As many of you know, this fall the History Department commemorated the centenary of the beginning of the First World War with a lecture series called “Legacies of the Great War. Watch the lectures online at http://www.marquette.edu/history/NewsHistGreatWarLectures.shtml.
It’s fitting, then, that our traditional Christmas-time blog features the centennial of the famous “Christmas Truce” between German and Allied armies in 1914, the war’s first Yuletide. Mostly we’ll let an excellent British website provide most of the information. But first, Julius Ruff, who teaches a course on WWI and was co-organizer of the lecture series, provides a brief introduction (check out the website his class created featuring biographies of many WWI soldiers at http://experienceofworldwarone.weebly.com/). Merry Christmas, everyone.
Amid the carnage of the First World War, a conflict that claimed the lives of some 10,000,000 soldiers, a bizarre event spontaneously occurred on the Western Front in northern France at Christmas, 1914. On Christmas Eve, Allied soldiers noted the appearance of Christmas trees and the singing of Christmas carols in the trenches of the German forces facing them. In plain defiance of military regulations forbidding fraternization with the enemy, Allied soldiers joined the German response to this most central observance of the Christian faith, and soon left their own lines to meet their enemies in the middle of the “no man’s land” that separated the opposing armies. On that killing field, up and down the front, war suddenly stopped, as the soldiers observed an unofficial truce to exchange Christmas greetings, holiday foods, and tobacco with their nominal enemies. In some sectors, the soldiers even played soccer. This cessation of hostilities endured through Christmas Day, 1914, before officers on both sides re-imposed traditional military regulations. The soldiers repeated one last, diminished celebration of this sort in 1915, before the belligerent forces resumed warfare that would continue uninterrupted until the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918.
For descriptions, documents, news about centennial commemorations, and much more about the truce, go to “Operation Plum Puddings” at http://www.christmastruce.co.uk/article.html.