Classroom Activity on Football on the Western Front

Classroom Activity on Football on the Western Front

On the Western Front in December 1914 there was a spontaneous outburst of hostility towards the killing. On 24th December, arrangements were made between the two sides to go into No Mans Land to collect the dead. Negotiations also began to arrange a cease-fire for Christmas Day. Edward Hulse, a Lieutenant in the Scots Guards, received a message from the Germans suggesting a five day period without war.

On other parts of the front-line, German soldiers initiated a cease-fire through song. On Christmas Day the guns were silent and there were several examples of soldiers leaving their trenches and exchanging gifts in No Mans Land. The men even played a game of football. According to The Guardian newspaper, the "German and British soldiers who famously played football with each other in no man's land on Christmas Day 1914 didn't always have a ball. Instead, they improvised. On certain sections of the front, soldiers kicked around a lump of straw tied together with string, or even an empty jam box." Despite this cease-fire on the Western Front 149 British servicemen died on Christmas Day 1914.

Sir John French, the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, reported that when he heard about the fraternization, "I issued immediate orders to prevent any recurrence of such conduct, and called the local commanders to strict account, which resulted in a great deal of trouble."

(Source 2) Lieutenant Edward Hulse, battalion war diary (December, 1914)

A scout named Murker went out and met a German Patrol and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message was sent back saying that if we didn't fire at them they would not fire at us.

(Source 3) Second Lieutenant Dougan Chater, letter to his mother (25th December, 1914)

I think I have seen one of the most extraordinary sights today that anyone has ever seen. About 10 o'clock this morning I was peeping over the parapet when I saw a German, waving his arms, and presently two of them got out of their trenches and some came towards ours. We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles so one of our men went out to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas.

(Source 4) Lieutenant J. A. Liddell, letter to his parents (29th December, 1914)

On Christmas Day everyone spontaneously left their trenches and had a meeting halfway between the trenches. Germans gave us cigars, and we gave them chocolate and tobacco. They seemed very pleased to see us! Some had lived in England for years, and were very buckled at airing their English again.

(Source 6) Captain P. Mortimer, diary entry (26th December, 1914)

The enemy came out of their trenches yesterday (being Christmas Day) simultaneously with our fellows - who met the Germans on neutral ground between the two trenches and exchanged the compliments of the season - presents, smokes and drinks - some of our fellows going into the German lines and some of the Germans strolling into ours - the whole affair was particularly friendly and not a shot was fired in our Brigade throughout the day. The enemy apparently initiated the move by shouting across to our fellows and then popping their heads out of their trenches and finally getting out of them altogether.

(Source 7) Second Lieutenant Drummond was one of those involved in the Christmas truce in 1914.

The German climbed out of his trench and came over towards us. My friend and I walked out towards him. We met, and very gravely saluted each other. He was joined by more Germans, and some of the Dublin Fusiliers from our own trenches came out to join us. No German officer came out, it was only the ordinary soldiers. We talked, mainly in French, because my German was not very good, and none of the Germans could speak English well, but we managed to get together all right. One of them said, "We don't want to kill you, and you don't want to kill us. So why shoot?"

(Source 8) Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch, diary entry, (December, 1914)

Möckel from my company, who had lived in England for many years, called to the British in English, and soon a lively conversation developed between us...

Afterwards, we placed even more candles than before on our kilometre-long trench, as well as Christmas trees. It was the purest illumination - the British expressed their joy through whistles and clapping. Like most people, I spent the whole night awake. It was a wonderful, if somewhat cold, night.

(Source 10) Lieutenant Gustav Riebensahm, 2nd Westphalian regiment, diary entry, (December, 1914)

The English are extraordinarily grateful for the ceasefire, so they can play football again. But the whole thing has become slowly ridiculous and must be stopped. I will tell the men that from this evening it's all over.

(Source 12) Andrew Ward, Football's Strangest Matches (2002)

The Royal Engineers have a rich soccer heritage, so it isn't surprising to discover their participation in gas-mask soccer during World War One... The gas-mask games became a regular part of their training... When the whistle went for the kick-off, each player had to take out his gas mask and fit it properly. He wasn't allowed to touch the ball until his mask was properly secured.

Question 1: Read sources 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8. Explain what happened on Christmas Day 1914.

Question 2: Study sources 1, 5 and 9. Compare the usefulness of these sources to the historian writing about the Christmas truce.

Question 3: Sir John French, the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, reported that when he heard about the Christmas truce, "I issued immediate orders to prevent any recurrence of such conduct, and called the local commanders to strict account, which resulted in a great deal of trouble." Why did he do this? Can you find another source in this unit that suggests the German Army acted in a similar way?

Question 4: Read source 12 and then explain source 11.

A commentary on these questions can be found here

You can download this activity in a word document here

You can download the answers in a word document here

Classroom Activity on Football on the Western Front - History

Learning journey which outlines the key parts of the specification for the Medicine in Britain and the British Sector of the Western Front unit.

Medicine 4 mark Explain One Way Practice Questions

A series of practice 4 mark exam questions for Section B, Medicine in Britain to support your revision.

Medicine 12 mark Explain Why Practice Questions

A series of practice 12 mark exam questions for Section B, Medicine in Britain to support your revision.

Medicine 16 mark How Far Practice Questions

A series of practice 16 mark exam questions for Section B, Medicine in Britain to support your revision.

99 answers and trenches isn't one.

Answer each of the questions on the grid and then try to identify which key topic the question relates to. The answers are on the second slide so do not cheat!

A revision activity to support you in revising the key terms for the Historic Environment section of the Medicine paper.

A revision activity for two people. Take it in turns to try and score a goal in the opposition net and revise content for the Historic Environment section of the Medicine paper.

Use the clues to try and work out which key feature of Medicine on the Western Front is being described.

Medicine - Western Front Has it stuck

Can you answer all the questions on the post-it note? Use this resource to test your knowledge and understanding of the Historic Environment.

Discuss these battles and decide which point you would side with in your judgement and why. Don’t forget to give events, key words and dates to support your argument!

Circle the odd one out and then explain your answer.

Pick and Mix Revision Sheets: Historic environment

3 pi ck and mix sheets with a variety of activities which cover the major aspects of the Historic Environment section of the Medicine paper.

A selection of revision activities to choose from and earn points.

Work in pairs. Select a key term and speak about that topic for 30 seconds without stopping.

Identify five facts about each of the topics on the sheet. This will help to support you in identifying areas to focus on your revision.

Try a game of History tenable!

Make sure you know what all these words mean. If there are any you don’t recognise, write a brief definition on the sheet.

Colour in a corner of each square to show which issue it connects to. Remember that some will apply to two or more categories.

Two Player game. Try to remember as much information from the sheet as you can in 60 seconds. And then play against each other to see who remembered the most.

Workbook with the key content from Section A - Historic Environ ment . Includes a variety of activities for you to complete to support your revision.

Answer each of the questions on the grid and then try to identify which key topic the question relates to. The answers are on the second slide so do not cheat!

A revision activity to support you in revising the key terms for section B of the Medicine paper.

Design a seating plan for the guests and try and make links between the individuals.

Two player game: Choose an individual from the outside of the board and try to answer either the red, amber or green questions.

A revision activity for two people. Take it in turns to try and score a goal in the opposition net and revise content for section B of the Medicine paper.

Two player game: Choose a person from the grid. Take it in turns to ask questions to try and work out the other person's individual.

For each set of clues try and work out which key individual is being described.

Print out this set of top trumps cards to play. This will support your revision of the individuals in the Medicine in Britain course.

P i ck and mix sheets with a variety of activities which cover the major aspects of the Medicine in Britain section of the Medicine paper.

P i ck and mix sheets with a variety of activities which cover the major aspects of the Medicine in Britain section of the Medicine paper.

Government Intervention Play Your Cards Right

Try to put the government interventions into the correct chronological order.

Medicine 1700-1900 Play Your Cards Right

Try to put the events from 1700 - 1900 into the correct chronological order.

Medicine Science and Technology Play Your Cards Right

Try to put the events connected to science and technology into the correct chronological order.

Medicine since 1900 Play your cards right

Try to put the events from 1900 to present into the correct chronological order.

Renaissance Medicine Play Your Cards Right

Try to put the events of the renaissance into the correct chronological order.

Have a go at the Medicine in Britain addition of Pointless. Ideally played with multiple players.

Answer the Medicine questions to complete the summary sheet.

Answer the Medicine questions to complete the summary sheet.

Work in pairs. Select a key term and speak about that topic for 30 seconds without stopping.

Identify five facts about each of the topics on the sheet. This will help to support you in identifying areas to focus on your revision.

Make sure you know what all these words mean. If there are any you don’t recognise, write a brief definition on the sheet.

Colour in a corner of each square to show which issue it connects to. Remember that some will apply to two or more categories.

Select the 11 people you think have made the most significant contribution to this topic.

Write their name on their shirt, colour code it to the correct issue, write their most significant date on the back of their shirt, and a keyword to remind you why they are important. Then explain what they did that makes them so significant.

A good revision activity to test your chronological understanding of medicine.

Revision activity that will make you consider which individual/factor was most significant. What will make it to the world cup final?

Coastal Bellingham and Surrounding Whatcom County Bring More Than Just Marvelous Views

With a northern border that ends in the Canada-U.S. border and a rich history of human habitation tracing back at least 12 millennia, Whatcom County has seen—and grown—much through the years. Today its county seat and most populous city, the coastal Bellingham, lies some 52 miles southeast of Vancouver and 90 miles north of Seattle. Lying in the shadow of Mount Baker, the city is the result of an amalgamation between the towns of Bellingham, Whatcom, Sehome and Fairhaven, which all settled beside Bellingham Bay.

With a gorgeous backdrop surrounding you always, Whatcom County is more than just a scenic marvel near the edge of the country it’s also a haven for sporting activity and tournaments throughout the year. The Ski to Sea Raceannually takes place over Memorial Day Weekend, where this signature event sees competitors travel 93 miles in a relay race that incorporates cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross biking and kayaking. The 2019 edition of the race saw nearly 4,000 participants across 15 different divisions.

If you happen to be in town for a tournament or an event, consider a stay at any of the region’s fine lodging options, including the Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel & Conference Center, Oxford Suites or the SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

As the crown jewel of Bellingham’s facility scene, the Civic Athletic Complex is comprised of a Sportsplex, Civic Stadium, Joe Martin Field, the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, Bellingham Skate Park and Frank Geri Softball Fields. The Sportsplex is the home of semi-pro soccer club Bellingham United and comprises two indoor turf fields, as well as one NHL-sized sheet of ice. Civic Stadium has covered seating for up to 4,000 and features a multipurpose turf field and track, ideal for hosting concerts like the 2019 Double Major that saw Death Cab For Cutie and ODESZA take the stage in front of more than 12,000 fans.

Joe Martin Field was where Kenny Griffy, Jr. began his professional career back in 1987. Today the stadium has permanent seating for 1,600 fans and room for more on the surrounding lawns. The Arne Hanna Aquatic Center features an eight-lane pool complete with a dive tank with springboard, instructional pool and 135-foot waterslide.

Sports: Hockey, soccer, lacrosse, figure skating, track and field, baseball, swimming, diving, skateboarding, BMX. Softball

Phillips 66 Soccer Park

With spectacular views of Mount Baker in the background, this soccer complex is a must-schedule for tournament planners. Featuring 11 regulation soccer fields, including nine grass fields and two turf fields with lights.

Sports: Soccer, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, flag football

Western Washington University

Credit: Western Washington University

The university’s Carver Gym complex features five regulation courts, including a championship court for volleyball with a video replay scoreboard and seating for 2,500. Carver hosted the 2019 Men’s and Women’s GNAC Basketball Championships in March. The volleyball matches are played on a convertible SportCourt. Harrington Field is a lighted multipurpose AstroTurf option with seating for 500, while Viking Field hosts softball games with a capacity for 300 seated spectators.

Sports: Basketball, cross-country, golf, rowing, soccer, softball, track and field, volleyball, cheer, rugby, lacrosse

Whatcom Community College

Image courtesy of Whatcom Community College

Whatcom Community College features a pavilion with one NCAA regulation court with bleacher seating for 1,200, while Orca Field is a multipurpose turf field with bleacher seating for 400, perfect for hosting both Whatcom CC events and local leagues.

Sports: Basketball, soccer, volleyball, roller derby

Galbraith and Chuckanut Mountains

With an immense network of more than 110 miles of single-track mountain biking, running, hiking and equestrian trails spread throughout old-growth and second-growth forests, Galbraith and Chukanut Mountains make for an excellent outdoor escape for active and extreme sports. The 2019 Cascadia Dirt Cup Season Finale-Chukanut Enduro saw hundreds of mountain bikers from junior to pro divisions take to the Chuckanut Mountain trails in a race against the clock for top prizes. Local guides, rentals and shuttle rides are available for riders new to the area.

Sports: Equestrian, mountain biking, running

Bender Fields

With eight regulation grass soccer fields, 12 youth baseball and softball fields and even a cricket pitch, Bender Fields are an excellent spot to host tournaments throughout the year.

Sports: Baseball, cricket, softball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, flag football, lacrosse, quidditch

Lake Padden Recreation Area

With more than 50 acres of freshwater access, anglers and swimmers will be drawn to the Lake Padden Recreation Area. But with an abundance of trails including a 2.3-mile loop trail around the lake and over 5 miles of multipurpose trails south and east of the lake, it’s a haven for cross-country, triathlon and multisport athletes. Annually hosts events such as the Padden Triathlon, and high school and collegiate cross-country meets.

Sports: Fishing, golf, multipurpose outdoor, tennis, SUP, swimming, triathlon and trail running

What is There to Do in Bellingham?

Bellingham is serviced by dozens of forested, interurban and waterfront parks, including hundreds of miles of easily accessible hiking and biking trails. Walk, bike or paddle along the saltwater coastline, freshwater lakes or near year-round waterfalls in this outdoor adventure lover’s paradise.

The SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention is a science and history museum full of hands-on interactive exhibits. Behold the 1915 telephone used by Henry L. Higginson to make the first transcontinental phone call, see a reproduction of the radio room onboard the Titantic or check out a working CT-100 television.

Go whale-watching onboard the San Juan Cruises, which offer many different options like whale watching tours, crab dinner cruises on Chuckanut Bay, beer and wine tasting experiences and private charters as your cruise around the scenic San Juan Islands and through Bellingham Bay.

Family-friendly and cool all summer long, the Birch Bay Waterslides are a local favorite, with playful slides without the hassle of long lines, including one with a 60-foot drop. This lively water park is open from May through October.

If you’re still looking to be entertained after hitting the waves or cruising around the Bay, check out the trampoline parks, bowling alleys and go-karts at Sumas International Motorsport Academy, one of the finest karting facilities in North America.

How to Get to Bellingham?

Interstate 5 runs right through central Bellingham on the road south to Seattle. If you’re flying into the region, Bellingham International Airport (BLI) is the third-largest commercial airport in Washington and offers flights through Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Allegiant Air to major West Coast destinations.

Contact Information

Company Name: Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Sports Sales Manager: Eric Rainaud-Hinds
Title: Sports Development Coordinator
Telephone: 360-671-3990 x211
[email protected]


Football in Barcaldine goes back to 28 April 1892 with the formation of the Artesian Football Club. On 2 July 1892, the first football excursion train ran between Barcaldine and Longreach. The townspeople took the opportunity to see the new town on the Thomson. The Artesian Football Club had T. J. Ryan as their Patron. Soon afterwards Ryan became the first man ever to enter Parliament from central western Queensland. George Page Shakspeare of the Shakspeare Hotel was the President of the club, and E. Savage the secretary. A second club, the Barcoo Rangers, was formed two weeks after in May 1892, six days after Longreach kicked off with their clubs, the Blues and Stripes. The first clash between Barcaldine and Longreach was played on a Saturday afternoon, the 12 June 1892 on the flat on the left of the present Aramac crossing on the north side.

The visitors arrived by special train. Longreach jerseys were blue and white, the home team were black and god. The match kicked off at 3:30 pm, with Longreach winning two-nil (two points for a try). The team was then escorted back to town by the Barcaldine Band. The return game was played in Longreach on 3 July 1892. A try was awarded to Longreach by the referee that Barcaldine disputed, leading to a mid-field conference. The Longreach captain, Gavin, felt the middle man was a bit ‘tough’ on Barcaldine, and asked the ref to allow the try. The ref wouldn’t, and left the field, a linesman taking over. As he walked on, the players walked off. Thus the return game in football’s first year in the central west came to an abrupt end, Longreach leading 15-2 at the time.

Organisation of the games was not the best in those days. On 5 June 1902, Longreach arrived by train for a match, taking the home side by surprise as they knew nothing of the challenge. Barcaldine managed to muster a team to play and the score was a nil-all draw. Shortly after, in Longreach, Barcaldine and Longreach players had their names taken on the file by the police. Their crime had been playing football on a Sunday. It appears no action was taken in the end.

The rugby league football code was introduced into Barcaldine after the first world war, the first game being played in 1919. Rugby union was played until 1915 when war ended the competition for four years.

The first rugby league game in Barcaldine was played on 4 May 1919 when Shamrocks played Natives. Barcaldine and Longreach met for their first game on 23 August 1919 at Barcaldine, the home town winning 8-7, with Bill Mornet scoring the first points, while Jack McQuaid kicked the first goal. Longreach arrived that day by tain packed to capacity, the players being welcomed at Hawthorns Cafe which was the custom in those days. The return game was played in Longreach four weeks later, Longreach winning 15-11. Darby Devery, full back, scored two tries and captain Mick O’Hanlon scored one and McQuaid kicked a goal accounting for the visitors’ 11 points.

Barcaldine was the first to have a grass playing field, and the first to have a timing clock at the grounds. The clock was donated by A & K Jackson and Pat and Clare Ogden at a cost of $800, installed on 20 March 1975.

Classroom Activity on Football on the Western Front - History

B y the end of November 1914 the crushing German advance that had swallowed the Low Countries and threatened France had been checked by the allies before it could reach Paris. The opposing armies stared at each other from a line of hastily built defensive trenches that began at the edge of the English Channel and continued to the border of Switzerland. Barbed wire and parapets defended the trenches and between them stretched a "No-Mans-Land" that in some areas was no more than 30 yards wide.

British troops in the trenches

Life in the trenches was abominable. Continuous sniping, machinegun fire and artillery shelling took a deadly toll. The misery was heightened by the ravages of Mother Nature, including rain, snow and cold. Many of the trenches, especially those in the low-lying British sector to the west, were continually flooded, exposing the troops to frost bite and "trench foot."

This treacherous monotony was briefly interrupted during an unofficial and spontaneous "Christmas Truce" that began on Christmas Eve. Both sides had received Christmas packages of food and presents. The clear skies that ended the rain further lifted the spirits on both sides of no-mans-land.

The Germans seem to have made the first move. During the evening of December 24 they delivered a chocolate cake to the British line accompanied by a note that proposed a cease fire so that the Germans could have a concert. The British accepted the proposal and offered some tobacco as their present to the Germans. The good will soon spread along the 27-mile length of the British line. Enemy soldiers shouted to one another from the trenches, joined in singing songs and soon met one another in the middle of no-mans-land to talk, exchange gifts and in some areas to take part in impromptu soccer matches.

The high command on both sides took a dim view of the activities and orders were issued to stop the fraternizing with varying results. In some areas the truce ended Christmas Day in others the following day and in others it extended into January. One thing is for sure - it never happened again.

"We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land."

Frank Richards was a British soldier who experienced the "Christmas Truce". We join his story on Christmas morning 1914:

Buffalo Bill [the Company Commander] rushed into the trench and endeavoured to prevent it, but he was too late: the whole of the Company were now out, and so were the Germans. He had to accept the situation, so soon he and the other company officers climbed out too. We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land. Their officers was also now out. Our officers exchanged greetings with them. One of the German officers said that he wished he had a camera to take a snapshot, but they were not allowed to carry cameras. Neither were our officers.

We mucked in all day with one another. They were Saxons and some of them could speak English. By the look of them their trenches were in as bad a state as our own. One of their men, speaking in English, mentioned that he had worked in Brighton for some years and that he was fed up to the neck with this damned war and would be glad when it was all over. We told him that he wasn't the only one that was fed up with it. We did not allow them in our trench and they did not allow us in theirs.

The German Company-Commander asked Buffalo Bill if he would accept a couple of barrels of beer and assured him that they would not make his men drunk. They had plenty of it in the brewery. He accepted the offer with thanks and a couple of their men rolled the barrels over and we took them into our trench. The German officer sent one of his men back to the trench, who appeared shortly after carrying a tray with bottles and glasses on it. Officers of both sides clinked glasses and drunk one another's health. Buffalo Bill had presented them with a plum pudding just before. The officers came to an understanding that the unofficial truce would end at midnight. At dusk we went back to our respective trenches.

British and German troops
mingle in No Mans Land
Christmas 1914
. The two barrels of beer were drunk, and the German officer was right: if it was possible for a man to have drunk the two barrels himself he would have bursted before he had got drunk. French beer was rotten stuff.

Just before midnight we all made it up not to commence firing before they did. At night there was always plenty of firing by both sides if there were no working parties or patrols out. Mr Richardson, a young officer who had just joined the Battalion and was now a platoon officer in my company wrote a poem during the night about the Briton and the Bosche meeting in no-man's-land on Christmas Day, which he read out to us. A few days later it was published in The Times or Morning Post, I believe.

During the whole of Boxing Day [the day after Christmas] we never fired a shot, and they the same, each side seemed to be waiting for the other to set the ball a-rolling. One of their men shouted across in English and inquired how we had enjoyed the beer. We shouted back and told him it was very weak but that we were very grateful for it. We were conversing off and on during the whole of the day.

We were relieved that evening at dusk by a battalion of another brigade. We were mighty surprised as we had heard no whisper of any relief during the day. We told the men who relieved us how we had spent the last couple of days with the enemy, and they told us that by what they had been told the whole of the British troops in the line, with one or two exceptions, had mucked in with the enemy. They had only been out of action themselves forty-eight hours after being twenty-eight days in the front-line trenches. They also told us that the French people had heard how we had spent Christmas Day and were saying all manner of nasty things about the British Army."

This eyewitness account appears in Richards, Frank, Old Soldiers Never Die (1933) Keegan, John, The First World War (1999) Simkins, Peter, World War I, the Western Front (1991).

Football and the first world war

The story of the 1914 Christmas Day truce on the western front, when German and Allied troops emerged from their trenches to fraternise and kick footballs about in no-man’s-land, before resuming shelling and shooting at each other the next morning, is one of the most widely known stories of the first world war. It turns the game of football into a symbol of unity and humanity among deadly foes, and stands in stark contrast to the brutal fighting and colossal death toll that were to follow in the next four years – about 8.5m military personnel worldwide perished between 1914 and 1918.

The potency and poignancy of the incident has long been the subject not just of historical research but of popular myth, such as Paul McCartney’s 1983 Christmas hit single and video “Pipes of Peace”, and the Oscar-nominated French film Joyeux Noël (2005). In this centenary of the war it will be commemorated by numerous football matches and the unveiling of a memorial at Britain’s National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The appeal of the legendary truce has, however, overshadowed the full story of football played by British troops throughout the Great War. When the war began, the game was lambasted by both press and politicians as an unpatriotic distraction that aided the enemy. It was also frowned upon by military commanders when played by troops behind the lines.

A November 1914 letter to The Times stated: “We view with indignation and alarm the persistence of Association Football Clubs in doing their best for the enemy.” The newspaper followed this up with an equally damning editorial. Yet, within two years, football, followed by other sports, came to be regarded as an essential part of the war effort, a morale-boosting secret weapon in a war where the mental and physical fitness of troops was crucial in the endless stalemate of trench warfare. By September 1919, The Times published an article praising football’s contribution to the victory, saying that for the armed forces it had done “more than anything else to revive tired limbs and weary minds”.

The history of the relationship between football and the army in the run-up to and during the first world war is something I encountered when I began to research my grandfather’s time in the trenches of France, from July 1916 to September 1918. Before enlisting, at the age of 23 as a private in the 6th Battalion of the North Staffordshire regiment, Harry Morris had been a keen amateur footballer in his home town of Crewe. It is from him that I have inherited a life-long passion for our local football team, Crewe Alexandra. Intrigued by those two most traumatic years of his life, which he had rarely mentioned to the family, I turned first to the National Archives, the home of UK public records and documents in Kew, London, and the 6th Battalion’s war diary. In its pages – a daily record of the battalion’s activities written by its commanding officer – I discovered much of what my grandfather had endured during his years at the front, experiences that scarred him physically and mentally. I also learnt that he would have played and watched a great deal of football during rest and training periods away from the trenches. Applying this history to my knowledge of my grandfather, I know that football would have helped him through those years, as it did for thousands of other troops.

First world war recruitment poster

When Britain declared war on Germany on August 4 1914, professional football was targeted by the government for military recruitment, for lining the terraces were thousands of young males, the country’s fighting material. Men with sandwich boards bearing recruitment posters paraded at grounds, pledge cards to join the army were distributed to supporters, and prominent public figures addressed the crowds at half-time encouraging them to join up. The footballers themselves, the fittest and most athletic of men, were also urged to enlist.

Although 478,893 men joined the army between August 4 and September 12, the politicians were disappointed with this response and they, along with public figures and the press, turned public opinion against the professional game, demanding that clubs cease playing and free their players for armed service. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote: “If a footballer had strength of limb let them serve and march in the field of battle.” Partly as a result of this pressure, the average English Football League attendance in the 1914-15 season fell to 9,980 compared with 16,359 the previous season. The Footballers’ Battalion for professional players was formed in December 1914 as part of the Middlesex Regiment and, in April 1915, the Football League cancelled its national competitions for the duration of the war.

The troops, however, once in France and Belgium, took a markedly different view and began playing impromptu games behind the lines with balls that some had slipped into their kit bags before crossing the Channel. These informal games became increasingly popular, and soon soldiers were writing home asking for more balls and equipment to be sent out.

There was time for sport because soldiers were not continually in the trenches. For Harry and other infantrymen, a familiar pattern was roughly one week at the front alternated with a week’s rest and training, with occasional longer periods of the latter. As JG Fuller, author of Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies 1914-1918 (1991), estimates, about three-fifths of an average infantryman’s service on the western front was spent behind the lines.

The Times said that football had done ‘more than anything else to revive tired limbs and weary minds’

The men filled much of this time with football and boxing but also staged games of rugby and cricket, and held horse races. At first this enthusiasm worried army commanders. General Douglas Haig, commanding officer of the 1st Army Corps and later commander-in-chief of the British army on the western front, complained to General James Jack in July 1915 that men were falling asleep on night sentry duty because “they run about and play football” during the day.

But it was not long before officers came to appreciate the game’s military benefits in “improving fitness, relieving boredom, providing distraction from the horrors of war, and building morale, officer-men relations and esprit de corps”, as Tony Mason and Eliza Riedi write in their 2010 study Sport and the Military: The British Armed Forces 1880-1960. In 1914, sports such as football were not officially part of military life but with the war came change, and sports, with football pre-eminent, �me formally integrated into the military system, both as ‘recreational training’ and an officially sanctioned form of leisure for other ranks”.

Initially, games were played on rough bits of ground around billets and divisional reserves, the camps behind the lines. But as the army command began to see the physical and mental benefits of the game, they commissioned fields from reluctant French farmers. This did little for the entente cordiale. Mason and Riedi tell of one British officer reporting: “We are . . .𠂚pt to have tremendous rows with them on the question of football fields. One old fellow frankly told me . . . that he would really rather have the Germans here than us.”

Another British military team, France, 1917

Early in 1915 on the western front the informal kickabouts progressed to organised league and cup competitions, from platoon to divisional level. Predictably, the Footballers’ Battalion shone, in early 1916 cruising through the 2nd Divisional Cup to trounce the 34th Brigade RFA 11-0 in the final. In When the Whistle Blows (2011), a history of the Footballers’ Battalion by Andrew Riddoch and John Kemp, the battalion’s commanding officer Colonel Henry Fenwick is quoted as saying of his men in battle: “Their esprit de corps was amazing. This feeling was mainly due to football – the link of fellowship which bound them together. Football has a wonderful grip on these men and on the army generally.”

Playing for or supporting one’s platoon, company or battalion team helped bond the men and their officers for the real battles ahead. The matches were also a relief from periods of tedium, and a distraction from the nightmare of combat for those fighting at the front. It was something a soldier could lose himself in and forget, for a time, about the possibility of death and terrible injury in the rat- and lice-infested trenches.

General Charles Harington, a leading army commander in the war, wrote in the 1931 handbook Games and Sports in the Army: “How many times did one see a battalion which had come out of the line in the Ypres Salient and elsewhere, battered to pieces and sad at heart at having lost so many officers and men, hold up its head again and recover in a few hours by kicking a football or punching with the glove? It had a magic effect on morale.”

How many times did one see a battalion recover by kicking a football? It had a magic effect on morale

The general’s view is reinforced by my grandfather’s battalion war diary, with its otherwise unremitting record of combat, injury and death amid artillery, mortar and sniper fire, poison gas attacks and occasional mass charges “over the top”, often in the face of machinegun fire. The battalion usually numbered about 900 men and, from July 1916, when Harry joined, to the end of the war, it suffered 1,359 casualties, including 178 killed, 1,125 wounded and 56 missing.

It is football, together with the odd concert party, that provides a glimmer of relief amid the grimness. Take, for example, the entry for February 25 1917, when the 6th Battalion was at Pommier. Lieutenant Colonel John Douglas, commanding the battalion, wrote only a brief entry but the final two words, in classic English understatement, tell much about the effect of football on his men: “In the Divisional Reserve. Bathing and physical training. Inter-company football matches. Noisy night.”

Football was also a link with home for the soldiers and the lives they had known before the terrifying upheaval. The nicknames they gave their teams often borrowed from or echoed those of British clubs back home. The 6th Battalion team, for example, were known as the 𠇋rewers”, probably as a reference to the Staffordshire brewery town of Burton upon Trent, and on October 5 1917 the battalion’s diary records that they played their first match – against the “Springboks” – in the 46th division’s football league, at Verquin, with the battalion losing 4-2. Later that month they played what amounted to a local derby on a foreign field, when they took on the “Potters”, the name adopted by the team of the 5th Battalion of the North Staffordshires. The “Potters” is the nickname of Stoke City, Staffordshire’s leading club, reflecting the area’s pottery industry. The Potters beat their county rivals 2-1.

The author’s grandfather Harry Morris with his wife Annie in 1950

Football was also scheduled whenever the battalion had a rare chance for some form of celebration. Christmas Day that year was a miserable one for my grandfather and his comrades, spent marching to the front to relieve the 6th South Staffordshires in the trenches at Hulluch. But they returned to the divisional reserve at Noeux-les-Mines in time for New Year’s eve and some belated seasonal festivities. There they were served a Christmas lunch, followed by six-a-side football matches between the battalion’s four companies. The fun was to be curtailed, however. The D Company team had barely had time to celebrate its victory in the tournament when German aeroplanes flew over and dropped bombs on Noeux-les-Mines, sending the troops scurrying for cover.

Among its many legacies, the Great War has had 𠇊n enduring influence” on British military sport, according to Mason and Riedi. To this day, sport remains an integral part of armed forces life, and this lead was followed by the allied French, US and British empire forces. During the interwar years British services sport expanded greatly, and in the second world war provided the same benefits of promoting fitness, boosting morale and bonding fighting men.

As for my grandfather Harry, his war ended when a shell exploded near him at Saint-Quentin, Picardy, in September 1918. A piece of shrapnel was embedded in his lower back, which resulted in him having to wear a medical corset for the rest of his life. The war left a mental mark too. In subsequent years he seemed to keep the bad memories at bay by cramming his life with work – as an accountant and a shop owner – a full social life, and by intensifying his attachment to football.

In the early 1920s, in addition to his accountancy work, he accepted a part-time post as assistant secretary at Crewe Alexandra, which chiefly involved organising the collection of gate money at home games. Harry could have resumed merely supporting his club but I think he needed to get even closer to it. Football had been a joy in his youth, and a consolation during the trauma of war. Now it was another, happy distraction from his demons, and he clung to it, remaining as assistant secretary for nearly 20 years, and a Crewe fan until his death in 1972.

Charles Morris is an FT journalist and is writing a book about his family and football


During the first eight months of World War I, the German attack through Belgium into France had been stopped outside Paris by French and British troops at the First Battle of the Marne in early September 1914. The Germans fell back to the Aisne valley, where they dug in. In the First Battle of the Aisne, the Franco–British attacks were repulsed and both sides began digging trenches to economise on manpower and use the surplus to outflank, to the north, their opponents. In the Race to the Sea, the two sides made reciprocal outflanking manoeuvres and after several weeks, during which the British forces were withdrawn from the Aisne and sent north to Flanders, both sides ran out of room. By November, armies had built continuous lines of trenches running from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. [2]

Before Christmas 1914, there were several peace initiatives. The Open Christmas Letter was a public message for peace addressed "To the Women of Germany and Austria", signed by a group of 101 British women suffragettes at the end of 1914. [3] [4] Pope Benedict XV, on 7 December 1914, had begged for an official truce between the warring governments. [5] He asked "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang", which was refused by both sides. [6] [7]

Fraternisation—peaceful and sometimes friendly interactions between opposing forces—was a regular feature in quiet sectors of the Western Front. In some areas, both sides would refrain from aggressive behaviour, while in other cases it extended to regular conversation or even visits from one trench to another. [8] On the Eastern Front, Fritz Kreisler reported incidents of spontaneous truces and fraternisation between the Austro-Hungarians and Russians in the first few weeks of the war. [9]

Truces between British and German units can be dated to early November 1914, around the time that the war of manoeuvre ended. Rations were brought up to the front line after dusk and soldiers on both sides noted a period of peace while they collected their food. [10] By 1 December, a British soldier could record a friendly visit from a German sergeant one morning "to see how we were getting on". [11] Relations between French and German units were generally more tense but the same phenomenon began to emerge. In early December, a German surgeon recorded a regular half-hourly truce each evening to recover dead soldiers for burial, during which French and German soldiers exchanged newspapers. [12] This behaviour was often challenged by officers Charles de Gaulle wrote on 7 December of the "lamentable" desire of French infantrymen to leave the enemy in peace, while the commander of 10th Army, Victor d'Urbal, wrote of the "unfortunate consequences" when men "become familiar with their neighbours opposite". [12] Other truces could be forced on both sides by bad weather, especially when trench lines flooded and these often lasted after the weather had cleared. [12] [13]

The proximity of trench lines made it easy for soldiers to shout greetings to each other. This may have been the most common method of arranging informal truces in 1914. [14] Men would frequently exchange news or greetings, helped by a common language many German soldiers had lived in England, particularly London, and were familiar with the language and the society. Several British soldiers recorded instances of Germans asking about news from the football leagues, while other conversations could be as banal as discussions of the weather or as plaintive as messages for a sweetheart. [15] One unusual phenomenon that grew in intensity was music in peaceful sectors, it was not uncommon for units to sing in the evenings, sometimes deliberately with an eye towards entertaining or gently taunting their opposite numbers. This shaded gently into more festive activity in early December, Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards wrote that he was planning to organise a concert party for Christmas Day, which would "give the enemy every conceivable form of song in harmony" in response to frequent choruses of Deutschland Über Alles. [16]

Roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in the informal cessations of hostility along the Western Front. [17] The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco, alcohol and souvenirs, such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year's Day in others. [7]

On Christmas Day, Brigadier-General Walter Congreve, commander of the 18th Infantry Brigade, stationed near Neuve Chapelle, wrote a letter recalling the Germans declared a truce for the day. One of his men bravely lifted his head above the parapet and others from both sides walked onto no man's land. Officers and men shook hands and exchanged cigarettes and cigars, one of his captains "smoked a cigar with the best shot in the German army", the latter no more than 18 years old. Congreve admitted he was reluctant to witness the truce for fear of German snipers. [18]

Bruce Bairnsfather, who fought throughout the war, wrote:

I wouldn't have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange. The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck. [19] [20]

Henry Williamson a nineteen-year-old private in the London Rifle Brigade, wrote to his mother on Boxing Day:

Dear Mother, I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o'clock in the morning. Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a 'dug-out' (wet) with straw in it. The ground is sloppy in the actual trench, but frozen elsewhere. In my mouth is a pipe presented by the Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench. Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvellous, isn't it? [21]

Captain Sir Edward Hulse reported how the first interpreter he met from the German lines was from Suffolk and had left his girlfriend and a 3.5 hp motorcycle. Hulse described a sing-song which "ended up with 'Auld lang syne' which we all, English, Scots, Irish, Prussians, Württenbergers, etc, joined in. It was absolutely astounding, and if I had seen it on a cinematograph film I should have sworn that it was faked!" [22]

Captain Robert Miles, King's Shropshire Light Infantry, who was attached to the Royal Irish Rifles recalled in an edited letter that was published in the Daily Mail and the Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News in January 1915, following his death in action on 30 December 1914:

Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting 'Merry Christmas, Englishmen' to us. Of course our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man's land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.

Of the Germans he wrote: "They are distinctly bored with the war. In fact, one of them wanted to know what on earth we were doing here fighting them." The truce in that sector continued into Boxing Day he commented about the Germans, "The beggars simply disregard all our warnings to get down from off their parapet, so things are at a deadlock. We can't shoot them in cold blood. I cannot see how we can get them to return to business." [23]

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (24 and 25 December) 1914, Alfred Anderson's unit of the 1st/5th Battalion of the Black Watch was billeted in a farmhouse away from the front line. In a later interview (2003), Anderson, the last known surviving Scottish veteran of the war, vividly recalled Christmas Day and said:

I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas', even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war. [24]

A German Lieutenant, Johannes Niemann, wrote "grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy". [25]

General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the II Corps, issued orders forbidding friendly communication with the opposing German troops. [17] Adolf Hitler, a corporal of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry, was also an opponent of the truce. [17]

In the Comines sector of the front there was an early fraternization between German and French soldiers in December 1914, during a short truce and there are at least two other testimonials from French soldiers, of similar behaviours in sectors where German and French companies opposed each other. [26] Gervais Morillon wrote to his parents "The Boches waved a white flag and shouted 'Kamarades, Kamarades, rendez-vous'. When we didn't move they came towards us unarmed, led by an officer. Although we are not clean they are disgustingly filthy. I am telling you this but don't speak of it to anyone. We must not mention it even to other soldiers". Gustave Berthier wrote "On Christmas Day the Boches made a sign showing they wished to speak to us. They said they didn't want to shoot. . They were tired of making war, they were married like me, they didn't have any differences with the French but with the English". [27] [28]

On the Yser Front where German and Belgian troops faced each other in December 1914, a truce was arranged at the request of Belgian soldiers who wished to send letters back to their families, over the German-occupied parts of Belgium. [29]

Richard Schirrmann, who was in a German regiment holding a position on the Bernhardstein, one of the Vosges Mountains, wrote an account of events in December 1915, "When the Christmas bells sounded in the villages of the Vosges behind the lines. something fantastically unmilitary occurred. German and French troops spontaneously made peace and ceased hostilities they visited each other through disused trench tunnels, and exchanged wine, cognac and cigarettes for Pumpernickel (Westphalian black bread), biscuits and ham. This suited them so well that they remained good friends even after Christmas was over". He was separated from the French troops by a narrow No Man's Land and described the landscape "Strewn with shattered trees, the ground ploughed up by shellfire, a wilderness of earth, tree-roots and tattered uniforms". Military discipline was soon restored but Schirrmann pondered over the incident and whether "thoughtful young people of all countries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other". He founded the German Youth Hostel Association in 1919. [30]

Football matches Edit

Many accounts of the truce involve one or more football matches played in no-man's land. This was mentioned in some of the earliest reports, with a letter written by a doctor attached to the Rifle Brigade, published in The Times on 1 January 1915, reporting "a football match. played between them and us in front of the trench". [31] Similar stories have been told over the years, often naming units or the score. Some accounts of the game bring in elements of fiction by Robert Graves, a British poet and writer (and an officer on the front at the time) [32] who reconstructed the encounter in a story published in 1962 in Graves's version, the score was 2–1 to the Germans. [31]

The truth of the accounts has been disputed by some historians. In 1984, Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton concluded that there were probably attempts to play organised matches which failed due to the state of the ground, but that the contemporary reports were either hearsay or refer to "kick-about" matches with "made-up footballs" such as a bully-beef tin. [33] Chris Baker, former chairman of The Western Front Association and author of The Truce: The Day the War Stopped, was also sceptical, but says that although there is little evidence, the most likely place that an organised match could have taken place was near the village of Messines: "There are two references to a game being played on the British side, but nothing from the Germans. If somebody one day found a letter from a German soldier who was in that area, then we would have something credible". [34] [35] Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch of the 134th Saxon Infantry Regiment said that the English "brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvellously wonderful, yet how strange it was". [36] In 2011 Mike Dash concluded that "there is plenty of evidence that football was played that Christmas Day—mostly by men of the same nationality but in at least three or four places between troops from the opposing armies". [31]

Many units were reported in contemporary accounts to have taken part in games: Dash listed the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment pitched against "Scottish troops" the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders against unidentified Germans (with the Scots reported to have won 4–1) the Royal Field Artillery against "Prussians and Hanovers" near Ypres and the Lancashire Fusiliers near Le Touquet, with the detail of a bully beef ration tin as the "ball". [31] One recent writer has identified 29 reports of football, though does not give substantive details. [37] Colonel J. E. B. Seely recorded in his diary for Christmas Day that he had been "Invited to football match between Saxons and English on New Year's Day", but this does not appear to have taken place. [38]

Eastern Front Edit

On the Eastern front the first move originated from Austro-Hungarian commanders, at some uncertain level of the military hierarchy. The Russians responded positively and soldiers eventually met in no man's land. [39]

The truces were not reported for a week, an unofficial press embargo broken by The New York Times, published in the neutral United States, on 31 December. [40] [41] [42] The British papers quickly followed, printing numerous first-hand accounts from soldiers in the field, taken from letters home to their families and editorials on "one of the greatest surprises of a surprising war". By 8 January pictures had made their way to the press and the Mirror and Sketch printed front-page photographs of British and German troops mingling and singing between the lines. The tone of the reporting was strongly positive, with the Times endorsing the "lack of malice" felt by both sides and the Mirror regretting that the "absurdity and the tragedy" would begin again. [43] Author Denis Winter argues that "the censor had intervened" to prevent information about the spontaneous ceasefire from reaching the public and that the real dimension of the truce "only really came out when Captain Chudleigh in the Telegraph wrote after the war." [44]

Coverage in Germany was more muted, with some newspapers strongly criticising those who had taken part and no pictures were published. [ citation needed ] In France, press censorship ensured that the only word that spread of the truce came from soldiers at the front or first-hand accounts told by wounded men in hospitals. [45] The press was eventually forced to respond to the growing rumours by reprinting a government notice that fraternising with the enemy constituted treason. In early January an official statement on the truce was published, claiming it was restricted to the British sector of the front and amounted to little more than an exchange of songs which quickly degenerated into shooting. [46]

The press of neutral Italy published a few articles on the events of the truce, usually reporting the articles of the foreign press. [47] On 30 December 1914, Corriere della Sera printed a report about a fraternization between the opposing trenches. [48] The Florentine newspaper La Nazione published a first-hand account about a football match played in the no man's land. [49] In Italy, the lack of interest in the truce probably depended on the occurrence of other events, such as the Italian occupation of Vlorë, the debut of the Garibaldi Legion on the front of the Argonne and the earthquake in Avezzano.

After 1914, sporadic attempts were made at seasonal truces a German unit attempted to leave their trenches under a flag of truce on Easter Sunday 1915 but were warned off by the British opposite them. In November, a Saxon unit briefly fraternised with a Liverpool battalion. In December 1915, there were orders by the Allied commanders to forestall any repeat of the previous Christmas truce. Units were encouraged to mount raids and harass the opposing line, whilst communicating with the enemy was discouraged by artillery barrages along the front line throughout the day a small number of brief truces occurred despite the prohibition. [50] [51]

An account by Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, recorded that after a night of exchanging carols, dawn on Christmas Day saw a "rush of men from both sides. [and] a feverish exchange of souvenirs" before the men were quickly called back by their officers, with offers to hold a ceasefire for the day and to play a football match. It came to nothing, as the brigade commander threatened repercussions for lack of discipline and insisted on a resumption of firing in the afternoon. [52] Another member of Griffith's battalion, Bertie Felstead, later recalled that one man had produced a football, resulting in "a free-for-all there could have been 50 on each side", before they were ordered back. [53] [54] Another unnamed participant reported in a letter home: "The Germans seem to be very nice chaps, and said they were awfully sick of the war." [55] In the evening, according to Robert Keating "The Germans were sending up star lights and singing – they stopped, so we cheered them & we began singing Land of Hope and Glory – Men of Harlech et cetera – we stopped and they cheered us. So we went on till the early hours of the morning". [56]

In an adjacent sector, a short truce to bury the dead between the lines led to repercussions a company commander, Sir Iain Colquhoun of the Scots Guards, was court-martialled for defying standing orders to the contrary. While he was found guilty and reprimanded, the punishment was annulled by General Douglas Haig, and Colquhoun remained in his position the official leniency may perhaps have been because his wife's uncle was H. H. Asquith, the Prime Minister. [57] [58]

In December 1916 and 1917, German overtures to the British for truces were recorded without any success. [59] In some French sectors, singing and an exchange of thrown gifts was occasionally recorded, though these may simply have reflected a seasonal extension of the live-and-let-live approach common in the trenches. [60] At Easter 1915 there were truces between Orthodox troops of opposing sides on the Eastern front. The Bulgarian writer Yordan Yovkov, serving as an officer near the Greek border at the Mesta river, witnessed one. It inspired his short story "Holy Night", translated into English in 2013 by Krastu Banaev. [61]

On 24 May 1915, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and troops of the Ottoman Empire at Gallipoli agreed to a 9-hour truce to retrieve and bury their dead, during which opposing troops "exchang(ed) smiles and cigarettes". [62]

Although the popular tendency has been to see the December 1914 Christmas Truces as unique and of romantic rather than political significance, they have also been interpreted as part of the widespread spirit of non-co-operation with the war. [63] In his book on trench warfare, Tony Ashworth described the 'live and let live system'. Complicated local truces and agreements not to fire at each other were negotiated by men along the front throughout the war. These often began with agreement not to attack each other at tea, meal or washing times. In some places tacit agreements became so common that sections of the front would see few casualties for extended periods of time. This system, Ashworth argues, 'gave soldiers some control over the conditions of their existence'. [64] The December 1914 Christmas Truces then can be seen as not unique, but as the most dramatic example of spirit of non-co-operation with the war that included refusal to fight, unofficial truces, mutinies, strikes, and peace protests.

  • In the 1933 play Petermann schließt Frieden oder Das Gleichnis vom deutschen Opfer (Petermann Makes Peace: or, The Parable of German Sacrifice), written by Nazi writer and World War I veteran Heinz Steguweit [de] , a German soldier, accompanied by Christmas carols sung by his comrades, erects an illuminated Christmas tree between the trenches but is shot dead. Later, when the fellow soldiers find his body, they notice in horror that snipers have shot down every Christmas light from the tree. [65]
  • The 1967 song "Snoopy's Christmas" by the Royal Guardsmen was based on the Christmas truce. Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron), Germany's ace pilot and war hero, initiates the truce with the fictitious Snoopy.
  • The 1969 film Oh! What a Lovely War includes a scene of a Christmas truce with British and German soldiers sharing jokes, alcohol and songs.
  • The video for the 1983 song "Pipes of Peace" by Paul McCartney depicts a fictional version of the Christmas truce. [66] 's 1984 song, "Christmas in the Trenches", tells the story of the 1914 truce through the eyes of a fictional soldier. [67] Performing the song he met German veterans of the truce. [68]
  • The "Goodbyeee" the final episode of the BBC television series Blackadder Goes Forth notes the Christmas truce, with the main character Edmund Blackadder having played in a football match. He is still annoyed at having had a goal disallowed for offside. [69]
  • The song "All Together Now" by Liverpool band The Farm, took its inspiration from the Christmas Day Truce of 1914. The song was re-recorded by The Peace Collective for release in December 2014 to mark the centenary of the event. [70]
  • The 1996 song "It Could Happen Again" by country artist Collin Raye, which tells the story of the Christmas truce, is included on his Christmas album, Christmas: The Gift, with a spoken intro by Johnny Cash giving the history behind the event.
  • The 1997 song "Belleau Wood" by American country music artist Garth Brooks, is a fictional account based on the Christmas truce.
  • The truce is dramatised in the 2005 French film Joyeux Noël (English: Merry Christmas ), depicted through the eyes of French, British and German soldiers. [71] The film, written and directed by Christian Carion, was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, but was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. [72][71]
  • In 2008, the truce was depicted on stage at the Pantages Theater in Minneapolis, in the radio musical drama All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. It was created and directed by Peter Rothstein and co-produced by Theater Latté Da and the vocal ensemble Cantus, Minneapolis-based organisations. It has continued to play at the Pantages Theater each December since its premiere.
  • On 12 November 2011, the opera "Silent Night", commissioned by the Minnesota Opera, had its world premiere at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. With libretto by Mark Campbell, based on the screenplay of the film Joyeux Noel and with music by Kevin Puts, it won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music and has been performed or scheduled for more than 20 productions around the world as of 2018s 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
  • Ahead of the centenary of the truce, English composer Chris Eaton and singer Abby Scott produced the song, "1914 – The Carol of Christmas", to benefit British armed forces charities. At 5 December 2014, it had reached top of the iTunes Christmas chart. [73]
  • In 2014, the Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee, produced material for schools and churches to mark the truces. These included lesson plans, hand-outs, worksheets, PowerPoint slide shows, full plans for assemblies and carol services/Christmas productions. The authors explained that their purpose was both to enable schoolteachers to help children learn about the remarkable events of December 1914, and to use the theme of Christmas to provide a counterpoint to the UK government's glorification of the First World War as heroic. As the Peace Committee argues, "These spontaneous acts of festive goodwill directly contradicted orders from high command, and offered an evocative and hopeful – albeit brief – recognition of shared humanity" and thereby give a rereading of the traditional Christmas message of "on earth peace, good will toward men". [74][75] produced a short film for the 2014 Christmas season as an advertisement re-enacting the events of the Christmas truce, primarily following a young English soldier in the trenches. [76][77]
  • In the Doctor Who 2017 Christmas Special "Twice Upon a Time", the First and Twelfth Doctors become unwittingly involved in the fate of a British captain, who is seemingly destined to die in No Man's Land before he is taken out of time, only for the Twelfth Doctor to bend the rules and return the captain – revealed to be an ancestor of his friend and ally Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – to a point a couple of hours after he was taken out of time. This slight bending of the rules results in the captain being returned to history at the beginning of the truce, allowing the captain to live and request aid for his would-be killer. The Twelfth Doctor muses that such a truce was the only time such a thing happened in history, but it never hurts to ensure that there will be a couple of fewer dead people on a battlefield.

Monuments Edit

A Christmas truce memorial was unveiled in Frelinghien, France, on 11 November 2008. At the spot where their regimental ancestors came out from their trenches to play football on Christmas Day 1914, men from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welch Fusiliers played a football match with the German Battalion 371. The Germans won 2–1. [78] On 12 December 2014, a memorial was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, England by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and the England national football team manager Roy Hodgson. [79] The Football Remembers memorial was designed by a ten-year-old schoolboy, Spencer Turner, after a UK-wide competition. [79]

Annual re-enactments Edit

The Midway Village in Rockford, Illinois has hosted re-enactments of the Christmas Truce. [80]

Bulldogs who chased NFL dreams

The National Football League is reserved for the best of the best. The reality is that many of the names that are called this weekend (April 23-25) as 2020 NFL Draft choices will be those of stars attached to the big name &ldquopower five&rdquo conference schools. But everyone loves a good underdog story. In the history of Concordia University football, more than a handful of standouts have enjoyed at least a cup of coffee at the NFL ranks.

The narratives relayed below detail Bulldog football players who are known to have signed contracts with NFL teams or to have been invited to NFL training camps (no player in program history has ever been drafted). These excerpts were taken from the book, Cultivating Men of Faith and Character: The History of Concordia Nebraska Football. Former Concordia standouts who signed with NFL franchises include Lloyd Holsten (Detroit Lions), Dave Kjergaard (Houston Oilers), Bob Oetting (Los Angeles Rams), Larry Oetting (Minnesota Vikings), Cleve Wester (Detroit Lions) and Clarence Woods (New Orleans Saints).

Woods is the most recent former Bulldog to have signed with an NFL team. He did so in 1989 and appeared in three games that season, according to a 2005 newspaper article published in the New Britain Herald (Connecticut). Holsten is believed to have been the first Concordia player to have inked with the NFL.

What happened in his first ever playing time as a Bulldog really is the stuff of legend. Lloyd Holsten (1961 graduate) lined up right over center and bullied the opposing lineman into a collision with the quarterback. The ball popped loose and Holsten fell on it. Coach Ken Schroeder had believed in Holsten and now Holsten believed in himself. He trotted off the field to the roars of wild approval from the crowd. A star was born. Wrote Schroeder, &ldquoHe no longer was that shy, inhibited, overweight, and unsung individual that would sit in his car between practices because of his feelings of inadequacy. He was &lsquopopular man on campus.&rsquo&rdquo Holsten&rsquos personality took off. He became known as someone both friendly and funny.

Holsten played two seasons for Schroeder and another two for Concordia&rsquos next head coach, Ralph Starenko, while putting together a career that had once seemed completely unfathomable. Holsten, a future Lutheran high school teacher, was invited to Detroit Lions training camp following graduation after also receiving interest from the Baltimore Colts and Chicago Bears. He was the first known Concordia football player to sign a professional contract. Holsten&rsquos shocking improvement affected Schroeder to the point that the former head coach detailed the story for the bulk of a seven-page handwritten letter of his fondest memories of his four-year run at Concordia.

Dave Kjergaard, a defensive end and member of the conference championship 1981 football team, also got a look from the NFL as a member of the Houston Oilers. The contracts then were not nearly as lucrative as they are now. Kjergaard received a signing bonus of around $2,000. But the native of Covington, Oklahoma, did not find the pro atmosphere to his liking. The son of a pastor, Kjergaard didn&rsquot much care for the expletive-laced language common among NFL coaches and players. He was described as a brilliant and humble man.

With offers from a number of NFL teams, Bob Oetting (1964 graduate) chose the Los Angeles Rams in search of an adventure that also supplied a great honeymoon destination for him and his wife Carol. &ldquoI didn&rsquot know too much about what to expect, but I couldn&rsquot wait to get out there,&rdquo Bob said. A long preseason summer camp was highlighted by an exhibition game at the Coliseum that drew more than 100,000 fans, providing a unique experience for the small town boy. Bob got playing time as a reserve for the &ldquoFearsome Foursome&rdquo defensive line of Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones. Yet Bob confidently believes he would have earned a starting role if not for a series of injuries. He scoffed at the notion that he may have been intimidated and overwhelmed by the competition. Football is football, he would say.

According to his recollection, Bob underwent at least six knee surgeries, two shoulder surgeries and a spinal fusion operation in addition to experiencing numerous concussions. Those injuries forced Bob out of the picture in Los Angeles. Every time he had seemingly fully recovered, injuries would flare back up. After two years as a Ram, Bob wasn&rsquot ready to give up football. He moved on to the Canadian Football League and became a starting offensive tackle for a team located in Vancouver. Of course, another knee injury followed. Football took him to Toronto and then Montreal. Even after two serious knee injuries, Bob was about to get another shot at the NFL. The St. Louis Cardinals (a member of the NFL from 1960-1987 before moving to Arizona) came calling with a lucrative offer. Unfortunately, Bob failed his physical. &ldquoI didn&rsquot like it. I thought I could have played, but the surgeries slow you up. I had lost quite a bit of speed. It was probably a wonderful blessing.&rdquo

Next in line was Larry Oetting, who was given the opportunity to try out with either the Denver Broncos or Minnesota Vikings and decided on the Vikings. Though he had a &ldquogood tryout,&rdquo Larry did not make the Viking roster. Prior to playing at Concordia Teachers College, Larry led Concordia High School to a 1957 Nebraska Class C state title. In the championship game, the Blue Raiders defeated David City St. Mary&rsquos, 32-13, in a contest played in Seward on November 7. In a commemorative book put together by the championship winning coach Warren N. Wilbert, Larry&rsquos teammate and roommate John Boll wrote the following about Larry: &ldquoLittle did I know that Larry Oetting would grow up to be the outstanding tackle in a great lineup of four Oettings in the Concordia Hall of Fame. He would have been best man in our wedding, except that he was in the Minnesota Vikings&rsquo training camp that day. My new bride wasn&rsquot overly thrilled that we had to stop to see him that day after our wedding, but I reminded her that Larry and I were roommates for six years.&rdquo Sometimes referred to as &ldquoMeat,&rdquo Larry commanded the respect of all by the way he carried himself. Coach Wilbert wrote that Larry &ldquonot only played eye-popping offensive and defensive ball all season long, but was among the seniors who gave our team strong leadership.&rdquo Though not a skill position player, Larry actually scored his only career touchdown in the state title game.

While at Concordia, Larry heavily immersed himself within the fabric of the school. He busied himself with a total of 11 campus activities. He was president of both the letterman&rsquos club and the senior class and a member of the student senate. He maintained a B+ average despite his intense schedule. The 6-2, 240-pound tackle earned two all-conference honors and was named a 1961 Little All-American. And he could hit like a truck. Larry Noack&rsquos first encounter with Larry Oetting ended in pain during a drill called &ldquobull in the ring.&rdquo Playing the part of the bull, circled by teammates, Larry Oetting spun around twice and then charged at Noack, who said he literally saw stars after receiving the blow. Said Coach Ralph Starenko in 1961, &ldquoOetting is the best lineman I&rsquove ever coached. He is big, tough, exceptionally fast for his size, and a sharp, hard blocker, tackler, and a tremendous leader on and off campus.&rdquo

Former head coach Larry Oetting oversaw two of the top running backs in Concordia history in Jeff Towns (St. Louis, Missouri) and Cleve Wester (Boynton, Florida). Towns piled up 1,930 yards over his two seasons as a Bulldog in 1978-79 before transferring to Kansas State. On the other hand, Wester stayed at Concordia all four years and stands today as the most prolific ball carrier in program history with 3,658 career rushing yards. Wester received induction into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. Courtney Meyer made the first recruiting contact with Wester, who was versatile enough to return punts and then gash defenses in the run game despite the lack of a dominant offensive line. Wester was noted for having a great attitude and determination. &ldquoHe was not big,&rdquo said offensive lineman Dan Oetting, who served as a key blocker for some of Wester&rsquos most productive seasons. &ldquoI&rsquom sure that&rsquos why he perhaps did not get considered at a DI school. He was incredibly fast and a fun guy. He got really mad at me because I lost weight before my sophomore year. He told me he was mad because he wanted his linemen as big as they could be.&rdquo

Wester appeared in the National Football League in 1987 when the players association went on strike. At 23 years of age, the 5-foot-8 Wester filled the void for the Detroit Lions. Over three games, Wester carried the ball 33 times for 114 yards. His NFL career quickly came to a close when the strike ended following week six of the regular season.

There haven&rsquot been many athletes in Concordia&rsquos history capable of standing up to Clarence Woods. &ldquoHe just looked like an NFL receiver,&rdquo said teammate Scott Seevers. &ldquoWe didn&rsquot have a lot of weapons in those days but those were two (Woods and quarterback Phil Seevers) pretty good weapons.&rdquo NFL scouts even made their way out to Seward to have a look at Woods, who began his career at Concordia, transferred to NCAA Division I University of Arkansas, and then returned to Concordia. Forced to sit out upon his reemergence at Concordia, Woods played on the scout team and tore apart the Bulldog secondary.

Woods, who grew up playing football on the streets of the St. Louis suburb Normandy, was a quarterback&rsquos dream, especially for the NAIA level. After consistently burning opposing defensive backfields, Woods even signed an undrafted free agent contract with the NFL&rsquos New Orleans Saints. He saw action in four preseason and three regular-season games in 1989 (according to a news story), then moved on to leagues in Canada and Europe before a stint with the Western Massachusetts Blitzing Bears. He held on to his football playing career until 2005 prior to joining the New Britain Board of Education in Connecticut. He never forgot about his time at Concordia. A 2005 news story from the New Britain Herald quoted Woods, who said, &ldquoEveryone around me was saying hello. I wasn&rsquot used to that. Everyone was so friendly. I mean, I lived in a suburb outside of St. Louis &ndash this wasn&rsquot Nebraska. It was a different place with a small-town atmosphere.&rdquo It was at Concordia where Woods blossomed as an athlete. He had stood just 5-1 and weighed only 100 pounds when he entered Lutheran North High School. He grew to 6-2, 215 by the time he wore Bulldog blue. Once at Concordia, Woods convinced Concordia coaches to play him at receiver instead of defensive back. Said Dana head coach Leo McKillip in 1988, &ldquoClarence Woods is probably the best single individual in the conference. He can kill you as a pass receiver, runner, punt returner and kick returner. He&rsquos going to be a problem.&rdquo

Wisconsin Canceled 1906 Football Rivalry with Minnesota, Not Roosevelt

The Minnesota vs Wisconsin football rivalry has gone unimpeded since 1907 but the two schools have played football against each other since 1890. So what happened?

Well, the 1906 border battle was canceled because of how violent the game of football was becoming and the dirty money that was already infiltrating it, behind the scenes.

Common knowledge says President Teddy Roosevelt called for the one-year hiatus but, after some research, I’ve found that history tells a different story…

UW mob marches to save football on campus

It’s just after 9:30 PM on March 27, 1906. A small student mob, “brandishing shotguns and revolvers”, is quickly growing in Mendota Court at the University of Wisconsin. They’re chanting “DEATH TO FACULTY!”.

The angry crowd is getting ready for a march they hope will save football on campus, which is currently under siege across the country, but especially so at UW.

American Football at a crossroads in 1905

The game of american football was much different in 1905 than what we see today, or even what it became over the next decade. Football back then looked a lot more like Rugby. Teams only needed 5-yards (instead of 10) to gain a 𔄙st-down” and were only allowed 3-downs (instead of 4) to get those 5-yards. Oh, and no forward passes were allowed…

Offenses usually moved the ball by bunching 10 blockers around one ball-carrier in a V-type formation, as they tried to smash their way (without pads) for 5-yards in 3-downs. It was a bloody disaster and quickly became way more dangerous than its English cousin (rugby).

In 1905 alone, 19 deaths were recorded on college football fields in the United States. Some universities had already dropped the brutal sport or switched to rugby, including Duke, Stanford, Cal, Northwestern and Columbia. When Harvard’s President, Charles Eliot, threatened to be the next domino to fall, even football’s biggest proponents were worried about the sport’s future.

Popular but polarizing…

All of this uncertainty surround football collided with a massive BOOM in the sport’s popularity. By 1905, universities were already using the money they made from football, to prop up other collegiate sports on campus. Schools were starting to spend big money on football coaches and (sometimes) players too. The sport was so dangerous (and dirty behind the scenes) however, that state legislatures were starting to get involved.

New vs Old

The calls for reform or cancellation of American Football sparked it’s most important supporter, President Teddy Roosevelt, to get involved. Roosevelt was a Harvard grad and loved the relatively new game of American football. The last thing he wanted to see was the end of his favorite sport before it even got off the ground. Everything you are about to read that involves Harvard, Teddy had a hand in (behind the scenes).

As the calendar turned from 1905 to 1906. A line was drawn in the sand between those in football who were willing to make radical changes and those in the sport who weren’t. Those schools who were willing to make radical changes, created their own rules committee, separate from what was already established. So now, there were two college football rules committees.

The old football rules committee wasn’t keen to the type of radical changes that most felt the game needed, if it was going to survive. Under the old committee, Walter Camp (known as the father of american football) had ultimate power over any changes… and he didn’t like change.

Camp’s stubbornness was becoming a major point of conflict and it was frustrating everyone involved.

Old vs New CFB rules committees — Information via the New York Times (Jan, 1906)
Old CFBCommittee Rep New CFBCommittee Rep
YaleWalter Camp HaverfordDr. James A. Babbitt
NavyDr. Paul J. Dashiel OberlinProf. C.W. Savage
PennJohn C. Bell ArmyLieut. Charles D. Daly
CornellProf. L.M. Dennis DartmouthF.K. Hall
PrincetonProf. J.B. Fine TexasF. Homer Curtis
HarvardDr. William T. Reid
ChicagoDr. Alonzo A. Stagg
(Not Present)
MinnesotaDr. Harry L. Williams
(Not Present)
NebraskaProf. James T. Lees
(Not Present)
New York Times (Jan – 1906)

Trying to come together..

Roosevelt helped broker a meeting between the two committees and the date was set for the evening of January 12, at the Hotel Netherland in New York City. The future of american football would be on the line.

But the day before the meeting took place, Dr William T Reid (Harvard) sent swapped sides (thanks to some help from Roosevelt behind the scenes), which changed everything. Walter Camp was forced to bend to many wishes of the new committee or lose out on having any say at all.

The birth of the “NCAA”… kind of.

The new body received the advantage by the defection of Harvard from the old committee. Dr. William T. Reid Jr., representing Harvard, telegraphed on Thursday each individual member of the old committee, announcing Harvard’s intention to withdraw.

He also telegraphed Dr. Babbitt (acting Chairman of new committee) that he had been instructed to represent Harvard in the new committee. In following this purpose he appeared at the Murray Hill Hotel and sent his card to the committee in conference there, but he remained in the corridor of the hotel until after the invitation of the old committee to meet with it had been received by the new.

New York Times (1/13/1906 — Pg 7)

When the [new] conference committee appeared on the scene, Dr. Reid with them, the members went at once to the committee room, remained closeted for fifteen minutes, then withdrawing, each to consider the propositions exchanged.

Messengers were sent from one to the other committee rooms with inquiries from time to time. John C. Bell representing the old committee in such exchanges of views and Prof. Savage the new. At midnight, an agreement was finally reached and the new committee joined the old and the election of officials followed.

New York Times (1/13/1906 — Pg 7)

One unified collegiate governing body

By the morning of January 13, ONE new rules committee “American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee” (which would eventually become the NCAA, as mentioned above) formed.

The new unified rules committee dug in right away and they started kicking out changes that would transform the game of american football as we knew it.

  • We got the “line of scrimmage” (neutral zone)
  • Games were reduced from 70 minutes to 60 (two 30-minute halves).
  • Instead of needing 5 yards to gain additional downs, 10 yards became the standard.
  • “Hurdling” was penalized.
  • The forward pass was also legalized (though incompletions were penalized).

The mainstream media world credits Teddy Roosevelt for saving football back in 1906 and his contributions to creating the NCAA certainly can’t be understated.

Saving football isn’t all Roosevelt is credited for, from 1906. Legend says Roosevelt also ordered the cancellation of Minnesota vs Wisconsin that season, in another effort to stem the violence that surrounded rivalry games in college football at the time. But… this part of Roosevelt’s legend seems to be all fable.

Since the series debuted in 1890, the Wisconsin vs Minnesota rivalry has been cancelled just twice. 1906 stood as the only time for over 110 years, until 2020 (thanks COVID). But if it wasn’t Roosevelt’s doing, like legend says, then how did that game in 1906 get canceled?

March 27, 1906: Back to the UW mob…

500 students have now joined the angry mob of protestors on the UW campus. They are heading down Francis Street, toward the Mendota Lake house of famed historian and Wisconsin native, Frederick Jackson Turner, who’s leading the faculty charge to rid the campus of football. The crowd continues to chant, “DEATH TO FACULTY!”, as they march.

The new rules committee that was formed in New York three months before, along with the sweeping rule changes enacted for the 1906 season, weren’t enough to convince Turner and other professors on the UW campus, that football was going to be any safer going forward.

Faculty at Wisconsin were well-aware of the problems stemming from football on the field, but their biggest concerns went beyond serious injuries. The “dirty money” coming in from this new sport made many faculty members nervous, especially when it was used to float other sports.

Here’s how the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal read on March 28, 1906.

Football will be abolished at the University of Wisconsin if the recommendation of the faculty committee read before a joint meeting of the faculty and students Thursday is adopted by the general faculty meeting on the return of President Van Hise from the Pacific coast on April 1.

Track athletics, crew work and baseball will not be abolished but they must be self-supporting. The crew must be supported by subscription

Two distinct recommendations were read by Dean Birge. The first was that the western conference rules be adopted and the second was that no football games be scheduled for next fall. It is said that Dean Birge and other members of the faculty who have championed the cause of football up to the present time have been led astray by other members of the faculty who have determined that the game must go.

This action on football is not final but it is felt that the faculty will adopt the resolutions of the committee.

Wisconsin State Journal (3/28/1906 – Pg 1)

Brink of elimination

By the end of March 1906, football was clearly on the brink of being eliminated at the University of Wisconsin, but many students and faculty on campus weren’t happy about it.

On April 4, 1906 nearly every UW student and most faculty members on campus signed a petition in a last-ditch effort to save football… and it worked. On April 6, 1906, the University of Wisconsin made a decision.

The school would work with its rivals to cancel all of its “championship (rivalry) games”, for the 1906 season. That included games against Michigan, Chicago and Minnesota. If those contracts could not be voided, then the University of Wisconsin was ready to cease all football activities. If Michigan, Chicago and Minnesota complied… the Wisconsin football season would be saved, but wouldn’t include rivalry games.

Here’s the “bulletin” given by the University of Wisconsin, to all major newspapers around the midwest, when it announced plans to abandon its football rivalry games in 1906.

I found the bulletin posted in the April 7, 1906 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the April 6, 1906 editions of the Minneapolis Journal and Wisconsin State Journal.

“The faculty of the University of Wisconsin decided to negotiate with the universities of Chicago, Michigan and Minnesota with a view to the suspension for next year of intercollegiate football between the University of Wisconsin and three institutions.

“If such suspension cannot be accomplished, it was decided that no intercollegiate football be played by the University of Wisconsin next year.

“This action of the faculty was taken with a view of eliminating the evils due to the disproportionate emphasis upon athletics, and especially upon football, as an element in university life to free athletics from the corruption which had appeared in football.

“In view of the fact that the most pronounced excesses and the greatest temptations to professionalism in athletics in the University of Wisconsin has appeared in connection with the hotly-contested championship games, it was determined to observe the effect of such a partial suspension for one year

“This plan will necessitate the abrogation of certain existing contracts with Minnesota and Michigan, but no doubt is entertained that these universities will be glad to co-operate with the University of Wisconsin in the experiment.

“The faculty also votes that all coaching football, baseball and track athletics shall be done only by members of the faculty engaged for the entire year.”

University of Wisconsin Bulletin (April 5, 1906)

So that was it… the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota agreed to let Wisconsin out of its football rivalries in 1906, but all three teams still played 5 games that season.

Minnesota and Michigan both finished 4-1. Minnesota lost to Carlisle College and the Wolverines lost their last game of that season, to Penn. Wisconsin went 5-0, beating the other three Western Conference teams on their schedule (Iowa, Illinois, Purdue), in addition to two non-major opponents (Lawrence, North Dakota).

Football Abolitionist Movement of 1909

The football abolitionists made one last attempt at removing the game from the American conscience in 1909, after a run of serious injuries made the average American cringe again. A Navy Quarterback named Edwin Wilson was paralyzed in a game vs Villanova. He would eventually die. Later that season, an Army tackle named Eugene Byrd died from injuries he suffered in a game vs Harvard. Then, a University of Virginia halfback (Archer Christian) died from a brain hemorrhage he suffered vs Georgetown a month later.

But the abolitionist movement failed again. Instead, a new batch of safety rules were adopted, and over the next decade, the game evolved into something that looks a lot more like the game we see today.

From 1909 to 1918, we saw the following rules enacted:

  • Only 1 man allowed to go in motion before the ball is snapped.
  • No pushing or pulling allowed on the ball-carrier, by teammates.
  • Creation of 𔄜th down” (1912)
  • Implementation of “Roughing the Passer” (1914)
  • Finally, the rules around forward passes were relaxed (1918)
  • 6 points for a touchdown (instead of 5) and 3 points for field goals (instead of 4)
  • The field shrunk to 100 yards (down from 110).
  • “End zones” were added to the end of each side of the field (instead of just goal-lines).

So the next time someone blames Teddy Roosevelt for cancelling one of two Wisconsin vs Minnesota football games over the last 150 years, you remind them that the Badgers actually pussed out in 1906… and they shouldn’t blame a dead president for their own past fears.


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