Veterans of the Great War were honored on Christmas Day as soccer lovers from the local area paid homage to one of the most unique and inspirational events in human history.

By RIMSIE MCCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com

Veterans of the Great War were honored on Christmas Day as soccer lovers from the local area paid homage to one of the most unique and inspirational events in human history.

As World War I raged in Europe, German and British soldiers hunkered down in cold, wet trenches after the First Battle of Ypres awaiting word from their leaders on what their next move would be. Christmas was fast approaching.
When German troops began decorating by placing candles and Christmas trees in their trenches, they began singing German carols and soon the British responded by singing carols of their own. They began shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon the roar of artillery fire fell silent. For these 100,000 British and German troops the unofficial cessation of battle was a welcome relief for the war-weary soldiers.

During the week before Christmas the unimaginable happened and the German and British soldiers began laying down their arms and crossing over the trenches to speak to their enemies, exchanging Christmas greetings and sharing stories, food, tobacco, alcohol and even souvenirs such as hats and buttons. They even sang Christmas carols together.
Soldiers from both sides even cautiously made their way into ‘no man’s land’ on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day where they participated in joint burial ceremonies for their fallen comrades and prisoner swaps.
For all the camaraderie and joyful exchanges, the one thing that has been the most memorable part of the truce seen in books, films and photos over the last century was the image of these adversaries in this horrific global conflict playing football (soccer).

The Christmas Truce, the unofficial ceasefires along the Eastern and Western Fronts, was commemorated Monday by soccer enthusiasts from around the region in the fifth annual Truce Tournament hosted by Sporting Club, the National World War I Museum and Memorial and The Soccer Lot.  
Approximately 200 participants from 33 teams in the area competed in a 3v3 soccer tournament, while hundreds of additional soccer fans attended the English Premier League Boxing Day Watch Party on large screens inside the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The Millennium Pilots claimed the Truce Tournament title in the Competitive Division. In the Recreational Division, Stepdads claimed the title. #CatsBy90 won the Beer Division.

“The Christmas Truce was a remarkable event during the world’s first truly global conflict,” said National World War I Museum and Memorial President and CEO Dr. Matthew Naylor. “There are substantial lessons to be learned from those soldiers who displayed an unbelievable amount of humanity in the midst of horrific warfare and the Truce Tournament allows us to recognize and understand how the Great War continues to affect the global community to this day.”