General's 100-year-old letter reveals first-hand account of Christmas Day truce

The letter details the Christmas truce in 1914, when opposing battalions downed weapons to mark the holiday Credit: PA

A 100-year-old letter from a First World War general has revealed in graphic detail more about the iconic Christmas Day truce, which saw enemy troops down weapons and play football together.

The first-hand account, written by General Sir Walter Congreve VC on Christmas Day 1914, reveals he was reluctant to join in as his soldiers shared cigars, songs and a game with German forces, as he said he was unsure whether they would be able to “resist” taking a shot at such a high-ranking officer.

The letter was discovered by archivists in Staffordshire as they carried out research to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the war, and is now set to go on public display.

Sir Walter, who lost his left hand in the conflict, wrote the letter to his wife after visiting trenches near Neuve Chapelle in Northern France and described how news of the now-legendary football match spread quickly along the front line.

British troops cross the River Somme in France in 1914 Credit: PA

But the letter also reveals it was not all peace on earth for the day. The senior commander, who led the Rifles Brigade, told his wife some battalions continued to exchange fire – and said he planned to use the knowledge gained of where the Germans’ top marksmen were located.

Troops receive their mail in the trenches in France Credit: PA

Sir Walter was born in Chatham, Kent, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy during the Second Boer War in 1899.

His letter will be put on display at Stafford’s Records Office tomorrow.

Staffordshire County Council’s archives chief, Councillor Ben Adams, welcomed the display.

Another letter by a British soldier detailing the truce was auctioned off in 2006 Credit: PA

Meanwhile Anthony Richards, head of documents at the Imperial War Museum, hailed the letter as an interesting addition to the various existing accounts of the Christmas truce story.