"The Germans started shouting to us 'come out'": Diary details World War I Christmas truce

By Ben Miller | 12 December 2014

Read a First World War soldier's handwritten account of the Christmas Day truce when a "huge crowd" gathered between the trenches

A photo of a diary with handwritten black ink on faded yellow paper
Lieutenant Charles Bertram Brockbank's diary is about to be part of the new Greater Game exhibition© National Football Museum
On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1 1916, Captain WP Nevill kicked a football “over the top”.

Still in impressive shape, the ball itself is only one of the amazing objects going on show at the National Football Museum next week: Wilfred Bartrop, who was part of the ‘Battling Barnsley’ side which reached the FA Cup Final in 1910 and 1912, has the winner’s medal he was awarded on display – a memento of a man who lost his life just four days before the end of the war.

A photo of an old brown leather football
© National Football Museum
Mfanwy Trippier, a member of the Women’s Land Army who played for Bolton and Manchester Ladies post-war, left artefacts and photographs demonstrating the popularity of female football and the part women played in the war effort. But perhaps the most remarkable item is a handwritten account in a diary kept by Lieutenant CB Brockbank, of the 6th Bn Cheshire Regiment, reporting on the famous Christmas Day football game of 1914.

Dec 25th
XMAS-DAY. "I spent the most agonising night, I ever remember, owing to the cold.

It was freezing terribly hard and as we were in support trenches were not allowed fires.

I was so cold and my feet so painful that I got out of the dugout and walked about, there was not much danger, stamping my feet till 4.30am, then was so fagged out I fell asleep but kept on waking owing to the pain of my feet, I quite thought I was frost-bitten.

7am. It was beginning to grow light but as there was a lot of mist I told the men they could light fires.

They did not need telling twice. There is a farmhouse to the rear of the trenches where hens abound, also dead pigs, so taking two men with me we went on a henhunt.

They fly like pheasants so took some catching and in about ten minutes there were about 60 men in the hunt.

The fog lasted till about mid-day so we had good fun, getting in all eleven hens, one of which I brought back for tomorrow’s dinner.

Now for the extraordinary incident. At about 2.30 all firing ceased and the Germans started shouting to us “Come out”, “Have a drink”, and then one of them climbed out of the trench without his equipment on so one of ours did the same.

It ended in a 'Mother’s Meeting', nearly every man of our trench, except machine gunners, was out and a huge crowd was between the trenches.

Someone produced a little rubber ball so of course a football match started.

We exchanged various things and I got a cap-badge, belt buckle, whistle, rifle cartridge, purse and tea tablets, not to mention getting about four Germans’ names and address in their own handwriting on field service postcards, as a positive proof that it all really did happen, because it will naturally sound a very tall story when it gets told in the billets.”

  • The Greater Game: Football and the First World War is at the National Football Museum, Manchester from December 19 2014 – September 6 2015. Visit footballandthefirstworldwar.org for more.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More from Culture24's First World War section:

Newly discovered letter reveals what really happened during the 1914 Christmas Day truce

RAF Museum hits all the right notes with new First World War in the Air gallery

Archaeologists find bullets and shells at "enigma" Western Front practice trenches used by World War I soldiers in Cumbria
Latest comment: >Make a comment
Hello, I am a Yr9 student in the middle of my 2nd history assessment project on WW1 and would like to put together a series of diary entries as a soldier would have experienced in the trenches.
If anyone has any personal accounts from family relatives they would be willing to share with me - I would be really appreciative. I want to do my best to write in a way that shows how a young man would have actually felt in winter. Thanks Ethan aged 13
stickybun81@aol.com
>See all comments
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share
    Back to article
    Your comment:
    DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted at www.culture24.org.uk are the opinion of the comment writer, not Culture24. Culture24 reserves the right to withdraw or withhold from publication any comments that are deemed to be hearsay or potentially libellous, or make false or unsubstantiated allegations or are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted.
    image
    advertisement