Dispelling More Myths
This image has nothing to do with the Christmas Truce of 1914. The original caption states. ‘Battle of Epehy. British wounded and German prisoner sharing a cigarette at an advanced dressing station near Epehy, 18 September 1918. Note captured German Maxim 08/15 (Spandau) light machine guns in the background.’ (IWM Q 11538)
Now you might ask why am I writing about Christmas in 1914 when this blog site is about Norfolk in the Great War. Well there is method to my madness and this will become apparent later on in December when I tell you the story of the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment on Christmas Day 1914.
But before I do that I want to write about some myths that I see on numerous social media sites and photo sharing sites such as Pinterest. And this will have a bearing on what I write later on. There has been much debate about the Christmas Truce that occurred on 25th December 1914. This is where British and German troops came out of their trenches and met in no-man’s land. This is fact and there are numerous accounts from the time that confirm this.
But with regards to images there are a lot out there that have nothing to do with the truce and this first blog I want to dispel the myths surrounding images of the truce and there is a rule of thumb for those. These are:
- There are no photos of British and German troops playing football.
- If you see any images of British and German troops wearing steel helmets they have nothing to do with the truce.
- If you see an image that relates to the Christmas Truce check before you pin, share, retweet or post.
So let’s look at this image…
Certain sites and places such as Pinterest will have you believe this is Christmas 1914 and depicts British and German troops meeting in no-man’s land. The reality? This image was taken during the Battle of Pilckem Ridge. And the original caption states, ‘German prisoners waiting to be interrogated. Pilckem, 31 July 1917. Note a Gibraltar cuff-title worn by a German POW. The British soldiers on the right are probably servicemen of the Irish Guards.’ This comes from the IWM collection Ref No Q 5724.
The clue here, even if you cannot source the picture, is steel helmets. Neither side had the British ‘Brodie’ type helmet or the German ‘Stahlhelm’ helmet in 1914. In fact they were not widely issued until 1916. So if you see pictures like that then they are incorrect.
The next image…
This image is often reported as British and German troops playing football in no-man’s land. There is a connection to Christmas with this image, but it has nothing to do with 1914. The original caption is, ‘Officers and men of 26th Divisional Ammunition Train (Army Service Corps) playing football in Salonika, Christmas 1915.’ Again this can be found on the IWM site, Ref No Q 31576.
So let’s look at an image that did come from Christmas 1914.
This image is 100% accurate and shows Riflemen Andrew and J Selby Grigg posing with German soldiers of the 104th and 106th Regiment. This image was taken at Ploegsteert in Belgium on the front of the 11th Brigade of the 4th Division. They were taken by Rifleman Turner on a pocket camera and were sent to London newspapers by Rifleman Grigg who is believed to be the soldier with the service cap, IWM Image Ref No Q 11745. Note that nobody is wearing helmets, less the German with the pickelhaube which was worn in 1914.
One more image from 1914…
This image is captioned, ‘British and German troops meeting in No-Man’s Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector). Burying those killed in the attack of 18 December.’ Image Ref No Q 50720.
Note there is no football being played and you will not find images showing that. So in the next part of this blog we will look at truth and myth surrounding that and what actually happened on 25th December 1914.