It is one of the most memorable episodes in military history: the famous Christmas Day truce of 1914 when the guns fell silent and British and German soldiers left their trenches to play football in the icy mud of No Man's Land.
The bitter enemies staged an unofficial ceasefire - shaking hands, swapping presents and autographs and singing carols to each other in what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described as "the one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of war."
Now a moving first-hand account of the break in the carnage on the Western Front - one of the most poignant incidents of the Great War - has surfaced in the form of a previously unpublished letter written from the trenches on that remarkable day nearly 92 years ago.
Despite the horrors of daily life for the British Tommy - knee-deep in the slime of waterlogged trenches - the young private describes it as "the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent or likely to spend: since about teatime yesterday I don't think there's been a shot fired on either side up to now."
In pencil on five pages of paper torn from an Army-issue notebook, he tells his "dear Mater" how on a frosty, moonlit Christmas Eve the Germans began placing "lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us - wishing us Happy Christmas etc."
"They also gave us a few songs so we had quite a social party...Some of our chaps went over to their lines. I think they've all come back bar one from E Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir," writes the soldier, frustratingly only identified as "Boy."
"There must be something in the spirit of Christmas as today we are all on top of our trenches running about." "Whereas other days we have to keep out heads well down...I had a parcel from B G's Lace Dept containing a sweater, smokes, under clothes etc."
"We also had a card from the Queen, which I am sending back to you to look after please."
"After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches! We've had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week." "He was about 100 yds from our trench. A few of our fellows went out and helped to bury him."
"About 10.30 we had a short church parade, held in the trench. How we did sing. O come all ye faithful. And While shepherds watched their flocks by night were the hymns we had."
"Boy" breaks off to help prepare Christmas dinner - "fried bacon and dip-bread followed by hot Xmas pudding", then "muscatels and almonds, oranges, bananas, chocolate, cocoa and smokes."
"You can guess we thought of the dinners at home. Just before dinner I had the pleasure of shaking hands with several Germans: a party of them came halfway over to us. So several of us went out to them."
"I exchanged one of my balaclavas for a hat. I've also got a button off one of their tunics. We also exchanged smokes etc and had a decent chat. They say they won't fire tomorrow if we don't so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday - perhaps."
"After exchanging autographs and them wishing us a Happy New Year we departed and came back and had our dinner. We can hardly believe we've been firing at them for the last week or two - it all seems so strange. At present it is freezing hard and everything is covered in ice..."
Near the end of the well-thumbed letter, he tells his mother: "As I can't explain to everyone how I spent my 25th, you might hand this round please...I never expected to shake hands with Germans between the firing lines on Christmas Day and I don't suppose you thought of us doing so."
"So after a fashion we've enjoyed? our Christmas. Hoping you spend a happy time with George Boy as well. How we thought of England during the day. Kind regards to all the neighbours. With much love from Boy." Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-410741/Historic-letter-telling-WW1-football-match-found.html#ixzz18CUF18ta