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1 January 1915 – Ted to Jane – Christmas Truce 1914

Jan 1st/15

Find I’ve used two bits of
paper by mistake! Sorry

Dear Jinny

Thanks most awfully for your 2 or 3 letters you have written lately. So sorry old thing, I have written but have had very little time. We are out of the trenches now after 25 days on end, & the whole corps is now resting, & we are all – as many as can – getting LEAVE. Is’nt it ripping & all being well I’ll be home today week, on the 8th, sometime during the evening. So anything I don’t tell you in this letter I can tell you then. Your concerts seem to be a great success; if you get any up while I’m at home I’ll help you like a shot. I’ll be home in the evening of the 8th, & leave again on the morning of the 14th, just 5 full days at home.

I’ve got my uniform now & have had a bath – in an old dustbin – but still it was a bath, & I feel so clean & smart, you would’nt know me. Of course I grew a beard in the trenches, & did’nt shave for just a month, but it was’nt exactly a success, & it looked exactly as if I was’nt shaving & not as if I was trying to grow a beard!

I’ve got new news to tell you I think. We are billeted in a little village, very dirty & muddy & fairly comfy; but we were in better billets before. We took 3 days to march here from the trenches, about 5 miles a day, as after standing in water & mud all that time you can’t imagine the state your feet get into, soft & swollen & no good for walking on, just good enough to stand upon & no more.

Going into the trenches.... coming out

Going into the trenches   coming out

Told Mother about our palling up with the Germans on Christmas day. It was most amusing & so utterly out of keeping with the rest of the show that one can hardly realize it happened.

Christmas Day Truce 1914

The above is – liar [sic]  – what happened; but I’ll tell you all about it when I see you. I have’nt seen anything in the papers about it yet. I’m afraid this is a very dull letter but I really can find nothing to say, & I may’nt say it anyhow.

It’s a real miserable day today, cold and wet and miserable, thank goodness we are in houses and not out in those bally old trenches still. I suppose this will all turn to snow soon, & I wish it would freeze or something & dry up the roads a bit; at present the mud is awful, but we are fairly used to that now. I hope you’ll have a nice hot bath waiting for me, as I don’t think I shall have another before I come home, it’s so cold washing in bits. And don’t send anything more out just at present as I shall be starting home before it arrives.

I got a long letter from Paul, he seems very cheery & cold & hints darkly at great goings on in the North Sea. He’s in the middle of the show now anyhow. There has been a lot of heavy fighting lately round here, & some of the Indian troops have suffered very heavily, but we were’nt in it, so are all right, at least fairly so. Tons of love & keep smiling

yr loving brother  Ted

According to Drake-Brockman, the Garhwalis were in billets at Hurionville near Lillers which was the Indian Army Corps Commander’s headquarters at the time as well as their railhead. They arrived there at 2:30pm on December 30th.

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This is Ted’s second mention of the famous Christmas Day Truce of 1914; his first description is in his letter to Gertrude of 31st December 1914.  

The original of this letter is in the Archive of the the Imperial War Museum: Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel E R P Berryman DSO –  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030021700

 

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31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude – Christmas Day Truce

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 described the truce again to Jane the following day, this time illustrating his letter.

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The original of this letter is in the Archive of the the Imperial War Museum: Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel E R P Berryman DSO –  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030021700 

 

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31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Happy New Year

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Posted by on 31 December, '14 in About

 

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25 December 1914 – Christmas Truce

Ted and the Garhwalis were present at the Christmas Truce though they didn’t play football. Ted wrote about it to his mother on December 31st and about it to Jane on January 1st. You can hear Matthew Ward of @HistoryNeedsYou read the letter of December 31st below:


Ted’s commanding officer Col Drake-Brockman found the Truce unmilitary and uncanny, but a good opportunity to search for the bodies of men who’d been killed some five weeks before. Here are his memories of the Christmas Truce from his book “With the Royal Garhwal Rifles in the Great War 1914-1917”.

I had just … got back to my dugout when Captain Berryman came running up with the news that “the Germans were out of their trenches.” “The devil they are!” I replied, and went up with him. Sure enough I found a number sitting on the parapet of No. 2 Company’s trench, and also out in front of No. 1 Company. They were trying to converse with our men and giving them cigarettes, biscuits and boxes of cigars. As I could speak German I conversed with them. They all belonged to the 16th Regiment, and it is a strange coincidence that at the battle of Nueve Chapelle later in March, 1915, among the prisoners that the Battalion took there were these identical men who came out on Christmas Day at this informal “armistice”. They seemed very jolly, as if they had had a good feed with plenty to drink. In fact they told me that they had had a good dinner. One of them said to me that there must be “Friede auf der Erde” on this day being Christmas Day. They seemed convinced that they were winning, and one of them said, with a wave of his hand, that the Russians were quite out of it. He gave me a bundle of newspapers to corroborate his statement.

This “armistice” was of short duration. Strictly speaking it should not have taken place without permission. Both our and the German headquarters (we saw from captured documents later) were very angry about it when it became known, and rightly so. At 3.45 p.m. a whistle sounded from their trench, and they all, driven by their neat, dapper N.C.O.s, or “unter oficiers,” scuttled back to their trench. The men were not so neatly turned out as the N.C.O.s, naturally, as they have harder and more fatigue work to do. One man, I noticed, had on a pair of civilian corduroys over his uniform ones.

The truce was well kept for all that night. Not a shot was fired. The silence, so different to the usual crack of rifles and spluttering of machine guns, was almost uncanny.

The way they came out was amusing. First, the evening before, they put out small Christmas trees with lighted candles on them on the top of their trench. Our men were astonished, as it looked, they said, like their own “Dewali” festival in India. During the morning singing and shouting were heard. After a time heads appeared, and finally thier whole bodies – and out they came! It shows what confidence they had in our men. We could not have treated them in like manner. We took the opportunity to search for poor Taylor’s and Robertson-Glasgow’s bodies. They were killed on the 18th November. Only the latter’s body was found. Taylor and the Garhwali officer must have got right into the the German trench and been killed there. Robertson-Glasgow’s body was found close to the parapet. He was buried in the military cemetery between Epinette and Le Touret on the Rue de Bois.

It was a strange feeling being able to wander up above ground after being so long below the surface. A couple of dead Germans were close to the side road. They looked so quiet and lifelike in the attitude they were lying in, so opportunity was taken to have a look at them. They were mere skeletons inside their uniform! One had no head. Both must have been killed by a shell.

 
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Posted by on 25 December, '14 in About

 

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