There are many accounts of Christmas Day from 1914 on the front lines. Several Regiments were involved in the Christmas Day Truce and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders have their own stories to tell. Here are two accounts of the astonishing events that occured on 25th December 1914.
‘A Doctors War’ Extracts from the letters and diaries of Dr Fredrick George Chandler, Lieutenant, later Captain, RAMC, 1914/15 and 1917/18
Original letters are available at the Imperial War Museum
Extract from a letter to his sister Althea:
Now for a little news to speak. Last night as Christmas Eve. It was a bright starry moonlit night and it froze hard. Opposite our trenches was perfect quiet and soon we began to hear the shouts of our men to the Germans and their replies. Then various musical instruments began and song ribald mirth. One of our sergeants got out of the trench and met one of the Germans half way. He lived in Scotland and spoke English with a Scottish accent! They shook hands and exchanged hats, the German declaring that they had no wish to be fighting the English. Between the Welsh fusiliers and the Germans opposite them were passed greetings and words on bonhommerie, and also intermittent fire, whereat I was sorry.
This morning it was still freezing hard but a heavy mist was over everything. I walked up t the trenches the road way as one couldn’t be seen from the German trenches, but there was heavy sniping going on and several bullets came far too close to be pleasant. I wondered for a moment if I could be seen, but it was only chance and they did not continue to come so very near so I went on and reached the part I wanted to watch the distribution of Christmas cards and took some photographs. In the afternoon all firing ceased about our lines and an extraordinary thing occurred. Our men and Germans got out of the Trenches and met each other and chatted in great groups. The Germans in fact brought a barrel of beer over to the Regt. on our left! One could walk about anywhere with safety – it was a most delicious feeling I can tell you. There was still some snipping going on our right, but later on this stopped and about 6pm there was absolute quiet. It was perfectly delicious. I have not heard a quiet five minutes for nearly two months. Now, about 9pm, the singing has begun again and there is sgtill no firing. You can’t image how sick one gets of the crack crack of rifles and the beastly singing noise of the bullets. I swear they are worse than shells.
For dinner tonight we had soup, white wine, haggis, whiskey and vegetables, some sort of old fowl, Christmas Pudding with rum, a savoury, dry biscuits and café au rhum. This morning we came across a dead German. We had him buried properly and I got a couple of buttons off the poor devil. A weird Christmas n’est-ce pas? Bullets much too near to be pleasant, then this droll entente wth the delicious quiet afterwards – pardon the repetition of the adjective, but I know no other word to describe it.
I may get leave in a month or two but I am not all that sure.
Heaps of love and a very happy New Year.
Recollections of Private Frank Collier of the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Christmas Day 1914
“Just after mid day there were shouts along the lines, the Jerries are out of their trench. We were on the fire step like lightening, our rifles in our hands, bayoneys fixed. Then we saw they were unarmed, they were shouting and waving, we could hardly believe our eyes. Then came the order, hold your fire. Some of our men went out in the open and a number of us joined them. We met approximately half way, we were shaking hands and clapping each other’s backs. We could hear music and singing from their trenches. Some of the men made a football out of paper, rags and string and they went their dinger for about 20 minutes until the ball fell to pieces. Our officer ordered us back to our trenches. Grasping hands once more Scots and Germans saluted each other and made for their respective trenches. No shot was fired by either side till midnight.”