Christmas Truce, The Royal Irish Rifles.

Event
Friday, 25 December, 1914
The Reserve Company location for the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles near Kemmel, Flanders.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles was in trenches near Fauquissart, France when, at around 2000 hours on Christmas Eve, the Germans in the trenches opposite raised lanterns above their parapet and called out:

Do not shoot after twelve o'clock, and we will not do so either.

Later, one Riflemen ventured across no man’s land and was not fired on. He was given a cigar and then told to return to his lines. Following that, a German officer appeared and asked for a two-day truce; the Commanding Officer's response was ‘Only one day’.

Then, on the Battalion's flanks, both British and Germans begin to emerge from their lines to meet in the middle of no man's land. At first the CO kept his Riflemen down because he did not trust the Germans and posted sentries to prevent his men going forwarded. He then decided to walk towards the Germans to discover what he could when a German General asked him to send forward an officer to their lines. That officer carried a copy of the Daily Telegraph dated 22 December, which included an account of events in Austria-Hungary and Berlin. The Rifles Officer met with German officers who asked him if the Canadian Division had arrived, whether his trenches were very muddy and then told him that his Battalion’s rifle fire was good. He replied that the Battalion's rifle fire was their weakest skill!

By prior mutual arrangement, the 1st Battalion fired a revolver at midnight on 25 December and the Germans replied by firing rifle rounds high over the Battalion's trenches to signal the end of the Christmas truce. It would appear that not all the men of the 1st Battalion were allowed to go forward, as throughout that day's events the CO had exercised prudence; in a Christmas Day letter to his family he wrote:

I need hardly tell you that we have kept our men ready in the trenches all the same, as we do not trust our friends further than we can see them.

The 2nd Battalion were in Flanders, Belgium where the situation, geography and ground conditions were very different. On Christmas Day they were in trenches on the Kemmel-Wytschaete road some 150 yards from the German trenches, less the Reserve Company located in a derelict farmhouse. There were almost no communications trenches or shelters and the front-line trench was a ditch which often had three feet of water. It would be 1915 before trench construction included breastworks to raise the occupants above the water table. These incredibly 'vile conditions' in the Flanders winter did little to contribute to any feeling of Christmas goodwill, so there was no truce as there had been further south in the 1st Battalion's sector. The Reserve Company Commander's personal diary describes exchanges of artillery fire.

To open the Xmas extract from the personal diary of the Company Commander of the Reserve Company 2 RIR, please click on the yellow highlihted text 'xmas_diary_1914.docx' at the bottom of this page. It is very poignant in places and in others somewhat 'Blackadder and Baldrick' - especially the entry for 26 December - Boxing Day 1914.

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