The Christmas Truce

Hello all, I hope the holidays are treating you well!

My local newspaper printed a brief article I submitted about the 1914 Christmas truce, so if you are interested in reading it I've pasted the full text here. -Dan

No Man’s Land match a myth

Hamilton Spectator

Christmas in the trenches 100 years ago (Dec. 18)

The piece on the 1914 Christmas Truce is another example of how we prefer the myths over the realities of the First World War. The circumstances surrounding the truce are highly debatable, and none more than the supposed soccer match between British and German soldiers in No Man's Land. First off, No Man's Land was no place to organize, let alone play a soccer match. Even in 1914, the ground was heavily cratered, dotted by barbed wire and uncollected dead, so the notion that a game spontaneously broke out in the middle of it is ridiculous. Second, the risk of enemy troops getting an unobstructed view of one's trench lines was far too great to allow prolonged fraternization; and third, soccer balls were simply not in abundance at the front.

Sources which we use to support this myth are unreliable. The lion's share coming from British testimonies which are often second-hand accounts, and historians have yet to uncover anything substantial from the German perspective. The choice to begin the piece with the quotation: "the gas clouds rolled no more" was careless. Chlorine gas did not appear on the Western Front until April 1915, nor do the accounts of Gerald Blake mention anything about a soccer game being played.

As we mark the centenary of the First World War, we should use this opportunity to shed light on the realities of those years, and not reinforce myths which no longer stand to modern research.

Daniel Clark, Hamilton


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