Dear Fussballenglisch Fans
As Christmas is approaching fast, you may have read about the stories about the Games of Truce that were played between the German and British soldiers on Christmas Day 1914. There are lots of different stories regarding how many matches were played, who won and what Christmas presents were exchanged but there is clear evidence that actual matches were played and that the generals on both sides did not like it (stuff them!) as they would rather use their soldiers as cannon fodder. ***
So when a commemorative match between the British Army and the German Bundeswehr was organised in Aldershot (home of the British Army) on 17 December I took my family to watch the match. Well equipped with a Union Jack, a German flag and the Schalke UK flag we went to the Stadium where an opera singer entertained the crowd with a bilingual version of Silent Night/Stille Nacht.
Flying the Schalke and Germany flag before the match
Then Sir Bobby Charlton himself greeted every player personally before the national anthems were played (not a single booo for the German anthem – just silence and friendly applause at the end) and photos of the teams, who had merged into one team, were taken before the kick-off.
When we left just before half-time (it was almost Lucy’s bedtime) I found a mini-bottle of Schnapps in my rucksack ( which I carry for emergencies) and – in the true spirit of the Game of Truce – offered it to my British neighbour who was delighted and wished us a very Merry Christmas.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and successful New Year (whichever club you support).
*** THE ‘GAME OF TRUCE’ BACKGROUND (source www.armyfa.com)
By December 1914 a continuous line of trenches stretched over 750km from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. This was the Western Front over which a struggle of unprecedented brutality would rage for the next four years. The opening battles in a war of movement which had marked the start of the conflict just four months earlier had gone. The dreadful battles of attrition by which this first ‘total war’ would later be characterised had yet to start.
The winter of 1914-15 was a harsh one. ‘Earth stood as hard as iron, water like a stone’ were particularly apt lines when the ability to dig into the former and drink the latter was essential for mere survival. There was a common aim and shared struggle to survive these woeful conditions by friend and foe alike. Culturally too, men of opposing sides shared more in common with each other than we might realise. It was not uncommon for a Saxon soldier in the German lines to have worked as a barber in the East End of London or for a British soldier to have sung carols around a fir tree decked with lights, a tradition introduced by Queen Victoria’s late husband Prince Albert.
So it was no real surprise when on Christmas Eve 1914 those same carols started to drift across no-man’s land. The tune was the same. The words and their meaning was the same. Only the language was different. As a population far more religiously minded than our own, the Christian message of peace and harmony chimed loudly amongst those manning that seemingly god-forsaken stretch of blasted earth. So the next day the famous Christmas Truce came to pass. Men met in no-man’s land. They shook hands. They swopped cigarettes and cigars, schnapps and whiskey, stories and jokes. They showed each other pictures of their wives, sweethearts and children and they took photographs of one another.
So what part did football play in all of this? There can be no doubt that many of the men who met that day would have shared a common and passionate interest in the game. Attendances at pre-war matches were huge and avid discussions about teams and players took place. One officer in a Highland Regiment found himself deep in conversation with a German Sergeant who had toured Britain in 1913 with the Leipzig team which beat Glasgow Celtic 1-0. Out of the line, fiercely competitive matches took place between platoons, companies and battalions. Sadly, despite extensive, detailed research there is no unequivocal evidence to prove that what we might regard as a ’match’ took place that day between the opposing sides. What there is can at best be regarded as hearsay.
However, there is no doubt that there was a clear intent by both sides to play a game of football against one another. A number of contemporary written accounts clearly confirm this. Sadly, as we now know, the realities of the conflict meant that any prospect of playing football was quickly extinguished by the resumption of hostilities.
PS: I promised you catastrophes with apostrophes, so here are three examples:
1. The wrong use of „its“ or „it’s“. At Lidl you get a free apostrophe with each bottle of champagne! „It’s“ is just a short form of „it is“ which doesn’t make any sense. So the right word should be „its“.
2. The wrong use of an apostrophe to separate the plural s from the rest of the word, for
example a job advert which I saw where the successful candidate needed to have excellent
written communication skill’s (probably to replace the dipstick that wrote the advert).
3. The wrong use of an apostrophe to separate the plural s from the rest of the word when also the plural itself is wrong. Not long ago my local free paper, the Star Courier, advertised Educational Opportunity’s and recently I read a guideline that said I should ask my customers whether they have any disability’s (for example they cannot write plural words properly) so I can support them more appropriately.
Maybe these people get confused because they support Southampton FC who play their home matches at the St Mary’s Stadium.
Tip: Do not write that you drink Veltin’s beer at the Veltin’s arena as you support the Royal Blue’s.