as they were escorted to the rear or even if they had been ordered to walk to the rear without escort. Angry soldiers would simply shoot them.

So the act of carrying a wounded enemy or his stretcher was often a means to ensure safe travel to the RAP and then captivity.

Cheers,

George
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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 2:31:08 PM

Many Germans upon surrendering were told simply "Go to the Rear." and pointed where to head. This cause a problem as German artillery fire would cover the ground between the lines to prevent reinforcements to be sent forward to the advancing foe. It was a risk not everyone would take.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 2:52:13 PM

If an advance was very quick and the men were keeping up with the barrage, it was possible that they would over run a position and go past it. German soldiers would then appear from dug-outs and begin shooting at the backs of the advancing soldiers.

Once that was realized, the British and Commonwealth units employed mop-up units that followed the main attack. They would kill or take prisoner any Germans who were still able to fight after their trench systems were over run.

There were instances when the captured Germans who had been ordered to the rear, were killed by these mop up units.

The following is an article by historian Tim Cook. I misquoted his study. It was not the Psychology of Surrender but the Politics of Surrender. When I read it, it seems to me that either title would have been apt.

[Read More]

Cook is Canadian and part of his motivation to research the killing of POW was because Canadian soldiers were often accused by the Germans of shooting prisoners. That tale is nuanced of course.

Cheers,

George

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scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2778
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 3:34:16 PM

Quote:
France and Belgium had territorial issues to deal with once the trench war began. Britain and Germany had lost no territory whatsoever. Maybe that's why they were prepared, even as late as Xmas 1914, to kick a ball around and exchange trinkets and mementos. Cheers Brian G


Not quite true Brian. In August 1914 the Russians had invaded East Prussia. The tens of thousands of refugees pouring out of East Prussia not only angered the Kaiser. Tsarist Russia was considered a backward uncivilised barbaric land. Even many french republicans were unhappy with the alliance. The wholesale destruction meted out by the Russians and their treatment of the populace seemed to confirm this impression. Much is made about the destruction of Louvain but the destruction of Allenstein is barely given a thought. That, in the eyes of the german population, France and Britain had set the russian barbarians on them made them not too sympathetic about the treatment of the french population.

[Read More]

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 4:41:25 PM

But the British had a better propaganda machine and a sympathetic audience in the US
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/19/2019 5:34:29 PM

Quote:
The way Marshall's account reads, the "truce" declared by the Germans wasn't necessarily to have included "fraternization" of the sort that ended up taking place. It sounds more like a truce agreed to by both sides to allow collection of the wounded and dead (or at least, higher ranking dead), which was certainly not unheard of in past conflicts, which might involve a degree of contact by collection parties from both sides, but not normally full scale fraternization. It all sounds like an otherwise routine - by the standards of previous conflicts, anyway - truce that got out of hand.


A very plausible interpretation , I reckon.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/21/2019 6:41:43 PM


Courtesy of Imperial War Museums
The Canadian Expeditionary Forces 24th Battalion recorded their experience. “Early in the afternoon shelling and rifle fire ceased completely and soon German soldiers were seen lifting heads and shoulders cautiously over the parapet of their front line trench. Encouraged by the fact that no fire was opened by the men of the 24th, a number of Germans climbed over the top, advanced in No Man’s Land, and, making signs of friendship, invited the Canadians to join them and celebrate the occasion. Regulations frowned on such action, but curiosity proved strong, and a group of Canadians, including a number from the 24th Battalion, moved out to see what the enemy looked like at close range. Conversation proved difficult at first, but a number of the Germans spoke English fluently and others, having rehearsed for the occasion, one must judge, endeavored to establish their benevolence by constant repetition of the phrase, “Kaiser no damn good.” For nearly an hour the unofficial peace was prolonged, the Canadians presenting the Germans with cigarettes and foodstuffs and receiving in return buttons, badges, and several bottles of most excellent beer. By this time, news of the event had reached authority, and peremptory orders were issued to the Canadians in No Man’s Land to return to their own line forthwith. When all had reported back, a salvo of artillery fire, aimed carefully to burst at a spot where no harm to friend or foe would result, warned the Germans that the truce was over and that hostilities had been resumed…For some days after Christmas comparative quiet prevailed in the front line, but soon activity increased and the Battalion’s losses indicated that normal trench warfare conditions again existed.”
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/21/2019 9:59:08 PM

Interesting John. 1915, I presume?
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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 7:04:22 AM

The article I pulled it from did not date it but included it in a story about the 1914 Christmas truce. The source given was the Imperial War Museum, Canadian file.
We mentioned the Commonwealth troops but the French also seemed to have a truce between the lines. Three Bavarian units, the 12th, 15th and 20th mention a truce in the Somme section where the French were.
The following gets support to the statement by some the truce was simply an opportunity to gather up the dead and clean up the battlefield
Captain Hugh Taylor from the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards led his company in an attack near Rouges Bancs on December 18-19, 1914. His troops succeeded in pushing back German soldiers and occupying their trenches. While returning alone to the British trenches to report, Taylor was caught in machine-gun fire and killed instantly. For nearly a week, his body lay near the German line. During the informal Christmas Truce, soldiers from both sides collected the dead and brought their bodies to the center space between their respective lines. They dug two trenches and buried British soldiers in one and German soldiers in the other. An English Chaplain conducted a service. Afterward, the soldiers spent several hours fraternizing with one another. Captain Taylor’s body was carried to a small military graveyard at La Cardoniere Farm and buried.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 7:18:34 AM

Quote:
Quote:
France and Belgium had territorial issues to deal with once the trench war began. Britain and Germany had lost no territory whatsoever. Maybe that's why they were prepared, even as late as Xmas 1914, to kick a ball around and exchange trinkets and mementos. Cheers Brian G


Not quite true Brian. In August 1914 the Russians had invaded East Prussia. The tens of thousands of refugees pouring out of East Prussia not only angered the Kaiser. Tsarist Russia was considered a backward uncivilised barbaric land. Even many french republicans were unhappy with the alliance. The wholesale destruction meted out by the Russians and their treatment of the populace seemed to confirm this impression. Much is made about the destruction of Louvain but the destruction of Allenstein is barely given a thought. That, in the eyes of the german population, France and Britain had set the russian barbarians on them made them not too sympathetic about the treatment of the french population.

[Read More]

Trevor



That’s an excellent piece of work, Trevor.

Alexander Watson rates very highly, I think, in our current array of historians and his special virtue is that he brings the importance of the Central European dimension of the Great War into prominence. He’s just published a well reviewed book about the Siege of Prezyml ( I won’t pretend that I know how to spell it ! ), an episode that is not given the attention that it deserves.

An old memoir is in my possession, written by a soldier who was taken prisoner by the Germans in the Arras battles of May 1917. He endured atrocious ordeals at the hands of some Germans, but also comparable kindnesses from decent people who were residents of East Prussia. One of these residents told him a story about the Russian invasion in the early days of the war :

We got into conversation then and he was telling me what happened in the village when the Russian Cossacks broke into that village. They were very very savage people. He described some of the things they did. They got hold of one of the Germans, they got some ropes, they tied one rope around one arm, a rope around the other arm, round one leg and the other leg and they put each rope onto a horse. When they was all tied up they whipped the horse and they pulled this man to smithereens. He told me “ I saw them do that “.

He said that they burnt and ravaged the place. “ And they went to the village pub and sat there drinking and drinking all they got. They kept sending the landlord down his cellar and fetching up what he’s got and he fetched everything up he could find and he told them , he said ‘ There’s no more, it’s all gone, that is the lot’. And all they done them, they shot him and finished the drink and left him laying on the floor.”

He wouldn’t have told me tales like that if it wasn’t right. They was ever such a nice old couple, they’d had their son killed in the war. That was by us I expect, but he wasn’t bitter against us or anything.


This is from NO HEROES , NO COWARDS. The author was Hastings Mundy, published 1981.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 7:56:45 AM

One more:
Three Americans serving in the Foreign Legion took part in the Christmas Truce. Victor Chapman, Eugene Jacobs, and Phil Rader were in the trenches that day. Rader, a former United Press correspondent, wrote a stirring account of his experience. “For twenty days we had faced that strip of land, forty-five feet wide, between our trench and that of the Germans, that terrible No-Man’s Land, dotted with dead bodies, criss-crossed by tangled masses of barbed wire.” Rader recounted cautiously raising his head. “Other men did the same. We saw hundreds of German heads appearing. Shouts filled the air. What miracle had happened? Men laughed and cheered. There was Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine. There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels. The terror of No-Man’s Land fell away. The sounds of happy voices filled the air.”
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 9:05:54 AM

Quote:
The article I pulled it from did not date it but included it in a story about the 1914 Christmas truce. The source given was the Imperial War Museum, Canadian file.


Hello John, the Canadians began to mobilize as war was declared on Aug. 4 and didn't arrive in Britain until Dec. 1914. Elements of the 1st Division went into the line in Feb. of 1915. So I just presumed that the story of the truce must have occurred in 1915.

Historian Tim Cooke has said that throughout the war, impromptu truces did occur between units.

You may have heard of the "live and let live" system that some units of the British and Commonwealth employed to avoid the wastage that occurred while waiting in trenches between major set piece battles.

Tony Ashworth's book, Trench Warfare, (I haven't read it) explains that units on both sides of the line found ways to communicate with one another and to arrange mini-truces. He alludes to some means whereby a unit in the line would come to some kind of agreement not to shoot if the Germans on the other side agreed to do the same.

This passivity would continue so long as the men could get away with it. But the British higher command would note a lack of action in an area and then order an artillery barrage just to refocus the troops.

The Canadian Corps developed a reputation as excellent and frequent trench raiders. They were good at it but from what I have read, trench raids at night were not a popular thing with the rank and file.
There may have been good reasons to launch a trench raid but one of those reasons was to ensure that there was no complacency and to assure that the fighting spirit and desire to kill was maintained. We can appreciate that soldiers would not be happy if friends died on a trench raid mission that seemed to have no purpose, to them anyway.

Raids helped to counteract the "live and let live" system.

The men weren't trying to subvert the war effort; they were just trying to survive.

In the following article, the author describes the roots of this co-operation. He says that something as simple as a delivery of a hot meal simultaneously on both sides would result in a truce. One German said that after that if they noticed that the British were being fed that it would have been an easy thing to shell the area where the food was being delivered. But they did not, if they could avoid it because they appreciated the opportunity to get their hot meals too.

Quote:
The ethics that developed are illustrated in this incident, related by a British officer recalling his experience while facing a Saxon unit of the German Army.

I was having tea with A Company when we heard a lot of shouting and went out to investigate. We found our men and the Germans standing on their respective parapets. Suddenly a salvo arrived but did no damage. Naturally both sides got down and our men started swearing at the Germans, when all at once a brave German got on to his parapet and shouted out “We are very sorry about that; we hope no one was hurt. It is not our fault, it is that damned Prussian artillery.” (Rutter 1934, p. 29)



[Read More]
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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 10:33:47 AM

"Damn Prussians!"
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 12:17:12 PM

This oft cited “live and let live” endeavour was a conspicuous failure on the Western Front, 1914-18, judging by the toll that was exacted.

We often read about the “ normal wastage” : those long periods of inactivity between the great battles.

That’s quite a chilling phase - “ normal wastage “ - isn’t it ?

I wonder if it’s worth trying to establish what proportion of the millions of casualties in the warfare in France and Flanders were victims of “ normal wastage”, Christmas Truces notwithstanding .

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 1:00:55 PM

It is a chilling phrase, Phil. Most of the set piece battles were preceded by hundreds or thousands of casualties in the days and weeks prior.
It must have been frightening to be in preparation phase knowing that shells could land at any time and snipers on both sides were ready to up their tally. Is it any wonder that the soldiers would prefer to lay low in those "down" times?

cheers,

George
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 5:52:15 PM

George,

The routines of positional warfare were hazardous. Bringing up rations ; the infinite demand for sandbags, and the wiring parties constantly having to maintain and repair the defences ; the cables that kept telephone communication intact were fragile and in need of attention ; even the latrines had to be cared for.....all work that exposed men to the lethal attentions of a vigilant enemy. No wonder that commanders were anxious to limit the time that men spent “ up the line”.
The rotation that allowed the soldiers to get away from the front lines as frequently as possible was absolutely crucial. The physical and psychological strain was intense, and bound to be compounded by those horrible trench raids . Even in rear areas long range enemy artillery fire could exact a toll, and , occasionally , aircraft dropped bombs there. “ Cushy” sectors notwithstanding , the very perpetuation of such routines on such a scale chalked up a staggering casualty toll. For the British armies in France and Flanders, the first half of 1916 was a relatively low key phase as the preparations for the “ Big Push” on the Somme were being made. The Canadians fought a fierce action at Mt Sorrel, and there was a flare up around Vimy Ridge....those were two significant affairs. Other than that, not much is cited in the histories. And yet, in those six months, more than one hundred thousand British and Dominion soldiers were killed or wounded, and, astonishing to relate, the Germans “ sprung” more than five hundred mine explosions under British lines. The proponents of the “ Live and let Live” accounts have some awkward facts to contend with.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 8:26:28 PM

Quote:
George,

The routines of positional warfare were hazardous. Bringing up rations ; the infinite demand for sandbags, and the wiring parties constantly having to maintain and repair the defences ; the cables that kept telephone communication intact were fragile and in need of attention ; even the latrines had to be cared for.....all work that exposed men to the lethal attentions of a vigilant enemy. No wonder that commanders were anxious to limit the time that men spent “ up the line”.
The rotation that allowed the soldiers to get away from the front lines as frequently as possible was absolutely crucial. The physical and psychological strain was intense, and bound to be compounded by those horrible trench raids . Even in rear areas long range enemy artillery fire could exact a toll, and , occasionally , aircraft dropped bombs there. “ Cushy” sectors notwithstanding , the very perpetuation of such routines on such a scale chalked up a staggering casualty toll. For the British armies in France and Flanders, the first half of 1916 was a relatively low key phase as the preparations for the “ Big Push” on the Somme were being made. The Canadians fought a fierce action at Mt Sorrel, and there was a flare up around Vimy Ridge....those were two significant affairs. Other than that, not much is cited in the histories. And yet, in those six months, more than one hundred thousand British and Dominion soldiers were killed or wounded, and, astonishing to relate, the Germans “ sprung” more than five hundred mine explosions under British lines. The proponents of the “ Live and let Live” accounts have some awkward facts to contend with.

Regards, Phil


Thanks Phil. That is an astonishing casualty rate for 6 months of less intense warfare.

I see your point about the "live and let live" theory. It doesn't hold much water when you take a look at the numbers.

Cheers,

George
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/22/2019 9:32:51 PM

Hi Vin,

The battles of 1914 were particularly costly too So I think that there were a lot of reasons to hate one another even in 1914.
The BEF lost a lot of professional soldiers as they attempted to stop the Germans from advancing.

The French were pushed almost to Paris before they managed to stop the Germans and they lost thousands in doing it. 83,000 KIA, I think.

The Germans were accused of some terrible treatment of civilians in Belgium and northern France too.

So that Christmas Truce is hard to explain by saying that they didn't have enough time to develop hatred. It happened of course but not all along the line. I don't believe that the Prussians participated in their area but I could be wrong on that.

You mentioned that the war was fought because of the existence of monarchies. That could be an interesting discussion.

The system of alliances was one factor that contributed to this war starting with countries in agreement that they would support another country if it was attacked. Alliances form between countries irrespective of the type of government.

So I think that nationalism which rears its head under any form of government plus militarism and the system of alliances were more important reasons for that war to begin. All of the nations of Europe had certain objectives and were not trusting of one another.

Did WW1 see the transition from monarchies to republics or more constitutional monarchies?


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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/23/2019 2:28:36 AM

George and Vin,

There was a unique intensity to the opening stage of the Great War, and nowhere more so than in France and Belgium. There has been some discussion about this, with a suggestion that there was a phenomenon called “ First Shock” that imparted something outrageously bloody to the fighting. To a degree, this is easy to account for. The Germans knew they had to win quickly if they were to avoid the dreaded two front war : consequently, they abandoned restraint and their conduct towards Belgian and French civilians transgressed from harsh to downright atrocious. On the battlefield, there was an all or nothing commitment to pressing home the attack that reflected the awareness that this was an existential struggle that needed to be won at the greatest possible speed : this was apparent in French method as well, and the outcome was catastrophic.
There was a singularly awful component to the French casualty list: it contained a grotesquely high proportion of killed. The 83,000 KIA figure you cite, George : please tell me the source. The initial French returns tended to understate the fatalities, because they only posted as KIA those who were confirmed as dead, and leave enormous numbers in the “ missing” (MIA) category. It took a long time before their fate could be confirmed. Many were prisoners, but an appalling number had also been killed. This happened throughout the war - and in other wars too - but in the opening clashes of August and September 1914 it was especially bad in this respect. Without being precise, it’s reasonable to attribute half the total French fatalities of the five months of 1914 ( 300,000) to a period of five weeks between later August and the end of September. I would guess, George, that the figure of 83,000 KIA you cite needs to be doubled in the final reckoning for those few weeks. To put the enormity of the French loss in perspective, it's worth stating that the number of French killed in battle in1914 alone rivalled that of the USA throughout WW2, from a population that was less than one third the size. ………. stupefying. In addition to the dead, there were five or six hundred thousand additional Frenchmen who were wounded or POW.
More than that, I think the extraordinary proportion of killed implies that there was little quarter being given in some of the battles. A lot of badly wounded French were abandoned to a ruthless enemy in a hurry, and I suspect that their fate was grim. The fatal first shock.....this makes the Christmas Truce all the more remarkable : there was, I imagine, a different tenor in the British outlook for reasons that reflect the awful French experience . Not that this should obscure the fact that, in proportionate terms, the casualty rate of the original BEF was catastrophic.
I’ll consult Haig’s diary to see if he alludes to the Christmas of 1914.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/23/2019 4:20:02 AM

Haig's Diary, entry for Thursday, 24 December, 1914 :

Tomorrow being Xmas day, I ordered no reliefs to be carried out, and troops be given as easy a time as possible .

Bold and italics inserted by me.

What's going on here ?

Isn't relief an essential ingredient to the gift of an easy a time as possible ?

The impact on troops not being relieved is easy to imagine.

What ??? !!! No relief ! ! Fuck that !! I've done my bit !....I ain't gunna to do nuffink !

Outraged Tommy Atkins is going to be susceptible to any element of fraternisation offered by an amenable opposite number in the enemy lines.

Editing : on reflection, I ought to acknowledge that the process of relief itself was a tense and dangerous business : but my simplistic and graphic depiction strikes me as plausible, especially with aggrieved soldiers at Christmas,

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Christmas Truce
Posted on: 12/23/2019 7:11:40 AM

Hello Phil, I thought that the 83,000 killed figure was on a UK site called the Great War.

I defer to you on this sort of data, my friend.

Here it is. It took me a while to track it down. Not the Great War site.

Quote:
The armies on both sides of the First Battle of the Marne suffered heavy casualties. The Allies had around 263,000 soldiers wounded including 81,000 that died. Around 220,000 Germans were injured or killed.


I am embarrassed to say that I was surfing through multiple sites actually looking for casualty figures and this came up on a site called Duckster's Education Site. It provided no references to data sources so I should have checked with something more reliable.

I would say that the level of violence was such that by the time that the Race to the Sea had been mostly completed, that surely a high level of hatred had developed between the opposing armies. The people reading the casualty postings at home must have been utterly shocked that this war, predicted to be a short exercise in teaching a lesson to the Kaiser, had already seen thousands of deaths.

Cheers,

George
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