Living in a trench is no fun.
Constant freezing rain in the northern part of the Western Front during November and December 1914 made it considerably less fun: flooded trenches and appalling living conditions.
On Christmas Eve 1914, the freezing rain gave way to a frost. The ground hardened and the smell of decomposing flesh lessened.
The Germans placed lighted Christmas trees along their trenches and soldiers on both sides sang Christmas carols to each other.
On Christmas morning, a fog lifted and the makeshift German Christmas trees were aglow in beautiful sunlight. All firing stopped and there was shouting between trenches and the soldiers moved into No Man’s Land.
Gifts were exchanged, several soccer matches were played, beer was drunk and both sides took the opportunity to bury their dead.
Bruce Bairnsfather of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, wrote: “I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything . . . I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I think, and being a bit of collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons . . . I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pockets. I then gave him two of mine in exchange . . . The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck.”
The next day, the British High Command said anybody doing anything like that again would be shot.
One German vehemently opposed to the Christmas Truce was a young corporal of the 16th Bavarian Reserve infantry.
His name was Adolf Hitler.
2012 | Digital Print | Hahnemuhle Photo Rag | 20" x 20" | Edition of 5