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War on Christmas

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Here you can find a growing archive of letters sent home to the UK (of Great Britain and Ireland) from the western front in 1914/15,detailing first hand accounts of the Christmas truce that occurred organically in some areas of the front.

The following was published in the Exeter Express & Echo on 2 January 1915:

Corporal Leon Harris of the 13th battalion London Regiment (Kensington) who has been serving at the front for eight weeks with one of the last batch of Territorials sent has written a letter to his parents residing at Caradon, Monks Road, Exeter, giving remarkable particulars of how some of the British lines spent Christmas at the front. “This has been,” he says, “the most wonderful Christmas I have ever struck. We were in the trenches on Christmas Eve, and about 8.30 the firing was almost at a stand still. Then the Germans started shouting across to us, ‘a happy Christmas’ and commenced putting up lots of Christmas trees with hundreds of candles on the parapets of their trenches. Some of our men met some of theirs half way, and the officers arranged a truce till midnight on Christmas Day. It was extended till Boxing day night and we all went out and met each other between the two lines of trenches, exchanging souvenirs – buttons, tobacco and cigarettes. Several of them spoke English. Huge fires were going all night and both sides sang carols. It was a wonderful time and the weather was glorious on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – frosty and bright with moon and stars at night.”

My Christmas is prosaic in comparison, but over all it will take me from Oregon to Seattle to Kitsap County back to Seattle then on to New Orleans and Atlanta. If you’re celebrating, either ecumenically or religiously, Merry Christmas; if not, I hope you’re having an atypically excellent Wednesday.

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