On Christmas Day 1914 an unofficial truce took place on the Western Front when British and German soldiers met and exchanged gifts in no-man’s land. The most famous of these is the football match between opposing sides. This has been celebrated by the sculpture designed by Spencer Turner and unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum on 12th December 2014 by Prince William.
We like to think that Benfleet troops took part in one of these truces but we have no evidence to support our belief. However Benfleet resident Jane Oliver has allowed us to show a letter sent by her grandfather from the trenches. He did not take part in a football match, but he did meet the Germans.
Her grandfather was Fusilier Frederick James Davies of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and he survived the war. He was not a Benfleet resident. The text of the letter is:
My Dearest Mother,
Just a line to let you know that I am all right. I hope you got the King’s Xmas card all right. I hope to send you Princess Mary’s gift in a day or so.
We have come out of the trenches since Sunday for a few days rest. It’s nice to have a night’s sleep from the wet but we still sleep in our clothes but I am happy through it all. It’s no use being otherwise.
We had a good chat with the Germans on Xmas day. They were only fifty yards away from us in the trenches. They came out and we went to meet them. 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.
We don’t know what day we shall be going away from here but I dare say it will be the trenches.
We had a service on Sunday with the chaplain. We sang all the Xmas hymns.
Well dear mother I’ve got no more news at present. Don’t you worry about me. You buck up till I’ll come home. Dia sent me a parcel, also Mrs Davis brothers. I shall write to Mrs Davis tonight.
Give my best love to dear dad and self. Write as often as you can.
With best love.
From your loving