I have thought about this story many times:Christmas truce
The Germans began by placing candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. The fraternisation carried risks; some soldiers were shot by opposing forces. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it continued until New Year's Day in others.How could sanity break out in all this madness? The human spirit has some quality we need to tap more often. Read on below for it gets even stranger.
Bruce Bairnsfather, who served throughout the war, wrote: "I wouldn't have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. ... I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. ... I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange. ... The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck."
It is nice that differences can disappear like this. But there are other ways too.
General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the British II Corps, was irate when he heard what was happening, and issued strict orders forbidding friendly communication with the opposing German troops. Adolf Hitler, then a young corporal of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry, was also an opponent of the truce.What a terrible thing to screw up a war! It was bad for morale. So the idea was crushed.
In the following months, there were a few sporadic attempts at truces; a German unit attempted to leave their trenches under a flag of truce on Easter Sunday 1915, but were warned off by the British opposite them, and later in the year, in November, a Saxon unit briefly fraternised with a Liverpool battalion. In December 1915, there were explicit orders by the Allied commanders to forestall any repeat of the previous Christmas truce. Individual units were encouraged to mount raids and harass the enemy line, whilst communicating with the enemy was discouraged by artillery barrages along the front line throughout the day. The prohibition was not completely effective, however, and a small number of brief truces occurredInsubordination among the troops! They stopped killing. What a breakdown!
After all the war was very important. It was being fought for.....hey....anyone remember why?
We had a slogan in the sixties:
War is good for business
Invest your children