The Soldiers’ Christmas Truce 1914 / Armistice Day, November 11, 1918: In Pictures

The Christmas truce, 1914 – Steven Johns

A short history of the widespread but unofficial truce between British and German troops on the Western front over Christmas, 1914 during World War I.

Despite the mass slaughter orchestrated by European governments, rank-and-file soldiers during World War I often attempted to resist the war effort and refuse to fight their fellow workers from different countries.

Everyday resistance to fighting often took the form of an unofficial “live and let live” policy on the front, where troops on each side agreed not to launch offensive action. And “search and ignore” patrols were common. Later on in the war this resistance exploded into outright mutinies, which eventually ended the conflict.

But an early and spectacular example of this unofficial rebellion was the 1914 Christmas truce.

On Christmas Eve, German troops began singing “Silent Night” in German, French and English, along with other Christmas carols. They decorated the trenches with Christmas trees, lit candles and hung multilingual banners wishing opposing armies “Merry Christmas”. Across much of the front artillery fell silent, British troops joined in the carol singing and both sides began to shout Christmas greetings at one another…

Armistice Day, November 11, 1918

At 5am on 11 November 1918, an armistice was signed and hostilities on the Western Front ceased at 11am. Although the peace treaties that would formally end the First World War would not be signed until 1919, 11 November 1918 was, and continues to be, a significant day.  These photographs and film clip show how people marked Armistice Day 1918.