another christmas in the trenches

December 24, 1915 - Tentative Efforts at a Christmas Truce on the Western Front

Pictured - A Christmas card for soldiers to send home.  Its curious mix of holiday cheer and violence expresses the how most soldiers felt during Christmas 1915.  Despite some efforts to lay aside arms as in the year before, most on both sides still had high morale and a desire to beat the enemy.

As the war neared another Christmas in the trenches, some troops wondered whether there would be another spontaneous outburst of good feeling and another Christmas truce.  Orders from high command certainly hoped not.  As one British Infantry Brigade reminded its officers, “Nothing of the kind is allowed on the divisional front this year.  The Artillery will maintain a slow gun fire on the enemy’s trenches commencing at dawn, and every opportunity will as usual be taken to inflict casualties upon any of the enemy exposing themselves.”

For the most part these orders were willingly obeyed.  Some optimistic Germans near Yypres tried to coax the British on the other side of No Man’s Land, to no avail on Christmas Eve, with caroling and decorations, as they had done last year: “in the trenches of Plugstreet Wood a tremendous voice entertained the trenches of both sides with a selection from La Traviata, stopping abruptly in mid-aria as if a door had been slammed shut.”  At Wulverghem a German platoon set up a Christmas tree, decorated with candles, on the parapet of their trench.  “For a few moments, the tiny pinpoints of flame flickered uncertainly in the dark until a British officer ordered rapid fire and the Tommies shot it down.”