A Letter From The Front.

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December 27th 1914

Dear Mam,

Hope you are all well back home, I miss you all so much. Who’d have thought this time last year that I’d be spending this Christmas on the front line?

We all got a Christmas gift from Princess Mary – a tin containing a card, cigarettes, picture and a pencil. I got your card and package, those socks were just what I needed! Thanks, Mam.

The weather has been wet for most of December but the temperature dropped on Christmas Eve and there was a heavy frost, which at least made it feel a bit more like Christmas. I longed to be sitting in front of the fire, teasing our Gladys and the boys. How is Glad? I worry about her. Tell her she must be brave like her big brother.

Conditions are hard but our spirits are up. The trenches are waterlogged and one solider, Albert, keeps singing about being in the Navy. Funny lad, he should be on the stage! Humour is never far away and thank God for that!

I wanted to tell you of the strangest thing that happened on Christmas Eve…

We heard the Germans singing carols. Word came from their lines that, if we didn’t fire on Christmas Day, neither would they.

We were wary at first but then we saw them climbing out of their trench, hands in the air – obviously unarmed.

They shouted out to us, “Happy Christmas English soldiers!” A few of us ventured out of our trench and met them half way. A German shook my hand. He told me his name was Karl. He didn’t look much older than me. He showed me a picture of his wife and son. We exchanged gifts. I gave him some cigarettes, he gave me some cake and we both swapped buttons off our coats.

Everybody was so friendly, it was surreal.

During those two days, not a shot was fired. If I hadn’t have seen it happen with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it, Mam. I keep looking at the button to check that it really did happen.

It made me realise that they are just following orders the same as us and they have families too.

Hopefully this war will soon be over and, God willing, we will return home safe and sound.

I must close now but take heart that a miracle really did happen this Christmas.

All my love,

Jack

P.S Could you send some lice powder next time?

The letter is fictional but it’s inspired by a true event.

The Christmas Truce took place in the Christmas of 1914. Though there was no official truce, roughly 100,000 British and German troops took part in unofficial cessation of fighting. This would prove to be the last significant act of chivalry between the two sides. Future attempts at cease fires were met with threats of disciplinary action. At this point in the war, censorship was still in its infancy so many letters sent home reported this as having happened.

Letters played a huge part in the war. The most effective weapon wasn’t a rifle, it was morale. Receiving letters was one of the few comforts a soldier had and writing them helped relieve the boredom. The given reason for censorship was to prevent the enemy from finding out secret information but it was also to stop bad news from reaching home. Some letters slipped through censor net and for the sake of this post, this is the case for this letter.

Support was vital from the home front. The majority of soldiers kept their letters as upbeat as possible, shielding their loved ones from what life was really like.

Given the appalling conditions which these men were living in and the horrors that they faced each day, it’s not surprising that the Christmas Truce should have had such a profound effect on those who witnessed it.

Seemingly neither side wanted to be the first to break the goodwill so those men were replaced with others who hadn’t taken part and the war (which people initially thought to to be over by Christmas) carried on for four more years with the loss of about 10 million military personnel and a total of around 37 million casualties.

The legacy of the truce is the message of hope that in our darkest hour, humanity can still be found.

But, however, looking back on it all, I wouldn’t have
missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything~ Bruce
Brairnsfather, an English solider.

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Header Image by Kevin Walsh

Christmas Truce Image – Wikimedia Commons

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29 thoughts on “A Letter From The Front.

  1. This is so beautiful. A moving account of that famous, poignant Christmas Day. You’re so right to point out that the German soldiers too were suffering, signed up or conscripted, just like the British soldiers. That part is too often forgotten, which is sad xxx #ThePrompt

    • Thank you. When I watched the service at St. Symphorien earlier this year, I was moved to see British and German soldiers laid to rest side by side. Enemies in life, united in death. Such a waste of life. X

  2. So moving to find out about this. I think there is a TV advert which dramatises the event at the moment too and both that ad and your post made me cry – it’s heart-wrenching to think of those boys that fought that war (maybe it’s worse now I have little boys and can put myself in their mother’s place) but that christmas armistice was quite the miracle really. X

  3. It is such an incredible event isn’t it, proof, as you say, that humanity can survive even under horrendous conditions. It is important to remember this as well as the lives lost x Great post, thank you so much for linking to #ThePrompt x

  4. I’ve always thought that the christmas truce is one of the most amazing acts of humanity I’ve ever heard about. To think that they went from shooting at each other to playing football and exchanging stories. If only the war could have ended then and there. This is a beautiful post which reminds us of all the men who lost their lives, on both sides.xx

  5. Clever lady, this is a really great take on #ThePrompt this week. It’s so hard to imagine what it would have been like fighting in the war – or even living through it as a wife. Utterly fascinating stuff xx

    • Thank you. I read through lots of real letters online when researching this post and it really is fascinating.
      I can only imagine what it must have been like for those poor women back home. As a mother, I would be beside myself I think. A few of the other posts for this prompt have focused on this. So sad. xx

  6. I didn’t even realise this until Laura explained it to me after the Sainsburys advert for the chocolate bar! Emotional words Tracy. Men from different nations but they were only doing what was expected of them by their own countries. They were all somebody’s sons, husbands, fathers and brothers. Somehow to me, the war then doesn’t seem as evil as the things that happen in today’s world. Then, it was man against man, today……well who knows what’s round the corner. Lovely blog Tracy xxxx

  7. Thanks so much for this moving post and the information about the Christmas Truce. I know very little about World War I because my country didn’t take part. I don’t even remember learning much about the English side of this.

  8. A very powerful letter. The Christmas truce is one of the most inspiring stories from WW1 – a moment of humanity in the horror of war. It is important to remember that there was families devastated on both sides of the war, that the German soldiers were just young lads following orders too. I visited the WW1 cemeteries a few years back and went to a couple of the German cemeteries too. At one of the Commonwealth cemeteries we visited, there was an unknown British soldier buried next to two unknown German ones which I found very moving.

    • Exactly and I’m glad that came across in my post because this is how I see it. The truce shows that the soldiers would rather have been shaking hands than shooting each other. They were following orders and reacting to the propaganda. They saw what they were brainwashed to see. And so many of them had absolutely no idea what they were getting into when they signed up. It was exciting or them but the reality was horrific.
      It seems that it was the Germans who instigated this act of humanity.
      Thanks for your comment. x

  9. A great letter for the prompt. I grew up knowing this story, not sure if it was because we knew someone there or my grandad would just tell me this story when I asked him about the war. That was our Christmas day tradition, stories from his war! I think the new advert really hits home what happened that day, it must be terrible to go back to fighting each other after such a moving moment x

    • Thank you. I know the advert’s created some complaints by people who think it’s disrespectful to be using the war to ‘advertise’ but I don’t see it like that. Clearly, a lot of thought and talent went into the making of it. X

  10. Just makes you realise that I suppose their really was no true enemy. Every individual fighting for their country and following orders. Sad and surreal post to read x

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