These extracts from the County Express 100 years ago contain letters from Brierley Hill soldiers who were serving at the front in 1914 when the famous Christmas Truce took place. There is also an article which describes how much the town raised to send parcels to serving soldiers and where they were stationed.
Peace in the Trenches
British and Germans Fraternise
Writing to his brother at Brettell Lane, Pt. A. Gill, 2nd Monmouth Regiment states:
“We spent Christmas Day in the trenches, and came out at night, so the mince pies and chocolate had a good innings.
“On Christmas Day the Germans got out of the trenches; we left ours afterwards, and meeting them halfway shook hands and gave them bully beef.
“The Germans do not get looked after like we do. The one to whom we were talking with his hands the way they hold rifle and said “English dam good!””
“Whilst they were out the Germans buried their dead, a good 200 of them, but I wonder if they would have allowed us the same privilege.
“We have all received a present from Princess Mary, consisting of a pint, tobacco, and fags.
“We have also had a Christmas pudding each, and they were fine.”
County Express 9th January 1915
A BROCKMOOR SOLDIER
Meets German Waiter from Birmingham
In Christmas Truce.
Pte William Hubble Has visited his home, 30 Cressett Lane, Brockmoor, convalescent after being eight weeks under hospital treatment suffering chiefly from frostbite and also from a shrapnel wound.
He was an under hand puddler, employed by the Hart’s Hill Iron and Steel Company when war broke out, and when men were asked for Lord Kitchener’s army he enlisted…his company becoming attached to the 1st South Staffordshires.
“We did enjoy ourselves on Christmas Day.
“Early in the morning a German came from the enemy’s trenches carrying a white flag.
“When he reached our trenches we blindfolded him so he could not see our positions, and then in English, he asked if we would like to have a drink with them.
“Some of our fellows readily said ‘yes,’ and the German replied ‘Meet us halfway; carry no arms. ‘
“So we left our rifles and trenches and met the Germans between our respective lines. We took some bully beef and exchanged this for cigars and cigarettes.
“They then brought two bottles of whiskey from their trench and we had a drink with them.
“One German told us that before the war he was a waiter in one of the big Birmingham hotels, and he said he wished he was back in Brum, and also that the Germans were ‘getting fed up with the war. ‘
“We made a football out of some old shirts and formed a side. We made goalposts with great coats from 20 to 30 aside took part in the match – English on the one side and Germans on the other.
“It was a draw, neither side scoring; in fact, you couldn’t shoot with the ‘ball ‘when you tried.”
Prior to the last season Private Hubble was a member of the Moor Lane Albion football Club, Brierley Hill.
“The truce” Private Hubble added, “lasted until 9 o’clock on the morning following, so that after having breakfast, we and the Germans were enemies again, shooting one another whenever the chance came.”
The officers, he said, looked sympathetically on the unofficial truce, but apart from a visit to the ‘playing ground‘ between the trenches, they took no part in it and remained in their dugouts nearly all the time…
County Express 06 Mar 1915
Wordsley’s Soldier’s Thanks
Peace on Christmas Day.
Pte. Adams, of the 3rd Worcesters, and formerly of Brettell Lane, states in a letter to a friend at Wordsley:-
“It is with great pleasure that I write to tell the parishioners of Wordsley that I received the Christmas card on Christmas morning. I cannot express the feelings which that day brought, but I am proud that there are people in Wordsley whose thoughts are for the men who are doing their best of the country’s sake. I was in the trenches on Christmas Day. There were six of us trying to get a warm from three pieces of wood we had alight in a bucket, when the Germans gave us a tune on a violin. Of course we gave them a cheer. We thought we should have a quiet day, although hold days are their fighting days; and we were right, for there was hardly a shot fired.”
County Express 09 Jan 1915
During the whole of the war effort local residents gave great support for the men in the services – and there are many letters throughout this time from soldiers expressing their gratitude for gifts received from the town.
This report of the 1916 town effort is interesting as it gives a glimpse of where soldiers from Brierley Hill were serving. It also gives an indication of the scale of the collecting which took place. £251 is the equivalent of £15,264 at today’s prices:
Report of Brierley Hill effort
The report, read by Mr Waldron, said the committee acknowledged with sincere and hearty thanks the assistance rendered by the ladies and gentlemen who voluntarily undertook work in connection with the various efforts for raising funds, and also packing and despatching the parcels to their destinations.
Some 735 parcels were forwarded to the addresses sent in to the committee by Mr T Williams, who undertook to complete the list of men serving with HM forces.
Every effort was made by means of circulars, advertisements in local papers, and by personal applications to get a complete list, and the committee could safely say that if any name has been missed it was entirely the fault of those who neglected to send in the names and addresses required.
The parcels were dispatched as follows:
HM Naval Forces 17,
France and Belgium 370
England, Scotland and Wales 267
Some 50 parcels were returned by the postal authorities, as persons to whom they were sent could not be traced, and the parcels were readdressed and forwarded.
About 45 new parcels and a few pipes, packets of tobacco, cigarettes and chocolate still remains to be disposed of.
The financial statements showed the amount collected and subscribed this year was £251 4 s 10d.
… This was very gratifying and spoke volumes for the goodwill and generosity of the bridal public, and been fused the answer of the workers.
County Express 16 April 1917