Second Christmas Truce Takes
by Jeff Provine
says: what if a Second Christmas Truce had enabled the Kaiser to demand
an armistice? muses Jeff Provine's on his excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
On December 25th 1915,
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icon to follow us on Facebook.on this day the Kaiser demanded an
armistice after a second Christmas Truce took hold in the trenches. The
words of Chief of Staff Hulmuth von Moltke from 1914 rang in the Kaiser's
ears, "Your Majesty, this war cannot be won".
Wilhelm II had initially rejected the view of Moltke and fired him, but as
1915 dragged on, it became possible that the German fate was sealed. There
were new developments such as air warfare and poison gas, leading to whole
new aspects of battle. A further innovation was mass-propaganda, and the
Kaiser decided this may be the method to come out ahead in an unwinnable
In 1914, the soldiers in the field began what was to be known as the
Christmas Truce. On Christmas Eve, the German troops decorated their
trenches and sang carols. The English troops, who recognized many of the
tunes from their own carols, joined in singing. The artillery bombardments
on both sides ended for the night, allowing soldiers to collect their
dead, and joint services were held honoring the fallen on both sides.
Once-enemies approached each other across the "No Man's Land", exchanging
gifts, sharing food, and engaging in games of football. Commanders on both
ends reacted with disgust at the fraternization, but the unofficial truce
lasted until after New Years' Eve in many places along the lines.
"It seems unlikely that the Russian Civil War, even
if won by the Whutes, would "stomp out notions of Communism" entirely,
given that catastrophic defeat of the Axis in World War II did not stamp
out fascism (which persisted openly in Franco's Spain and elsewhere, and
covertly in the form of assorted terror groups such as Turkey's "Grey
Wolves." " - reader's commentsThe cases of fraternization had
continued despite the horrors of war by attrition. A German unit attempted
a truce over Easter, but were warned away by their British opponents.
Later that November, units from Saxony and Liverpool successfully
fraternized. The soldiers in the trenches obviously did not care for the
war; the Kaiser merely had to convince them to take a stand against it.
While the Allied command issued orders against fraternization that
upcoming Christmas, German orders encouraged the possibility and handed
out gifts to exchange (including reasons for the war to be ended). Despite
the orders, the soldiers in the trenches met and joined again in their
small feasts and games of football. The Allied commanders erupted at the
news and began court martial proceedings for hundreds, possibly thousands.
Rebellion broke out among the ranks.Wilhelm was urged to attack while the
Allies were weak, but he intended to win the war rather than a few battles
before the Allies had propaganda material to regroup.
Seizing the diplomatic initiative and ensuring that word of the Christmas
Truce spread past censorship, Wilhelm capitalized on the friendly spirits
among the common soldiers. He demanded an armistice in the West, which the
Allies agreed only along with an armistice in the East. Talks began, and
the politicians finally conceded under pressure from the soldiers and
their families. Lists of demands were drawn up, and, for each point, games
of football and other athletic events would decide the victor.
"Interesting concept. WWI was an absolutely crazy
accident. But it wasn't about to end with a Christmas truce. Such things
happened during the American Civil War as well." - reader's commentsWhile
troops remained in station during an armistice, Germany hosted the 1916
Olympics in Berlin that summer as it had planned to do before the war.
Fighting for honor as well as diplomatic success, athletes built value
with gold, silver, and bronze medals to be used in agreements during what
would be a precursor to the League of Nations.
The notion was considered ludicrous by many, but war weariness kept
naysayers from the majority opinion. Germany did not fair as well as the
Allied nations, and most of the world expected the Kaiser to turn against
his own idea and restart the war. To their surprise, he did not and
ordered the removal of troops from France and Belgium as part of the
agreement, though he kept Alsace-Lorraine. Reparations were traded, and
war was formally outlawed in 1918.
Europe celebrated the War to End All Wars, though the name was hardly apt.
Wars went underground, constantly fed by international espionage, support
for uprisings (such as the Russian Civil War that would eventually stomp
out notions of communism), and sabotage of other nations' teams. Tempers
flared over each scandal, but war did not come back to the world stage
until Ireland's fight for independence in 1928 was found to be supported
overtly by the Germans. The Irish Revolt exploded outside of British
borders with a Royal Navy blockade of Germany to cease supplies. The
Germans countered with an invasion of Belgium to secure new ports, and
Europe was swallowed up in the Second World War.
says in reality the Christmas Truces were suppressed. Following the 1914
truce, orders were followed for the most part opposing informal truces in
1915. A few examples were seen in 1916, but continual artillery fire ended
most chances for fraternization. World War I would drag on until Armistice
Day, November 11, 1918, after the deaths of some ten million and twenty
million more wounded. To view guest historian's comments on this post please
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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