Wendover Remembers, December 1914

Val Moir and Mike Senior  |  Published: Dec 1st 2014
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Wendover Remembers logo


Spasmodic fighting continued during December along the British-held sector of the Western Front with several German attacks on Ypres.   The weather was foul -  wet and cold - and many soldiers suffered from swollen feet, frost-bite and rheumatism.  But on Christmas Eve the weather improved and set the scene for a truly remarkable event.  Late in the evening of 24 December both sides, quite spontaneously, started to sing carols and Christmas trees appeared in the German trenches.  Christmas Day was bright and frosty and neither the British nor the German troops opened fire.  Then groups of soldiers moved into No Man’s Land and a sort of fraternisation took place.  Gifts were swapped, pleasantries exchanged and photographs taken.  For one brief period peace prevailed.  The Christmas Truce was, however, short-lived and the British and German General Staffs issued strict orders that such unwarlike actions should stop immediately.

At least one Wendover soldier, Pte Charles Atkins serving with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, took part in the Christmas Truce.  He wrote to his parents, Mr and Mrs Charles Atkins of London Road: “We had a very amusing time at Christmas.  I expect you have seen in the papers that we were on top of the trenches, shaking hands and exchanging our bully beef for their bread!  I can tell you, I shall not forget this Christmas, if I am lucky to come through it all right”.  Pte Atkins also noted that he had received, as did all the British soldiers at the front, a Christmas present from Princess Mary containing “a pipe, tobacco and cigarettes in a very nice tin”.  Charles Atkins did survive the war.

Back in Wendover, the Bucks Herald reported that, “ A board has been erected inside the railings of the Literary Institute, facing the Town Clock, giving the names of the 110 men of the town who have joined the forces”.  Cards, such as the one shown on this page, were presented to the families of enlisted men who proudly displayed them in their cottage windows.

The Bucks Advertiser carried an article on the Christmas Services at St Mary’s Church: “The sharp frost on Christmas morning proved seasonable and quite in keeping with the picture of an old fashioned Christmas.

Notwithstanding the bright morning the day was certainly the quietist so far as outside rejoicings were concerned, that can be remembered.  The bells were unable to be rung to usher in the happy day, and the band did not play the usual midnight carols or parade the town on Boxing Day.  The [Halton Camp] soldiers were away on furlough and very few people were seen on the streets.  On Christmas Eve the children, whose fathers had joined the forces and were away from home, were the recipients of seasonable gifts for the stocking which “daddy could not fill” and were not forgotten by a few kind ladies and gentlemen who contributed to the fund , the gifts coming as a pleasant surprise  to them.  At St Mary’s Church at morning service the Rev C. C. Sharpe  preached a helpful sermon to a large congregation from the text Philippians IV 7, “The Peace of God”.  The Church was tastefully decorated with holly and ivy, and the following hymns were sung: “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn”, “O Come all Ye Faithful”, “While Shepherds Watched”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, and “ O God of Love, O King of Peace”.  At the close a verse from the National Anthem was sung.

Not all news items were directly concerned with the war.  On December 19 the Bucks Herald reported: “The general meeting of the Wendover and District Sparrow Club was held at the Red Lion Hotel when there were present Messrs C. T. Adams, Frank Purssell, T. Thorne, R.C. Saunders, W.J. Stevens, E. Dawe, S.W.Brown and C.E. Freeman (Sec).  The Secretary reported that last season about 5,000 sparrows were killed in the neighbourhood, and that the Club was in a sound financial position.  It was unanimously decided to continue to carry on the Club and pay 3s per hundred for sparrow heads.  It is hoped that all farmers, small holders, and gardeners will join the Club.”  Clearly, there was no Christmas Truce for sparrows.

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