UEFA's Michel Platini (fourth from left) lines up at the St Yvon memorial with re-enactors, senior Belgian officials and the German Ambassador to Belgium (Photo: Centenary News)

Centenary News reports from Belgium on football's day of Christmas truce remembrance

Posted on centenarynews.com on 12 December 2014
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European football has paid tribute to the soldiers who took part in the Christmas truce, with the inauguration of a new memorial near Ploegsteert in Belgium on December 11th 2014.

The monument, unveiled by UEFA President Michel Platini, stands close to the site identified as the setting for an impromptu football game played by British and German troops on Christmas Day 1914.

Mr Platini, a former European Championship winner with France, said: "It's very moving to imagine these young soldiers, 100 years ago, developing a common language in sport."

The steel sculpture, created by London-based designers Flavia D'Amico and Cristian Cook, captures the spirit of the truce with a football mounted on an upturned shell.

It's situated next to Prowse Point Commonwealth Cemetery, along a narrow lane framed by the First World War landmarks of Messines Ridge and Ploegsteert Wood.

The site is one of a number along the Western Front where unofficial ceasefires were observed by the opposing sides as Christmas dawned in the trenches.

"Humanity took over," reflected Gilbert Deleu, Mayor of Comines-Warneton, the municipality which includes Ploegsteert. "In Comines, the population, whatever its age, is very sensitive to what happened here and wants to perpetuate its memory."

Balloons with letters spelling out the words 'don't make war' were placed at the memorial by local schoolchildren, joining wreaths laid on behalf of the British, French and German governments.

The ceremony carried extra significance for one of the guests, Andrew Hamilton. His grandfather, Captain Robert Hamilton, was instrumental in arranging the truce at dawn on Christmas Day after an approach from the Germans.

Captain Robert Hamilton's historic diary entry, recording the truce (Photo: Centenary News) 

Andrew Hamilton told Centenary News that his grandfather knew he had a good story on his hands: "It's quite incredible to be here today with so many people remembering a magnificent and iconic event, the Christmas truce, particularly for myself because my grandfather was involved in it.

"It's wonderful for me to feel that his story is now well known."

Germany's ambassador to Belgium, Dr Eckart Cuntz, represented his country at the Ploegsteert commemorations, as he has done at many other Centenary events in 2014.

He said: "The message that goes out from here is that if human beings want to stop killing each other, they can do it. This year's commemorations could not have a much better conclusion than remembering the Christmas truce."

UEFA have released a video marking the 100th anniversary of the truce. Introduced by Michel Platini, the story is told using extracts from letters of First World War soldiers, read by Sir Bobby Charlton, Philipp Lahm, Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney.

Ploegsteert, known to British First World War soldiers as 'Plugstreet', will again be the focus for Christmas truce remembrance on December 19th-21st, when it hosts a weekend of events. More details can be found here.

'We Good...We No Shoot' the latest book about the Christmas truce at Ploegsteert Wood by Andrew Hamilton and Alan Reed was published in November 2014 to mark the Centenary,

Posted by Peter Alhadeff, reporting for Centenary News from Ploegsteert

Pictures: Centenary News, with thanks to Andrew Hamilton for sharing his grandfather's diary.