100 years on from 1914: re-enactors in German uniforms at last week's unveiling of the UEFA Christmas truce memorial near 'Plugstreet' (Photo: Centenary News)

Christmas truce: Ploegsteert launches weekend of Centenary remembrance

Posted on centenarynews.com on 19 December 2014
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A torchlight march tonight (December 19th 2014) launches a weekend of events in Ploegsteert, Belgium, marking the Christmas truce centenary.

Reconstructed trenches and a nursing post will also give visitors a flavour of First World War battlefield conditions. 

The torchlight march follows a route from the 'Ploegsteert 14-18 Experience' interpretation centre to Ploegsteert Wood Commonwealth cemetery. Tickets must be booked in advance. 

The event culminates with the sounding of the Last Post in the heart of Ploegsteert Wood. 

Afterwards, the Band of the Royal Marines will give a concert in Ploegsteert Church.

The weekend also includes a showing of the film 'Joyeux Noël' on December 20th, and a choir concert on the morning of Sunday December 21st.

Visitors to Ploegsteert are promised 'immersion in the contex of the 1914 Christmas truce' with re-enactors in reconstructed trenches (above). A shuttle bus will run between the 'Ploegsteert 14-18 Experience' and the truce site at St. Yvon

Ploegsteert, called 'Plugstreet' by British soldiers, was the setting for one of the best known episodes of the Christmas truce, with the soldier and artist, Bruce Bairnsfather, describing how a football was kicked about.  

There were also spontaneous ceasefires elsewhere along the Western Front in Belgium and France as German and Allied soldiers met in 'no-man's land' to exchange gifts and bury their dead.

European football's governing body, UEFA, inaugurated a Centenary memorial next to Prowse Point Commonwealth cemetery, near Ploegsteert, on December 11th.

The commemorations mark the launch of a programme in the municipality of Comines-Warneton, which includes Ploegsteert and St. Yvon, aimed at inspiring remembrance of the truce  beyond the Centenary.

Mayor Gilbert Deleu says the memory of the unofficial ceasefire 'remains very deep' in the hearts of local people.

A Heritage Committee has been formed, backed by organisations including the International Olympic Committee. Historical research into the Christmas truce is due to be published in 2015, and there are also plans for annual symposiums, starting in December 2015.

Centenary News reported from Ploegsteert on the unveiling of UEFA's memorial to the truce (above). The trenches recreated for the Centenary are alongside, with Mud Corner Commonwealth Cemetery and Ploegsteert Wood in the background.

For more information about the Christmas truce Centenary commemorations in Comines-Warneton, click 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.

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

Sources: Belgian Tourist Office - Brussels & Wallonia; Plugstreet 14-18 Experience

Posted by Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News