“Christmas day was a magnificent day, very cold and frosty, very quiet, not a sound to be heard anywhere.”

My dear Auckland,

Thank you very much indeed for the plum pudding and further cigarettes and baccy, very fine. I have just spent one of the most weird Christmas [sic] of my life – in the trenches. Our enemy across the way arranged with us to hold an unofficial armistice, so we walked over the top of the trenches and exchanged greetings, they were a very nice set of fellows (Landstrum)? We exchanged souveniers, and they gave us some very fine cigars. A party of theirs met one of ours halfway between the trenches, they all linked arms and had their photo taken by a German officer! It seems most weird, talking and laughing with them one day and killing each other the next!

I am feeling quite well with the exception of my feet which for the time being are rather groggy owing to the recent severe weather. Christmas day was a magnificent day, very cold and frosty, very quiet, not a sound to be heard anywhere. We have received a very nice card from the king, and also a card, cigarettes and tobacco in a beautiful box from Princess Mary, which I must try and keep.

Thank Nurse very much for the belt and mittens, very welcome. Much love to the girls and Mickey, trust you are fit.

Yours ever, Ken

25 December 1914 was the first Christmas spent in the trenches for those fighting in the First World War. In spite of their surroundings, a series of impromptu truces along the trenches saw the opposing armies singing, dancing and, famously, playing football together.

One of the many who emerged from their trenches that day was Lance Corporal Kenneth Gaunt. In the letter above he recounted the event. This was one of twelve times he wrote to his aunt and uncle during wartime. He was killed in action nine months later, on the first day of the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 has become a legendary story. The romantic image of enemies shaking hands in the middle of No-Man’s Land, or playing football against each other, reoccurs again and again in everything from films and songs to adverts.

What do we really know about this moment of peace in a brutal war? The photographs, letters and interviews in IWM’s collection tell the real story of the Christmas Truce.

Click here to learn more about the Christmas Truce.

It has been an unimaginably tough year for many people. Imperial War Museums tell the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary times. Our members, visitors and donors have helped us preserve our valuable collection and continue to tell these stories in extraordinary circumstances.

Thank you, as ever, for your continued support. We wish you a happy Christmas and New Year.