I’ve heard a lot about the Christmas Truce but until last week I didn’t know that local Stevenage men were there.
Frank Dymoke shared his memories with The Comet newspaper in December 1971. Last week a member of his family kindly brought a copy in to the museum and told us a bit more about the man behind the story.
Frank enlisted in the Bedfordshire regiment in October 1911. He served for the whole war, finishing in January 1919 as a company sergeant major. Before he joined up he had been a groom for a family at Chesfield and when the war started his old employers sent him a pair of duelling pistols along with the request that he kill a few Germans for them! Unfortunately the pistols were stolen when he was injured. He suffered three injuries and had fever four times but survived the war and came home.
He played for Stevenage Town Football Club and in this team photograph you can see him in the back row, third from the right.
You can read the whole article (just double click on the newspaper clipping to open a bigger version) but here is a slightly shortened version of his story:
Christmas morning was very cold with a hard frost and about three inches of snow. As it got light we saw two Germans standing up head and shoulders above their trench. On our right were the Gordon Highlanders, and all at once one of the jocks was through the wire and going towards the Germans. He got halfway and called out: “Come on, you buggers.” They met and shook hands, and after that we and the Germans were swarming out like a big football crowd.
We exchanged sweets and smokes and played football with a rag ball. It seemed as if the war was over.
One very large German got a lot of us round him and he said: “What are we fighting for? We should be on the same side, for we are of the same blood as you.” Another said we should get the heads of our nations round in a ring and let them fight it out, the best man to win and call it a day.
Not a shot was fired for two weeks. No Germans were allowed in our trenches but our officers used to go and have dinner in their dugout.
When they heard they were being relieved, they told our officers to let us know to keep our heads down in the trench. We knew it, too, for the newcomers started firing bullets and shells. we had the chance to see our late friends again, for in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle we took 52 of them prisoners. I helped to take them back of the line, and some of them said: “Hello, Bedfords. This is different from Christmas.”