British and German troops relive Xmas truce

Teams from the British and German armies played a friendly football game in Aldershot on Wednesday in memory of the Christmas truce of 1914.

British and German troops relive Xmas truce
Soldiers in World War One period uniforms watch the football match. Photo: DPA

“We can hardly imagine now how they must have felt then”, German team captain Master Sergeant Stefan Wagner said.

“This game today is important, because it's an opportunity for people to think about the events”, British General Nicholas Carter said.

The teams met on the grounds of League Five team Aldershot Town FC in front of around 2,500 spectators.

100 years ago the “Christmas Miracle” brought together soldiers from opposing trenches in Flanders, Belgium, to exchange food and drink, share cigars and play the famous game of football – with steel helmets for goalposts.

On Wednesday, a singer also performed “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht” in German) – one of the Christmas songs the soldiers sang together in the shell-cratered No Man's Land between the front lines.

Now the truce is commemorated in the French border town of Frelinghien with a permanent memorial.

On Christmas morning 1914, soldiers held up signs above the ramparts wishing one another a “Happy Christmas” before cautiously emerging from their trenches.

The truce gradually spread across 700 kilometres of the front lines, although in some places there was no halt to the fighting.

But it was not to last, as after two days the soldiers returned to their positions and resumed the grinding warfare that was to claim the lives of millions over almost four more years.

Military authorities on both sides suppressed details of the truce, as they feared that a repeat performance might undermine morale.

A letter recently discovered and seen by The Times from British General Walter Congreve to his wife revealed that the renewal of the fighting was already on soldiers' minds during the ceasefire.

He wrote that one of his men “had smoked a cigar with the best shot in the German army, then not more than 18” and noted his position, hoping to “down him tomorrow”.

He adds that “next door the two battalions opposite each other were shooting away all day.”

“I was invited to go and see the Germans myself but refrained, as I thought they might not be able to resist a General.”

On the football field in Aldershot on Wednesday, the thought of their predecessors was never far from the two teams' minds.

“Chills ran down my back” during the minute of silence, British forward Callum Wilkinson said, while German goalkeeper Andreas Forster said “I had real goosebumps”.

Wilkinson and Forster came face-to-face in the third minute, with the British striker scoring the only goal of the match.

But the Germans were far from being sore losers, and the two teams were quickly on their way to “eat together and have one or two beers”, Forster said.

In Berlin, the British Council commemorated the event with their own football match on the rooftops.

SEE ALSO: Kaiser Wilhelm II faces pan-European war

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German Christmas market closures ‘can’t be ruled out’: health expert

As Germany battles a fierce Covid wave, concerns are growing over events, with one health expert saying closures of the country's beloved Christmas markets can't be ruled out.

Revellers enjoy mulled wine at the 'Santa Pauli' Christmas market in Hamburg on November 15th.
Revellers enjoy mulled wine at the 'Santa Pauli' Christmas market in Hamburg on November 15th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

Martina Wenker, president of the Lower Saxony Medical Association, said she believed Christmas markets may have to be cancelled if the Covid-19 situation gets worse in Germany. 

“Depending on the regional incidence situation, closures should not be ruled out in extreme cases,” Wenker told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

“We can’t stand by and celebrate while next door in the hospitals, planned operations have to be postponed frequently, corona patients are dying, and staff in practices and clinics are at their limits.”

Wenker said regional leaders allowed the opening of Christmas markets on the basis that the Covid situation was moderate.

“But if we reach higher levels of escalation, we will have to consider whether Christmas markets are still justifiable,” she said.

Germany on Tuesday reported 32,048 Covid infections within 24 hours and 265 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence increased to 312.4 Covid cases per 100,000 residents. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid incidence tops 300 for first time

‘Maximum safety’

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said on Monday that he wanted to ensure there was “maximum safety” around Christmas markets.

He said it will be among the topics discussed at the Covid crisis talks between the federal government and state leaders this Thursday. 

In general, Söder said mask requirements should remain at Christmas markets as well as distance rules and other protection measures. 

In an interview with broadcaster Bayern3, Söder explained that so far there is no legal framework for Bavaria to cancel Christmas markets. “At the moment, we cannot legally order it,” he said.

Some Christmas markets, which have recently opened to the public, are already enforcing strict rules such as excluding the unvaccinated from entry, or not serving alcohol to people unless they can show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid. 



Christmas market – (der) Weihnachtsmarkt

Celebrate – feiern

Planned operations/procedures – geplante Eingriffe 

Postponed – verschoben

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