|Beaurains Road War Cemetery near Arras.|
After the 19th December attack, we were back in the same trenches when Christmas Day came along. It was a terrible winter, everything was covered in snow, everything was white. The devastated landscape looked terrible in its true colours — clay and mud and broken brick — but when it was covered in snow it was beautiful. Then we heard the Germans singing 'Silent Night, Holy Night', and they put up a notice saying ‘Merry Christmas’, and so we put one up too.
While they were singing our boys said, ‘Let’s join in,’ so we joined in and when we started singing, they stopped. And when we stopped, they started again. So we were easing the way. Then one German took a chance and jumped up on top of the trench and shouted out, ‘Happy Christmas, Tommy!’ So of course our boys said, ‘If he can do it, we can do it,’ and we all jumped up. A sergeant-major shouted ‘Get down!’ But we said, ‘Shut up Sergeant, it’s Christmas time!’ And we all went forward to the barbed wire.
We could barely reach through the wire, because the barbed wire was not just one fence, it was two or three fences together, with a wire in between. And so we just￼ shook hands and I had the experience of talking to one German who said to me, ‘Do you know where the Essex Road in London is?’ I replied, ‘Yes, my uncles had a shoe repairing shop there.’ He said, ‘That’s funny. There’s a barber shop on the other side where I used to work.’
They could all speak very good English because before the war, Britain was invaded by Germans. Every pork butcher was German, every barber’s shop was German, and they were all over here getting the low-down on the country. It’s ironic when you think about it, that he must have shaved my uncle at times and yet my bullet might have found him and his bullet might have found me.
PRIVATE FRANK SUMTER London Rifle Brigade