The Letter Home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
On Christmas Eve 1914 a soldier writes to his wife from the trenches. He descibes the extraordinary events of the day.

Submitted: January 30, 2015

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Submitted: January 30, 2015

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24th December 1914

Dearest,

I must tell you of the events of today while they are still fresh in my mind. This morning the awful rain we’d been having recently had given way to cold and frosty conditions. As we peaked a look over the wire into no man’s land we could see a frozen white landscape. It looked like a Christmas card.

As it was Christmas Eve we tried to keep our spirits up. There was plenty of talk of Blightly. We talked of Christmases we had celebrated in the past. We also imagined being at home this Christmas. We’d all expected the war to be over by now, but, alas, the end looks nowhere in sight.

Each man tried to keep the spirit of Christmas. The packages from home arrived yesterday so we had chocolate, biscuits, and tea. Out here it’s the little things that keep you going.

Just after eleven o’clock this morning we heard something coming from the German trenches. We stopped what we were doing. Every man listened. I heard voices, singing. I recognised the tune even though the words were in German. You can imagine our shock to hear Silent Night being sung by the soldiers we’re told is the enemy. It made such a change from the sound of shell and gun fire.

Almost as one we started singing the English version of the hymn. My spirits soared. It seemed that Christmas would reach these trenches after all. Several hours passed. Both sides sung any Christmas hymns and carols we could think of. Such festivity in such awful circumstances. I peered over the parapet. I could see some of the German troops in their trench just yards from us. One man waved his arms. Two German soldiers climbed out of their trench. They walked slowly towards us. Men all around me readied their rifles, preparing to fire. I saw the German lads carried no rifles. I yelled for our boys to hold their fire.

We waited. We watched as the brave, brave men walked to our trench. They had their palms facing up to the skies, a gesture that they meant us no harm. One of our men climbed the ladder. He walked slowly towards the enemy. He also had his hands raised. We looked on, ready, rifles in hand. We all wondered what would happen next. Was this all some elaborate rouse by the Germans?

Our man neared the two Germans. I held my breath. My finger hovered on the trigger of my rifle.

Then it happened. I will never forget what happened then. Our lad still had his arms raised, proving he was no threat. The German fellers reached him. I was expecting anything. I tried to brace myself for explosions and weapon fire.

 But one of the German lads held out his hand, a smile on his face. They shook hands and laughed. The other German shook our man’s hand. They stood there chatting, despite the language barrier, like old school friends. Staring on in shock, I lowered my rifle. Everyone did the same. This was not a trap, no trick. This was Christmas.

We could not get up the ladders quick enough. We walked to the chatting men. We moved warily. We did not want to startle the group or disrupt the harmony. I saw soldiers climbing out of the enemy trench. They, too, moved tentatively across the frosty ground. We reached the growing huddle of soldiers.

It was magical. All around men on both sides shook hands, exchanged cigarettes and chocolate, showed each other photographs of loved ones. It stuck me that the German soldiers were not the troops of an enemy nation but some distant foreign relatives.

An hour or so later we drifted back to our trenches. Many man had tears in his eyes. We lit candles as night fell. We placed them on top of the trenches. The Germans did the same. We sung carols and smoked cigarettes. We talked of the wonder of what had happened that day.

And as I write I can hear the singing. It is almost Christmas Day. A thought has just occurred to me. No shots have been fired today. That is unheard of here.

Merry Christmas!

Your loving husband,


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