A truce ... but few saw the Armistice

CASUALTY ... Michael Clark died of wounds three months after the Christmas Truce. His name is commemorated on the St Bede's Church roll of honour.
CASUALTY ... Michael Clark died of wounds three months after the Christmas Truce. His name is commemorated on the St Bede's Church roll of honour.

BY this time in the festive season, the camaraderie that had briefly flared a week earlier had dissipated and the guns had re-started their war of attrition.

As recently featured, a handful of South Tyneside men who were serving with the West Yorkshire Regiment are known to have witnessed the Christmas Truce of 1914 on the Western Front.

But they weren’t the only ones. Jarrow man Peter Hoy, who is building a database of men from the borough who served in the Great War, has uncovered other instances of men from this area who took part, in some cases actively fraternising with the enemy.

They included George William Palmer, of Morton Street in South Shields, who was serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles near Laventie.

The battalion’s war diary records the Germans placing lamps on their parapets and singing. Presently, both British and Germans met half-way, the truce only ending when the enemy fired a single revolver shot at midnight on Christmas Day (although the relaxed atmosphere continued into Boxing Day).

Sadly George Palmer, 42, would go on to be killed in action in the Second Battle of Ypres in May 1915.

Private George Knapp, whose home was in Victoria Road, Hebburn, was serving with the Second Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) when, on December 23, Germans in the opposing trenches indicated they were unarmed and were permitted to cross for a friendly exchange of greetings – and cigars.

George Knapp survived the war but not for long, dying in September 1919, aged 45.

Sergeant John Robson DCM, of Walpole Street, and Private Robert Adamson, of Livingstone Street, both South Shields, were with the Second East Lancashire Regiment, manning the front line on the La Bassee Road west of Neuve Chapelle, where a short truce was observed for the burial of dead.

Robert Adamson would go on to die of wounds in October 1916. John Robson was killed in action in February 1918. Trooper John ‘Jack’ Craig Potts, of Thornton Avenue, Templetown, and Lance Corporal Michael Clark, of Sanderson’s Court, West Holborn, served with B Squadron, Northumberland Hussars, attached to 20 Brigade, Seventh Division, on the Sailly-Fromelles Road.

Their war diary similarly records fraternisation with the enemy, in their case in the most famous sector of the Christmas Truce.

Jack Craig would later be killed in action in March 1915. Michael Clark died of wounds in May the same year. Both were only 25.

Michael Clark is commemorated on the St Bede’s Church roll of honour.

Says Peter: “The devastating truth is that virtually none of these men were still alive at the time of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. Ultimately, victory came at a price. At New Year, it behoves us to repeat the mantra ‘We will remember them’.”