Stille Nacht: The Incredible True Story of the World War I Christmas Truce


British troops from London—during the Christmas Truce with Saxons of the 104th and 106th Regiments of the Imperial German Army.

It was a bitter cold Christmas-Eve in France, 1914 with men huddled deep in the soggy trenches of the Western Front. The war should've been over by now with the troops home around the table with their loved ones. But, instead of enjoying Holiday hams and ales, they were in the trenches. The previous five months were the start of what would wind up being one of the most brutal wars in history. Only a few weeks earlier was the Winter Operations, which ended in massive British casualties and a swift realization that this war was nowhere near finished. Morale was low with the scab of combat still wet and new. To the British, The Great War waited for no one. It took who it wanted when it wanted and usually in waves of the ten-thousands. 


Meanwhile, select lieutenants and commanders on both sides decided to make the situation as "merry and bright" as possible and bring Christmas to the trenches. Thousands of presents came in from Germany and Britain, including cigar assortments from the Kizer and personalized cigarette sets from Queen Mary. Family members on both sides also had the opportunity to send gifts and very quickly the Brits were overwhelmed with plum puddings, cigars, whiskies and Christmas cakes. Of course, Germans and Austrians received a plethora of gifts, too. Cognac, bratwurst, cigarettes and chocolate of every kind reminded them of home as they continued to wait out what they hoped was the end of the war and ultimately, their victory. 


The sun was slowly slipping beneath the horizon when the rain, which had drug on for weeks, suddenly stopped. A Scots Guard watchman was eyeing enemy lines when he spotted something funny. Through the thick fog were a row of lights dotting the enemy trenches. Suspecting an attack, they armed themselves to the teeth and prepared for a strike. Then, there was a sound. 


"Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht..."


The Brits looked around at each other with worried looks on their faces. Were the Germans...singing? Was that...the tune of...Silent Night? And it was. What they heard was the original Austrian version, Sille Nacht and the lights they saw were candles on makeshift Christmas treesA confused Leutinate Sir Edward Hulse ordered the troops to drown them out with their own carols.


"Sille Nacht, Heilige Nacht..."

"All is calm, all is bright..."

"Nur das traute hochheilige Paar..."

"Holy infant so tender and mild..."

"Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh..."

"Sleep in heavenly peace..."

 

In a matter of minutes, the Godless battlefields filled with song, and for a moment, they smiled hopeful grins amid war.