Legend has it that on Christmas Day 1915, soldiers from both sides of the trenches in World War One met up in No-Man’s-Land for a game of football. Nothing official was kept of this brief meeting on Christmas Day between the enemy, so our knowledge of what took place has always been somewhat patchy. However, the death in 2001 of one of the men who took part in this match resurrected memories of the occasion.
Bertie Felstead, the last survivor of that football match, died in July 2001 aged 106 years.
Bertie Felstead, pictured above, remembered the following:
He was a member of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
On Christmas Eve, he was stationed in northern France with his colleagues near the village of Laventie when he heard the Germans in a trench 100 metres away singing “Silent Night”. In reply, the Royal Welch Fusiliers sang “Good King Wenceslas”.
On Christmas Day, after some shouting between both trenches, he and his colleagues got out of their icy trench and greeted the Germans. Bertie Felstead recalled that the Germans probably were already out of their trench before the British got out. He claimed that nothing was planned and that what happened was entirely spontaneous.
A football was produced from somewhere – though he could no re-call from where.
|“It was not a game as such – more of a kick-around and a free-for-all. There could have been 50 on each side for all I know. I played because I really liked football. I don’t know how long it lasted, probably half-an-hour, and no-one was keeping score.”|
The truce ended when a British major ordered the British soldiers back to their trench with a reminder that “they were there to kill the Hun not to make friends with him.” The mood of Christmas friendliness was shortly broken by the firing of British artillery. Bertie Felstead described the Germans as “all right”.