Blake, Gerald, Letter, 21-27 December 1914

to Clive Blake


Case Study: 
Gerald Blake, an English Participant in the Christmas Truce of 1914
Blake, Gerald
21-27 December 1914
Place: France
McMaster University Libraries
Copyright, public domain: McMaster University owns the rights to the archival copy of the digital image in TIFF format.


and for Christmas day itself, my platoon came back into the woods immediately behind. We were able to have our meals there in fair comfort, dinner being a Machonochie ration and a portion of plum pudding issued to the troops. I had your tinned plum pudding (fried) in the trenches on Boxing Day and will eat the other boiled today, with the other things. Most of Christmas Day was spent sleeping in the shack, for we were told there would be little chance of sleep at night. It was true, for all through the night the platoon carried filled sandbags up a road to the trenches. It rained last night, but we kept the trench we were in fairly dry by bailing. It was very cold for the feet. The quaint thing concerning Christmas here was the informal truce observed by the B infantry of both sides over Christmas and Boxing Days. It began with the singing of various songs by the Germans who also had a cornet and concertina going. Our fellows cheered each song and the two sides shouted Christmas greetings. I myself was lying between the trenches on what is called a "listening patrol" (with 2 companions) to see if they were making any movement, and could therefore hear admirably. When morning came (we by then had moved back into the woods) there was none of the usual sniping, but the soldiers of both sides came out of the trenches and advanced into the centre to chat and exchange cigarettes. They were sick of the war, confident of victory and had been told of a Russian defeat. Two of them had been waiter at the Savoy and Strand barber respectively. The occasion was seized to bury some of their dead, over whom one of their officers held a service and at the conclusion thanked "his English friends". They seemed a decent lot for Germans, though small sized, but of course they were not Prussians. It was a Saxon corps.
By now, I have seen (a) that the F Karl was sunk (b) loss of Messudieh (c) details of Scarborough etc (d) that Dresden escaped for a while (e) dates & buildings of Caroline which I hope you have entered in the notes. Have you come across a reference to the old Caroline, as I badly want her date, which I believe was 1878 but am not sure. I never expected the Messudieh to go in that way. You know, her sister ship was our Superb (ex Hamidieh) which was still incomplete when we had a war scare and so was taken over by us, while the first ship escaped, to serve through the Russo Turkish war of 1877-8. You can see a half-hull model of the Superb at South Kensington, on the north wall. As for Scarborough, I really must tick you off again for calling the Blucher a battle cruiser. As to the Derflinger, I saw a picture of a 12'' shell fired at the town, and if we accept this as accurate she must have been present, but papers are so inaccurate.