Letters from the First World War: End of 1914

In our previous blog post, we introduced the story of Alfred Dougan Chater, a soldier of the London Regiment who arrived on the Western Front in later October 1914. Here, we pick up his story and share another of his wonderful letters home.

–          Christmas 1914

By December 1914, Dougan had transferred from the London Regiment and was serving as an officer with 2 Battalion Gordon Highlanders. This is an extract from a letter that he wrote to his mother, Jessie, on 25 December 1914.

–          “One of the most extraordinary sights”

Christmas Day

Dearest Mother,

I am writing this in the trenches in my “dug out” – with a wood fire going and plenty of straw it is rather cosy although it is freezing hard and real Christmas weather.

I think I have seen one of the most extraordinary sights today that anyone has ever seen. About 10 o clock this morning I was peeping over the parapet when I saw a German waving his arms, and presently two of them got out of their trenches and came towards ours. We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles so one of our men went out to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas.

(From IWM Documents.1697)

British and German soldiers fraternising at Ploegsteert, Belgium, on Christmas Day 1914 © IWM (Q 11745)

British and German soldiers fraternising at Ploegsteert, Belgium, on Christmas Day 1914 © IWM (Q 11745)

As his letter shows, Dougan took part in the famous Christmas Truce in December 1914. In various places along the Western Front, the soldiers of Britain and her allies and German forces met in no man’s land and exchanged gifts, took photographs and some played impromptu games of football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. In some cases, the truce lasted for hours or even days. Elsewhere the fighting continued and casualties did occur on Christmas Day.

We will return to Dougan’s story in the New Year to find out what happened to him in 1915.


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2 Responses to Letters from the First World War: End of 1914

  1. Robert A. Erlandson says:

    In March, 1915, Lt. Alfred Dougan Chater was seriously wounded in fighting at Neuve Chapelle. He spent nearly a year in hospital, undergoing various surgeries to restore his badly wounded face. Once recovered, Chater was put on administrative duties.
    In 1916, Chater married. Among his gifts was a Gordon Highlanders regimental sword inscribed from the staff of Grosvenor Chater & Co. Ltd., the oldest papermaking company in Britain, of which he later became President. If you would like photos of the sword and its inscriptions please let me know and I will send them. Please include an email address. Sincerely, Robert Erlandson

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