Peace in No Man’s Land: The Christmas Truce of 1914

On a cold winter’s day in December 1914, the men of both sides emerged from their trenches. Not to fight, but to take part in the Christmas Truce. For a brief moment, there was Peace in No Man’s Land. But what is the real story of this famous event?

The following are some recommended books on The Christmas Truce. Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton’s 1980s publication remains the best in my view. These images will take you to the Amazon page for each book – buying books this way helps support The Old Front Line, so thank you!

The BBC Documentary Malcom Brown made in 1984 is avialble on YouTube:

Podcast Extras

Bruce Bairnsfather

25 Comments on “Peace in No Man’s Land: The Christmas Truce of 1914

  1. Season’s greetings for another interesting issue……Look forward to having a beer with you in NML in 2021……..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I perform a Christmas song at this time of year called “Belleau Wood” about the 1914 truce. and I usually read a letter I found years ago on a website about Letters from the front from that Bruce Bairnsfather mentioned here. Blew my mind to see him mentioned here. I wonder if his letter is in one of the books?

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  3. Another excellent pod Paul.
    The myth of the football match reminded me of a piece of theatre I saw in 1994 called “The Big Picnic”.

    Staged in the old Harland & Wolff engine shed in Govan, Glasgow, it started with a Ceilidh interrupted by a recruiting Sgt when marched the men away through a curtain which opened to reveal a section of trench and no mans land covering the cavernous shed.
    The audience followed the action along scaffolding walkways, it included “The Angel of Mons”, an acrobat suspended from the old overhead crane, swooping down to carry off a fallen Soldier, the Christmas truce and football match, everyday trench life, scenes at home including the rent strikes and finally the men being wiped out in a charge into no mans land.
    All accompanied by a band playing period music and songs, one of the stars was a young Ashley Jensen.

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      • The experience was, they simulated a gas attack by shining green lasers on smoke and at one point the QM fried bacon over a camp kettle filling the place with the smell.

        They also had the characters who were couples spotlighted in no mans land as they read letters to each other, the character speaking the context of the letter as their partner looked at it.

        The BBC recorded it, and it will be out there, but sadly they edited it to something I hardly recognised.

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  4. Paul, I have listened to all your podcasts – some more than once as the amount of information imparted during the podcasts was often too much to take in whilst following your routes on Googlemaps and trench map images. I do hope you will continue with your podcasts next year and if you return to physical tours in 2021 rather than just virtual tours, I will certainly be making a booking.
    With very best wishes for a better 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another wonderful podcast and a very fitting subject for this time of year. Season’s greetings to you and all who listen each week. KR Nigel

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  6. Absolutely engrossing and fascinating, as ever. As someone who has an interest in the 1st Hampshires who were in the line on the edge of Plugstreet Wood on Christmas Day (and had taken part in the failed attack on the Birdcage on December 19th) I looked at the battalion war diary and in the ‘remarks’ column was a note about an informal truce commencing with the 133rd Saxons opposite and continuing until the New Year. Interestingly, the official regimental Great War history, published in 1952, describes the events of December 1914 in some detail but makes no mention of the truce.

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    • Thanks Trevor, fascinating stuff. I recently acquired a photo of 133rd Saxons which I’ll be using for my next book. The men in it must have been in the Truce.

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  7. Yet another brilliant Pod, thanks Paul. Dispelled a few myths I had!
    You mentioned a Bairnsfather Twitter account. Despite searching, I can’t seem to find it. Can you post a link please?

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  8. I loved this episode in particular. It was great to hear you peel away the layers of the story to reveal the truth. I do show the Sainsbury ad in my middle school social studies classes but now I will use it as a critical thinking exercise for my students.
    Thanks for another great episode and I look forward to listening to future episodes.

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  9. Hi again Paul….am still listening every single week and compiling notes on where I am going to head for when the bans are lifted! The Christmas Truce was a fascinating episode. Some time ago when I was visiting the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, I was handed a little leaflet as I wandered around.It contained a collection of quotes from men of both sides who had taken part in the Truce. The words that they spoke about that event stuck with me for years and eventually led me to buy a whole raft of books about the subject. Being an artist, I knew that something was coming to the boil….I eventually I made a series of ten pieces of work inspired by the Truce, using as a starting point, the exact words that these men had recorded for posterity, usually in letters home.If ever a magical moment exists in a war, this was surely it….

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  10. A great way to end season one! Very interesting to hear the myth of the football match being debunked and the extended interview with Henry Williamson. I must look up some of his WW1 books, which despite his dark side, I’m sure will make for fascinating reading. If you ever visit Clun in Shropshire, there is a plaque commemorating Bruce Bainsfather’s stay at a house near the village centre.

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  11. Just catching up with these and I especially enjoyed this one. Great piece of ‘mythbusting’ along with a really interesting account of what really did happen. It’s interesting that you mention the Paul McCartney video as I’ve always thought that the soldier in the balaclava on the IWM photo you have posted looks a bit like him.

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  12. As you know Paul, Henry Williamson wrote about the Christmas Truce in his Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight novels, and it greatly affected his subsequent life, politics and writings.

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