There is much debate as to what actually happened during the ‘Christmas ceasefire’ of 1914, with some accounts viewing the unusual event in a more positive light than others, however, to this day, this ‘Christmas Truce’ is often celebrated as a symbolic ‘moment of peace in an otherwise devastatingly violent war’.
As December approached, it was clear that ‘the war would not be over by Christmas’, and on Christmas Eve itself, cold frosts settled in on certain parts of the Western Front. In accordance with German tradition, soldiers marked the main night of German festive celebration with candles and trees that went up along parts of the German line…And as darkness fell, the entrenched German and British soldiers engaged in a carol sing-off. This was to be followed by other exchanges of greetings, souvenirs and food between British and German troops fighting in the First World War, not to mention the most iconic and enduring image of soldiers playing football.
When word of the truces reached angry military authorities, it was demanded that they were to cease immediately, with significant consequences for anybody disobeying orders. And so the Great War continued, with the devastation we would rather forget.
In this painting John immerses us in this famous Christmas ceasefire with his depiction of a soldier leaving his trenches and approaching the ‘enemy’ in no man’s land as his fellow countrymen gaze on in wonder and anticipation rather than with the horror that we traditionally associate with war.
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