Crowley Commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914

Dec 22, 2014 Issues: Foreign Affairs, In the Community

(Queens, NY)  – Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, announced the introduction of H. Res. 781, a resolution commemorating the centennial anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914.  

One hundred years ago this month, soldiers on the Western Front came together to unofficially pause hostilities and celebrate the Christmas holiday without regard for country lines or battle lines. The truce gave armies on both sides an opportunity to bury their fallen comrades, as well as share some festive cheer while far away from their homes and families.

Reports from service members on the front lines were that soldiers engaged in singing carols, sharing provisions, and even playing lighthearted games. One of the most well-known aspects of the Christmas Truce is the impromptu soccer game that took place among the men.

“The Christmas Truce has always inspired me as a reminder that it is possible for opponents to look beyond their differences and see each other as people,” said Rep. Crowley. “But I have a more personal connection as well. My great-grandfather was one of the soldiers present during the Christmas Truce, and I have always been so proud to know that he participated in such a meaningful moment in history.”

Commemorations of the Christmas Truce are expected to take place around the world, including candles being lit worldwide by leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu to mark the anniversary, and the recent unveilings of several sculptures honoring the 1914 Christmas Day soccer match.

“I hope that this holiday season, wherever we are, we can all take a moment to remember the Christmas Truce and to remind ourselves of a time when soldiers laid down their weapons and recognized how essential it is to value humanity,” continued Crowley.

The full text of the resolution is below:

RESOLUTION

Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914.

Whereas by December 1914, World War I had left about 90 percent of the highly trained members of the British Expeditionary Force in France with casualties, and about 30 percent dead;

Whereas the cries and moans of the injured and dying in no man’s land could be heard throughout the Western Front, and many of the dead had been lying unburied;

Whereas on December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas;

Whereas despite this proposal, the warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire;

Whereas on Christmas Eve, which under German tradition has more celebrations than the day itself, German soldiers began to sing carols and place lantern-lit Christmas trees above their trenches;

Whereas much of December had been wet, but on this night the temperature dropped and a sharp frost settled over the landscape, making both trench conditions more bearable and the air clear and still;

Whereas Rifleman C H Brazier, Queen's Westminsters of Bishop's Stortford, claimed in his letters that the German soldiers said they would not shoot on Christmas Day if his fellows did not;

Whereas another letter from Private Cunningham, of the 5th Scottish Rifles, to his friend Mr. James D Gray, in Carluke, Scotland, also reveals in more detail how such truces came about: "On Christmas Eve the firing practically ceased…”;

Whereas on Christmas Day the soldiers of opposing forces emerged from their trenches and declared their own unofficial truce, and shook hands with their enemies;

Whereas, according to many letters, a good-spirited, impromptu football match between German and Allied soldiers took place in no man’s land on this day and is commemorated annually by English football teams;

Whereas in recognition of the 100th anniversary this year, special Christmas Truce candles will be lit around the world, including by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa and Pelé in Santos, Brazil;

Whereas worldwide celebrations are expected to take place, including the unveiling of a sculpture by Andy Edwards in Liverpool capturing the 1914 Christmas Day football match;

Whereas the lessons of this event are that the light of human empathy can dispel the darkness of despair, the possibility for future peace can still exist when at war with other nations, and that behind the clashing of weapons and trenches of indifference humanity essentially endures: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives --

(1) honors the 100th Anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914;

(2) recognizes the Christmas Truce’s symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity; and

(3) commemorates the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914 and its legacy as a message of future peace and unity between all nations.

Congressman Crowley is the eight-term representative from the 14th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and serves as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives.