During Christmas 1914 Harry Hackett, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was in the trenches in Flanders and he sent a postcard home to his beloved Olive recording this unique event. It's postmarked by the Army Post Office as 9th January 1915 and it records a unique historical event which over time has come to be known as "The Christmas Truce". The postcard explains all really but to add it's very clear that Harry 'was there and involved in the fraternization, it's also key to note that he had the presence of mind to actually record the name's of two German soldiers that he must have met and spent time with in the killing field known as 'No Man's Land". The names can be seen on the right of the card and you can make out Rudolf Mausolff of Bad Pyrmont (which is in Lower Saxony south of Hanover) however the second name which looks like "Ernst ..." is less visible due to the post office stamp.
The postcard reads:
Dear O, I am sending you this postcard with two of the
German soldiers addresses on, which I got on Boxing Day.
I suppose you saw in the papers about us going across, out
of the trenches and having a word or two together. Hope
you are well as it leaves me at present.
With Love, from Harry.
Click here to see Orsett Terrace, the address it was posted to as it is today
The postcard also records the names of the two soldiers, this is what we can make out:
LOCATION OF HARRY AT THE TIME OF THE TRUCE?
The 7th Division, 20th Brigade were at Bois-Grenier, La Boutillerie [1bis Rue du Pavé de la Boutillerie, 62840 Fleurbaix, France] and on the Fromelles Road around this time. This is right in the middle of a 25 mile stretch of the Western Front where many Christmas Truce meetings occurred and have been well documented. Harry's 1st Battalion Grenadiers supported and therefore rotated into the same front-line with the 2nd Scots Guards. Lieutenant Sir Edward Hulse was the author of probably the most famous account of the Christmas Truce and fraternisation between his 2nd Scots and the Germans. He states that this took place mainly on the road between Sailly-sur-la-Lys and Fromelles and from that we deduce that this is round-about where Harry would have met with Rudolf and Ernst. The following image indicates where the 2nd Scots Guards where during the Christmas Truce.
Lieutenant-Colonel Fisher-Rowe of 1st Battalion Grenadiers also wrote several letters home to his wife around this time in which he talks specifically about his troops being involved in the truce as they relieved the 2nd Scots in the front-line. There is even a photograph of some 2nd Scots alongside some Westphalians and Jagers, taken on Christmas Day 1914. Who knows Rudolph and Ernst could by one of the Germans staring out through the grainy black and white image.
LISTEN TO ONE OF HARRY'S 1ST BATTALION GRENADIER COMRADES DESCRIBE THE TRUCE
This audio recording (from 1975) of a 1st Battalion Grenadier Guardsman (Mr Wilson) clearly states he was involved in the Truce on Boxing Day 1914. He also mentions a 'footie match as well'. The recording is from the Imperial War museum (IWM) site and is in two parts. Part 1 is 5 mins and part 2 is around 30 mins. Unfortunately the first part of the interview [labelled 1/1] is actually the second half of the two so you will need to skip to the 30 minute veriosn labelled as 2/2 by using the orange arrow buttons. Mr Wilson clearly states his and the 1st Grenadiers involvement. It's a fascinating interview. To listen in click here [dont forget to skip the 5 min interview and go to the second longer 30 min interview]. It's well worth it.
GERMAN SOLDIER NAME 1 : RUDOLF MAUSOLFF
I'm currently trying to find out as much as possible about RUDOLF MAUSOLFF who appears at the top of the postcard. So far I've found a WW1 monument with his name on stated as R. MAUSOLFF in Bad Pyrmont, Germany which is the same town stated on the post card.
To see information on a German website regarding the monument click here. Note the name on the monument is stated as R. MAUSOLFF who died on 16 May 1915. If anyone has any further information it would be much appreciated as it would be great to trace the soldiers family and maybe even make contact with them. He is also listed as "Gefr." the abbreviation for "Gefreiter" which is comparable to a British Lance Corporal.
I think the word underneath Bad Pyrmont may be in brackets and looks like Waldeck.
GERMAN SOLDIER NAME 2 : ERNST ......
The second name looks like "Ernst Ce...derz" and the word under Ernst looks like "Bielefeld". Note a place called Bielefeld is only an hour from Bad Pyrmont. So far, that's all I've managed to find as it's proven difficult to decipher the writing especially as it's obscured by the postmark.
RUDOLF AND ERNST'S REGIMENT?
15th ("Prinz Friedrich der Niederlände") or 55th ("Graf Bülow von Dennewitz") Infantry Regiment. Both regiments together formed the 26 Inf Brigade of 13 (Westphalian) Inf Division, stationed in Detmold, halfway between Bielefeld and Pyrmont.
Many thanks to Dr John Krijnen for providing some additional information regarding the two German soldiers.
Many thanks to the Chambers family for providing the original postcard. It's truly a unique piece of history.