By J M Bruce
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I handed the captain the little Christmas tree. . ” Never was I as keenly aware of the insanity of war. 6 Around the Ypres Salient, near Lille in northern France, and in several other sectors of the western front, soldiers signaled to their opponents they were coming out unarmed. Where the trenches were close enough together, they shouted Christmas greetings across the lines. After going over the parapets, they met in no-man’s-land, introduced themselves, and exchanged small gifts. West of Lille, the Second Scots Guards faced the German Fifteenth Westphalian.
Censors carefully screened the letters to ensure they revealed nothing that could help the enemy. Through these letters, news of the truce began to reach home. One Englishman described how, An informal compact was arranged . . to the effect that no sniping was to take place for a day. In consequence, out of their burrows came English and Germans alike, and commenced to hang out their washing and mend their wire entanglements. indd 57 10/9/15 11:26 AM BARTER AND BUTTONS By meeting the enemy peacefully in no-man’s-land, many British troops temporarily lost their dread and hatred of Germans.
Indd 40 10/9/15 11:26 AM PEACE AT CHRISTMAS Along the front lines, many soldiers knew the story of a Christmas peace that occurred during the Franco-Prussian War nearly 50 years before. Near the French town of Saint Cloud, French and German armies were fighting on Christmas Eve. After dark, the bells of Saint Cloud’s church tower began ringing out a traditional Christmas melody. On both sides of the line, the firing stopped without any warning or announcement. Soldiers on both sides began singing Christmas carols.