LONDON // A letter from a World War I soldier describing the “extraordinary sight” of a spontaneous Christmas ceasefire between German and British soldiers was published on Wednesday, 100 years after it was written.
British army officer Alfred Dougan Chater wrote the letter to his mother from a freezing trench on the western front in 1914, relaying an event remembered as a moment of fleeting humanity in a four-year war that killed more than 16 million.
“I think I have seen today one of the most extraordinary sights that anyone has ever seen,” wrote Chater, an officer of the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. “About 10 o’clock this morning I was peeping over the parapet when I saw a German, waving his arms, and presently two of them got out of their trench and came towards ours.”
“We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles, so one of our men went to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas.”
Chater said that a joint burial service was held for dead British and German soldiers retrieved from no-man’s-land.
“We exchanged cigarettes and autographs, and some more people took photos,” he added.
“I don’t know how long it will go on for ... We are, at any rate, having another truce on New Year’s Day, as the Germans want to see how the photos come out!”
* Agence France-Presse