Christmas Truce Monument
The Christmas Truce
A century ago on Christmas Day, German and British enemies left their trenches and headed into No Man's Land in a few scattered locations on the Western Front for an unofficial truce. They shared greetings, treats, mementoes and a game of football during the unofficial ceasefire. Germans placed trees illuminated with candles on the parapet of their trenches and sang Christmas carols as the war raged on nearby. Troops from both camps were able to bury their dead who had fallen in No Man's Land, repair their trenches and share cigars during the temporary ceasefire. For those involved, it was most of all a yearning for a sense of normality, however momentarily, that pushed them over the edge of their trenches, unarmed.
'Suddenly a Tommy came with a football,' wrote Lieutenant Johannes Niemann of Germany, referring to a British soldier. 'Teams were quickly established for a match on the frozen mud, and the Fritzes beat the Tommies 3-2.'
If not fully-fledged matches, other soldier's diaries and various reports also spoke of balls being kicked about in friendship.
'A huge crowd was between the trenches. Someone produced a little rubber ball so of course a football match started,' wrote Lieutenant Charles Brockbank of the British Cheshire Regiment in his diary, which is part of 'The Greater Game' exhibit at the National Football Museum in Manchester.
The proponents of the sport have cherished that day as historic proof that there is little that can better bridge man's differences than football.
Despite fraternisation with the enemy being punishable, the truce was maintained into January 1915, with many testimonies of the lull reported in letters by soldiers to their families.
Soldiers ignored war and celebrated Christmas in peace along several places on the front line, including at Ploegsteert Wood, Comines-Warneton, known as Plugstreet to the British.