Christmas Truce letters, 1914 (2)
Lot 224
WORLD WAR ONE – CHRISTMAS TRUCE. Two autograph letters signed with initials by Major J.P.V. Hawksley, to his sister Muriel, describing the Christmas Truce of 1914
Sold for £4,750 (US$ 7,692) inc. premium

Lot Details
WORLD WAR I – CHRISTMAS TRUCE
Two autograph letters signed with initials by Major J.P.V. Hawksley, to his sister Muriel, describing the Christmas Truce of 1914; the first letter written from the trenches on 27 December, while the truce was still in force: "Christmas day in our immediate front was quite extraordinary. I was at my observation post just a few yards behind the infantry advanced trenches on the afternoon of Xmas Eve. After dark our men & the Germans whose trenches were only 1 to 2 hundred yards apart sang in English Home sweet home together. Then God save the King was sung by both. I don't know what words the Germans sang to this tune. Then late on a German shouted out to the Warwicks – 'We wont fire tomorrow if tomorrow if you dont'. Our men shouted back 'All right'. When it was light on Xmas day, each side showed itself above the trenches. First head & shoulders then seeing they were not shot at – Showed a little more – Until a German got out of his trench & then an Englishman did. Finally about 100 Germans & 60 Englishmen including officers on both sides stepped out & fraternized with each other!! ...a football match was arranged between them for the 26th – but I found out by accident that it was arranged to fire our big guns at something over their heads in rear starting at 9 o'cl on 26th so I sent out word to the Warwicks to say was going to happen. The O.C. Warwicks warned the German officer that they were going to be shelled & that he hoped they would not be hit & all went back to their trenches – When the shelling began & they saw that they themselves were not to be the targets, they got out again. Then a German officers said to one of ours 'Look here we dont want to shoot You & you dont want to shoot us' Why shoot at all?!! So the arrangement between them as it stands at present is that neither of them shoot, & that if they have to begin they will fire three volleys over their heads as a warning... This is an extraordinary state of thngs & I don't altogether approve of it. Still it gives me & my observation post a quiet time...It is only just in front that this is happening. The Seaforths who are on the Warwicks left would have none of it & when the Germans in front of them tried to fraternize & leave their trenches, the Seaforths warned them that they would shoot – I shall go out there again this afternoon to see whats been happening today"; the second letter, written two days later on 29 December, giving another account of the scene: "Christmas passed off very quietly, it was a fine & frosty day & the ground was white – The sort of Christmas that one sees in Christmas Cards. The Germans in our immediate shouted over their trenches to the Warwicks on Christmas Eve night – 'We wont fire tomorrow if you do not'. I heard them singing away hard just as it was getting dark that evening. So it was decided not to shoot... A football match was arranged for 10 o'cl on Boxing day but our Authorities stopped it... I don't think an official armistice has been carried on quite so long as in front of me. (Gunfire continues all the same)... In another part opposite the Hampshires there were the same condition & yesterday the Hampshires received the following message 'Gentlemen. Our automatic pistol has been ordered from the Colonel to begin to fire again at midnight, we take it an honour to award (!) you of this fact'. Funny isn't it?", 10 pages, written in pencil, folded for enclosure into envelopes (no longer present), one or two light marks and very slight foxing, 8vo, "135 Battery, RFA/ 4th Division/ on Active Service", 27 and 29 December 1914

Footnotes

  • 'I HEARD THEM SINGING AWAY HARD JUST AS IT WAS GETTING DARK THAT EVENING. SO IT WAS DECIDED NOT TO SHOOT': a description from the trenches of the Christmas Truce of 1914. The writer, Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John Plunkett Verney Hawksley (1877-1916), was a professional soldier serving with the Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of James and Emily Hawksley of Caldy Island, Pembrokeshire, his sister being Muriel Emily Summerson of Hall Garth, Coatham Mundeville, Darlington. He was a veteran of Ladysmith and Khartoum, and was to be awarded the DSO for services on the retreat from Mons and receive three mentions in despatches. He was killed by sniper in France on 8 August 1916 and is buried at Becourt Military Cemetary. During the truce, the 4th Division was stationed in front of Ploegsteert Wood on the southern Ypres Salient.
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