The Christmas truce during World War One showed that human kindness lived despite the horrors.
The first Christmas of the First World War saw the most dramatic truce of the entire conflict.
The quick, decisive war that many predicted would be finished before Christmas, had not happened and leaders on both sides were revising their strategies in the weeks before Christmas. The front lines were relatively quiet due to the stalemate. The holiday ceasefire was widespread but varied in scale and enthusiasm. It is estimated that about 100,000 troops participated on the western front. At some positions, there were only somber exchanges of remains and prisoners, at other gift exchanges and football games. This brief respite had not been approved by leadership on any side.
The stalemate persisted for the rest of the war and resentment grew. The following year there were strict orders not to engage in truces but a few still occurred. There were concerns that fraternization would undermine the war effort.
By 1916, lengthy holiday truces had stopped but deep frustration with the war existed on all sides and resistance would continue in smaller and subtler ways. Brief pauses to recover the dead would continue and signals to stop firing while the enemy bathed or ate would develop in many places The men in the dismal trenches knew the war was deadlocked and could see the humanity of the soldiers across No Man’s Land. They would not see peace until their leaders came to the same conclusion on 11 November 1918.
Photographs of the conflict that would disillusion so many young men were taken over its four deadly years. Technology had advanced to the point that pictures could be taken in real-time in adverse circumstances. These unique, historic prints have been stored in archives for over a century but are now available from IMS Vintage Photos.
All photos are original rare press photographs. Their authenticity is granted by the writings and details on the back of the photo.