Letters from the front in 1914 reveal the day of peace at ChristmasReports of the truce first began to appear in the British press as they published Christmas letters home from soldiers at the front. All spoke of their amazement at the occurrence, and the joy of the day - in one of the letters a soldier says that he "wouldn't have missed it for the most gorgeous Christmas dinner in England."Sergeant H.A. Barrs wrote to his parents on Boxing Day that he had had 'a topping time and wouldn't have missed it for pounds.' Herbert Smart, who played football for Aston Villa, doesn't mention the football match that has become so mythologised over the past century, but does admit he 'didn't know what to think...Fancy a German shaking your flapper as though he was trying to smash your fingers and then a few days later trying to plug you.' (Read below the rest of his and Barrs' letters.)Over the next few days, more letters began to arrive, and the extent to which the truce had begun as soldier faced soldier became clear. In the letters printed in the article below, an officer admits "it was the strangest sight I have ever seen," while a private of the Stalybridge Territorials writes that "the officers couldn't make head nor tail of it."
In many of the letters, the writers expressed a wish that the day of peace could lead onto a "more decisive peace," a wish also echoed by German soldiers, as the letter below, published in the German journal Vorwarts, illustratesIt is perhaps not that surprising that in 1914, despite already harsh conditions, soldiers could still express a sense of optimism that "scrapping will soon be over." Yet it was also in Christmas 1914 that the Germans made their first attempt at an air raid, a signalling of the new technology that would be used throughout the war to terrible effect, and help prolong the fighting for over three more years. In 1915, the second Christmas at the front, the Manchester Guardian looked back at the 'reported strange and pathetic episodes of temporary friendship' of a year earlier, noting sadly that 'this Christmas, not only have the various authorities frowned on such attempts...but, as far as one can tell, there has been little inclination towards them among the soldiers themselves.'