Remembering the Fallen: on this Christmas Eve in 1914, Private William Widger, 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, died in the trenches on the Western Front.
Private Widger had joined up after the outbreak of the Great War. His battalion arrived in France on the 6th of November in 1914 and moved on to the trenches near Neuve Chapelle, where they suffered losses, including several dozen to frostbite. In the morning light of Christmas Eve, Private Widger was shot by a German sniper and died shortly afterwards. He lies buried in the Estaires Communal Cemetery in France.
One of his fellow soldiers, Private H.A. Amy, wrote that they were told that not to shoot on Christmas Day unless the Germans did: “…and not a shot was fired. The Germans were singing and shouting, ‘a merry Christmas to you’. As the day broke the enemy would be seen to bob up and down, and as the British did not fire they plucked up courage enough to get out of the trenches. Soon their parapets were lined and our chaps went out and met them and exchanged gifts, cigarettes etc.. Officers also fraternised”. Not all officers approved of such mingling with the enemy, and at points along the line men were told they would be shot if they moved out of the trenches to meet the Germans. The 1914 Christmas truce, however, could not be kept a secret due to the soldiers’ letters, diaries and photographs, despite censorship and efforts to downplay the story.
William, from Totnes in Devon, was 24 years old.