In 1916, on this day Private Willie McBride, a nineteen year old conscript in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was shot dead at dawn for refusing his superior's orders to fight during the Second Christmas Truce.
Watch the Green Fields of France
The CauseDespite the issuing of strict orders forbidding friendly communication with the opposing German troops, thousands of Allied soldiers had crossed "No Man's Land", exchanging gifts, sharing food, and engaging in games of football. Commanders on both ends had reacted with disgust at the fraternization, but nevertheless the unofficial truce lasted until after New Years' Eve in many places along the lines.
And the end of the truce was marked by widespread acts of disobedience, with many Allied soldiers refusing orders from their superiors to resume the fighting. Fearing that a rebellion would spread across the lines, the High Command ordered a major crackdown during which many servicemen were executed to set an example to their fellow soldiers.
But within a week, a breakthrough would come when Kaiser Wilhelm II used the fraternization as a positive example to demand an armistice on the Western Front.
The coming of peace was the last gasp of the militaristic old order and their repressive nineteenth century class system. Governments committed to peace and brotherhood would soon take over in London, Dublin, Berlin, St Petersburg and Paris. And to ensure that the "suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame, the killing, the dying was not done in vain" they built a great cenotaph (pictured) to the cause right next to Willie McBride's grave in Flanders.