In the midst of a seemingly never ending
In the midst of a seemingly never ending conflict, soldiers in opposing trenches put down their arms in an unmatched showing of peace. They made a compromise to stop firing in the name of shared values, even in the face of danger. On June 28th, 1914, the establishment of peace in Europe fell apart. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia, asking for a multitude of humiliating demands. Serbia couldn’t accept these demands and refused. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Due to a large entanglement of alliances, the war would end up involving Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria on one side, with Serbia, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and the United States opposing them. By the end of the war, a death toll of approximately 17 million was buried in the depths of the trenches, sand, and No Man’s Land. Even almost 100 years after it’s conclusion, World War 1 is still notorious for its battlefront between the nations of France and Germany. The Western Front still is infamous for its trenches, a symbol of dread for any enlisted soldier in the French, British, or German armies. Many deadly forms of military technology were tested there. Some were tanks and poison gas. Easily the deadliest front of the war, the western front quickly inflicted casualties on both sides. This was far from what was expected by either alliance. One promise that was widespread throughout the European continent was an concept of peace and a return home by Christmas. After five months, Christmas day arrived, along with disappointment in the trenches. Many soldiers, even when waking up on Christmas morning, had been in a state of denial. The government did have sympathy for the men. To boost the deteriorating morale of the troops, the United Kingdom’s Queen Mary personally sent gifts to each of the British soldiers. The public was encouraged to donate to them, and both sides of the trenches received necessities such as food, clothing, and comfort items from home. While soldiers were still struggling with the prospect of years of fighting, they prepared for Christmas. One famous event of the Christmas truce took place on Christmas Eve in one of the trenches. After preparing christmas trees and lights on their side of the land, the Germans sat down to celebrate Christmas. The sound of the hymn Stille Nacht, or Silent Night, rang through the air. The British would eventually join in the song and sing with the Germans. For one moment, the war was suspended. Their bloody fight was set aside for a symbol of hope, one which the soldiers would keep in their hearts until the end of the war. This wasn’t the only act of brotherhood between the soldiers on Christmas Eve. Carols could be heard across many trenches. Keeping to their traditions, many Germans decorated Christmas trees to show that home wasn’t far away. However, Christmas Eve brought nothing but trench routines, practically no different from any other day. Most soldiers went to sleep with no excitement for the holiday. On Christmas day, a multitude of curious soldiers popped their heads over the side and quickly dropped down again to avoid gunfire. In certain trenches across the front, not a single shot was fired. Some Germans stood up and waved from the trenches, and the same occured for them. Soon enough, many men met in the center of No Man’s Land, exchanging gifts and conversation. Those who had acted as friends there, and both sides acknowledged the suffering that was found in either trench. One infamous case of peace on Christmas was a soccer match in no man’s land. The two sides organized a friendly soccer match which ultimately led to a German victory of 3-2. The soccer matches showed neither talent nor competition, and their fields were composed of whatever they had. After lining up helmets and planks of wood from the trenches, the game they played stood as a reminder of the time they had at home. Christmas day came, and went. At the end of the day, with their spirits not fading away, the troops went back into their trenches for rest. It wouldn’t be long before high command got news of this. The reaction was not encouraging. High command was furious that any sort of fraternization had occured. It had been warned against repeatedly for months before. Both sides called for disciplinary action against soldiers and officers alike, occasionally court martial. However, this action would never occur. Generals were more frightened than the troops they were commanding. If troops have been fighting a brutal war for five months, and they finally get a breath of relief, they are not going to want to go back to fighting. Generals couldn’t have this, if it came to mutiny, it could cause a turning point in the war, and the generals had been fighting so that their nations could achieve absolute victory. But the effect was made. Soldiers were scared to leave their trenches. Even so, many would still not fire for the next coming days. But as every day passed, so did the amount of time left for peace for the troops. Many officers, fearing for their lives, would come up with immediate ways of starting the conflict again. One example is cited as, an officer, seeing his troops still fraternizing with the enemy days after Christmas, took a gun, and killed an enemy soldier as he stood in no man’s land. He would immediately declare that the truce was over. So as it came to be, men, tired of fighting; wanting to go home and see their families again, returned to fighting. This would continue for almost four more years, until an armistice was signed on November 11th, 1918. Standing as the only major truce in World War 1, the christmas truce was a monumental moment of peace in war. However, although truces were held in many areas, there were still attempts that failed miserably for the troops involved. In many cases, troops would enter no man’s land calling for a truce, and would get shot down faster than it took for them to climb the ladder to their fate. Despite the suddenness of the event, it was not a new idea. The head of the catholic church at the time, Pope Benedict XV had called for a truce soon before. However, unsurprisingly, both sides utterly ignored the suggestion, and did not advertise the idea, only showing how determined everyone was to winning the war. The sides were so determined that they would bring in chemical weapons and more and more advanced weapons to counter the other side. The impact of the Christmas truce never faded, even long after the war.Above all else, this showed the world much needed humanity in a time of war, and will stand out to us as one of the greatest and most genuine cases of compromise between fighting forces in history.