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31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude (Christmas day truce)

24 Dec

Dec 31 / 1914

Dear Mother

Thanks most awfully for your last few letters. I’m afraid I’ve been very remiss in answering them, but I have’nt had a moment really. We came out of those old trenches on the night of the 27th, after doing 25 days & nights there, pretty long time was’nt it. We were glad to be relieved as you may imagine, the men were all absolutely doggo, as they had to work day & night to keep the trenches for from falling in, because the weather was so wet & beastly that the earthy all got sodden & soaked & had to be simply propped up, & our trenches were simply lined with boards & old doors & anything we could get hold of. I am writing this in nice comfortable billets miles away from the firing line where the whole Indian Army Corps has come for a rest for 3 weeks or so.

I have’nt much news to tell you except an extraordinary thing which happened on Christmas day. To begin with on Christmas eve all the German trenches were lined with little lights, which we afterwards discovered were Christmas trees. Well next morning we heard them singing & shouting in their trenches, and about midday they began lifting up hats on sticks and shewing them above the trenches, then they shewed their heads, & then bodies & finally they climbed out of their trenches into the open! Of course one could’nt shoot them in cold blood like that, tho’ one or two shots were fired; and after a bit we also scrambled out of our trenches, & for an hour both sides walked about in the space between the two lines of trenches, talking & laughing, swapping baccy & cigarettes, biscuits etc. They were quite friendly & genuine, & our Col: who talks German had a long conversation with them, & asked them how they were & everything, & you would never believe that we had been fighting for weeks. After about an hour their officers shooed them back to their trenches, and we came back to ours, but for the rest of Christmas day & night, & all next day, 26th, I dont suppose 2 shots were fired hardly by either side! Was’nt it weird?

By the way, leave is now open, & 3 of our fellows have gone on leave. I am, I hope, arriving in London about 3 o’clock on the 8th, if all goes well, as my turn is next; so you can expect me home, with a fair amount of certainty, on evening of the 8th, probably by a train leaving Waterloo about 5-6 o’clock. So if anyone likes to hang about Waterloo anytime about then they are fairly sure to meet me. Is’nt it GORGEOUS!!

Happy New Year to all

yr loving son

Ted


Ted’s CO, Colonel Drake-Brockman, gives a more detailed account of the Christmas Truce in his memoirs.

The cartoon below comes from Ted’s letter to his sister Jane, also about the Christmas Truce. It shows a Garhwali soldier saying ‘Bonjour Fritz’ to a German who’s wearing his pickelhaube and saying ‘Salaam Salaam’ back.

Christmas Truce Cartoon

Christmas Truce Cartoon

 
12 Comments

Posted by on 24 December, '12 in About, France, Primary source, Waterloo

 

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12 responses to “31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude (Christmas day truce)

  1. Mike

    14 November, '14 at 18:19

    What an incredible tale. Even in the darkest of times, back in the ‘olden days’, humanity had a lot more human to it. Cannot imagine a take like this ever happening in modern times of war. Did Ted make it home for his leave? What did the rest of his war bring him? It would be nice to know…..

     
  2. Family Letters

    14 November, '14 at 18:33

    Well I try hard not to give spoilers, but you can find out what happened to Ted and all his brothers and sisters by reading their letters 100 years after they wrote them. Sign up for emails, follow along http://www.twitter.com/BerrymanLetters (letters only) or http://www.twitter.com/FamilyLetters (letters and ww1 commentary).

     
  3. Mike

    14 November, '14 at 18:46

    Thanks, I certainly will sign up and follow. Truly fascinating! One thing though….I noticed that in one of Teds letters there is a postcard with a Guildford, Surrey address on it. I am from Guildford, although living inthe a Middle East, and was wondering where about in Guildford the family is from?

     
  4. Family Letters

    14 November, '14 at 19:21

    I’m so glad you like the site. They lived in a house called “Delaford” which is not there any more, or not by that name anyway. It may have been bombed in ww2 or just been sold and had its name changed. I can look at photographs of envelopes tonight to see what road it was on.

     
  5. Mike

    14 November, '14 at 21:00

    That would be great. Bet it will still be there under a different name. Not sure Guildford was bombed at all during WW2. I am back at xmas so with all this new reading, a potential visit to the actual house would be incredible. Exciting. Just spent 15 mins telling my wife, who is on her iPad next to me, about your site, having found you from a fb post about the Sainsbury ad. The ad, the letter….wow! I remember studying this at school. I also remember stories from my grandfather as a child and this just adds more intensity to what was some seriously powerful learning experiences when I was little. Thanks and great job. People like you really do make a difference to our history not being forgotten. Ever.

     
  6. Family Letters

    14 November, '14 at 21:40

    Hi Mike

    I checked the Census – it was on the London Road. At that time there were Gertrude, three girls (Ben, Dreda and Jane) two boys (Dick and Topher) and two eighteen year old live-in maids, so it must have been substantial. My mother lived there with Gertrude for a while in the early 1930s with cousins but they shared a bedroom. It would be amazing if you found it, and if you do please drop me a line and send me photographs. We’ve been fairly lazy doing research because simply getting things on the site is a job and a half, as you can imagine.

    If you follow the brothers you’ll find some Middle East connections later on, though of course the “Middle East” is a big place and you won’t be where the Berrymans were.

    All the best, and thank you for your interest.

     
  7. Ben

    15 November, '14 at 19:25

    A lovely read – very interesting… And that cartoon is great 🙂

     
  8. Family Letters

    15 November, '14 at 21:11

    I’m glad you enjoyed it Ben, I’ve always loved that cartoon. Ted also drew a before and after picture of himself going into the trenches spick and span and coming out exhausted and filthy with a three week beard.

     
  9. bettye curd

    19 November, '14 at 06:49

    Interesting , my husband shared this with me, he is a retired military man ..so he can identify better the extremes that all of this entails . He forwards his emails to me as he did this one. I remember ,as a young child, the excitement of my parents getting letters from my older brothers during WWII and sharing the news and locations and reading the local news paper & hanging close to the radio for any extra words of hope . I skipped home from elementary school one day and as I entered my dad said your mom is hanging clothes on the line ,run and tell her the end of the war was just announced . I hurried to her and related the message ..Well her arms went up and she fell on her knees and shouted Glory be to God right there in the side yard and she kept praying and praising and giving thanks to our Lord as cars were going up & down our street . Those five stars on the little banner which hung in our front window was a symbol very special to our home and community and country. They all made it home …. PTL . All hearts return home at Christmas…as they took time to recall in the hour to be at peace for a little while and shared the brotherhood of humanity instilled by the love of God , country and home .

     
  10. Family Letters

    19 November, '14 at 08:14

    What an incredible memory to have – and wonderful that your brothers all made it home. I cannot imagine the constant fear your mother must have felt (as so many did) for years on end. Thank you so much for sharing your memory.

     
  11. Luwe

    12 December, '14 at 00:53

    Perhaps it had something to do with the nature of that particular style of warfare. I think that is plausible to believe that if the same conditions and implements of that time existed with the people of today perhaps the similar exchange might very well happen. Humanity still exists, it’s the nature and implements of the warfare that has changed and people act accordingly.

     
  12. Tamsin

    12 December, '14 at 15:42

    Yes the constant fear for one’s loved ones. Very well and poignantly described by Elizabeth Goudge in one of her books. One character, an elderly lady in WWII, having lost brothers in the First World War, was coping with concealing the fact that she was living constantly on her nerves when any knock on the door, milkman, postman, anybody at all, was always potentially the boy with the telegram bringing that worst of news about her beloved grandson or great-nephew.

     

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