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  • Here it is again – a suspicious noise from the other side of no man's land, where the

  • Germans are crouched in their trenches waiting to take you down at the first opportunity.

  • Although you're used to hearing gunfire and shooting on a daily basis, it never gets

  • easier.

  • As soon as you hear a loud noise, your heart pounds and you're overcome with nausea.

  • Today is no exception.

  • For a while this evening, everything has been eerily quiet.

  • It might be nighttime, but everyone knows that's when a trench attack is most likely

  • to be successfulyou can't afford to get complacent.

  • So, hearing a strange sound after hours of silence has spooked you.

  • Everyone around you is crouched in silence and on high alert, trying to figure out what's

  • going on.

  • You're in the wet, muddy ground of a trench near Belgium, breathing in a foul odor that

  • smells like a mix of cigarettes, stale food, and disease.

  • The dampness is so familiar now that you've almost forgotten what it felt like to be dry.

  • As for the smell, you try not to think about what could cause such a horrific odorbut

  • knowing how many men have fallen ill since you've been here, it's not hard to guess.

  • There it comes againthat noise in the distance.

  • But for once, it doesn't sound like shooting, gunfire, or even angry screaming.

  • It might sound crazy, but it sounds more likesinging.

  • You glance around at your companions, and they look equally confused.

  • You manage to make out two words: Stille Nacht.

  • The classic carol Silent Night sang in its original German.

  • You're stunned.

  • Your superiors had told everyone not to shoot unless they were shot at now that it was Christmas

  • time, but you hadn't dared to hope that the other side would reciprocate this initiative

  • never mind start singing.

  • The far-off carols might have been a nice, innocent sound once upon a time, but now you

  • can't help but feel suspicious.

  • You were at war, after all.

  • Was this some kind of weird trap?

  • It's 1914, and you've been fighting in World War I for four months already.

  • You'd expected to be back with your family in Britain by noweveryone hadbut

  • here you are.

  • Lying in a damp trench by Belgium on Christmas eve.

  • When the singing didn't subdue after a few minutes, you could feel the tension in the

  • air begin to lift.

  • A look of sadness and nostalgia was starting to appear on the faces of some of your companions.

  • But you weren't prepared to slip into a sense of security that easily.

  • Then, much to your horror, some men started joining in, singing the same songs and carols

  • but in English.

  • It would almost be cuteif it wasn't for the thought in the back of your mind that

  • this would be a great time to attack this trench.

  • You hissed at them to be quiet, but nobody ever paid much attention to a low-level soldier

  • like you.

  • Well, you might not be able to stop this foolery, but at least you could remain on high alert

  • to protect these idiots when their illusion was cruelly shattered.

  • You refused to join in, giving everyone the evils and trying to keep your eyes and ears

  • open.

  • But minutes passed, then hours passed, and still, the singing continued.

  • Some guys said they could see lights on the other side of No Man's Land, claiming the

  • Germans had climbed out their trenches and were making merry out in the open.

  • You roll your eyessurely not?

  • And you certainly weren't peering outside to take a look.

  • Still, by the end of the evening, it had become clear there would be no fighting tonight.

  • You even joined in with a few of the last carols, much to the delight of your companions,

  • who cheered you on.

  • There was magic in the air, as you saw many of your friends smile for the first time in

  • days and you almost forgot how horrible the mud felt beneath your legs.

  • But it also felt dangerously fragile.

  • As you fell asleep that night in exhaustion, you couldn't help but wonder what would

  • be in store for you tomorrow.

  • Christmas Day.

  • Surely, this couldn't continue?

  • The Christmas truce took place in the first year of World War One, in 1914.

  • Interestingly, it was never officially mandated.

  • Earlier in December, the Pope had suggested a ceasefire over the Christmas period in the

  • hope that it would lead to everlasting peace, but the idea was shot down by the powers that

  • be.

  • High-ranking generals and governments had no appetite for a truce or peace.

  • But clearly, the soldiers themselves had other ideas.

  • The truce began during the night on Christmas Eve, the most important time to celebrate

  • Christmas for Germans.

  • It mostly seemed to happen spontaneously and at a grassroots levelvarious British

  • soldiers later reported suddenly hearing carol singing instead of gunfire and mostly decided

  • to reciprocate.

  • Just like that, the fighting stopped.

  • Most soldiers had signed up for the Great War under false illusions that the fighting

  • would be over by Christmas, when they'd be home with their families to celebrate.

  • Obviously, that's not quite how events unfoldedthe war ended up lasting more than four

  • years.

  • It became apparent within a few months that this tight deadline probably wasn't going

  • to be met.

  • Before Christmas, thousands of soldiers had already died yet neither side was close to

  • winning.

  • To make matters worse, it had also been raining a lot, which is the last thing you want when

  • you're living in a trench on the ground.

  • Basically, these guys were in desperate need of a vacation.

  • But obviously, a vacation wasn't exactly on the cards, so they had to make do with

  • a spot of carol singing instead.

  • The German emperor had also sent a few Christmas trees to the front lines to boost morale,

  • so that was a nice touch.

  • However, not all the soldiers fighting in the first world war were lucky enough to enjoy

  • a Christmas truce.

  • It might have been a miracle for peace to spontaneously arise against formal commands,

  • but not so much of a miracle that it spontaneously arose in every single territory.

  • The ceasefire mostly took place along the Western Front, the major frontline of the

  • war near Belgium that spanned 48 kilometers.

  • If you were deployed in France or the Eastern Front, then tough luckit was business

  • as usual.

  • But that's still an estimated 100,000 soldiers that took part.

  • What exactly did they do on the main day of this unprecedented ceasefire?

  • You woke up in the morning to the sound you'd been dreading.

  • An unfamiliar voice shouting in an unfamiliar language from outside the trench.

  • Goosebumps ran up your arms and you switched into high alert mode.

  • It was almost certainly a German, and that was almost certainly not a good thing.

  • At first, you couldn't understand what the man was saying and assumed he was speaking

  • to you in German, but when you listened more closely, you could make out the words.

  • It's just that it wasn't what you were expecting to hear at all.

  • He seemed to be saying that you should come with himthat he wouldn't shoot you

  • if you didn't shoot him.

  • At first, you were wary, and opted to stay back in the trenches.

  • Just because nothing went wrong last night, it didn't mean nothing would go wrong today

  • maybe it was all an elaborate plan to give you a false sense of security.

  • But as man after man joined the Germans, you began to doubt your suspicions.

  • Nobody was shooting.

  • Nobody was fighting.

  • Maybe this wasn't a trap after all.

  • Maybe there actually was going to be peace, just for Christmas Day.

  • You tentatively began to leave the trench, and already you could see Germans shaking

  • hands with Allied soldiers all along No Man's Land.

  • You could scarcely believe it.

  • You glanced at a few Germans who were grouped together suspiciously close by your trench,

  • but they waved their weaponless hands in the air to show you they meant no harm.

  • You nodded at them awkwardly.

  • As if last night wasn't surreal enough, it now seemed like everyone wanted to pretend

  • they were best friends.

  • As you stood in disbelief, a German soldier approached you and held out a cigarette.

  • You automatically shook your head and took a state backmore because you were in

  • a state of shock than anything else.

  • It was only when he walked away from you that you realized he'd been offering you a cigarette.

  • Maybe these Germans weren't so bad after all

  • Then, one of the guys from your trench called you over from behind.

  • He and two other British soldiers were sharing plum pudding with a few of the Germans.

  • You shook hands with them one by one and settled down on to the grass.

  • As the day went on, the festivities increased.

  • After you'd all eaten your fair share of plum pudding, sausage, and more, one of the

  • soldiers went to the trench and returned with a tin can.

  • At first, you assumed it was more food, but instead, the man kicked the empty can as if

  • it were a ball.

  • A few of the other men began to join in, standing up and kicking the can around playfully.

  • Feeling bad for being so suspicious earlier, you decided to join them, and motioned for

  • your new German friends to come too.

  • They shared a quick look amongst themselves, shrugged, and accepted your invitation.

  • Before long, there were dozens of men from both sides of the frontline playing an informal

  • game of soccer, with the goalposts marked by caps and no clear teams.

  • In the context of the world you'd come to know over the last few months, it made no

  • sense at all.

  • Yet if you went back to just a few weeks before the war, it would have been completely normal.

  • A few men kicking a ball around togetherit was the most natural thing in the world.

  • That night, some German soldiers turned up with rolled barrels of beers they said they'd

  • taken from a brewery nearby, and you spent the night drinking together as if there wasn't

  • a war at all.

  • As you sat down in the ground, the familiar feeling of the alcohol coursing through your

  • body you heard a sudden noise in the distance.

  • A gunshot.

  • Everyone froze.

  • And then, a few seconds later, another one.

  • Just like that, the atmosphere changed, and you realized everyone was probably thinking

  • the same thing.

  • The shot sounded distant enough to not be any immediate danger to you, but it served

  • as a stark reminder that Christmas day was coming to an end, and all this would suddenly

  • be over.

  • What now?

  • What would happen tomorrow?

  • The Christmas truce was only made possible by the astonishing level of communication

  • between the two sides, which was mostly thanks to the German troops.

  • Many Germans had worked in Britain before the war and had some knowledge of the language,

  • allowing them to initiate the ceasefire.

  • Since it was the Germans winning the war at that point, it also made sense for them to

  • be the initiatorsthey had more to lose from taking such a huge risk.

  • But it wasn't all fun and games.

  • Whilst some soldiers went around smoking and playing soccer, others took the opportunity

  • to honor the dead.

  • Abandoned bodies had been lying around for weeks on no man's land, with no one able

  • to retrieve them without risking their lives.

  • The ceasefire offered the chance to finally carry out ceremonies and bury bodies.

  • Others took advantage of the opportunity for a touch of home improvement.

  • Thanks to the terrible weather, the trenches were overridden with mud and diseases, but

  • the truce made it possible to slightly improve this grim situation.

  • Naturally, not everyone approved of the ceasefire.

  • Amongst them was none other than Adolf Hitler, who proclaimed those who took part had no

  • German honor.

  • Many of the highest-ranking generals also disapproved, as they hadn't sanctioned the

  • move and were worried it could lose them the war.

  • A few unfortunate men died the day of the ceasefire, killed by those who decided to

  • shoot instead of observing peace.

  • Most people look back on the Christmas Truce as being a day of universal peace, but this

  • doesn't tell the whole story.

  • It was also a day when many soldiers realized how different they were from their superiors,

  • who didn't want peace at all.

  • If it wasn't for their commands, the war might have ended that very day instead of

  • years down the line.

  • You woke up the next day in much the same way as you had every other day for the last

  • four months except tomorrow: to gunshots and firing.

  • Normality returned as quickly as it had vanished.

  • If it wasn't for the after-effects of the alcohol and the improvement of the trenches

  • visibly in place, you'd scarcely have believed that yesterday was real.

  • Immediately your body sprung into high alert mode, as if nothing had changed.

  • Apparently, the top commanders had mandated that a ceasefire would never take place again.

  • There were your New Year's plans out the window.

  • A couple of days ago you would have felt relieved to know that reckless behavior was being quelled,

  • but now you couldn't help but feel a little confused.

  • It made you think about who the enemy really wassurely not those normal men who shared

  • plum pudding with you yesterday?

  • To learn more about the world wars, check out our videos about whether we're on the

  • way to another world war and a bear who fought alongside soldiers in the second world war.

Here it is again – a suspicious noise from the other side of no man's land, where the

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B1 trench truce war ceasefire christmas german

WWI Christmas Truce - When the British and Germans Became Friends For a Day

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/22
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