The True Story of the Christmas Truce written by Anthony Richards and published by Greenhill Books – £19.99 – Hardback – Pages 256

One of them shouted “A Merry Christmas English. We’re not shooting tonight.” . . . [then] they stuck up a light. Not to be outdone, so did we. Then up went another. So, we shoved up another. Soon the lines looked like an illuminated fete.’ Rifleman Leslie Walkington

On Christmas Eve 1914, a group of German soldiers laid down their arms, lit lanterns and started to sing Christmas carols. The British troops in nearby trenches responded by singing songs of their own. The next day, men from both sides met in No Man’s Land. They shook hands, took photos and exchanged food and souvenirs. Some even played improvised football games, kicking around empty bully-beef cans and using helmets for goalposts. Both sides also saw the lull in fighting as a chance to bury the bodies of their comrades.

In some parts of the front, the truce lasted a few hours. In others, it continued to the New Year. But everywhere, sooner or later, the fighting resumed. Today, the Christmas Truce is seen as a poignant symbol of hope in a war that many people regard as unnecessary and futile. But what was the real story of those remarkable few days?

In this fascinating new book, historian Anthony Richards has brought together hundreds of first-hand reminiscences from those who were there – including previously unpublished German accounts – to cast fresh light on this extraordinary episode.

The Christmas Truce of World War One is one of those stories that has been mixed and confused over time, even to the point that some people would argue whether it happened or not. What this book does through looking at British and German soldier accounts from the time is that there was a Christmas Truce, but it wasn’t one big truce it was various small Christmas truces that took part in certain parts along the WWI trenches. Some had a kickabout, some repaired trenches and others exchanged gifts. You see the reason was that soldiers were fed up with fighting and it was cold, wet and this was a war that people had been saying wouldn’t last long. Plus the truce in places lasted longer than just Christmas, but if you think about it when nobody is fighting you can bury dead bodies, sit and eat or simply just get out of muddy holes in the ground. This was a very good read, one I thoroughly enjoyed and it was well written. For once it was nice to read about a war where there were some lighter moments and a bit of humanity being shown, even if a couple of days later they had to go back to fighting.