chapter  6
17 Pages

1914: the First Noël

Official and regimental histories tend to dismiss the events of Christmas 1914 as localized, sporadic and minor encounters in No Man’s Land. A few gifts might have been exchanged, but the pressing need for both sides was to negotiate a brief truce during which the dead might be buried. There was more to it than that, but far less than the spectacular fraternization suggested in the French film Joyeux Noël of 2006. As a work of fiction supposedly based on fact, even fictional credulity is overstretched with the appearance of a beautiful and superbly dressed diva, arriving spotless in muddy French trenches on Christmas Eve and proceeding to sing (gloriously) to the brothers-in-arms on both sides of No Man’s Land. This was possibly based on an equally unlikely Christmas Eve tale, in which Crown Prince Rupprecht, on hearing a glorious tenor voice emanating from French lines, mounted the German parapet, braced himself, stood stiffly to attention and calmly saluted the enemy. It is unlikely that Rupprecht would have been anywhere near French front-line trenches on Christmas Eve 1914, let alone presenting himself as an open target for any half-competent sniper.141