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greatwarenemyclegg

Transcript

“Well Christmas Eve they bought up a brass band and started singing carols and had a wonderful tenor chap, a delightful voice, and we applauded him you know and they...”

[Interviewer] “How far were the German trenches away?

They said 167 yards, I don't know how they measured it, but that was what they said -167. They held a brewery, an old battered brewery, they had the brass band in there and this chap was singing and when we applauded him he sang one in English and we applauded him again. That was Christmas Eve.”

[Interviewer] “Where did that take place?

“Near Armentières between Plugstreet and Armentières. Christmas Day, well it was they who started the truce, they hung out boards ' Don't Shoot, Don't Shoot', not that we intended to shoot them, and the next thing we knew they were strolling over in 2s and 3s and our officers were astonished and they really didn't know how to deal with the situation and then they said let them come up as far as the barbed wire but don't let them into our trench at any price. Well that's what we did and then when the officers found that these Germans were unarmed and were just a mixed lot and Saxons they allowed us to get into the no man's land and fraternise with them and we gave them what we call maconochie rations, which was an improvement on bully beef and they gave us cigars and then we gave them cigarettes too. We were hobnobbing like that and a lot of them could talk English, none of us could talk German.

[Interviewer] “Do you remember any of them in particular?  

No, No, No”

[Interviewer] “But you remember talking to them and soon did anything else take place or did you just talk? There was reports of football matches weren't there?  

Well there were but we saw nothing of that, might have been further down the line, it was quite likely, quite likely but we didn't have anything like that we just  chatted to them and it was after they went away back to their trench and our chaps were standing on the parapet waving goodbye when they shot Corporal Smith and the Saxons were very apologetic and said it was a Prussian who did that, and nothing to do with us, see the Prussians were round the bend in the line presumably they didn't know what was happening.  

[Interviewer] “Was this still Christmas Day? Did the accidental or deliberate death of the Corporal make any difference to the truce? 

No. No because the Saxons were very apologetic , yes they were quite upset”

[Interviewer] “What happened on Boxing Day, subsequent days?

Nothing. It was all over as far as we were concerned. Further down the line we understand one officer reports that they kept it going for about 8 days I think. No it was all over by Christmas night.”

[Interviewer] “So it was as usual on Boxing Day, you wouldn't have dared poked your head out on Boxing Day then?    

No, No”

[Interviewer] “That was an extraordinary episode wasn't it?

It was. It was and as I've often said there were all these stories of atrocities and all the rest of it. The German soldiers were just men like ourselves, the very same, decent fellows. I'd have shaken hands with any of them.”

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