Friday, 19 December 2014

The Christmas Truce

If you've not heard of the Christmas Truce before now, you probably have since Sainsbury's have requisitioned it for a seasonal advert on the 100th anniversary of the event. Christmas Day 1914, and the men fighting in the First World War are hunkered down in the trenches, when one side begins to sing carols, with the other joining in. Gradually both sides emerge, hands up, and they meet in No Man's Land, wishing each other season's greetings, sharing cigarettes, and playing a game of football, before returning to the trenches and resuming fighting the next day. It's a touching story of humanity which brings home the tragedy of the ordinary lives lost in the war, but there has been disagreement ever since it apparently happened about whether the accounts of the football match were genuine (Adams and Petney, 2005). Adams and Petney (2005) include several in their chapter on the event if you want to read more about it, but they also point out that the letters and diary entries came from observers, not those participating, and that none of the photographs which were apparently taken by men on both sides have ever emerged. They do also suggest, however, that accounts of "fraternisation" may have been censored as it was frowned upon (Adams and Petney, 2005, p. 37); similarly, Moore argues that the truce was not publicised back home as "it did not reflect the public mood, or the propaganda needs of the Government" (2014, p. 649). 

Whether the football match actually happened or not, it has captured public imagination in recent years, featuring in popular music and books (Moore, 2014), and now receiving further attention on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War; this week the British and German army football teams played a commemorative match. The BBC have also created an interesting tutorial on the role of football during the War.

Have a restful Christmas break; look after yourselves and your loved ones, take some time to focus on the things that are important to you, and I look forward to seeing you in 2015.

Adams, I. and Petney, T. (2005) 'Germany 3-Scotland 2, No Man's Land, 25th December, 1914: Fact or Fiction?', in Magee, J., Bairner, A. and Tomlinson, A. (eds.). The Bountiful Game? Football Identities and Finances. Oxford: Meyer & Meyer Sport pp. 21-42.

Moore, K. (2014) 'Football and the Olympics and Paralympics', Sport in Society, 17 (5), pp. 640-655.

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