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Christmas truce: How football on the front was used by soldiers on all sides

New photos published by the Open University show how soldiers played football throughout the war.

The ball is crossed into the box as British Army troops play in the final of the Fanshawe Cup in Trissino, Italy.
The ball is crossed into the box as British Army troops play in the final of the Fanshawe Cup in Trissino, Italy.
Image: IWM

3-1918-fanshawe-cup-match The ball is crossed into the box as British Army troops play in the final of the Fanshawe Cup in Trissino, Italy. Source: IWM

THE CHRISTMAS DAY truce 100 years ago today is one of he most celebrated and poignant moments of the First World War.

The unofficial ceasefire between British and German troops has become more popularised in recent times, so much so that it was used by Sainsbury’s recently to as part of their Christmas ad campaign.

Despite this, information is still only now coming to light about what exactly transpired.

A newly discovered letter written by a British general to his wife on Christmas day 1914 revealed how soldiers ventured into no-man’s land where they “walk[ed] about together all day giving each other cigars and singing songs” .

The impromptu football matched played between the troops is also much heralded but it was not the only time football was played amongst fighting troops.

Britian’s Imperial War Museum outlines that, not only did it serve as a distraction for nervous soldiers during tough times, it also helped to recruit men who were reluctant to join up.

To commemorate this, The Open University has gone through the museums archives to publish some photos showing the impact of football during WW1.

Christmas truce: How football on the front was used by soldiers on all sides
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  • Football in WW1

    The Royal Flying Corp football team of No.54 Squadron RAF line up in front of a Sopwith Camel aircraft.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    A British general is about to kick off a friendly football match between the British and Italian troops on the Italian front.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    The football team of the British Third Army Trench Mortar School in France.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    Two players tackle for the ball as soldiers scramble to get a view on the Italian Front, Trissino, Italy.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    A handmade football net is setup by soldiers for an inter-company match on the Balkan Front on Christmas Day.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    Huge crowds of soldiers line the football pitch to watch the Fanshawe Cup Final in Trissino, Italy.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    The Fanshawe cup is presented to the captain of the winning British Army team.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    A Christmas day football match in Greece in 1915.Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    A football match on the Italian front watched by crowds of Allied troops and Italian civilians. Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    British Navy officers watch on as Warship Company play a football match in Stavros, Greece. (1916)Source: IWM
  • Football in WW1

    Christmas Day cheer during a football match on the Balkan Front.Source: IWM

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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