Little is sadly known of 8850 Private Bertie Cecil Hutchings apart from the fact that he served in B Company of the 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment in December 1914 near the village of Ploegsteert (known by soldiers as ‘Plugstreet Wood’).
In some parts of the Front Line in Flanders on Christmas Eve 1914 some the German and British soldiers left their trenches and met each other in ‘No Man’s Land’ where they exchanged gifts and chatted to one another for a few hours before this fraternisation was stopped by senior staff. Afterwards many of the units were sent away from that area of operation as a disciplinary measure.
This event was reported by Private Hutchings who wrote about how a member of the German 126th Saxon Regiment met him in the open ground in front of Plugstreet Wood and gave him a German cigar and cap badge in exchange for Hutchings’s own badge. This unofficial truce appears to have lasted for a few days over the Christmas period until stopped by the German High Command.
This Saxon Cap badge was given to me with a cigar in exchange for my own in Xmas 1914 at Plougstreet Wood. The German trenches were roughly 200 yards from ours. Our Company Officer’s name was Capt Unwin. The Saxon’s were beckoning with their hands for us to go over to their trench. But we shouted over that we would meet them half way so Capt Unwin asked for a volunteer. I happened to be standing by the side of him at the time and it fell my lot to go over and meet one of the Saxons and a nice fellow he was we shook hands and his first words to me were there any scotch territorials out yet as he was himself a waiter in Glasgow. After that I cannot remember what was passed between us as there was quite a little crowd of us. But we were the best of friends for the next seven days. We use to walk about on top of the trench or in front of it without any thing happening. I remember one day during the truce they accidently killed one of our HQ Signallers and they sent over and apologized and the last day of the truce one of their fellows brought over a message to say they had orders to open fire with their automatic machines but their first shots would be fired high. Capt Unwin in return gave him a box of chocolates and they certainly acted according to message. Then we were at war again I mentioned Saxon’s as they use to be relieved by Prussians. Capt Unwin I believe was killed about the same time as Capt Fiddler our late RSM 2nd Battle of Ypres. I remember him so well. I walked into him after the retirement, I was walking along asleep.
Pte B Hutchings