FOOTBALL AND FEASTS: WWI CHRISTMAS TRUCE


 

Christmas truce:soldiers of the 1/5th City of London Rgt (London Rifle Brigade) fraternisingwith Saxons of the 104th and 106th Infantry Rgts at Ploegsteert, Belgium, onDecember 25, 1914 

The plan was to repair trenches and bury fallen soldiers. Butthe 1914 Christmas truce stirred human feelings, leading to jovial gatheringsof wartime enemies

 


December1914 witnessed one of the most famous events of the First World War. The ChristmasTruce, as it became known, involved large numbers of British, French and Germansoldiers on the Western Front. Along the 30 miles of line held by the BritishExpeditionary Force south of Ypres, impetus for the truce came from the need torepair trenches and bury the dead.

Asboth sides struggled to improve living conditions, the intensity of fightingdied down. As the weather worsened, both sides risked sending out workingparties in daylight to repair trenches. On Christmas Eve, the weather changedwith the arrival of a sharp frost, causing the ground to harden.

Thatevening, British soldiers noticed strange activity along sectors of the Germanline. Major Henriques (1/16th Londons) recalled how, as darkness fell, firingslackened and the Germans began putting up lanterns along their trenches. Soonafterwards the singing of carols and patriotic German songs was heard, whichthe British applauded. Men began shouting remarks across no-man’s land and thenight passed without a shot being fired.

Withfriendly relations established, more adventurous souls on each side moved thetruce to another level on Christmas Day. Private Jack Chappell (1/5th Londons)wrote home that in the morning his battalion and the Germans opposite agreednot to fire. Men on both sides began showing themselves above the trenches andwaved to each other. When no shots were fired, German and British soldiersclimbed out of their trenches and walked into no-man’s land.

Ina scene repeated at many places on the front line, men met and exchanged food,drink, cigarettes, sweets and souvenirs. In some places photographs were takenand at others soldiers from both sides came together and took part in impromptukickabouts with footballs.



EXHIBITION OF WORLD WAR 1


Postcard of the Maltese Centre for St.John Ambulance Association


On June 28, 1914, twoshots fired by a 19-year old Serbian student, Gavrilo Princip, in Bosnia,killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie. Theassassination triggered the First World War of 1914-1918.


To mark the 90thanniversary of the war, the Malta Philatelic Society will show an award-winningdisplay entitled "Malta - Nurse of the Mediterranean" and a talk willbe given by George Dougall.


The event will be heldat 6 p.m. on April 7 in St Publius Hall, 50, St Publius Street, Floriana.


Although much has beenwritten about Malta's heroic part in World War II, relatively few know of theisland's contribution during the 1914-18 war.


In February 1915, aBritish-French fleet of 16 major battleships and numerous other auxiliary craftassembled to attack the narrow waters of the Dardanelles. The Turks knew allabout the expedition and were waiting with big guns. The result was a slaughter,with British, Australian and New Zealand troops being mowed down.


Meanwhile, in Malta,plans were made to receive the sick and wounded. The island was turned into averitable hospital; so much so that it earned the title of Nurse of theMediterranean.


The display showscovers, postcards and other philatelic items. Mr Dougall is a past chairman ofLondon's Malta Study Circle. He is best known for his daily BBC commentary inMaltese for over 30 years.