Friday, January 1, 1915: British and Germans Good Friends on Christmas Day in the Trenches
Miss N. Thody, 1, Peel-street, Bedford, has received a letter from Lance Corporal Cooper of the 2nd Northampton’s which gives an astonishing account of Christmas Day in the trenches. It is dated December 27th: At last I have found the time to answer all your letters. Well dear, you asked me to let you know what kind of Christmas I had. Well I never had a merry one because we were in the trenches, but we were quite happy. Now what I am going to tell you will be hard to believe, but it is quite true. There was no firing on Christmas Day and the Germans were quite friendly with us. They even came over to our trenches and gave us cigars and cigarettes and chocolate and of course we gave them things in return. Just after one o’clock on Christmas morning I was on look-out duty and one of the Germans wished me Good morning and a Merry Christmas. I was never more surprised in my life when daylight came to see them all sitting on top of the trenches waving their hands and singing to us. Just before we came out of the trenches (we came out of them on Christmas night) one of them shouted across, “Keep your heads down, we are just going to fire” and they sent about a dozen bullets flying over the top of our heads. Now who would believe it if they did not see it with their own eyes? It is hard enough for us to believe. What kind of Christmas did you have? I do hope you enjoyed yourself. I thought of you a good many times. I don’t expect it was much of a Christmas in England. I haven’t received mother’s parcel yet. I wonder what has become of it. I have had some eatables but they were nowhere near as good as mother’s.”
Pte B. Calder, of the 6th Gordons D Coy., at the front, writing to Miss Fuller, at the BWTA tea shop in St Loyes, Bedford, says: – “Dear Miss Fuller and other assistants of the little tea shop. Just a few lines to let you know how we are all keeping. The 6th have been in the trenches twice. A good few of them had to go to hospital through the cold and exposure. They are hardly fit for this work. We were in the trenches on Christmas Day. We spent a merrier day than we expected. There was a truce to bury our dead. We had a short service over the graves, conducted by our minister and the German one. They read the 23rd Psalm and had a short prayer. I don’t think I will ever forget the Christmas Day I spent in the trenches. After the service we were speaking to the Germans and getting souvenirs from them. Fancy shaking hands with the enemy! I suppose you will hardly believe this, but it is the truth. I often think about the little tea shop and wonder how you are getting on. Long may the lum reek at the little tea-shop.”
From Sergt Blundell, 1st Beds Regiment
Sergt W. Blundell, of the 1st Beds Regiment, writing to Miss Whittington at the Bedford Barracks, says: “I am writing this to you as I have just heard that my letters posted on Dec 26th were lost. There was a breakdown with a motor lorry, which got on fire, and all letters were burnt. I was sending Princess Mary’s gift and the King’s and Queen’s Christmas card to you. I don’t know whether they were lost or not. We were in the trenches all Christmas week, and the weather was awful. On Christmas Day we had a lot of firing over us, and shells too. All at once it ceased and I looked up and saw the Germans on top of their trenches shouting to us, and asking us to meet them. All our brigade went, and we were talking to them about two hours. They asked us not to fire that day and said they would not; and no firing was done until next day and then we were fighting for all we were worth. Times however are hard here. In the trenches we are up to our waists in water with shells bursting over us and no sleep. We keep on advancing and having to retire on account of fierce shelling. We should be relieved now by Kitchener’s Army. I was in the battles of La Bassee and Ypres and the retirements, and it was simply awful. My bayonet was stained more than once. I said my prayers! The Bedfords regained the trenches that other regiments had lost. They retired and we had to retire also. It was like hell upon earth. Then we rallied up and charged the Germans out of them and took a lot of prisoners, but at what a loss.When we mustered up next day we had lost about 76 in my company (A Co.). I had some marvellous escapes.
February 5th, 1915: A truce – “Strange but true”
Pte Alfred Harding, 1st Leicester, writing from the Front to his brother, Mr Arthur Harding, 35, Canning-street, Bedford, on Jan 22nd says: “We have just come out of the trenches again for a rest and it seems a treat to get away from the mud and shot for a day or two…We have gone back to the trenches now, and it is a sight. The North Staffords named it Dead Man’s Alley, graves everywhere. If you dig a spit or two you dig some poor chap up. I did the other day. But there are a decent lot of fellows in front of us now – Saxons; they don’t like the Prussian Guards. They haven’t fired a shot since the day before Christmas, more (nor?) have we. I believe they will surrender. Our trenches are only 80 yards and we meet each other half way. We give them tins of jam for cigars. It seems strange but it is true.” (This last statement is corroborated by information we have received from another source – Ed).