Mid Wales

Soldier's WW1 letter recalls 1914 Christmas Day truce

Private Frederick James Davies and one of his letters Image copyright Jane Oliver
Image caption Private Frederick James Davies wrote letters to his mother from the front line

A World War One soldier's account of sharing "cigs, jam and corn beef" with Germans during the Christmas truce has been revealed in a collection of letters.

Frederick James Davies, of Lampeter, Ceredigion, described meeting enemy soldiers across No Man's Land on 25 December 1914.

The details were in a letter written to his mother from the front line.

He said they had a "good chat with the Germans on Xmas day".

Soldiers serving in northern France left their trenches along some parts of the Western Front on the first Christmas Day of the conflict to meet the enemy and exchange gifts.

Some are famously said to have played football.

'Shook hands'

Mr Davies, a private in the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, described the brief armistice in correspondence among the collection found by his granddaughter, Jane Oliver.

"They (the German soldiers) were only 50 yards (45m) away from us in the trenches. They came out and we went to meet them," he wrote.

"We shook hands with them. We gave them cigs, jam and corn beef.

"They also gave us cigars but they didn't have much food. I think they are hard up for it. They were fed up with the war."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The truce saw soldiers along the Western Front put down their guns at Christmas for the day

In the same letter, he described how they had come out of trenches for a few days of rest, commenting that it was nice to sleep away from the wet, although they were still sleeping in their clothes.

"I am happy through it all. It's no use being otherwise," he said.

Mr Davies, who was born in 1886 and joined the army in 1908, also sent home pressed flowers to his mother.

'Thrilled'

He left the army in 1915 after a trench caved in on him, shattering his spine and leaving him unable to work properly.

He married in 1919 and had three children.

Image copyright Jane Oliver
Image caption A trench caved in on Mr Davies, leaving him unable to work after World War One

His youngest daughter, Audrey Trenchard, now 86, said he never spoke about his war experiences before his death, aged 61, and "it was so interesting" to read the letters.

"We were so thrilled that Jane had managed to find them and keep them," she said.

"I didn't know about it, being the youngest I hadn't heard any of this. It's wonderful for me to find out about it."

Mrs Trenchard said her father's letters were an "important" reminder "that the Germans weren't all bad".

"They were family men, like ours were," she added.

More on this story