Much has been written about the Christmas Truce of World War One in 1914, some say it never happened as it was not correctly reported – but let us just think about that, as the Commanding Officer of a front line battalion write; today we stopped fighting and had a football match with the enemy, in no man’s land, after exchanging gifts!
At the start of the truce is generally accepted that over Christmas Carols were being sung in both trenches; each then tried to outsing the other, then items were thrown across no man’s land to the opposite trench before a football match took place in no man’s land.
The item most likely thrown by the British soldier may have been the contents from the Princess Mary Christmas Box sent to troops over the festive period.
Princess Mary was only seventeen when World War One began; she accompanied her mother on visits to hospitals and welfare organizations, but she also developed a project of her own, boosting the morale of troops fighting overseas by sending each one a special Christmas package. She began by launching a public appeal for funds. Her goal of £100,000 it was quickly met by contributions from friends, relations, and the general public.
The present was a small brass box, filled with amongst other things cigarettes or sweets, plus a card that read “From Princess Mary and Friends at Home” on one side, and “With best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Victorious New Year” on the other. On the lid of the box is an embossed portrait of the Princess and the words Christmas 1914, these boxes were intended to be a “little token of love and sympathy on Christmas morning,” as the Princess’s appeal for funds stated.
Within a few weeks, Princess Mary received hundreds of letters from servicemen, and one from a soldier shot in the chest who explained his brass box, carried in his shirt pocket, deflected the bullet, he survived the incident and is believed he survived the war.
So this year, at Christmas, if the in-laws get on your nerves and the excess of the Christmas cheer becomes too much, have a moment thought for the Christmas Truce of 1914 and for today’s soldiers away from their loved ones on Christmas Day.