A Moment Of Peace: The Christmas Truce Of World War I

A Moment Of Peace: The Christmas Truce Of World War I

A Moment Of Peace: The Christmas Truce Of World War I

For one remarkable period of time, peace reigned on the battlefields of World War I. 

Think about it. In the midst of battle soldiers realized it was Christmas Eve. For a brief shining moment, the guns fell silent on both sides. It was a moment in time that had never happened before, nor has happened since.

Bruce Bairnsfather was a British machine gunner at that time, and later went on to become a prominent cartoonist. In his memoirs he describes what happened between the British and Germans in the Belgium area of Bois de Ploegsteert.

““Here I was, in this horrible clay cavity,” Bairnsfather wrote, “…miles and miles from home. Cold, wet through and covered with mud.” There didn’t “seem the slightest chance of leaving—except in an ambulance.”

Then the singing started

At about 10 p.m., Bairnsfather noticed a noise. “I listened,” he recalled. “Away across the field, among the dark shadows beyond, I could hear the murmur of voices.” He turned to a fellow soldier in his trench and said, “Do you hear the Boches [Germans] kicking up that racket over there?”

“Yes,” came the reply. “They’ve been at it some time!”

The Germans were singing carols, as it was Christmas Eve. In the darkness, some of the British soldiers began to sing back.”

Then the invitations came. Enemies put down their weapons and met in the middle of ‘No Man’s Land’ to exchange pleasantries, cigarettes, wine & beer, and even played soccer!

It wasn’t just that one battlefield either. The Christmas Truce happened all up and down the front. In longing for home and for peace, soldiers set war aside for one very special day.

Lieutenant Charles Brewer, just nineteen years old, was a long ways from home that cold wet night. And then he saw lights. Not lights from weapons being fired. No, they were lights on small Christmas trees. Soon after, he heard singing. “Silent Night” in fact.

“As dawn began to break, unarmed soldiers from the German and British side all along the 500-mile-long Western Front began leaving the trenches and approaching the other side. What just hours before was considered no man’s land now became little pockets of Christmas parties, handshakes, hugs, and well-wishes.

Charles Brewer thought Christmas in 1914 would be nothing but fear, death, and war, but Charles Brewer spent his Christmas morning singing, exchanging gifts, and enjoying the company of those around him. It was a small reprieve from the agonies of war. And it was all started by a simple Christmas Carol.”

One of the worst battles of WWI took place in Belleau Wood. Thousands of men lost their lives in that forest. In 1997 Garth Brooks wrote a song about that Christmas Truce and, just a few years ago, sang it on Good Morning America for Veterans Day. Watch his tribute here.

That is indeed, in today’s awful political climate, the question. However, a Christmas Truce is something that we can all accomplish. The soldiers of WWI showed us the way.

If soldiers, who just hours before were in the midst of battle can decide that, for one moment in time, peace should reign; then each of us can also become a “singer of the hymn”

“Then I thought that I was dreaming
For right there in my sight
Stood the German soldier
‘Neath the falling flakes of white
And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here’s hoping we both live
To see us find a better way
Then the devil’s clock struck midnight
And the skies lit up again
And the battlefield where heaven stood
Was blown to hell again
But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s just beyond the fear
No, heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s for us to find it here”

To all our readers near and far, I pray for you this Christmas a day of peace and joy that will carry you into the future.

Feature Photo Credit: Dove by Geralt via Pixabay, cropped and modified

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