NOBODY likes the French
The Christmas Truce of 1914 was a brief moment of humanity amid the horrors of the First World War.
But when Tommies and German troops emerged from the trenches to shake hands and swap gifts in no man’s land, the festive goodwill clearly did not extend to the French, a newly discovered letter reveals.
Lance Corporal William Loasby tells how a shared contempt for Britain’s Gallic ally in the Great War helped the opposing sides briefly find common ground when they met, with one German officer even remarking: ‘Ten Frenchman don’t make an Englishman.’
In his letter to his mother, Lance Corporal Loasby, 25, of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment, tells how he and a comrade met two Germans between their trenches, which were just 40 yards apart.
One of the Germans was an officer who shook hands, then asked in English: ‘Are you all English in front there, and no French?’
Lance Corporal Loasby wrote: ‘I answered, “All English, no French”. He replied, “I thought so”. Then he 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 letter is expected to fetch up to £20,000 when it is sold at auction in March. Lance Corporal Loasby describes the Christmas event as ‘a remarkable experience… unbelievable I should say, had it happened to anyone else’.
But in the letter, dated December 27, 1914, he adds: ‘We are at each others’ throats again now.’ The letter was discovered by a collector who bought it unwittingly in a house clearance sale, historical documents expert Richard Westwood Brookes of auctioneers Mullock’s said yesterday.
Lance Corporal Loasby tells how his meeting with the officer came after an earlier encounter with another German in no man’s land on Christmas Eve. He asked if the British would stop firing on Christmas Day and Boxing Day so the Germans could bury their dead.