A Christmas Letter From The Trenches Of World War One

WW 1 Christmas Truce

 British and German troops meeting in No-Mans's Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector).
British and German troops meeting in No-Mans's Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector). | Source

1914 A World At War

By the time Christmas arrived in 1914, The Great War had been going on for five months, country against country, man against man in the bloodiest war that the world had ever seen.

It was a war fought in trenches; holes dug out in the ground where men worked, played fought and died together, a war of attrition where both sided were in a futile struggle to gain ground on each another.

The trenches of the war were often described by the soldiers as "Hell on earth," a place where God had turned his back and was ignoring the mass suffering of his children.

A place of death and destruction on a magnificent scale. Many men lost their faith in God as they fought in the trenches but that faith was restored on Christmas day of 1914, when the guns went silent and soldiers from both sides reached out in peace to each other.

Remembrance

A cross, left in Comines-Warneton (Saint-Yvon, Warneton) in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914
A cross, left in Comines-Warneton (Saint-Yvon, Warneton) in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914 | Source

The Christmas Miracle of 1914

Many soldiers wrote home describing the Christmas truce in the trenches as a miracle, a day of peace and love in wartime where men intent on killing each another in battle came together as friends to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Below although not an actual letter from the front line, is an example of the type of letter sent by many of the boys serving on the front line.

Christmas Dinner In The Trenches

German soldiers cook some geese to serve at Christmas dinner
German soldiers cook some geese to serve at Christmas dinner | Source

The British Tommy

When British soldiers joined the army they had to fill out a form that would ensure that they were paid for their service, An example form was handed out to soldiers to show them how to fill the real form out and the name of the soldier used on the example form was Thomas Atkins.The name was so popular with the troops that it stuck and every serving soldier gained the nickname Tommy.

Christmas In The Trenches 1914

Two British soldiers carry some mistletoe to the front line
Two British soldiers carry some mistletoe to the front line

Christmas In The Trenches

WW1 A Christmas Letter Home

My sweet darling Jennifer,

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas back at home, I am sure that Santa Clause made it a very special day for little Jonathan and Susan and that they got a lot of nice gifts.

The weather here has been cold and wet as expected in a European winter and it is taking its toll on all of us who are fighting this God forsaken war in these great muddy holes in the ground that we call home.

The mud is so thick now that it is almost impossible to walk in the trenches, you either get stuck up to your knees in it or you walk away from your boots without noticing that they are standing proud in the thick mud laughing at you. We pray for frosty weather daily hoping that the mud will freeze giving us a hard surface that we can walk on again.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill to all men but as the day approached it felt that it was going to be another day of death and destruction as the big guns from both sides kept firing and bullets were constantly exchanged across No Man’s Land.

Poor Archie Mitchell never got to see Christmas; he was shot by a German sniper and died at around six o'clock on Christmas Eve.

My darling Jennifer, do you believe in miracles?

Something special happened just before midnight on Christmas Eve, The Guns all fell silent there were no sounds of battle, everything went quiet and then after a few minutes we heard a faint singing coming from the German trenches.

Although it was in German we all knew the song and as strange as it may seem the boys in our trenches joined in with the singing, in English of course, and even though we may not be the greatest singers in the world, it was the most beautiful version of the song Silent Night, Holy Night that I have ever heard in my entire life.

The guns remained silent throughout the night and the men on watch duty kept the Christmas Carols going until dawn.

As daybreak approached a few men from the German trenches walked across No Man's Land carrying white flags of peace and soon enough some of the men from our trenches went out to greet them, it wasn't long before most of the men had left the trenches greeting the enemy with a handshake and the best of Christmas wishes.

Some of the officers were none too happy with the situation and tried to order us back into the trenches but their actions were in vain as not one soldier even thought about obeying them.

Some of the boys played football it was a fun game and although everyone claims that nobody was counting the score or even cared about the score that we lost to a far superior German team.

I got talking to a German soldier, he spoke very good English, which was a good thing because as you know I hardly know a word of German and the few words that I do know of the language would have re started the fighting had I spoken them to him.

Helmut once lived in England, he studied at Oxford University a few years ago before the war and he says that he has a lot of friends from England and Scotland that he met there. he showed me a photograph of his wife and son, he has such a beautiful family and it made me realize that he was just the same as myself, a man fighting for his family and not the monster portrayed in the posters and flyers.

We exchanged cigarettes and some of our rations and I shared the hip flask of whisky with him that you sent me a few weeks ago. As darkness fell we all said our goodbyes and retreated back into our own trenches.

It was such a wonderful day, peace on earth and goodwill to all men came to us on Christmas day in the middle of the battlefield and God was smiling down on us all.

The fighting has again begun man against man death and destruction but there is now hope in my heart that the fighting will end soon and the world will live in peace once again.

Please add Helmut and his lovely family to your prayers and pray that he can return safely into their arms.

I love you with all of my heart

Your Loving Husband

Thomas Atkins

Peace In The Trenches

The high command on both sides took a dim view of the activities and orders were issued to stop the fraternizing with varying results. In some areas the truce ended Christmas Day in others the following day and in others it extended into January.

The sad thing is that it never happened again.

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11 comments

Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

I saw a movie about this but this letter really brought it home. It reminds me of how manipulated we are into war..none of the soldiers really want to fight. It's all about the powers that be..they are the only ones who want war and who benefit from war. When the Prince of Peace returns there will be no more war!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Very beautiful work, Jimmy. Thank you.


sallybea profile image

sallybea 3 years ago from Norfolk

jimmythejock,

How lovely that something beautiful came from out of the trenches! A war so senseless and so awful - especially this war!# Thank you so much for sharing this - it is just so poignant.

Sally


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

It was indeed a moving and inspiring and unplanned event, showing the yearning of the ordinary soldiers. These impromptu celebrations caught everyone by surprise. Their higher-ups, however, could not and did not allow it to happen again-- how can soldiers kill the enemy if they don't hate them or don't see them as inhuman murderers?


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Very interesting and beuatiful hub Jimmy!

Voted up!


srsddn profile image

srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

jimmythejock, the letter speaks volumes about the faith that people have in the Lord and how religion can play a unifying role. Religions teach peace and they all exhibited on the Christmas Day. We rarely come across such information. Thanks for sharing. It was really great of you to do this.


annart profile image

annart 3 years ago from SW England

How sad it is that, having done that for one day, it couldn't continue. To fight those you knew were actually much the same as you must have been soul destroying. Those who direct war are never aware of the 'real' world, are they?

If you go to the allied landings sites or see a war memorial, there is usually the sign 'Lest We Forget'; sadly we do forget and the crazy killing goes on. Maybe the message will get through one day but I'm not holding my breath.

Great hub. Love the letter. Ann


old albion profile image

old albion 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Jimmy. I knew of this of course but your photographs are a good illustration of the hell the lads on both sides had to endure. I like your letter home angle it was very interesting.

Graham.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi Jimmy, the letter you wrote that was so similar to the real thing really brought it home. back then it was so innocent, and yet so bloody. we soon learned what war was about but at the start of the first world war it was so new, and sadly this never happened again, this was wonderful! voted up and shared, nell


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Beautiful hub, great example letter. Voted up.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I can't imagine how it must be to spend Christmas away from home, not to mention at war. Touching letter. Thanks for sharing.

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