Wednesday 17th December 2014 ko 19.30
Game of Truce
BRITISH ARMY 1 (LCpl Wilkinson 3)
GERMAN BUNDESWEHR 0
Att 2,547 at Aldershot Town FC
Legend has it that in on Christmas Day 1914 on the Western Front, the opposing armies called an unofficial truce, climbed out of their trenches and exchanged cards, cigarettes and sang carols. The legend also has it that a football match took place. Research suggests that the match wasn’t as organised as some would have liked to have believed, but it’s clear that on a front line stretching 750k km from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border, the least that happened was several impromptu kick-abouts.
But to worry about the type of game is to miss its significance. The fact was that for one beautiful day, the slaughter stopped, due entirely to the actions of the soldiers themselves, not their superiors. In fact in subsequent Christmas Days both sides’ leaderships made sure that no truces would take place. So Christmas 1914 stands as a moment when humanity won over barbarity in the most unlikely of locations.
It was fitting that the 100th Anniversary should be celebrated in the military town of Aldershot, and parking up I knew that since the military were organising it, it was bound to be well-presented. After all I’d watched Benson Lions on September’s North Berkshire Hop!
The Army didn’t let me down, the staging was wonderful with the singing of “Silent Night,” in both English and German complementing the more usual marching band. For me though the sight that was the most memorable was banks of soldiers in camouflage in the away end. In the dim lights, it looked almost ghostly, a nod to the thousands who lost their lives in the dreadful carnage that followed.
It seems irrelevant that game was extremely entertaining, both teams managed to play competitive football whilst never losing sight of what the game was about. There was just the one goal, Lance Corporal Calum Wilkinson tapping home after a cross was parried out in his direction. Both sides hit the woodwork but the man of the match was unquestionably the German Armed Forces’ keeper Corporal Andreas Forster who pulled off a string of fine saves.
It the end of it all the teams embraced and smiles were exchanged, and I’ve little doubt multiple beers were quaffed later! Getting the tone correct for an event like this is not easy, but this was a wonderful advert to both countries’ militaries, and the spirit of Christmas in general.