“Amazing” letter by Northamptonshire soldier reveals details of ‘Christmas Day Truce’ during World War One

Auctioneer Richard Westwood-Brookes holding letters Letters written by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby describing in detail how the famous Christmas Truce in the Trenches of 1914 came about. NNL-141217-145229001
Auctioneer Richard Westwood-Brookes holding letters Letters written by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby describing in detail how the famous Christmas Truce in the Trenches of 1914 came about. NNL-141217-145229001

An incredible letter from the World War One trenches by a Northamptonshire soldier describing how he organised the famous ‘Christmas Day Truce’ has been unearthed and expected to fetch £20,000 at auction.

The eight-page pencilled note was sent by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment to his mother on December 27, 1914.

Extract from a letter written by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby about his part in the 1914 Christmas truce. NNL-141217-150712001

Extract from a letter written by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby about his part in the 1914 Christmas truce. NNL-141217-150712001

The letter is being sold by a collector who bought it at a house-clearing auction but only realised its importance when he saw his hometown Northampton on the top and decided to read it recently.

L/Cpl Loasby the describes how he started shouting to German soldiers who were just 40 yards (36m) away in the trenches a few days before Christmas.

The 25-year-old explains how he persuaded the enemy not to shoot before bravely walking out into no-man’s land to meet with a German officer.

There he exchanged his last loaf of bread as a peace offering - biting off the end to prove it was not poisoned - before agreeing to a Christmas Day ceasefire.

An image of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment which was the regiment of Lance Corporal Willie Loasby who wrote in detail about the famous Christmas Truce in the Trenches of 1914, Northampton, December 16 2014. NNL-141217-150911001

An image of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment which was the regiment of Lance Corporal Willie Loasby who wrote in detail about the famous Christmas Truce in the Trenches of 1914, Northampton, December 16 2014. NNL-141217-150911001

l/Cpl Loasby then shouted across to the Germans on December 25 and arranged to meet the officer again.

He goes on to says how he was given gifts - including six cigars and chocolate- by the soldier before “jokingly” suggesting the idea of a game of football.

In the document - which is one of the fullest descriptions of the Christmas Truce ever found - L/Cpl Loasby revealed how the German soldiers initially started off by “calling us English pigs and something a bit worse”.

But he says they then made jokes about the French who ended up shouting “Brave English”.

L/Cpl Loasby wrote: “On Xmas day I called up my friend the German and we met again halfway.

“Now out steps a German officer and comes up to me.

“The officer says, after shaking hands and in Good English ‘Are you all English in front there and no French’.

“I answered, ‘All English, no French.’ He replied, ‘I thought so’, then said ‘Ten Frenchman don’t make an Englishman’. I thought: ’Compliments’.

“He weighed me up and down, gave me six cigars, some chocolate, shook hands again and turned about , went back to his trench. The other chap gave me a knife as a souvenir.

“I said jokingly if he would play us a game of football. He said ‘yes’ then I got called in again and we were soon banging away at them again.

“But what makes it so strange to me is on each side of us they were still fighting and an officer who ordered his men to fire volleys into them when they were asking to speak had his head blown off a few hours afterwards.

“Of course we have had to forget all about that now we are at each others’ throats again...”

It is believed L/Cpl Loasby died just two weeks after writing the letter on January 11, 1915 - meaning he had probably been killed before it was read by his mother.

He was buried in Guards Cemetery near a small French village called Cuinchy and his name appears on a war memorial in Kettering.

The remarkable letter is now set to fetch £20,000 when it goes under the hammer in March next year.

Auctioneer Richard Westwood-Brookes said: “I have seen many letters from World War One but this is without question the finest, and pinpoints the actual moments that the Christmas Truce took place

“It has all the antecedence of the football match and how it started off with insults being traded across no man’s land.

“It’s almost like two people squaring up to each other on a Saturday night and then suddenly it stops being a game of dare and ends up somebody doing something when the German comes out of the trench and the English guy goes to meet him.

“Then they realise they are not fighting ‘the enemy’ but fighting real people.

“Loasby was probably shot by someone he was fraternising with and playing football with on Christmas Day.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of World War One letters and items but this is without question the most amazing letter I have ever read.

“It also shows that the whole affair was so bizarre in that men were shaking hands with their German enemies at certain points in No Man’s Land while other troops were still fighting on either side.

“But at the same time it illustrates the great tragedy of the war – ordinary men with down to earth values of humanity and friendship reaching out to each other at Christmas and exchanging what meagre gifts they had.

“They even offered the last loaf of bread to men who were supposedly their sworn enemies.”