News release: England V Germany: War Games of Christmas 1914 Fact or Fiction?

Media and Promotion Office (2003) News release: England V Germany: War Games of Christmas 1914 Fact or Fiction? Other. University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston.

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A football match like no other, said to have occurred on the bloody battlefields of
Flanders during WWl, is the subject of a new research project by lain Adams, Principal
Lecturer in Outdoor Education at the University of Central Lancashire.
Little is known about the game(s) which took place between the British and German
troops during the 'Christmas Truce' of 1914, when soldiers from both sides stopped
fighting to join each other in No Man's Land; burying their dead, sharing short church
services, singing carols, exchanging gifts and gaining some brief respite from the
horrors of war.
"Some historians dispute the validity of the match but I believe that small games
occurred on an ad-hoc basis all the way down the front line," said lain. "There was no
authorised truce between the two armies but we know from historical records that two
thirds of the British/German front line took part in localised ceasefrres on December 25
1914. However, this is probably the first time that a detailed study on the subject of the
football match(s) has taken place."
lain has already undertaken secondary research on the Christmas Truce and is about to
delve deeper into the subject of the football game(s) using sources from regimental
museums and the letters pages of local and national newspapers of the day.
"There is a feeling that the whole subject is a romantic notion, dreamed up by soldiers
who would have liked it to happen. However, much of the research in this area has
failed to investigate the evidence available within war diaries and private letters. I'm
planning to examine regimental war diaries and combatant's personal correspondence to
build up a picture of what actually happened."
Already lain has uncovered evidence of the British and German regiments who took
part in the truce which include the Lancashire Fusiliers, the Welch Fusiliers, the
Seaforth Highlanders and, on the German side, the 133rd and 1341h Saxons. In a wartime
letter, Leutnant Johannes Niemann, of the the 133rd Saxons, describes the Scottish
players as not wearing underpants beneath their kilts and recalls that the Germans won
the match 3-2.
The ground breaking research is to be completed by Easter 2004 and will be published
in the International Journal of the History of Sport. lain also plans to write a primary
school Christmas play on the subject, ready for Christmas 2004- the ninetieth
anniversary of the famous war game.
lain would be delighted to hear from anyone owning WW1 letters which describe
the activities that took place during the Christmas Truce of 1914. He can be
contacted on 01772 894915 or emailed at:
17 December 2003

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