Group photograph showing men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers with German soldiers in no man's land on Boxing Day, 1914. Cyril Drummond, a Second Lieutenant serving with 135th Battery, Royal Field Artillery took the photograph near St Yvon, north of Ploegsteert Wood in the Ypres Salient.
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During the autumn and winter of 1914, much of the front line in France and Flanders had turned into a muddy morass. The intensity of the fighting declined as men struggled to maintain their trenches and keep dry, and the first Christmas of the war was characterised by spontaneous expressions of comradeship between front line soldiers of both sides.
During times of poor weather on the front, men risked working in the open to repair trenches. There was often no firing on soldiers engaged in this work. As the enemy were always close there grew a curiousness and realisation that their suffering was the same. These feelings coincided with thoughts of how Christmas would be celebrated away from family and friends.
Late on Christmas Eve 1914, men of the British Expeditionary Force heard the Germans singing carols and patriotic songs and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. Messages began to be shouted between the trenches. The following day, British and German soldiers met in no man’s land and exchanged gifts, took photographs and some played football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. After Boxing Day, meetings in no man’s land dwindled out.
The truce was not observed everywhere along the line, and casualties did occur on Christmas Day. Some officers viewed the truce as a chance to improve living conditions in the trenches, whilst others worried that such unwarlike behaviour would undermine fighting spirit. The truce died out gradually as artillery, machine guns and snipers became more active. The High Commands on both sides took measures to ensure such fraternisation would not happen again, and the 1914 Christmas Truce remained a unique event on the Western Front.
Princess Mary's Gift Fund Box. The Gift Fund aimed to provide gifts for all men wearing the King's uniform at Christmas 1914. As this amounted to over two-and-a-half million men, priority was given to those serving in France and the Royal Navy. Most tins were for smokers and included cigarettes and tobacco. Tins for non-smokers and special sets for Indian troops were also produced. Contents of gift boxes were amongst the items exchanged with German soldiers during the Christmas Truce.
souvenirs and ephemera
Decorative German bierstein associated with the Christmas Truce. The bierstein was presented to Private Bill Tucker (Army Ordnance Corps) as 'captain' of a winning British football team after an impromptu friendly match played against German troops.
souvenirs and ephemera