Monday, April 15, 2013

Military Monday~ Peace and Goodwill Towards Men

The letter below was published on Wednesday, January 06, 1915 in The Aberdeen Journal, it was written to my Great Great Uncle Alexander Imlah from his son Walter, Lance Corporal in D Company of the 6th Gordon Highlanders. Walters letter describes Christmas morning in France during WWI when weapons were put down, gifts were exchanged and for a few days there was peace on Earth and Goodwill towards all.

Aberdeen Journal Jan. 06, 1915
Lance -Corporal Imlah at present serving with D Company, 6th Gordon Highlanders, in France, writing home to his father, Alexander Imlah, grocer, High Street, Buckie says:
__" We were in the trenches for four days last week, coming out two nights ago. We had a remarkable experience last week in the trenches.  On Christmas morning I was sitting in our trench having breakfast when the word came along--
'The Germans are out of their trenches.' I couldn't credit it at first, but on looking over the top of the trench I was amazed to see large numbers of the Germans standing out in front of their trenches, all without arms.  Of course we didn't fire, and when some of the German officers appeared, some of ours got out and went over to them, to inquire, I suppose, the reason why their men were out of their trenches.  The German officers then said that they wished an armistice in order to bury their dead.  After some conterence, it was agreed to grant the armistice, the reason being that we had dead to bury.  Other sentiments also had something to do with it,  I think, for was it not Christmas Day, the day of peace and goodwill towards men?  We were all glad of the halt anyway, and soon we got started burying the dead.  Any of our men who were laying near the German trenches were carried by the Germans to a ditch midway between the trenches, where they were buried by us.  Any of their dead on our side of the ditch were carried there to be taken away by the Germans for burial.

Our padre, who very fortunately, had happened to come up to the trenches that morning, to wish us a Merry Christmas, arranged to have a service.  After the burials were completed, we lined up on opposite sides of the ditch, officers in front and burial parties in rear-- I was very proud to be one of our party on such an occasion.  Our padre then gave a shot service, one of the items in which was Psalm xxiii, Thereafter a German solider, a divinity student, I believe, interpreted the service to the German party.  I could not understand what he was saying, but it was beautiful to listen to him, he had such an expressive voice.  The service over, we were soon fraternising with the Germans, just as if they were old friends.  We have all heard of the terrible atrocities perpetrated by the Germans, but really from our intercourse with some them on Christmas Day, one could hardly believe them capable of the terrible acts that have been laid at their door.  Some of them could speak English fluently-- one had been a waiter in the Hotel Cecil, London-- and I gathered from them that they were pretty well tired of this horrible business.  Souvenirs in the the form of silver coins, pipes, cigarettes, tobacco, etc. they handed out all round, and anything we gave them in return seemed to be very much appreciated.  They all looked a happy lot any way, and seemed to be well cared for.

The armistice was supposed to last till 4 p.m. on Christmas Day, after which time we were told any man who left the trenches would take a risk of being fired at.  However, we ourselves made a compact with the enemy that there would be no shooting at all that day, and you may be sure we kept our promise, and next morning arrived without a shot being fired.  Again the news came that the Germans were out of their trenches, and sure enough there they were walking about.  Some of our chaps were soon over amongst them, and through the day several of them had shaves from the Germans, and souvenirs were continually passing.  We left the trenches that afternoon, and to-day I hear the armistice still continues,  each side evidently refusing to start firing.  This can't last, of course, but I hear that we are going to have an armistice again on New Year's Day, which is our day.  This comedy, for it has now developed into such,  is only occurring along our immediate front of course.
  I must now be finishing as the see the hour is getting late.  There is much more I might tell you of,  but it would take too much space to tell you everything, and I must have some regard for the poor censor, who has to read all this.  We have received Queen Mary's present-- a very handsome gift it is.  I will try to get it send home.


  1. Such a terrific story. I have added it to my list of Favorites for April 19. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thank you Heather for stopping by and for the shout out on your blog!