A ‘last bit of chivalry’ and a Christmas kickabout

The nephew of a British World War I veteran has come across a letter his uncle wrote about the famous 1914 Chrismas truce in the trenches around Ypres that included an impromptu game of soccer between the warring sides. Says Imperial War Museum historian James Taylor:

‘Various accounts of the truce exist so to have one surface after not been seen for almost a century is quite remarkable.

‘This letter is of great historical value and the truce was the last bit of chivalry of the First World War.

‘The war had already been costly but it was about to get far worse.

‘One of the reasons they were playing football was because they weren’t able to communicate very well due to the language barrier.

‘This was a way for them to share something. It wouldn’t have been an organised match or anything, more of a free-for-all kick around.

‘There is something appealing about the idea that nations could settle their differences in sport rather than war.’

The truce and the deceptive impressions it left would come to symbolize, in the estimation of many, the death of the pre-modern world and the belief that the war would soon be over.

Sgt. Clement Barker was among those who was overly optimistic. He survived the war, which continued on through three more Christmases without another truce, or another football being kicked out of a trench in a similar fashion.

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