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The 1914 Truce in Context

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 It wasn’t, in fact, a bolt from the blue,

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 Instead the 1914 Truce was part of a pattern,

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 That both preceded that Christmas and continued beyond:

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 There were ‘cushy’ sectors, involving ‘laissez-faire’,

5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 ‘Rest and let rest’, ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’,

6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 ‘Mutual obligation element’,

7 Leave a comment on verse 7 0 ‘Tacit truces’, ‘mutual understanding’,

8 Leave a comment on verse 8 0 ‘Compromise, and be mighty glad to be alive’,

9 Leave a comment on verse 9 0 Running along the British front line on the Western Front.

10 Leave a comment on verse 10 0 There were respected rituals during the day:

11 Leave a comment on verse 11 0 Breakfast bacon and ration party truces,

12 Leave a comment on verse 12 0 When as Ian Hay wrote in 1915:

13 Leave a comment on verse 13 0 ‘It would be child’s play to shell …ration wagons

14 Leave a comment on verse 14 0 and water carts…but on the whole there is silence…

15 Leave a comment on verse 15 0 if you prevent your enemy from drawing his rations…

16 Leave a comment on verse 16 0 he will prevent you from drawing yours.’

17 Leave a comment on verse 17 0 In addition, both sides faced General Winter:

18 Leave a comment on verse 18 0 A German officer commented in 1914:

19 Leave a comment on verse 19 0 ‘Friend and foe alike go to fetch straw from the same rick

20 Leave a comment on verse 20 0 to protect them from the cold and rain and to have some sort of bedding

21 Leave a comment on verse 21 0 to lie on – and never a shot is fired.’

22 Leave a comment on verse 22 0 Sometimes, defused rifle grenades were tossed into trenches,

23 Leave a comment on verse 23 0 Containing messages, sometimes weather truces

24 Leave a comment on verse 24 0 Led to salutations, conversations and jokes,

25 Leave a comment on verse 25 0 (‘”Waiter!”… fifty Fritzes stuck their heads up…”Coming Sir.” ’);

26 Leave a comment on verse 26 0 Sometimes, a deliberate policy of positive inertia

27 Leave a comment on verse 27 0 Was recognized and reciprocated,

28 Leave a comment on verse 28 0 Sometimes night patrols would studiously avoid each other.

29 Leave a comment on verse 29 0 Weaponry, even when used, could also send messages:

30 Leave a comment on verse 30 0 Rifle and machine gun fire might be aimed too high,

31 Leave a comment on verse 31 0 Hand bombing led to a signaled, invitational

32 Leave a comment on verse 32 0 And deliberate misplacing of explosives:

33 Leave a comment on verse 33 0 ‘their trenches…no more than ten or fifteen yards from ours…

34 Leave a comment on verse 34 0 was a good insurance against strafing on either side.

35 Leave a comment on verse 35 0 The mildest exchange of hand grenades or bombs…

36 Leave a comment on verse 36 0 Would have made life intolerable.’

37 Leave a comment on verse 37 0 Heavy artillery took a different line:

38 Leave a comment on verse 38 0 Here messages were sent by the fact that often,

39 Leave a comment on verse 39 0 The same spot would be shelled at exactly the same time each day:

40 Leave a comment on verse 40 0 ‘Twelve little Willies at noon to the tick,

41 Leave a comment on verse 41 0 Got our heads down, and go them down quick,

42 Leave a comment on verse 42 0 Peaceful and calm was the rest of the day,

43 Leave a comment on verse 43 0 Nobody hurt and nothing to say.’

44 Leave a comment on verse 44 0 ‘Nobody hurt and nothing to say’:

I have compiled this prose-poem from ‘Trench Warfare 1914-1918: The Live and Let Live System’, by Tony Ashworth (Macmillan, 1980); his conclusion is that:

‘Altogether it does not seem unreasonable to assert that live and let live occurred in about one-third of all trench tours made by all divisions within the BEF. Such was the scale of this undertone of trench warfare.’

This ignored and forgotten history is something to talk about in centenary year.

Editor Note:
Click here for more wonderful Butleresque observations on The Christmas Truce, A Guide to the Radical History of Stroud and the Five Valleys and much, much more .
Crispin.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/the-1914-truce-in-context/