The Christmas Truce: The day the fighting stopped-and a soccer game broke out
Christmas Day 1914 saw millions of young men facing each other in a double line of trenches several hundred yards apart that snaked hundreds of miles across Europe. These soldiers had seen some desperate fighting in the opening months of World War I, and plenty more lay ahead.
But on this particular day, peace seemed to break out all over.
In violation of orders, British and German soldiers climbed out of their trenches waving flags of truce and made their way into no-man’s-land to celebrate Christmas with their enemies. Leaving the horror of war behind for one day, they shared Christmas pudding and belted out songs together. They exchanged toasts and traded cigarettes and food. “Most peculiar Christmas I’ve ever spent, and ever likely to” scribbled one British soldier in his diary.
In one place along the line, German soldiers from Saxony were fraternizing with Scottish Highlanders when one of the Scots brought out a soccer ball. A few minutes later a full-fledged game was under way on the frozen turf of no-man’s-land. Men who had been trying to kill each other just the day before played enthusiastically for more than an hour.
A German lieutenant, Johannes Niemann, wrote home about the game: “We Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts. The game finished with a score of three goals to two in favor of Friz against Tommy.”
The next day, the impromptu truce ended as quickly as it began . . . and the men who had celebrated together returned to the ugly job of killing each other.
an excerpt from The Greatest War Stories Never Told