The Christmas Truce – A Newhaven Connection
On 1st January 1915, the East Sussex News printed a letter written by Rifleman R Barrow of the Queen’s Westminsters, sent to friends in Newhaven, from the Front. Before the war, Rifleman Barrow worked for Bannister and Sons in Newhaven and was also a member of the Church Lad’s Brigade in the town. He writes that shortly after 6pm on Christmas Eve “The Germans started to sing and to shout compliments to us, such as ‘English comrade: A Happy Christmas to you,’ &c. We suitably replied, and soon we were singing carols to each other and wishing each other the compliments of the season … Later in the night it was arranged between the officers for a truce to last until Christmas midnight and not a shot was fired”.
Then on Christmas Day “we began to walk towards their lines, and soon we were together exchanging souvenirs, &c., such as cigarettes and cigars, buttons and many other things. I got two of them to write their addresses in my notebook, and I also had a German cigar, which I am trying to keep”.
Later on, the Germans were burying their dead and a group of British soldiers went to help “working side by side, hatred and all other ill-feelings put aside for a time. It was a sight that had to be seen to be fully realised, and I am sure it made many a man think of Christmas in a new light”.
No shots were fired there between 7pm on Christmas Even until 5am on Boxing Day, when the men in Rifleman Barrow’s regiment were relieved by men from another regiment. This break from the Front (the men were billeted a mile or so away) would have made it easier for them to resume fighting when they returned to the Front, a few days after the Christmas Truce.
By Jenny Flood.
Copies of the East Sussex News can be found at The Keep.
The photograph of Newhaven Church Lads Brigade c.1913 is reproduced by kind permission of Newhaven Museum.