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Football on the Battlefield – The Christmas Truce

  • Many different sources are confirming the story
  • Many historians have doubts
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A. C. Michael - Originally published in The Illustrated London News, January 9, 1915.

Football on the battlefield was really happening during the Christmas truce of the Great War? There is a common legend that in 1914 during Christmas the opposing frontline soldiers were playing a football match. Everything happened on the western frontlines between. Football and sports themself surely has their uplifting moments. Yet, I didn’t find anything in online sportsbook news in the UK yet, which can match the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce. However, there are some other uplifting stories about Christmas. It’s really hard to imagine football on the battlefield today, but fortunately, we can enjoy football streams and sports gambling from the comfort of our home.

While the fights were going on on the 24th of December, on the morning of 25 nobodies had the fighting mood. During these peaceful periods, people first started to sing Christmas carols. After a while, someone kicks a soccer ball over no man’s land. Some of the people were standing up and went out to play. They were switching some goods like cigarettes and other stuff. According to pictures from the time they also had chatted in a good mood.

There are many sources that confirm football on the battlefield

Ernie Williams, a former member of the Brittish Royal Army, was interviewed in 1983. He was telling, hat they were playing a match with the German army near Wulverghem, in Belgium. They were playing in shattered boots and there was no judge or anybody who was counting the score. “The ball appeared from somewhere, I don’t know where, but it came from their side – it wasn’t from our side that the ball came. They made up some goals and one fellow went in goal and then it was just a general kickabout. I should think there were about a couple of hundred taking part.” Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves.

What we can be sure about is that the fights were easing up during Christmas Truce

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Frederic Villiers (1851–1922) [Public domain]
There are different sources that can support the legendary of the Christmas truce where no shot was fired. According to https://www.smithsonianmag.com/, Private Frederick Heat was writing a letter to his family in the following few days, which goes as below. “Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.’ For some little time, we were cautious and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy.

 

How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards? So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles. Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity—war’s most amazing paradox. The night wore on to dawn—a night made easier by songs from the German trenches, the pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines laughter and Christmas carols. Not a shot was fired.”

There were possibly multiple football on the battlefields

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The story made traditions. Alan Cleaver [CC BY]
According to Johannes Nieman who is telling about the morning of the 25th, the ball was coming from the Scottish side. He is writing in a letter home. “I grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy. Later a Scottish soldier appeared with a football which seemed to come from nowhere and a few minutes later a real football match got underway. The Scots marked their goal mouth with their strange caps and we did the same with ours. It was far from easy to play on the frozen ground, but we continued, keeping rigorously to the rules, despite the fact that it only lasted an hour and that we had no referee. ”

Supposedly there were many football matches played during Christmas. According to Glasgow News, from an article in Januar 2, 1915, the Scottish army was winning the football game by 4-1 against Germany.  According to Albert Wynn, they played a game near Ypres which ended as a draw. However, he also tells about another game. It was quite close to them and they were playing against the Germans. In this case, the Germans were winning by 3-2. If you are interested in football results today just go to 365bet.com. You can find everything there.

Many historians have doubts about these games

Many argue that these stories were filled with romantic overstatements. “I think it highly likely that someone, somewhere did bring out a ball and a bit of a kick about took place, but that is a long, long way from saying it definitely happened and that it was anything like a formal match rather than just men tapping a ball about a bit,” – said Mark Conelly to CNN. Due to the harsh circumstances, it’s not really likely that people were playing a proper football on the battlefield.

It’s most likely that the soldiers were concerned about more important things, during this truce than playing football. According to Shirley Seaton, author of the book Christmas truce, the soldiers were most probably more into burying their fellow soldiers and strengthening their lines of defense.

The end of the games

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I’m not sure if this is an original photo.

Commanding Officers has put an end to these games. They were not really happy about these things. As Johannes Niemann writes in his letter. “Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts—and hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of “yesterday’s enemies.” But after an hour’s play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternization ended.”

Well, we surely can’t tell the odds of this match to happen. However, the story was helping with the development of many nice traditions that are still alive today. One of these is like the football match that they organize every year next to Belgium. Through online sportsbooks in the UK, you can even bet on them.

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