I included the Garth Brooks song Belleau Wood at the end of this post.
During World War I, there were a few unofficial cease fires that took place between British, French, and German troops.
The first unofficial truce took place December 24, 1914, in the trenches around Ypres, Belgium. It started with German soldiers putting decorations around their trenches and singing Christmas Carols. They also placed candles on trees. The most notable song wasStille Nacht (Silent Night).
The British soldiers responded by singing English Christmas Carols. The soldiers on both sides responded by shouting Christmas Greetings.
Then someone suggested a meeting in No Man’s Land. Once there a gift exchange began.
The troops traded whiskey, jam, cigars, chocolate and such items. Then the artillery fell silent.
This allowed burial parties from both sides to collect the bodies of fallen comrades.And provide proper burial. At one such burial, British and German soldiers recited the 23rd Psalm over their comrades’ graves.
The 1914 truce spread to other areas, some lasting through Christmas night and others lasted to New Years Day. There are stories of football games between British and German soldiers.
The film Joyeux Noel suggests there were letters sent home by both sides that said the Germans won the game 3-2. British Commanders Sir John French and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien swore such truces would never happen again, but both men left their commands before 1915.
On the Eastern front, during the 1914 truce, the artillery was ordered to keep up their bombardment through Christmas Eve, in hopes the would not be any lulls in the fighting as to prevent any but official truces or cease fires.
The efforts to rotate the troops to different fronts failed also. When the Christmas bell rang in the village of Vossage behind the lines, something magical and very non-military happened.
German and French troops called a truce and agreed to meet in unused trenches. Theirgift exchanges took place. The men traded wine, cognac, cigarettes,Westphalian black bread, biscuits and ham.
The first two years of the war saw the Western front stabilize.
As a result, several unofficial truces took place, much to the dismay of the High Command.
British Commanders were shocked to see German and British soldier’s exposed themselves to enemy gunfire a the top of their trenches.
During the truces artillery fire was pin pointed to exact times and places to prevent anyone from being hurt or killed on either side. There were a few hostile out breaks of gunfire after a German mortar round hit to close to British lines.
The firing stopped after a German solider shouted a apology to the British. The unofficial truce would then start back.
These times can be called a True Christmas Miracle.