From: Cross Lanes WV USA
This is excerpted from an article written by Wally Bock, and published on Dec 17, 2001:
"... On Christmas Eve [in 1914], all along the Western Front, British and Welsh and French and German soldiers put down their weapons and exchanged gifts and songs and talk for a few short hours.
In front of [the Brititish lines] unit, the truce began with the Germans singing 'All Through the Night,' a beloved Welsh song. The Welch Fusiliers responded with 'Good King Wenceslas.' Then they all sang 'Silent Night,' together, in harmony and in two different languages.
On Christmas morning, the soldiers approached each other cautiously in No Man's Land. They mingled and exchanged gifts and greetings, bartered for souvenirs and began an impromptu soccer game. ... [ a witness to that event stated] 'It wasn't a game as such-more of a kick-around and free-for-all. There could have been fifty on each side for all I know. No one was keeping score.'
The game and the fraternization ended when a British Sergeant-Major arrived on the scene, bellowing 'You came out to fight the Huns, not make friends with them!' Not every officer or NCO felt that way, though. In some places it was the officers who initiated the truce.
The truces took slightly different shape in different places. Sometimes it was initiated by the Germans, sometimes by the English. In some places there was a soccer game, in others not. But there are a few inaccurate stories that seem to keep popping up.
One holds that stories about the truces were kept from the public back home. But pictures and stories appeared in both English and German newspapers. Coverage went on for over a month in Britain, under headlines like 'Extraordinary Unofficial Armistice.'
Another myth is that the soldiers had to be forced to fight after the truces. But the evidence doesn't support that. The soldiers involved in the truces on both sides fought as hard and honorably after the truces as before. A soldier of the time, Bruce Bairnsfather, put it this way, 'Not for a moment was the will to win the war and the will to beat them relaxed. It was just like the interval between the rounds in a friendly boxing match.'
The Christmas Truces are immortalized, somewhat inaccurately, by John McCutcheon in his wonderful song, 'Christmas in the Trenches.' 'They're worth thinking about in these days when young men with weapons are going into caves, searching for other young men with weapons, and when we seem to be celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace with gunfire and explosions, instead of joy and prayer and singing.'
Here, then, are the closing words from McCutcheon's song.
'My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well.
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we're the same' "