“The Christmas Miracle,” published in The Guardian, Monday 10 November 2008
Excerpt from a first-person account by Lance corporal Henderson, Royal Engineers, to his relatives:
“Christmas Day: Got woken from our peaceful slumbers by the sentry on guard at 4.30am and told to get dressed and stand by. We marched off about 10 minutes to five, and proceeded to the firing line, but could not make out why there was no firing on either side.
“When we got within a quarter of a mile of the trenches we could hear both sides singing. Our men were singing carols, and as they finished one of the Germans would give a cheer. We finally finished up singing God Save The King at daybreak.
“To our surprise, as soon as we could see across the German lines, we perceived dozens of the enemy on and about their parapet; they were shouting and waving for some of us to go over. Some of them could speak broken English, and were shouting: “We no shoot and no work today.” We got the order not to fire unless the Germans started, and from daybreak on Christmas morning up till late on Boxing Day, not a shot was fired by either side.
“Towards 8.30am, two German soldiers came up within 50 yards of our lines without rifles or equipment. A lance corporal of the Berks regiment and a sapper of ours went out to them and shook hands. Then out of their holes came three German officers with some cigarettes and cigars, and shook hands with our men and gave them a drink. The sapper of ours was artful; he made a German officer have a drink out of the bottle first – we know too many of their dodges now to trust them far.
“Boxing Day: another day of peace. About 10am, more German troops came forward and I honestly think they wanted to surrender. They came up shouting: “Me come with you” – but our officers sent them all back. We played a straight game with them, and they did the same with us. I thought at the time if Kaiser Bill and other big chiefs could only agree the same as Tommy Atkins and the German soldiers, we could soon have peace all the world over.”