The Christmas Truce 聖誕節休戰


Image caption Jurgs: "there was more to the truce than the Christmas spirit"

Vocabulary:Peace 詞匯: 和平

It happened 100 years ago this week: tired young men jumped out of their muddy trenches on the Western Front of the First World War and fraternised with the enemy. Soldiers exchanged small gifts and some even played football together in no-man's-land.

This extraordinary event, which came to be known as The Christmas Truce, took place between British and German troops. Michael Jurgs, the author of The Small Peace in the Great War, says there was much more to this spontaneous ceasefire than just the Christmas spirit. The historian believes soldiers of both sides were simply fed up with the war.

Jurgs says the soldiers had been promised they would be home by Christmas, but after a few months of war, there were already a million dead and there was no sign the conflict would end any day soon. The bad weather made everybody even more miserable. The first move towards the truce came from the German side. Jurgs is from Germany and he finds this surprising because his country "has started or joined many wars" - but the German soldiers began to sing the Christmas carol, 'Silent Night, Holy Night' and that's how it all began.

The tune helped to break the ice, because it was recognised by the British and the news spread quickly along the trenches.

Captain G.B. Jameson of the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry was there when it happened. He remembered, during an interview in 1991, that a comrade told him that some German soldiers were walking outside the trenches. He thought his friend was joking but it turned out to be true. Jameson said that nobody was fighting and people were just wandering around the top talking, having a great time.

The soldiers chatted, smoked, exchanged gifts and even played football together in no-man's-land. But the truce was never going to last. The high command placed a ban on this type of behaviour, and, in spite of some isolated outbreaks of goodwill the following year, it was not repeated.

It sounds like a good Christmas story for a movie but... it's good to remember: it really did happen. Merry Christmas!