Christmas Truce of 1914

Watched a surprising documentary last night about a spontaneous truce which took place between German and British soldiers in the front line trenches at Christmas 1914 during the first world war. I had learned about this at primary school, but the documentary prompted me to reflect on this strange event.

It was actually quite funny in places, such as where an outraged senior British general, on hearing that British and German troops were exchanging gifts and playing football exclaimed “They are entertaining the enemy!”, and where the Generals were forced to rethink allowing soldiers to have cameras on the front line after pictures of British and German soldiers chatting together appeared in national newspapers soon afterwards.

It prompted me to wonder what would have happened if the truce had developed into a joint mutiny among the ranks of both soldiers. Of course they didn’t, and before it ended, the first world war resulted in the deaths of millions on all sides, yet even to this day few can even agree on what the war was fought over.

This episode also demonstrates how superficial the veneer of demonisation of one’s enemies really is during war time, a lesson still very relevant today.

The BBC has more information on this.

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