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Christmas at the Front: Death and Destruction Reign Supreme
Photo: Die Muskete, 24 Dec 1914, ANNO / Austrian National Library

Christmas at the Front: Death and Destruction Reign Supreme

Europe, 25 December 1914 - On Christmas Day, 1914 war continues to rage in Europe.

On the Eastern Front, where the Russian and German armies were locked in stalemate near Cracow a hail of shells threatened at any moment to sweep away the lives of those who live embedded in their underground dug-outs.

The belt of countryside that lies between the rival armies is bounded by a long, discontinuous, irregular fringe of barbed wire and in the middle it is rutted with large craters.

This ‘No Man’s Land’ is strewn with the bodies of dead soldiers - men who fought for both armies - some of them lying on the ground at impossible angles, others caught and propped against the wire.

Some of the bodies are half-buried in craters; others have lain in the muck for days, slowly rotting.

French soldiers try to keep their spirits up in the trenches by singing and dancing during the cold December months. (Image: Le Petit Journal, 6 Dec 1914. Bibliothèque nationale de France)

The Western Front

On the Western Front, Christmas Day brought a hard frost and a heavy mist to Belgium and Northern France.

All along the River Yser in Flanders, the guns boomed and boomed. There was no truce along that stretch of the front at least, regardless of the season.

The Germans had made a fierce night attack on the French and Belgian positions north of Nieuport. The allies drove them back. The result of raid and counter-raid was a by-now familiar one: many men on both sides lost their lives and little ground was won.

Things were somewhat quieter in the British trenches. Earlier in the week, some of the most violent shelling of the war had taken place, but on Christmas Day things were much calmer.

Plum pudding was eaten wherever rations could be delivered to the trenches. The flood of parcels from home left some men with five or six puddings to eat, a welcome distraction from the occasional shelling that marked the day.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.