Verdun And The Unofficial Christmas Truce During WWI

Remembrance Day Verdun Monument
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With Remembrance Day just around the corner, I thought I would share some information about Verdun and the area around it, as this is the area where the Western front of WW1 was situated. I’d also like to share with you information about incidents which happened during the war: unofficial cease-fires which involved fraternization with the enemy.

During WW1 there were many unofficial cease-fires on Christmas eve and Christmas day in 1914 where troops put down their guns, left the trenches and entered no-man’s land to meet opposing soldiers.  The soldiers socialized, sang Christmas carols, and shared food and drinks. According to Wikipedia:

There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, giving one of the most memorable images of the truce. Peaceful behaviour was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

Verdun

Verdun, France
Verdun, France

Verdun is a pretty town with the River Meuse running through it, so eating outside along the river is a nice way to spend some time. To get your fill of WW1 history, there are a number of WW1 monuments and museums. Here are some sites worth visiting in the area:

Douaumont Ossuary

"Douaumont

The Battle of Verdun in WW1 lasted 300 days and had 700,000 casualties and 230,000 deaths. The Douaumont Ossuary, on the outskirts of Verdun, contains the remains of French and German soldiers who died in the battlefield. What was most shocking and sad to me was seeing the unidentified skeletal remains of 130,000 soldiers through the small windows  which look into the ossuary.

Citadelle Souterraine de Verdun

Citadelle Souterraine de Verdun
Citadelle Souterraine de Verdun

The Citadelle Souterraine is an underground shelter that was in fact dug out under the citadel in the late 1800s. It is a museum that takes you on a moving train or tram with an audioguide and explains what life was like during WW1.

Fort de Vaux and Fort Douaumont

I regret not going to either fort yet wish I had had the time. They are located just to the east of the Douaumont Ossurary and show how the soldiers lived and fought. There are interesting tours underground (note: cold and damp inside) and above ground in the forts. It’s hard to imagine what the soldiers had to endure during the Battle of Verdun and from the reviews, both forts are worth visiting.

Christmas Truce In The Movie “Joyeux Noel”

To further understand what this truce was like, the following is a clip from a truly moving French movie, “Joyeux Noel”, made in 2005. It was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 78th Academy Awards.

The film is a dramatization of the real event that took place between French, Scottish, and German soldiers and it is touching to see them standing up in their bunkers to sing along to the song, “Silent Night”, or fraternizing by drinking champagne together and sharing photos with one another.

The movie is uplifting and moving and a reminder that we should never forget those who fought in any war. Whether our country’s soldier or an “enemy”, in the end we are all just human and this movie shows that.

I highly recommend you see this movie.

You might also like to check out this post about the World War 2 Normandy Invasions:

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