The Christmas truce was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to Christmas, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man's land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of Football with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce.
As part of the Forget Never project we wanted to remember these brave men, who took the stand over Christmas 1914 and put down their weapons for a few hours. Linking with Basildon’s twinning towns Meaux in France and Heiligenhaus in Germany, it was agreed that a football match between the allies and our German colleagues would take place. We were overwhelmed with the interest and support this project received from the three towns.
The match was too played as close to the history of the original matches as possible. An old leather football was purchased, a muddy field found, uniforms consisting of plan white or grey shirts and braces were supplied – and most importantly no referee!
The ladies that attended the event were provided with period nurses aprons and head scarf’s and enjoyed watching the match and singing on the sidelines – some even ended up in goal
The match played out between the two teams, with reinforcements arriving on the British side from the French. The official score 4-2 to the Germans. But this match was not about who won or who lost. It was to show how far our three towns have come since 1914, to emphasise the reconciliation, friendship and partnership between the three towns. How the towns have worked together through tough times. How the towns support each other in the present day. The match was about the little stories the players told each other after the match. Swapping mementos. Showing of pictures of their families. Exchanging email address. Building bridges and creating long lasting friendships.
We were delighted to have donated to the project several bars of chocolate from Sainsbury’s who had recreated the Cadbury bar from 1914. These were exchanged and in return our GERMAN colleagues provided a treat and a poem written in all three languages which simply said:
Friendship means peace
Create as many friendships as you can
Give the wars in the world no chance
Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year 2014
SV Hoesel – A Juniors – Ratingen – Germany
Preparing at the start of the match – each team proudly holds their flag
The match is played on a muddy pitch in the rain – just like 1914
The nurses rush on to help an injured player
Four German nurse take to the goal – well we did say no rules!!!
The nurses, Laurent Guillame and Mayor of Meaux sing Silent Night whilst the football match is in play
The end of the match and the players no longer fly their countries flag but unite behind the European flag.