The day the war stopped for a game of football… Until now, the reports of a football match on Christmas Day, 1914, between British and German soldiers facing each other in the trenches has been considered a romantic myth. There were many mentions of it in letters, but the reports were contradictory and so were not taken as firm evidence. Now, however, the first document has been found. It is the match report, written by Kurt Zehmisch, a 24-year-old soldier in the 134th Saxons Regiment. It was found by the author’s son, Rudolf, in the attic of the family house in Saxony. Zehmisch the father died on the Eastern Front in the Second World War. The diary entry describes a cold Christmas morning. Zehmisch and his comrades climbed over their trench to collect and bury some decaying bodies. Soon, they noticed some English soldiers coming towards them. They all spoke together. “Soon, a couple of Englishmen brought a football from their trenches and a lively game ensued. How marvellously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way…” The Germans (as usual) won the game and the English soldiers challenged them to another match on 26th December. The Germans agreed but their superior command, obviously horrified at the prospect of fraternity with the enemy, moved the unit the following morning to a different part of the front. The Western Front was very different from the more mobile Eastern Front in the First World War. Both sides lined up facing each other in trenches and wave after wave of soldiers would run at the enemy, to try to capture their trench. This tactic had terrible consequences - at the Battle of the Somme, in 1916, the British lost 500,000 men. It is a fitting time of year to end the article with the words of Zehmisch, wishing at the same time a happy festive season and a peaceful, prosperous new year to all Pravda.ru readers. “In this way, Christmas, the festival of love, managed to bring mortal enemies together for a short time as friends”. Why not forever???
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Lisbon