Ypres, Belgium, 1914. Just a few miles inland from the point where the English Channel meets the North Sea. Temperatures are in the forties—not much difference between day and night. You and your mates have been rotating through the trenches for five months. By some estimates, losses in battle have approached one in four.
It’s wet, and night is falling.
Alfred Anderson, a Scottish veteran, recalls:
All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices.But on Christmas Eve a different sound, something like this, drifts across the frost-covered no-man’s land from the opposing trench, perhaps a hundred yards away:
Stille Nacht, heilige nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar...
All is calm. Heavenly peace!
Private Cunningham of the Scottish Rifles remembered:
Through the night we sang carols to one another…. When dawn arrived we started putting our head above the parapet and waved to each other. On our left was a brewery occupied by the Germans and to our surprise we saw a German come out and hold his hand up; behind him were two rolling a barrel of beer. They came halfway across…The beer was a gift, which British soldiers rolled to their trenches with glee.
Nineteen-year-old private Henry Williamson described the moment as he experienced it.
Dear Mother, I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o'clock in the morning. Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a 'dug-out' (wet) with straw in it. The ground is sloppy in the actual trench, but frozen elsewhere. In my mouth is a pipe presented by the Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench. Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvelous, isn't it?Williamson goes on to say how the interchange started on Christmas Eve. Both armies sang Christmas carols. Voices from the German trench called out to the British to come over and collect cigars, and vice versa. At last a lone British soldier took the risk of accepting the German invitation. A German soldier climbed out of his trench and shook his hand, then sixteen more Germans joined him in the middle of no-man’s land. And the miraculous “Christmas truce” began.
It’s estimated that 100,000 men took part in this grassroots truce. Combatants met in no-man’s land and exchanged cigarettes, schnapps, chocolate and mementos such as hats and buttons. They played impromptu soccer games.
According to Captain Robert Patrick Miles:
A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line–on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night–a bitter cold night, with white frost–soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting 'Merry Christmas, Englishmen' to us…. Not a shot was fired all night…. They are distinctly bored with the war.... In fact, one of them wanted to know what on earth we were doing here fighting them.Bruce Bairnsfather, a British cartoonist and humorist, reflected:
I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything…. The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck.Commanders on both sides decried the grassroots truce and ordered the men back to their guns. They feared it would be hard to get them to resume shooting at fellows they’d exchanged gifts with the day before. And the brass made pointed efforts to forestall a re-occurrence in 1915, ordering raids and artillery barrages to ensure no-man’s land remained deadly. In one spot, a short pause to recover the dead between the lines resulted in a court-martial.
Thus, the widespread truce of 1914 remained a singular event. It was back to war as usual immediately after. Still, it seems many of the men who experienced the moment remembered it all their lives.
Praise God, it was just a tiny foretaste of the lasting peace our Prince of Peace will bring!
GiveawayMy debut novel inspired by the Doolittle Raid is finally here! And to celebrate, I'm conducting my Grand Launch Giveaway (details here). The drawing will take place on December 31, so it's not too late to join the action!
The Plum Blooms in Winter
“A taut, crisp debut achievement that colorfully evokes the Pacific theater of WWII. Start this one forewarned: it's a stay-up-all-night read."
-Jerry B. Jenkins--21-time New York Times bestselling author (Left Behind, et al)
A Prostitute Seeks Her Revenge--In 1942, Miyako Matsuura cradled her little brother as he died on the sidewalk, a victim of the first U.S. bombing raid on Japan. By 1948, the war has reduced her to a street-hardened prostitute consumed by her shame.
A Doolittle Raid Hero Finds His True Mission--Dave Delham makes aviation history piloting a B-25 in the audacious Doolittle Raid. Forced to bail out over occupied China, he and his crew are captured by the Japanese and survive a harrowing P.O.W. ordeal. In 1948, he returns to Japan as a Christian missionary, determined to showcase Christ's forgiveness.
Convinced that Delham was responsible for the bomb that snuffed out her brother's life, Miyako resolves to restore her honor by avenging him--even if it costs her own life. But the huntress soon becomes hunted in Osaka's treacherous underworld. Miyako must outmaneuver a ruthless brothel owner, outwit gangs with competing plans to profit by her, and overcome betrayal by family and friends--only to confront a decision that will change everything.
I stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what I love: stories of reckless faith that showcase God's hand in history. I'm so excited to work with the all-star team at Mountain Brook Ink to launch my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, on December 1! Inspired by a remarkable true story from World War II's pivotal Doolittle Raid, The Plum Blooms in Winter is an American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest winner. The novel follows a captured American pilot and a bereaved Japanese prostitute who targets him for ritual revenge. Please also feel free to check out my blog, Five Stones and a Sling, which hovers in the region where history meets Bible prophecy meets current events. It's rich ground--we live in a day when prophecies are leaping from the Bible's pages into the headlines!
I live outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with two mostly-grown-up kids and a small platoon of housecats. When I'm not writing, you'll find me rollerblading--yes, I know that makes me a throwback 😊--or catching a moonrise, or dreaming of my next trip. Next up: Wales, then Israel.