Most people are aware of the famous unofficial truce that occurred on the Western Front during Christmas 1914. What you may be less aware of is that men from the Gordon Highlanders participated in the truce.
Aberdeen Journal, Thursday January 7th 1915
With the 6th Gordons at the Front.
Trench Digging On Hogmanay.
“Terriers” Shake Hands With Germans
Bucksburn Lads’ Lively Time
Writing to his parents in Bucksburn from the front on New Year’s Day, Coporal Charles Reid, who was employed at Mugiemoss Paper Mills as a clerk says:-
“Well, this is New Year’s Day , and I hope you have had a jolly New Year. You would not think it was New Year out here, because it makes no difference to us.
“You will be wondering why I have not written you sooner but I have been in the firing line for four days and nights, going in on the 26th, and being relieved in the night of the 30th.
“There was a truce arranged here with us, and the Germans, at Christmas, for a few days. A few of us came out of our trenches and the Germans followed, and we met them half-way, and talked and shook hands with them. We exchanged cigarettes etc. with each other. You would hardly believe it, and I would not either if I had not been among those who went across.
“Well we got out of the firing line on the night of the 30th, and we were packed off the next night (Hogmanay) to dig trenches. How would you like to do that on Hogmanay night?
“Well, this is New Year, but it is not much of a New Year for us, as we can hardly get a drink of water.”
(there is more of this letter but I have only transcribed the part relating to the Truce. You can read the original here: With the 6th Gordons at the front).
Evening Express, Wednesday January 6th 1915
Exciting Times for 6th Gordons
Souvenirs Exchanged With Germans.
Former Professor’s Opinion Of The War
Letter From Bucksburn Lance-Corporal.
Writing to his parents in Bankhead, Bucksburn, Lance-Corporal Stephen, G Company, 6th Gordon Highlanders, now at the front, says –
“New Year’s Day and here we are in France. We have been lucky enough to be out of the trenches. We came out on Wednesday night, after a four days’ spell. But this time was nothing to the first as we were in the support trenches – trenches some 500 yards behind the firing line. We were making dug-outs and carrying up rations to the firing line.
“I believe if you saw what I am to tell you, you would hardly believe it, and I could not blame you. Up in the firing line a truce since the day before Christmas has been declared between the Germans and the British in the trenches. Neither us nor the enemy have fired a shot, and the Germans declare they are “fed up,” and will not fire unless we do. They came out of the trenches, each party coming half-way across and they had a “chat.” The Germans gave us cigars and postcards, and are on quite friendly terms.
“They admit they have been bluffed by the Kaiser. They say they were told the Germans had captured 160 guns from the Russians but they know now it is all lies. They were also promised heavy guns to help them defeat us, but not one gun has come up yet. There are some fine men among them, students, men from London and Glasgow, and a lot can speak English very well. They admit they are heartily sick of it, and “fed up” with the Kaiser.
“One fellow, who was a professor in England, when asked by one of the boys what he thought of the war, said, ‘The war is finished here, we do not want to shoot.”
(There is more but not related to the Truce. Read the original here: Exciting times for 6th gordons)
News of the truce quickly spread back to Britain where many were astonished at the goings on at the front. One man in Inverurie was incensed enough to write to the Aberdeen Daily Journal to heap scorn on the Scottish troops who had taken part.
Sir, I have read in your issue of the Journal about the fraternising of the British and German troops on Christmas week. If some of the details had not been written by men of my own acquaintance I could scarcely have credited them. I am surprised and disappointed to think that British soldiers would have agreed to shake hands with murderers and thieves.
Was all this done with the concurrence of their officers and will it be mentioned in Sir John French’s next dispatch? I doubt not.
In the same issue of your paper where the handshaking is mentioned we read report of the French Commission appointed to investigate acts committed by the enemy in violation of international law that ‘outrages on women and girls have been of unprecedented frequency’ and ‘the soldiers and officers’ finished off the wounded and mercilessly killed the un-offensive, sparing neither women nor children’.
Fie on ye, Scotsmen! There is not much of the boasted Highland Pride left in you when you would sell it for a German souvenir.
– Yours etc Inverurie. (see the original here: Handshaking with Germans)
You find more contemporary articles archived below.