During World War I and World War II, many male workers from Transport for London were sent overseas to fight. 🌍
In World War I, staff members serving overseas sent letters home to their families or to the organization’s magazine. It’s fascinating to read the first-hand accounts of those men. ✉️
What is particularly extraordinary is that one of these letters contains a very detailed account of the famous 1914 Christmas Day truce. This comes from Sargent Adkins, one of the District Railway representatives.
Contents of the letter
‘I thought you might like to hear of the humorous side of this war. That is, of what occurred to us from 5pm Christmas Eve up to 4am Boxing Day, on which day we left the trenches.
Well, at 5pm, the Germans opposed to us commenced to sing and play mouth organs and blow bugles. And after a spell of this, our fellows thought that we would let the Germans see that we were not down on our luck, so gave them a song or two.
And this met with the approval of our friends, and they yelled across ‘a merry Christmas English’ and ‘English music good’. Then, one or two crept up close to us and asked us to meet them to exchange souvenirs.
Of course, it was dark then, and eventually four of ours met four of theirs without rifles, and it was agreed that we should meet on Christmas Day.
Directly it was light, we got out on our parapets and walked about but no shots were fired at us so knew they intended to keep faith. Therefore, after breakfast, we sallied out to meet them halfway and, in fact, in some cases got to within 80 yards of their lines.
They were the 107th Saxon Regiment and were very decent fellows and were not to be confounded with the Prussians. We exchanged cigarettes, cap badges, and coat buttons, and Christmas goodies, and were very good friends.
They had just heard of a great victory over the Russians and said they would beat us in the end. One of them said he should go back to England at the end of the war, but we played the game and did not damp their ardour in any way.
A regular from one of our regiments started talking politics but we quashed him. They were much surprised at the height and physique of our fellows and although we did not say so, we thought that if it came to a rough and tumble, it would not be our fellows who would be underneath.
I must say, they were not only decent fellows, but also clean looking and well fed. There were plenty of cigars and cigarettes on their side. I think they must be of the same class as my own battalion.
Without exception, they wished the war was over and evidently their hearts are not in the game. And this is where we shall beat them.
They swore they would not again shoot at us, and we learn that, up to yesterday, they had kept the truce with the regular battalion that relieved us.’
To have this one letter in the collections is amazing. We can tell that some soldiers fondly recalled their fraternization with Germans. In a unique way, this gave them hope that the war would end sooner rather than later.
Full letter from the staff magazine
Explore more of the TfL Corporate Archives
✉️ Find more World War I Letters in our digital collections
😮 Take a look at the 20 favourite pieces from our collections