Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WWI Christmas Timeout

Recently discovered letters from a British officer who experienced the Christmas truce during World War I reveal new details of the events. The ceasefire took place on Christmas Eve and continued the next day between more than 100,000 British and German soldiers. Soldiers on opposing sides sang songs, exchanged gifts, and played soccer.

Major John Hawksley of the Royal Field Artillery wrote to his sister that he refused to take part in the ceasefire and would shoot Germans if they left their trenches. He wrote of the camaraderie between the two sides during the ceasefire, including singing "Home Sweet Home" in English together, then "God Save the King." A soccer match was arranged for December 26th but was cancelled after learning fighting was to commence by then.

The optimism of peace the soldiers might have experienced was short lived, as fighting continued for another four years and nearly 10 million people died, including Hawksley. The Major was killed in 1916 by sniper fire. His letters are scheduled for auction and are expected to sell anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000. 

And as we come up to the halfway mark until Christmas, celebrate with Joyeux Noël, a movie about the WWI Christmas truce. I watched it during a film class in college and it's great if you want a warm, fuzzy feeling followed by a sudden shift to hopelessness.