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12 December 2014

Christmas Truce memorial

Christmas Truce memorial

The Duke of Cambridge Prince William unveiled a memorial today to commemorate the World War One Christmas Truce of 1914, when British and German soldiers stopped fighting and played football.

The historic moment, recently popularised by the Sainsbury's Christmas advert, is marked today, 100 years on, with the memorial designed by ten-year-old schoolboy Spencer Turner from Newcastle.

This week significant football matches between German and British troops will also take place.

England manager Roy Hodgson joined Prince William and Spencer Turner to unveil the statue at the National Memorial Arboretum, which forms part of a Football Remembers programme.

Prince William spoke about the Christmas Truce memorial: "This is a permanent reminder of key moments in the First World War. We grew up with the story of soldiers putting down their weapons to meet for football in no man's land in 1914. A day when gunfire remarkably gave way to gifts."

"It remains wholly relevant as a message of hope and humanity even in the bleakest of times. Football then, as now, had the power to bring people together and break down barriers."

"It is vital, a hundred years on, that we keep the Christmas Truce story alive. That moment –when hands that had held weapons came together in peaceful greeting. For future generations this memorial will help ensure that not just football, but also a nation, remembers. "

Prince William had joined England forward Theo Walcott to select the memorial design from entries from more than 30,000 schools.

The Christmas Truce was not official, but saw men on the Western Front emerge from their trenches into No Man's Land on 25 December 1914. Enemy soldiers met, spent Christmas together and even exchanged gifts with small-scale kick-abouts held between soldiers.

This weekend young players from the nations involved in the First World War will travel to Flanders fields in Ypres to compete in the Premier League Christmas Truce International Tournament. And on 17 December, the British Army will take on the German Army in a match at Aldershot Town.

FA chairman Greg Dyke, added: "The scale of the loss is unthinkable and it is only right and fitting the game comes together to pay tribute to those that made the ultimate sacrifice."

HOPE have created a special version of the carol Silent Night to celebrate the Christmas Truce anniversary, challenging the Church to talk about the good news at sport events across the country. 

As part of HOPE's focus on 2014 as a year of mission they have prepared resources to help churches to mark the centenary of the First World War at the hearf of local communities, including the new version of Silent Night. Visit hopetogether.org.uk/christmas for all the resources to hold a Silent Night Carols event to mark the centenary of the 1914 Christmas Truce.