Extracts

 

German Signatures

German signatures collected by signaller Bernard Brookes on Christmas Day 1914.

Preface

Whoever may read these notes must not expect a record of gallant deeds, but a true indication of the conditions and life in the Army with its sorrows and joys, monotony and fun, work and play… It should be remembered that the hardships and privations which may be mentioned are daily occurrences and not special to the writer.


Christmas Day 1914. France

In the afternoon I went out and had a chat with “our friends the enemy”. Many of the Germans had costumes on which had been taken from the houses nearby, and one facetious fellow had a blouse, skirt, top hat and umbrella, which grotesque figure caused much merriment. Various souvenirs were exchanged which I managed to send home. We also had an opportunity of seeing the famous iron cross which some of the men wore attached to a black and white riband. These crosses are very well made and have an edging of silver. The man’s name is engraved on one side, and the reason for the award briefly stated on the other face. I have also a number of German signatures and addresses on the flyleaf of my Active Service Pay Book and it was arranged that at the end of the war we would write one to the other if we came through safely.

The Germans wanted to continue a partial truce until the New Year, for as some of them said, they were heartily sick of the war and did not want to fight. But as we were leaving the trenches early next morning and naturally did not want them to know, we insisted on the truce ending at midnight, at which time our artillery sent over to them four shells of small calibre to let them know that the truce, at which the whole world would wonder, was ended and in its place, death and bloodshed would once more reign supreme.


Christmas Day Letter Home. France 1914

Dear Ma

I am on the wires and connected my wire to the trenches and could hear the Germans singing and playing a band. Both sides have orders not to fire unless the others commence. In the end, some of them walked with a lamp halfway to our lines and our men went out and spoke to them and exchanged souvenirs. The artillery had a concert last night and again I connected the wires and heard it all. It sounded just like a gramophone. So you see I am quite happy and have enjoyed my novel Christmas. I expect tonight we will have some fun. There is talk of a football match between the Germans and ourselves, but I don’t think that will come off.

The Germans tell our men that they are going to do the same on New Year’s Day and have no firing unless we begin it.

The war has ceased here and our men and the Germans have been eating and talking together. I went down to the trenches and have been talking to the Germans and got a souvenir or so and shook hands all round. The Germans are quite tired of the war and have no bitter feelings towards us.

Quite safe, don’t worry. Our battalion is coming out of the trenches tomorrow morning.

Will write again soon,
Your devoted son,
Bernard

 


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