SPECIAL REPORT: Northamptonshire soldier described the Christmas Day truce in No Man’s Land

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 is to go under the hammer, Bucknell, Shropshire. See News Team story NTITRUCE: An incredibly letter written from the trenches by a soldier telling how he organised the famous 'Christmas Truce' football game is expected to fetch �20,000 when it goes under the hammer. The eight-page note was sent by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment to his mother on December 27, 1914. In the pencilled letter, the 25-year-old soldier tells how he started shouting to the German soldiers who were just 40 yards (36m) away in the trenches a few days before Christmas. He goes on to explain that he then arranged for no-one to shoot before bravely walking out into no-man's land to meet with the enemy. 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 is to go under the hammer, Bucknell, Shropshire. See News Team story NTITRUCE: An incredibly letter written from the trenches by a soldier telling how he organised the famous 'Christmas Truce' football game is expected to fetch �20,000 when it goes under the hammer. The eight-page note was sent by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment to his mother on December 27, 1914. In the pencilled letter, the 25-year-old soldier tells how he started shouting to the German soldiers who were just 40 yards (36m) away in the trenches a few days before Christmas. He goes on to explain that he then arranged for no-one to shoot before bravely walking out into no-man's land to meet with the enemy. NNL-141217-145229001
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A letter in which a Northamptonshire soldier described how he helped organise the famous First World War Christmas truce has been unearthed.

And the document, which Lance Corporal Willie Loasby wrote to his mother on December 27, 1914, is now expected to fetch £20,000 at auction.

Libray photo dated 1916 showing German prisoners helping to carry wounded British soldiers back to their trenches after an attack near Ginchy during the Battle of the Somme in the 1914-1918 First World War, released Saturday July 31, 2004. On Wednesday, four veterans of the First World War will travel to the Cenotaph in London to remember the 750,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives during a service to mark the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of the  First World War in 1914. See PA story WAR Anniversary. PA Photo. 121450-23

Libray photo dated 1916 showing German prisoners helping to carry wounded British soldiers back to their trenches after an attack near Ginchy during the Battle of the Somme in the 1914-1918 First World War, released Saturday July 31, 2004. On Wednesday, four veterans of the First World War will travel to the Cenotaph in London to remember the 750,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives during a service to mark the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. See PA story WAR Anniversary. PA Photo. 121450-23

The eight-page pencilled note, sent by L/Cpl Loasby, of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment, describes how the 25-year-old started shouting to German soldiers who were only 40 yards away in the trenches a few days before Christmas.

He explains how he persuaded the enemy not to shoot before bravely walking out into ‘no man’s land’ to meet 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.

L/Cpl Loasby, whose name is immortalised on the war memorial in Kettering, also describes how he shouted across to the Germans on December 25 and arranged to meet the officer again.

Extract from a letter written by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby about his part in the 1914 Christmas truce. See News Team story NTITRUCE: An incredibly letter written from the trenches by a soldier telling how he organised the famous 'Christmas Truce' football game is expected to fetch �20,000 when it goes under the hammer. The eight-page note was sent by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment to his mother on December 27, 1914. In the pencilled letter, the 25-year-old soldier tells how he started shouting to the German soldiers who were just 40 yards (36m) away in the trenches a few days before Christmas. He goes on to explain that he then arranged for no-one to shoot before bravely walking out into no-man's land to meet with the enemy. NNL-141217-150712001

Extract from a letter written by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby about his part in the 1914 Christmas truce. See News Team story NTITRUCE: An incredibly letter written from the trenches by a soldier telling how he organised the famous 'Christmas Truce' football game is expected to fetch �20,000 when it goes under the hammer. The eight-page note was sent by Lance Corporal Willie Loasby of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment to his mother on December 27, 1914. In the pencilled letter, the 25-year-old soldier tells how he started shouting to the German soldiers who were just 40 yards (36m) away in the trenches a few days before Christmas. He goes on to explain that he then arranged for no-one to shoot before bravely walking out into no-man's land to meet with the enemy. NNL-141217-150712001

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

In the document, one of the fullest descriptions of the Christmas Truce ever found, L/Cpl Loasby reveals 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 and 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 on January 11, 1915, just two weeks after writing the letter – 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.

The letter, which goes under the hammer at auction in March, is being sold by a collector who bought it at a house-clearing auction but only realised its importance when he saw his hometown of Northampton written on the top and decided to read it.

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 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.”

***********************************************************************************************************

LANCE CORPORAL WILLIE LOASBY’S LETTER TO HOME AFTER CHRISTMAS DAY TRUCE

“On Thursday afternoon day before Xmas we stood shouting at the Germans in English (we can speak no German).

“They answered by calling us English Pigs and something a bit worse, well things went on like that for some time and matters improved and we asked them if they thought their people were in London.

“This happened in the section of trench I was in charge of between myself and a couple of men of my section. The Germans only being 40 yards away and we being nearer than at any other part of the line around here.

“Well the fellow next to me asked the German to stand right up, saying he would not shoot. The German did, then I asked him to come out of the trench and meet one of us half way and talk.

“He hesitated, but I assured him we would not shoot, if his fellows would not and to prove we meant it we stepped out of the trench and walked across towards them, all eyes were now watching this (the fellow I have just mentioned took our last loaf of bread the only one we had between about 10 of us, and gave it to the German, biting a bit off at the same time to let him know we had not poisoned it.

“Well everyone was now clapping both British and German and the Germans also shouted ‘Brave English’. I walked across to my man and shook hands, I asked him how he liked it. ‘Terrible, I wish I was back in Germany (in Good English !).

“I said, are you losing many men. He said ‘yes & could I make arrangements with my officer commanding to have Xmas day and Boxing to bury their dead and not firing. I said I would ask for him.

“I wanted a souvenir so I took my knife out of my pocket and he let me cut a button from his coat. I could only give him a few dirty old biscuits from my pocket... 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...”