Soldier’s moving letter home from the trenches spoke of Christmas truce

An advert calling for people to enlist in the armed forces in 1914 - printed in the Standard
An advert calling for people to enlist in the armed forces in 1914 - printed in the Standard

A letter written by a Boston soldier to his wife on Christmas Day was described as one of the ‘most intriguing’ ever to arrive in Boston from the front line.

Pte M. Rivett, of the ‘C’ Company, 2nd Lincolns, wrote about ‘a mutual armistice’ to his wife, of Orchard Street.

He said this armistice led to an exchange of greetings with the enemy between the trenches.

“Just a few lines to let you know that I am still keeping well. I hope baby and yourself are the same,” he wrote.

“Well, this is Christmas Day, and we are having a nice day, quite enjoying ourselves. Not a shot is being fired as far as we can hear. It is a mutual armistice and our Battalion is out of the trenches for a short spell.

“I suppose the Germans are quite as pleased as us to have a quiet day, in fact, it was told to us this morning by several of our officers who had been to the trenches that our men met the Germans half way between the trenches, exchanged greetings, gave them cigarettes etc, and had quite a friendly meeting.

“Of course, only a few of each met, and without arms.

“The officers’ servants and I had a fine dinner, boiled chicken, potatoes, turnips, leeks, topped up by a pound of plum pudding with rum sauce. Not bad was it? Tonight we are having a concert round the camp fire, in fact, they have just started.

“During the day we had football matches, with a new ball sent by friends. So you see it takes alot to upset our men, or make us forget Christmas.

“But what a change tomorrow. Our Battalion will be in the trenches. Peace and good will be forgotten, each man will be trying his best to pick off one or more of the enemy.

“But all will be different next Christmas, for something must soon give way under the great strain, and I am confident it will not be the Allies’ side of the trenches.

“It is splendid to watch our flying men go over the Germans’ lines - for they never turn back until they see what they go for.

“I saw one machine have at least 30 shells fired at it. Some of them were very close too, and each moment I expected to see him brought down. But we are very pleased to see him fly back again.

“The officer just told us that this morning the Germans sung their National Anthem and our men responded with ‘Rule Britannia’ which was encored by the Germans and sung again.

“One German said to one of our officers ‘you will only be here a few days now, we have crushed the Russians’. Our officer said ‘but I can tell you a different tale - the German Army has been badly beaten by the Russians’. The German replied ‘why should I believe you any more than you believe me?’ So you see that they are still confident, and not yet beaten.

“The truth of this is vouched by several of our officers.”

Pte Rivett ended the letter by thanking his wife and others for parcels sent - including one containing editions of The Standard.

He wrote again a few days later, saying they needed more men fighting on the front line.

“At night when we are not on duty we pass away the time with mouth organs, cards or dominoes, and almost forget it is war - until the guns start.

“Sometimes all is quiet but then it begins like a thousand thunderstorms all in one. As the shells go each of us express a different wish for the Germans than we did on Christmas Day.”

He concluded: “I received The Standard all right. Thank them for the tin they sent me.”