Historian's Corner

Charlene Cole
Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian
Historian's Corner
December 13, 2013

Photo: World War I – Soldiers tenting at the Gas Mart site (North Main Street, Sandy Creek) on their way to Pine Camp (Fort Drum).

December 25, 1914 The Christmas Truce
The Christmas truce was a series of widespread, unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas 1914, during World War I.

Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols. At certain points along the eastern and western fronts, the soldiers of Russia, France, and Britain even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn, many of the German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man's-land, calling out "Merry Christmas" in their enemies' native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. In 1915, the bloody conflict of World War I erupted in all its technological fury, and the concept of another Christmas Truce became unthinkable.

Sandy Creek History Center has documented 94 World War I soldiers; three soldiers died in service (Eric Dana died of pneumonia; Chadwick Gerow and Rex Hadley were killed in action in France). November 11, 1918 at 11 AM (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) became known as Armistice Day (Veterans Day) and the end of World War I, “The Great War to end All Wars”.

A book documenting World War I was published in 2004 by Historian Cole. The New York State historian sent questionnaires to ex-service men from Sandy Creek/Lacona to be filled out and returned to document their service in World War I so their service would appear in New York State History. Veterans were asked to include a photograph if possible. The History Center Archives has copies of some of the questionnaires soldiers filled out thanks to F. Dudley Corse, past historian. This is a valuable record for genealogists and documents the service of their ancestor and includes a timeline, newspaper articles, some photographs and other interesting memorabilia.

My office will be closed during Christmas and New Years week but feel free to contact me by e-mail schistoriansandycreek@gmail.com or phone387-5654x7 as I check both daily.