Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

2nd RWF ChristmasTruce 1914


Chris_B
 Share

Recommended Posts

Albert Victor Dolman, whose name appears on the Ibstock War Memorial, is AFAIK the only Ibstock casualty who may have been witness to the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Albert Dolman served as Pte. 8181 2nd Bn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He had first joined the RWF in 1904 on reaching 18 years of age and after becoming a reservist in 1907 was recalled to the colours on 5th August 1914 at Wrexham and posted to the 2nd BN.on August 6th. Which, as far as I can work out, means he must have travelled from Ibstock to Wrexham and then on to somewhere near Portland before marching into the Verne Citadel on August 6th 1914. Dolman was originally from Shrewsbury and had married in 1909 and his second child was born in Ibstock in 1913 where the family had moved to sometime after 1911.

I understand is was "A" coy. 2nd RWF that was involved in the Christmas truce near Frelinghien, where there is now a memorial.

Does a nominal roll of "A" coy. exist for this time?

I don't have a copy of Dunn's "The War the Infantry Knew" ( or Richards's Old Soldiers Never Die) , does he give an account of events at this time?

Albert Dolman continued to serve with the 2/RWF unitl he was killed in action of the 1st day of the Battle of Loos on 25/9/1915 and is buried alongside his 2/RWF comrades at the Cambrin Churchyard Extenstion Cemetery. He left a widow and two sons.

Chris.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris

For this early in the war it might be well worth while taking a look in the Bn War Diary,as they may well have had a thorough regime running in terms of unit info,which seemed to tail off a bit as the casualties/replacements came thick and fast later. The Diary is under WO95/1365 and runs from Aug 1914. I have looked at quite a few from Aug 1914 forward,and there are some who do have elements of Company rolls,though not over-many !

Sotonmate

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris

For this early in the war it might be well worth while taking a look in the Bn War Diary,as they may well have had a thorough regime running in terms of unit info,which seemed to tail off a bit as the casualties/replacements came thick and fast later. The Diary is under WO95/1365 and runs from Aug 1914. I have looked at quite a few from Aug 1914 forward,and there are some who do have elements of Company rolls,though not over-many !

Sotonmate

This may be true, and as you say the War Diary is available for download from TNA, but I'd really like to know if Dunn's book has any reference to these events. In some ways I'd rather buy a 2nd hand copy of the "war the infantry knew" than pay to download the War diary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It contains quite a detailed account. I'm afraid it's a little too long for me to type out for you. However, I've seen the book on occasion going cheap in 'The Works' and similar remaindered booksellers. Frankly though, it's worth paying full price for. It is an excellent read.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Account by Second Lieutenant MS Richardson , dated 31 December 1914, filed in PRO with 2nd RWF Battalion War Diary:

I will tell you of the extraordinary day we spent on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve we had a sing-song with the men in the trenches, [this all applies to our company, A]. We put up a sheet of canvas, with a large Merry Christmas, and a portrait of the Kaiser painted on it, on the parapet. The next morning there was a thick fog, and when it lifted about 12, the Germans [saxons] who were only about 150 yards in front of us saw it, they began to shout across, and beckoning to our men to come half way and exchange gifts. They then came out of their trenches, and gave our men cigars and cigarettes, and 2 barrels of beer, in exchange for tins of bully beef. The situation was so absurd, that another officer of ours and myself went out, and met seven of their officers, and arranged that we should keep our men in their respective trenches, and that we should have an armistice until the next morning, when we would lower our Christmas card, and hostilities would continue. One of them presented me with the packet of cigarettes I sent you, and we gave them a plum pudding, and then we shook hands with them, and saluted each other, and returned to our respective trenches. Not a shot was fired all day, and the next morning we pulled our card down, and they put one up with thank you on it.

One of my men (Mervyn Richardson :poppy: ) was there. i have some more details in my records that you may wish to recieve (if i can sort them out that is)

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It contains quite a detailed account. I'm afraid it's a little too long for me to type out for you. However, I've seen the book on occasion going cheap in 'The Works' and similar remaindered booksellers. Frankly though, it's worth paying full price for. It is an excellent read.

Andrew

Well, that's exaclty why I'd rather invest in the book. I read Graves' "Goodbye to all that" years ago, but never Dunn's book.

Thanks for the link, by co-incidence it's a webpage I came across yesterday. But there is still the question of which men of the 2nd RWF were involved.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Account by Second Lieutenant MS Richardson , dated 31 December 1914, filed in PRO with 2nd RWF Battalion War Diary:

‘I will tell you of the extraordinary day we spent on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve we had a sing-song with the men in the trenches, [this all applies to our company, A]. We put up a sheet of canvas, with a large ‘Merry Christmas’, and a portrait of the Kaiser painted on it, on the parapet. The next morning there was a thick fog, and when it lifted about 12, the Germans [saxons] who were only about 150 yards in front of us saw it, they began to shout across, and beckoning to our men to come half way and exchange gifts. They then came out of their trenches, and gave our men cigars and cigarettes, and 2 barrels of beer, in exchange for tins of bully beef. The situation was so absurd, that another officer of ours and myself went out, and met seven of their officers, and arranged that we should keep our men in their respective trenches, and that we should have an armistice until the next morning, when we would lower our Christmas card, and hostilities would continue. One of them presented me with the packet of cigarettes I sent you, and we gave them a plum pudding, and then we shook hands with them, and saluted each other, and returned to our respective trenches. Not a shot was fired all day, and the next morning we pulled our card down, and they put one up with ‘thank you’ on it’.

One of my men (Mervyn Richardson :poppy: ) was there. i have some more details in my records that you may wish to recieve (if i can sort them out that is)

Bob

Bob,

Many thanks for the 2nd Lt. Richardson account. I'd be v.interested to see the other details you mentioned.

Chris.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris

You can`t recieve messages!

if you PM me i can send through the material i have.

best regards

Bob

Bob,

My inbox was full. I've deleted a few now, so could you try again please.

Chris.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This from my notes:

The Christmas Truce of 1914

The famous [infamous, seen through the eyes of higher authority] Christmas Truce of 1914 involved 2nd RWF in a principal rôle, and we have three excellent eyewitness accounts, two, by Captain Stockwell and Private Frank Richards in the public domain, and that of 2Lt M Richardson hitherto probably unpublished.

Account by Second Lieutenant MS Richardson dated 31 December 1914, filed in the Public Record Office with the Battalion War Diary:

‘I will tell you of the extraordinary day we spent on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve we had a sing-song with the men in the trenches, [this all applies to our company, A]. We put up a sheet of canvas, with a large ‘Merry Christmas’, and a portrait of the Kaiser painted on it, on the parapet. The next morning there was a thick fog, and when it lifted about 12, the Germans [saxons] who were only about 150 yards in front of us saw it, they began to shout across, and beckoning to our men to come half way and exchange gifts. They then came out of their trenches, and gave our men cigars and cigarettes, and 2 barrels of beer, in exchange for tins of bully beef. The situation was so absurd, that another officer of ours and myself went out, and met seven of their officers, and arranged that we should keep our men in their respective trenches, and that we should have an armistice until the next morning, when we would lower our Christmas card, and hostilities would continue. One of them presented me with the packet of cigarettes I sent you, and we gave them a plum pudding, and then we shook hands with them, and saluted each other, and returned to our respective trenches. Not a shot was fired all day, and the next morning we pulled our card down, and they put one up with ‘thank you’ on it’.

Account by Captain CI Stockwell, commanding A Company, copied by the A/Adjt of 3rd RWF on 22 January 1915, and published in the Regimental Journal 2 September 1966. This account differs in some aspects from that published in Regimental Records of the Royal Welch Fusiliers [RRRWF].

‘I think I have spent one of the most curious Xmas days I or anyone in the Coy has ever spent. It froze hard last night and the ground was white with frost and there was a ground fog. We had put up a notice over our trench in huge letters ‘Merry Christmas’ facing the Saxons opposite. I think I told you they had been shouting across at us. Well about 1PM the fog cleared and I suppose they saw the placard. Anyway the Saxons began shouting “Don’t shoot, we will bring you some beer if you will come over”. Whereupon some of our men showed above the parapet and waved their hands.

Then the Saxons climbed over the parapet and trundled a barrel of beer to us. Then lots of them appeared without arms and of course our men showed themselves. Then though we had been warned that the Germans would attack us, two of our men broke out of trench and fetched the barrel. Then another broke out and brought back a lot of cigars. All the Saxons then came out of their trenches and called out to us to come across. Things were now getting to a pretty pass as our men were sharing our rations out to them which the Germans who seemed very badly fed were eager to get. So as discipline was breaking down I shouted out to them in German to send an officer out into the centre to speak to us and I clambered out over the parapet pursued by cheers of my Coy and shouts of “The Captain is going to talk to them”.

A German officer [a Captain] came out of his trench and we met in the middle and saluted and shook hands. Then five other officers came out- one could talk a little English but not so much as our German. So there we stood in the middle the Saxons hurrahing on one side and our chaps on the other. Their Captain seemed an excellent and most gentlemanly chap. I said to him “My orders are to my men in my trench and that there is no armistice”. I said I thought it was dangerous that his men should be running about in the open in front of us in case someone else along the line fired and then there might be trouble. He quite agreed and said his orders were the same but could we not have a peace at least for the day. He said they did not want to shoot, did we? I said “No, certainly I did not want to shoot but I had my orders to obey” and he agreed. So I suggested we should both return to our trenches and not shoot until tomorrow morning when we arranged we should signal with a flag that war was to begin again. I then had a brainwave. I did not know what to offer them for their courtesy but suddenly I thought of a plum pudding and hoped the officers would accept. I then went off to get it and the Saxon got his men back to the trenches. When I returned I gave him the pudding. He then produced two bottles of beer and a glass. I drank his health first [cheers from both sides] then they drank my health [more cheers]. Then I talked a little and asked after the German officers I knew in China. Then we had a ceremonial farewell, many

salutes, and bows and returned to the trenches. I wish I had a camera. The Saxons said the same.

Later. Boxing Day. Very fine, a hard frost. Not a shot all night. Men had sing-songs, ditto the enemy. He played the game and never tried to touch the wire entanglements or anything. At 8.30 I fired 3 shots in the air and stood on the parapet. He appeared on his. We waved our ‘Merry Christmas’ sign and he put up a sheet with ‘Thank you’ on it. He then bowed, saluted and got down, and our flags were lowered. Then they fired two shots in the air and we did ditto to shew war was on. But we have not fired since. My only regret is that I was not more fluent’.

The Stockwell account in Regimental Records RWF agrees in most cases and adds that he was in a goatskin coat.

The Frank Richards account is in full in the updated version of Old Soldiers Never Die, with footnotes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for reproducing the eye witness accounts. I guess I must get Dunn's and Richards' books. The question of a possible "A" coy nominal roll goes unanswered.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris B box full ..... pity about that, I have just wasted half an hour.

My apologies, there's a lot of stuff in my inbox I'd like to keep - there used to be a way to archive things, but no more I think. Anyway, there should be space now should you wish to try again.

I tried sending you a PM, but is says "not receiving messages" ....

Chris.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My apologies, there's a lot of stuff in my inbox I'd like to keep - there used to be a way to archive things, but no more I think. Anyway, there should be space now should you wish to try again.

I tried sending you a PM, but is says "not receiving messages" ....

Chris.

Oh Oh! 2 new msgs today before you tried has exposed me as an idiot.

No fool like an old f*rt.

Clearing instanter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...