Joint goalies could be Lieutenant Stewart,
Of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders,
And his anonymous German pal,
“He toured Britain last year with the Leipzig team and beat Glasgow Celtic 1-0…
We arranged Boxing Day from 2-4pm for a football match.
This, however, was prevented by our superiors at HQ.”
At number 2 will be Private William Tapp:
“We are trying to arrange a football match with teams for tomorrow, Boxing Day.”
(Poor William would be killed a few months later,
He “died of wounds”, his diary suddenly stopping short:
” no time to get out of the way of these shells, they are no sooner fired
than they are at their destination, they are still sending the rifle grenades over
but we can get out of the way of them as the shot goes)
And there it suddenly ends.
Left back could be Lieutenant-Colonel Fisher Rowe, Grenadier Guards,
Who reported how the Germans wanted to play the Scots Guards
at football but were prevented by the absence of a ball;
He would die of wounds a few months later in March 1915.
Right half could be an Infantry Battalion’s Commanding Officer:
“I said if they would have an Armistice on New Year’s Day we would play
them at football between our lines….They were very full of the football idea of mine
on New Year’s Day. I said if they would like another armistice then
I would turn out a team and play them among the shell holes.”
Centre half might be Lieutenant Charles Brewer of the Bedfordshire Regiment:
He tells us how rich the German soldiers seemed to be, with their cigar cases,
And how, on hearing O Tannenbaum, his men returned the song with
“We are Fred Karno’s Army”, and how. “Higher up the line –
you would scarcely believe it – they are playing a football match.”
Left half is Gunner Burrows, 104 battery, 22nd Brigade,:
“Our infantry played a football match with them
and exchanged cigarettes etc in No Mans’ Land.”
German Hugo Clemm will make a good outside right:
“ Everywhere you looked, the occupants from the trenches
stood talking to each other and even playing football.”
“An English soldier gave me a cap badge belonging to a dead friend.”
His colleague, Lieutenant Johannes Niemann will be at inside forward:
He remembers the British soldiers replying to the German carolling
With “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary” and “Home Sweet Home” and how
“Suddenly a Tommy came with a football, kicking already and making fun,
and then began a football match. We marked the goals with our caps.
Teams were quickly established for a match on the frozen mud,
and the Fritzes beat the Tommies 3-2.”
An anonymous RAMC Major will be at centre forward, writing that his
“Regiment actually had a football match with the Saxons, who beat them 3-2!!!”
Inside left will be a representative from “A” Company, Lancashire Fusiliers,
For they “played a football match against the enemy with an old tin
for a ball: They won 3-2!”
Lance Corporal George Ashurst from the same regiment is at 11,
“Coming from across the German trenches was a solitary German
carrying a white flag high across his head.”
“Some of our boys tied up a sandbag and used it as a football,
While a party of Germans enjoyed themselves
sliding on a little frozen pond just in rear of their trench.”
Substitutes will include G. Gilbert of the Kensingtons,
“Soon there were dozens of us fraternising even to the extent
of kicking a made-up football about in No Man’s Land.”
The next reserve is Lance Corporal Jack Quayle:
”As the fog lifted they reported that the Germans were playing footer.
We then climbed out at the back area armed with an entrenching tool haft
and a jam tin and played rounders.”
Also in the squad is Ernie Williams of the Cheshires:
”The ball appeared from somewhere, I don’t know where,
but it came from their side…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.”
His partner is Sergeant-Major Naden of the Cheshires,
“We had a rare old jollification, which included football,
in which the Germans took part.” “They greatly admired our equipment
and especially wanted us to give them our jack-knives.”
Our sports correspondent will be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
Who wrote of the truce some two years later,
That it was “One human episode among the atrocities.”
But unfortunately, we cannot go on playing:
”That evening I received a signal from Battalion Headquarters,
telling me to make a football pitch in No Man’s Land,
by filling up the shell holes etc., and to challenge the enemy
to a Football Match on the 1st January.
I was furious and took no action at all. I wish I had kept that signal.
Stupidly, I destroyed it – I was so angry.
It would now have been a good souvenir.
The proposed match did not take place.”
All this is taken from a few pages of the definitive history “Christmas Truce” by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Papermac, 1994. ISBN 0-333-62078-x. The fact that the football matches take up only some 5 pages out of some 250 shows the depth of the authors’ research and the complex extensity of the truces on the Western Front. Buy the book!