SOLDIERS on leave in Oxford during Christmas 1914 were treated like VIPs.

Our sister paper, The Oxford Times, reported: “The outstanding feature of the celebrations in Oxford was the eagerness displayed — by rich and poor alike — to make Christmas a time of happiness and enjoyment for the wounded soldiers and the men of Kitchener’s army now in the city.

“No effort was spared to make the welcome an exceedingly warm one.”

For Oxfordshire soldiers on the front line in France, however, it was a different story.

The war diary of the 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (see left), shows that soldiers spent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in their billets, probably training and maintaining their weapons.

There is no evidence of any Christmas celebrations among themselves or with citizens of La Couture in Northern France, where they were based.

Nor is there any suggestion that they met in No Man’s Land and exchanged gifts, sang carols or played football with the enemy during a Christmas truce, as happened elsewhere.

Along the Western Front, a scattered series of small-scale ceasefires occurred between British and German forces, but historians believe that this brief festive reprieve was far from a mass event as is often portrayed.

The 2nd Battalion had been in heavy fighting in Nonne Bosschen Wood, east of Ypres, in November 1914. It moved to Bailleul in early December and was inspected by King George V, who bestowed honours on six members of the regiment.

After several days on reserve, which they spent on drill, the entire brigade was moved in buses to La Couture, where they stayed over Christmas.

However the troops spent the festive season, it was a brief lull in operations. Before long, they would be thrust fully into the trench warfare which heralded the start of 1915.