Disobeying Direct Orders, British & German Soldiers Forged Their Own Christmas Truce

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Although they were officially still at war, many British and German soldiers disobeyed orders and had their own impromptu truce on Christmas 1914. The two groups of soldiers, who had for months been cooped up in their respective trenches in the freezing cold, climbed up on the battlefield without their weapons, and met each other.

The Germans and British sang carols together, exchanged small gifts, drank, and even engaged in games of soccer (football).
Above: A photo of British and German forces posing together on Christmas, 1914.
Soldiers from both sides also used the opportunity to collect their dead who lay strewn on the battlefield and bury them.

The truce occurred after then-Pope Benedict XV had called for one earlier that year. But higher-ups on both sides disagreed with his suggestion, and opposed the truce.

British commander Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien had this to say of the truce: “To finish this war quickly, we must keep up the fighting spirit and do all we can to discourage friendly intercourse.” Similarly, said one young corporal Adolf Hitler of the German army, “Such things should not happen in wartime. Have you Germans no sense of honor left at all? ”

Such official outrage didn’t stop the troops in future years however when smaller truces occurred, though commanders ordered artillery strikes be carried out on Christmas Eve in hopes that it would stop opposing soldiers from getting to know each other.

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