At Christmas 1914 many of the troops fighting in the First World War - British, German, French and Belgian - spontaneously stopped fighting and held a truce. All the way along the Western Front men celebrated Christmas, singing songs to each other across the trenches, exchanging food, drink, cigarettes, cigars and even the buttons, badges and belts from their uniforms.
They met in No Man's Land, collected wounded soldiers, and even held joint burial services for the dead. According to Christmas Truce, by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, one British soldier wrote home saying: "Just you think, that while you were eating your turkey, etc, I was out talking and shaking hands with the very men I had been trying to kill a few hours before!!It was astounding!"
The authors also quote a German soldier, who related: "When morning came everyone climbed out of their trenches. Both sides shook hands with each other, briefly made peace and exchanged gifts. We were given corned beef, tea and cigarettes, etc, which the English had in plenty. They for their part were made about our cigars."
The book is a moving testimonial to the goodwill and understanding that existed between ordinary men, and one can't help wondering whether the slaughter of the war could have been avoided if negotiations had been left to them, rather than to the politicians and generals.