It was one of the most extraordinary events of the Great War – and Devon soldier John Francis ‘Frank’ Roberts was there.
He was serving in the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment when they took part in the ‘Christmas Truce’ in France in 1914.
The war diary for the 2nd Devons for December 25 that year records an ‘informal armistice during daylight’.
It adds: ‘Germans got out of their trenches and came towards our line. Our men met them – in No Man’s Land – and wished each other a merry Christmas, shook hands, exchanged smokes etc.’
But the truce – which caused consternation among many senior officers and government officials – was short lived.
The war diary for the 2nd Devons records that at about 7.30pm on Christmas Day, with a hard frost setting in, sniping began again.
One man – Devonport-based Private Richard Gregory – was killed and another wounded.
Frank, a lance-corporal, went to the Western Front with his brother, Sam just a few weeks before the truce.
Sam, who survived being shot in the chest a week before Christmas in 1914, was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1, 1916.
Twenty five-year-old Frank, who was born in Rackenford, was killed in a shell attack on the Somme on September 9, 1916.
He was one of a record 30 grandsons of John Roberts (my great-great grandfather) who served in the Great War.
John Francis ‘Frank’ Roberts (supplied by the late Gerald Roberts, of Exmouth).