The truth about the Christmas Day football match

The Great War was supposed to have been over by Christmas. Instead, by the end of 1914, it had become a voracious monster, beyond the control of politicians, commanders and kings. All that was terrible in the world was contained within that monster, a beast feeding on nations. Yet beneath the carnage, a tiny flicker of humanity still glowed. One hundred days ago tomorrow, Christmas Day, 1914, that humanity provided a moment of warmth that would live forever.

The Christmas Truce, with its famous football match, is one event from the Great War that almost everyone knows about. Our remembrance has been stimulated by the extra attention paid to the War during this centenary year and by the remarkably accurate Sainsbury’s advert. My own research for a new book has revealed a slightly different account from the one that is commonly told, one that gives more credit to the Germans as initiators. The net effect of this revisionism, however, is to make an event of immense beauty even more wonderful.

The truce was, first and foremost, an act of rebellion against authority.

  • winniec

    I can understand the act of rebellion. Europeans were generally becoming annoyed with oligarchies, the class system and lack of opportunity. That’s why so many chose to emigrate. They obviously saw the immorality of Christians fighting one another for political problems that had nothing to do with them…such as Serbian independence…which set the whole thing off.

    Part of the reason for the good will was the Germans thought they had defeated Russia, thus solving the major problem of taking Serbia back into the Austrian empire.

    The Christmas Truce of 1914 was the dying gasp of the romantic 19th Century, the final gesture of an era that featured “gentlemanly” soldiering and gallant heroes who could confront their adversaries face-to-face on the field of honour. This was the end of the belief in European civilization.

  • David Murrell

    Good story. Here is the Wiki version of it:

  • b_marco

    doubleposted by accident

    The hundredth anniversary of the Great War has brought about ample press coverage of the epic struggle that determined the course of European and Western civilization over the last century. As a historian by background who has written quite a bit on the Great War, it’s always nice to see the media cover things that otherwise have been long forgotten outside the ranks of historians and buffs.

    However, what the media chooses to cover about 1914-1918 adheres to a sort of group-think that I have elsewhere termed The Narrative: trenches, lions led by donkeys, the horror, a nearly exclusive focus on the Western Front (plus one-offs like Gallipoli that include English-speaking troops) — and did I mention the horror?

    For all the emphasis since the 1960’s in the English-speaking world’s popular culture on “the horror” of 1914-1918 — as shorthand, this may be termed theOh! What a Lovely War approach — there has long been a sub-genre focusing on the Christmas truce. Now, at the centenary of that event, which has generated its own cottage industry, with several books, the media has gone in whole-hog. There are countless press stories on the alleged events of Christmas 1914, despite there being considerable doubt about what actually transpired.