The Christmas Truce of 1914 is one of the First World War’s most iconic moments, when soldiers downed their weapons to celebrate, but was it really as history tells?

For young Hertfordshire-born soldier, Rifleman C H Brazier of the Queen’s Westminsters, December 25 was exactly how most have been told it was, revealed in a letter he wrote which was published in the Hertfordshire Mercury in January 1915.

“On Christmas Eve, the Germans entrenched opposite us began calling out to us ‘cigarettes’ ‘pudding’, ‘a happy Christmas’ and ‘English – means good’, so two of our fellows climbed over the parapet of the trench and went towards the German trenches,” he wrote.

“Halfway they were met by four Germans, who said they would not shoot on Christmas Day if we would not. They gave our fellows cigars and a bottle of wine and were given a cake and cigarettes.”

Rifleman Brazier would also venture from his trench on Christmas eve, sitting with German soldiers and singing carols long into the night, with the celebrations continuing the next day.

Brazier also learned some interesting German beliefs, continuing: “On Christmas day, we all got out of the trenches and walked about with the Germans, who, when asked if they were fed up with the war said “yes, rather”.

“They all believe that London has been captured, and that German sentries are outside Buckingham Palace. They are evidently told a lot of rot. We gave them some of our newspapers to convince them.”

Despite the festivities, the horrors of war still surrounded the soldiers, who took time to respect their fallen comrades but also have a much-needed laugh.

Royston Crow: The Daily Mirror reporting on the Christmas Truce of 1914.The Daily Mirror reporting on the Christmas Truce of 1914. (Image: Diego Sideburns/Flickr)

“Between the trenches there were a lot of dead Germans, whom we helped to bury,” wrote Brazier.

“A hundred yards or so in the rear of our trenches there were houses that had been shelled. These we explored with some of the regulars and we found old bicycles, top hats, straw hats, umbrellas.

“We dressed ourselves up in these and went over to the Germans. It seemed so comical to see fellows walking about in top hats with umbrellas up.

“Some rode the bicycles backwards. We had some fine, fine sport and made the Germans laugh.

“No firing took place on Christmas night and at four the next morning we were relieved by regulars.”

While Rifleman Brazier had the Christmas of 1914 that history chooses to remember, not every soldier did, as elsewhere across the frontline no truce took place and the horrific bloodshed continued.

Early on Christmas Eve, men of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment, took their place on the frontline off a road known as the Rue De Bois, just north of the city of Lens and close to the French border with Belgium.

Among these soldiers was Boer War veteran Lance-Sergeant Thomas ‘Tom’ Gregory and inexperience 23-year-old Private Percy Huggins.

Royston Crow: Soldiers from both sides gather in no-mans-land on Christmas Day.Soldiers from both sides gather in no-mans-land on Christmas Day. (Image: Cassowary Colorizations/Wikimedia Commons)

On the evening of December 24, German voices were heard singing Christmas songs.

"The Germans were shouting over to our trench and before we could take any action, we were ordered to open rapid fire, which we did,” wrote Private Clifford Lane.

“They didn't reply, they simply carried on with their celebrations, ignored us.”

Had fire not been returned, those stationed at Rue De Bois may have joined the Christmas Truce of 1914, but their fate would be very different.

At around dawn on Christmas Day, Lance-Sergeant Gregory, Private Huggins and fellow soldier Hamlet Bloxham were manning forward lookout position when the silence of the early morning was broken by the sound of a single gunshot.

Private Huggins had been killed by a German sniper, and although Lance-Sergeant Gregory returned fire and avenged his fallen comrade, yet another sniper would kill him not long after.

More than 80 British servicemen and an unknown number of German and French soldiers died that day. Despite history’s retelling of the Christmas Truce, for many, the sobering and bloody realities of war never stopped, even if only for a day.