Not so Stille Nacht

26th December 1914

The Dorsets enjoyed, if that was possible, another quiet day with no shelling. Strangely both the Bedfords’ and the 5th Division’s diaries record that Sector B was shelled.

The Dorsets’ diary also mentions in the margin that the G.O.C. 2nd Corps visited the fire trenches – this was General Sir Smith-Dorrien, although he was now technically G.O.C Second Army.  The BEF had just been split in two armies for better control over the growing number of troops in Belgium and France. First Army was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig, Second Army by Smith-Dorrien. It could be argued that the BEF now ceased to exist, but the term continued to be used when referring to British troops in Belgium and France through the rest of the war.

Could Smith-Dorrien’s visit have really silenced the Dorsets when it came to talking about fraternisation with the enemy? He had issued a sharp order on 5th December warning his troops:

Friendly intercourse with the enemy, unofficial armistices, however tempting and amusing they may be, are absolutely prohibited.

This, coupled with his criticism of the 15th Brigade, could have certainly put the Dorsets under pressure to appear blameless at this time. Or perhaps my imagination is now running away with me. Amaretto and nocturnal babies does that to the best of us.

At 8pm singing could be heard coming from the German trenches. The Dorsets’ diary inexplicably adds a comment that the trenches were strongly held. Perhaps this was a sufficient amount of men to give a particular range to the choral performance.