Belgium: the Khaki Chums memorial at the Christmas truce site (Photo: Centenary News)

Christmas truce: countdown to Centenary events in December 2014

Posted on centenarynews.com on 01 December 2014
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Centenary News previews some of the events coming up in December 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the truce observed by soldiers during the first Christmas of the Great War.

The wide-ranging programme includes football, drama and music, with many events organised by members of the First World Centenary Partnership, the umbrella group led by the Imperial War Museum (IWM).

Among the highlights are 'Football Remembers Week' from December 6th-14th, performances of newly-written plays for the Centenary, and the opening of new memorials close to the site of the Christmas truce in Belgium and at the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK.

IWM's Director General, Diane Lees, said she was delighted with the response of partnership members to commemorating this 'unique event' on the Western Front 100 years ago.

Football Remembers Week (December 6th-14th)

The British Council, the Football Association, Premier League and Football League invite all involved with football, from fans to players in the top flight, to join in remembering the Christmas truce.

Matches taking place in the Barclays Premier League, Sky Bet Championship and the FA Cup Second Round (December 6th– 8th ) will start with players posing together in group photographs as a mark of respect to those who played football during the 1914 truce. The pictures will be uploaded to www.footballremembers.com

Fans, teams and schools will also be asked to upload their pre-match pictures to the same site via social media over the course of Football Remembers Week. Any match of any size can be included, from school to Sunday league fixtures, five-a-side matches to kickabouts in the back garden.

Football Remembers will also unveil the UK’s first memorial to the Christmas truce, during a ceremony attended by Prince William, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on December 12th. 

The monument was designed by a 10-year-old Newcastle schoolboy as part of a nationwide competition in the UK.

The National Memorial Arboretum is offering 90-minute guided tours of the site and its memorials on December 13/14th. 

In Belgium, a memorial to the truce, designed by students from two schools in Germany and the UK, will be inaugurated at the Peace Village, Messines, on December 6th.

UEFA, European football's governing body, will unveil its memorial close to the truce site at Saint Yves, near Ploegsteert, during a ceremony attended by UEFA President Michel Platini on December 11th. 

A torchlight march on December 19th 2014 launches a weekend of events in Ploegsteert marking the truce centenary. Reconstructed trenches and a nursing post will also give visitors a flavour of First World War battlefield conditions. 

On the stage

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre presents The Christmas Truce. Written by Phil Porter, and inspired by the real events of the First World War, it's described as an 'uplifting play for families.  It runs until January 31st 2015 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon.

On December 14th,  Fluid Motion Theatre Company presents Mrs Gill’s Grand Matinee at The Chesil Theatre, Winchester. An 'immersive performance' puts audiences at the heart of a local community during the First World War. Audiences are also encouraged to come dressed for 1914. 

Vertical Line Theatre will bring the gritty reality of the trenches to life in new play, Fear in a Handful of Dust, running from December 6th–January 9th 2015 at the CogArtsSpace London N1.  

Music & film

Yorkshire Volunteers Brass Christmas Concert will mix Christmas and First World War music, plus songs from the shows and movies of 1914, at the Merchant Adventurers' Hall, York, on December 11th. 

The Discovery Museum, in Newcastle upon Tyne, presents A Night at the Cinema in 1914 on December 10th. This special compilation of films from the British Film Institute recreates the  mix of comedies, dramas, travelogues and newsreels that would have been shown 100 years ago. 

On December 13th, the Woodland Trust marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War by planting trees at its woodland site in Langley Vale, Surrey.  Visitors are invited to join in.

United States

Soldier's Christmas, a play with song, inspired by the Christmas Truce of 1914, will be performed at Northern Kentuck University's Corbett Theatre, near Cincinnati, from December 12th-21st. 

Centenary Partnership

The First World War Centenary Partnership, led by the Imperial War Museum, now has more than 3,000 members  organising commemorative events between now and 2018.

Diane Lees, IWM's Director General, said: “100 years on, the First World War Centenary Partnership will be commemorating the Christmas Truce of 1914, an event of hope and inspiration within the bleak conditions of the First World War.

"The simple acts of exchanging food and singing songs brought light to the dark and desolate Western Front.

"IWM is delighted to see partners across the world commemorating this unique event with thoughtful projects and events.” 

Sources: IWM; Belgian Tourist Office - Brussels & Wallonia

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News