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.