FIRST WORLD WAR – CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914
Lot 169
FIRST WORLD WAR – CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914
Sold for £2,400 (US$ 3,988) inc. premium
Lot Details
FIRST WORLD WAR – CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914
Series of autograph letters and cards, by No. 8865 Lance Corporal Gordon Clippingdale ('Clip') of the 5th Battalion, City of London Rifles, to his wife Bridget of 141 Willesden Lane, London NW, comprising over 50 autograph letters, postcards and pre-printed sickness forms, the first fourteen written when in training and travelling out to Belgium, the remainder either from the front or while convalescing in hospital in Rouen, giving a graphic account of life in the trenches in the first few months of the war: "The country is absolutely laid waste & yet a fair number of the inhabitants remain, though there is scarcely a whole window left in the village. The place rocks continuously from the explosion of our guns firing but we sleep calmly through it all, being quite used to it by now. The mud is even worse than the frost, being liquid & well up to the knee, our putties & boots being nearly rotted to pieces" (30 November 1914); the series containing some outspoken observations that seem to have escaped the censor's eye: "It makes me wild to see in the papers, so many thousand witnesses to Football match between so & so. Bah. And over here, its work day & night week in week out, ruined churches & villages, fields ploughed by shells, harvests trampled in, homeless people & killing going on day by day. And at home they wear a little flag in their coat & say 'Another victory' or 'No further news', but little they trouble that every day some poor devil goes to his last rest" (3 December 1914); with two letters written during the Christmas Truce (see note below); the earlier letters, written when in training, also showing an eye for sharp observation and the unexpected: "Suddenly we came to a little green lane upon the right, facing an ancient inn & across the end of the lane were standing a row of men in brilliant uniforms & at the end of the line the King in a dark uniform looking very ill & tired out" (20 September 1914); together with a group of photographs, his certificates of birth (8 April 1885) and death (15 June 1955), and letters of consolation to his widow from work colleagues at B.A. Smith & Sons, Chartered Accountants, and LRB veterans, some 100 pages, both Christmas Truce letters of one page each, written on small folio letter-forms (c.240 x 150 mm.), with address, censor's signature and postmarks on the verso (date-stamped by the Army Post Office 30 December and 5 January), the rest of the letters and cards bearing censors' signatures, stamps, postmarks etc., some minor creasing and contemporaneous staining etc., but overall in good attractive condition, 4to, 8vo and on postcards, 31 August 1914 to 17 February 1915

Footnotes

  • LETTERS HOME BY A BRITISH CORPORAL FROM THE WESTERN FRONT, INCLUDING TWO WRITTEN FROM TRENCHES ON THE YPRES SALIENT, DURING THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914. The 5th Battalion of the London Rifle Brigade (known as the LRB), to which Clippingdale belonged, formed part of the 11th Brigade serving with the 4th Division, stationed in front of Ploegsteert Wood that Christmas. 'Plugstreet Wood', near Messines, at the southern edge of the Ypres Salient, was the scene of particularly bitter fighting late in 1914 and early 1915. Clippingdale's first letter describing the truce is headed "In the Somerset trenches/ Christmas Day 1914" (the 1st Somerset Light Infantry having participated in a disastrous attack on the German position east of Ploegsteert Wood on the 19th), and opens: "Here I am, answering my Christmas mail, having finished my breakfast, which consisted of bread, butter & jam & cold water (having no means of lighting a fire) sitting in a dug out with one companion where we shall remain until after dark. I have never imagined how strange a Christmas one could face. All last night both English & Germans (who are only 80 yds apart at the front) were singing song & giving each other Christmas greetings, while a band in the German lines played various airs including 'Home, Sweet Home' & our National Anthem!!! to the vociferous cheering of the English lines. For the last four hours, except for the French, away on our left, who are pounding away as usual, scarcely a shot has been fired & I hope we shall have an exceedingly quiet day. But oh! how strange it all is! It is very cold, having frozen hard last night, quite a proper Christmas".

    His second letter was written on 30 December, while the truce still held: "we have had really quite a good time, for the informal truce which started in front of our brigade on Christmas Eve is still going on & not a single shot has been fired by either side, any way in front of us, up to tonight. A stranger Christmas, apart from being away from home, one could not imagine, at war but 'peace on earth and goodwill towards men', for the Germans mixed with us in 'No man's land' (ie between the trenches) & everyday both sides intermingle & exchange cigarettes, helmets & all sorts of odd things. The Germans in front of us mostly come from Leipsig & are manufacturers etc & are very friendly, in fact some of them possess homes in London!!" See illustration overleaf.
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