‘On Christmas Eve the Germans entrenched opposite us began calling out to us “Cigarettes”, “Pudding”, “A Happy Christmas” and “English – means good”, so two of our fellows climbed over the parapet of the trench and went towards the German trenches. Half way they were met by four Germans, who said they would not shoot on Christmas Day if we did not. They gave our fellows cigars and a bottle of wine and were given a cake and cigarettes.
‘When they came back I went out with some more of our fellows and we were met by about 30 Germans, who seemed to be very nice fellows. I got one of them to write his name and address on a postcard as a souvenir. All through the night we sang carols to them and they sang to us and one played “God Save the King” on a mouth organ.
‘On Christmas Day we all got out of the trenches and walked about with the Germans, who, when asked if they were fed up with the war said “Yes, rather”. They all believed that London had been captured, and that German sentries were outside Buckingham Palace. They are evidently told a lot of rot. We gave them some of our newspapers to convince them. Some of them could speak English fairly well.
‘Between the trenches there were a lot of dead Germans whom we helped to bury. In one place where the trenches are only 25 yards apart we could see dead Germans half-buried, their legs and gloved hands sticking out of the ground. The trenches in this position are so close that they are called “The Death Trap”, as hundreds have been killed there.
‘A hundred yards or so in the rear of our trenches there were houses that had been shelled. These were explored with some of the regulars and we found old bicycles, top-hats, straw hats, umbrellas etc. We dressed ourselves up in these and went over to the Germans. It seemed so comical to see fellows walking about in top-hats and with umbrellas up. Some rode the bicycles backwards. We had some fine sport and made the Germans laugh.
‘No firing took place on Christmas night and at four the next morning we were relieved by regulars. I managed to get hold of a German ammunition pouch and bayonet but the latter I have thrown away, as it was so awkward to carry. I intend bringing the pouch home with me – when I come home.’
Extract from letter written home by Rifleman C H Brazier, Queen’s Westminsters of Bishops Stortford, Christmas 1914
#230 Struggles for Truth ● The Arab Spring 10 years on ● The origins and legacies of US conspiracy theories ● The limits of scientific evidence in climate activism ● Student struggles around the world ● The political power of branding ● Celebrating Marcus Rashford ● ‘Cancelling’ Simon Hedges ● Latest book reviews ● And much more!
And you choose how much to pay for your subscription...
The uprisings against police brutality that swept across Nigeria must be contextualised within the country’s colonial history, argues Kehinde Alonge
Outside the media fanfare surrounding the recent wave of university-based militancy, one community's fight against developers goes on. Robert Firth reports
Conspiracy theories aren’t the preserve of a minority – they lie at the heart of US politics, argues Thomas Konda
From climate change to the perils of the information era, the collection powerfully explores the struggles facing contemporary teenagers, writes Jordana Belaiche
Hilary Wainwright remembers friend and mentor to many, Leo Panitch, who died on December 19, 2020
Very sensible columnist Simon Hedges shares his take on the 2020 phenomena of people believing that 'cancel culture' is really a thing