Christmas Truce 1914 and a game of football

This year, my run up to Christmas has been very hectic with some very last minute excitement as a historian and blogger.

On the 18 December 2014, just over a week ago, I published on my regular monthly slot on the Worldwide Genealogy Blog, a post about the First World War’s Christmas Truce of 1914.  You can read my post here – Christmas Day Truce 1914.  It is the full story of the famous Truce between the British and the Germans as it was reported day-by-day throughout the length and breadth of Britain in local and national newspapers.

My story was picked up by the British Library – whose The British Newspaper Archive own the digital archives for these newspapers – and a shortened version was printed on their website on the 19th December: The story of the 1914 Christmas Truce, as reported by WW1 newspapers.  From this, one of the producers of the BBC World Service read my story and asked me to do an interview for the radio station about the Christmas Day Truce.  So I did two audio interviews (from my kitchen!) – one very late on Monday 22nd December, and another early in the morning on Tuesday 23rd December – the latter being a live broadcast so was very nerve-wracking.

You can hear my interviews below:-
BBC World Service Newsday – my interview starts at 54:22 minutes
BBC World Service Newsday – my interview starts at 51:49 minutes

One of the main points asked in my interview was, did the Germans and the British play a game of football in no-man’s land? My answer is: There’s a lot of hearsay that several “kick-abouts” either happened or were proposed to take place.  But I could find no evidence or eye-witness accounts in the local newspaper within the British Newspaper Archive that a formal match had taken place.  Below are extracts from reports in newspapers dated December 1914 to January 1915 where a game of football (or a kick-about) was mentioned.

From the evidence below, you decide.  Did one (or more) football matches take place between Britain and Germany along the Front Line on the Western Front at the Christmas Truce of 1914?  All are eyewitness accounts, mainly written down in letters sent home by soldiers in the Front Line and reprinted in local newspapers.

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“The Germans left some of their trenches and came over to talk with our men, and I hear a football match has been arranged for New Year’s Day. I cannot swear to this statement, but seeing that they did visit us on Christmas Day, the event is possible.”

Hull Daily Mail, Wednesday 30 December 1914

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The day after Christmas, they cried across if we would play them at a game of football, but as no football was forthcoming, there was no match.”

Aberdeen Journal, Friday 1 January 1915

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On Christmas Day we agreed to a play a football match, and we got a football but their colonel would not let them play, so we had a bit of a game on our own.”

Liverpool Echo, Saturday 2 January 1915

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Higher up the line – you could scarcely believe it – but they were kicking a football about between the trenches.”

Gloucester Journal Saturday 2 January 1915

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Elsewhere along the line I hear our fellows played Germans at football on Christmas Day. Our own pet enemies remarked that they would like a game, but as the ground in our part is all root crops and much cut up by ditches, and as, moreover, we have not got a football, we had to call it off.”

Western Daily Press Wednesday 6 January 1915

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Did a football match take place between Germany and Britain?
You decide!

Christmas Truce 1914Nottingham Evening Post – Saturday 02 January 1915

Christmas Truce 1914Daily Mirror – Friday 08 January 1915

All extracts and images above appear by kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive / The British Library Board.

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You may also be interested in
– Christmas Advent Calendar 2014
– Christmas Greetings from the Trenches 1914-1918
– Louis Wain: Happy Christmas Greetings 2013
– Christmas in a Tudor Town: Plough Monday
– Christmas in a Tudor Town: Part 1
– Christmas in a Tudor Town: Part 2
– Christmas in a Tudor Town: Part 3
– Medieval Christmas Stories: The Massacre of the Innocents
– Medieval Christmas Stories: The Feast of St Stephen
– Medieval Christmas Stories: The Nativity of Christ
– Medieval Christmas Stories: The Shepherds
– Medieval Christmas Stories: The Magi
– Medieval Christmas Stories: St Nicholas Eve

© Essex Voices Past 2014.

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