Letter from British officer on World War I recounts how the hare was hunted by British and German troops

It was the meetings that reminded British and German soldiers of their shared humanity amid immense bloodshed.

During the Christmas period of the first year of World War I in 1914, widespread unofficial ceasefires saw opposing sides walk through the trenches to talk, express their festive wishes, and even play football.

Now, a mine of accounts which were uncovered in the original editions of the Daily Mail reveal just how far temporary goodwill has spread.

An incredible letter written by a Scottish officer described how on Christmas Day soldiers from opposing sides found themselves competing to hunt a hare that had “burst in sight” between the trenches.

Describing the scene as “like a football match”, the officer said the “game” was “won by the Germans”, who “took the prize”.

Moving on, he added: “But more than a hare was secure – a sudden friendship had been made, God’s truce had been called, and for the rest of Christmas Day not a shot was fired. been pulled along our section. “

Another account, written by a German soldier to a British woman he was staying with before the war broke out, recounted how both sides took photographs on “Peace Day”.

He said the truce began when the Germans “started singing and lighting candles” on Christmas Eve, before a British soldier accepted the “challenge” to go to their trenches and receive a bottle of wine.

In a third letter, a soldier said that the Germans seemed to be “very nice guys” and told him that they were “very fed up” with the war.

An image gallery published on January 6, 1915 also revealed “exclusive images from the unofficial Christmas truce.” They showed French and German troops meeting and exchanging gifts, including bottles of champagne.

These are the encounters that remind the British and German soldiers of their common humanity in the midst of an immense bloodbath. During the Christmas period of the first year of World War I in 1914, widespread unofficial ceasefires saw opposing sides walk through the trenches to talk, express their festive wishes, and even play football. Now, a mine of accounts which were uncovered in the original editions of the Daily Mail reveal just how far temporary goodwill has spread. Above: British and German troops during the 1914 truce

A treasure trove of accounts of the 1914 Christmas truce between British and German soldiers during World War I has been discovered in original copies of the Daily Mail. An incredible letter (above) written by a British officer described how on Christmas Day soldiers from opposing sides found themselves competing to hunt a hare that had “burst in sight” between the trenches. Describing the scene as “like a football match”, the officer said the “game” was “won by the Germans”, who “took the prize”

The letter describing the hare’s pursuit was published in the Daily Mail on New Years Day in 1915.

Written by a Scottish officer, it began: “Christmas will be etched in the memory of many British soldiers who were in our trenches here as one of the most extraordinary days of their lives.

“Because on that day the British and the Germans stopped fighting for a time, came out into the open between their respective firing lines, buried their dead and celebrated a short service in their memory. “

The anonymous man recounted how unarmed Germans began to appear when British troops held a funeral service for their fallen comrades in their trenches.

He said the commander of his unit then came out of their trenches to “see for himself”.

To their “amazement”, their chaplain then crossed a ditch in No Man’s Land and shouted, “Does anyone speak English?”

This sketch by painter and soldier Gilbert Holliday, possibly drawn as a result of the same “hare hunt”, shows British and German troops hunting a hare in No Man’s Land in 1914

An image gallery published on January 6, 1915 also revealed “exclusive images from the unofficial Christmas truce.” They showed French and German troops meeting and exchanging gifts, including bottles of champagne

In response, a soldier stepped forward, then to our amazement we saw our chaplain cross the ditch, greet the German commander and his staff, start talking with them.

“Almost at the same time, a hare broke in and ran between the trenches,” he continued.

“Suddenly the Germans ran out of their trenches and the British out of theirs, and a wonderful thing happened.

Another account, written by a German soldier to a British woman he stayed with before the war broke out, recounted how both sides took pictures on “Peace Day”.

“It was like a football match, the hare being the football, the Germans in gray tunics on one side and the ‘Jocks’ in kilt on the other.

“The game was won by the Germans, who won the prize.

Then the two sides took pikes and “by instinct, each side began to dig graves for their dead.”

The Scottish officer went on to recount how his commanding officer was briefed by his German counterpart on how he encountered a dying British soldier struggling to get a picture of his wife in his pocket.

“He went up and helped the dying officer, and the thing in the pocket was a picture of his wife,” he wrote.

The commander said: “I held him in front of him and he just stared at him until he died a few minutes later.”

The officer ended his letter by saying poignantly: “It was a memorable sight to see officers and men who had fought and, as I write, are fighting each other as fiercely as ever, bareheaded, respectful and keeping a sacred truce as they did homage to the memory of the dead on Christmas Day 1914. ‘

The German soldier who had been a tenant wrote to his landlady, a Mrs. LM Marshall, of Canonbury, North London, to tell her that he had “met your compatriots” over the Christmas period.

The letter, published in the Daily Mail on January 6, 1915, reads: “Today – Christmas – I met your compatriots. We took several photos. It was a day of peace, and it was a great pleasure for me to wish them a Merry Christmas.

“After the war, if I survive it, I’ll come back to see you.”

“I think with pleasure of a good Christmas we spent together last year. You can be sure that this Christmas was extraordinarily interesting to me. Despite the great trials that I have already had, I am doing quite well.

‘Many cordial greetings to you all. Yours, Karl.

Published on January 4, 1915, the third letter mentioned was written by a soldier of the Queen’s Westminsters – an infantry regiment of the Territorial Army.

The 1914 Christmas truces were reported back then and have been popularly told ever since

German soldiers sing Christmas carols in their trenches next to a Christmas tree in 1914

The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915 depicts the truce between German and British soldiers

He said: “It was a memorable day in the trenches on Christmas Day, as we had a truce with the enemy from eight o’clock on Christmas Eve.

“It still held up when we left Boxing Day, because no shots were fired, and we sneaked out until 5 in the morning.

– For a change, no track flies. We went up halfway to shake their hands and exchange greetings, and we saw ten Germans dead in a ditch in front of the trench.

“We helped them bury them and we could have had a helmet, except I didn’t feel like removing one from a corpse.

“They were caught one night trying to reach our outpost trench some time ago.

“The Germans look like a really good guy, and they said they were just so sick of it.

“The truce started this way: The Germans started singing and lighting candles around 7:30 am on Christmas Eve, and one of them challenged one of us to cross for a bottle. of wine.

“One of our comrades accepted the challenge.

“It got the ball rolling and we stayed out of the trenches most of Christmas Day collecting souvenirs.

“I’m still as fit as a violin. We are well dressed and well fed and it only takes a little luck to get out of this unharmed. ‘

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