IT is one of the Great War’s most poignant moments – a heart-warming festive truce in which weary soldiers from opposite sides laid down their weapons, shook hands and enjoyed a game of football.
Now a city tour company is set to recreate the First World War’s celebrated Christmas Day kickabout on No Man’s Land – exactly 100 years to the day since it took place.
More than 180 people will set off from the Capital today to re-enact the historic game in the muddy trenches of Belgium, as part of a four-day commemorative festival organised by the director of Mercat International Tours, Des Brogan. History enthusiasts from as far afield as the United States have flocked to sign up to the “once in a lifetime” centenary event – the first of its kind to be staged on the battleground where thousands lost their lives.
As well as the special football match, attendees will sing carols – including a haunting rendition of Silent Night in the frozen wastes of No Man’s Land on Christmas Eve – and take part in a concert in Ypres to raise money for Poppyscotland.
Former teacher Mr Brogan said he was moved to stage the event after seeing the effect learning about the war had on children.
And he insisted the trip would instil humility and offer a “very powerful” way to mark 100 years since the conflict.
He said: “It’s a mixture of generations who have signed up. We have young families going, and we’ve got people coming from America, and people from all over Britain.
“Some of them had relatives who were in the First World War – and who, if not part of the football game, were at least there for it.
“The First World War was the end of innocence. Youngsters joined up with huge enthusiasm thinking it would be over by Christmas, and they went into a mechanised war.”
The legendary Christmas truce saw soldiers on both sides of the Western Front lay down their guns and reclaim their dead – with some even holding an unofficial ceasefire.
Men from trenches met on No Man’s Land and enjoyed a game of football in an act of touching solidarity, before the battle raged on just days later.
The Mercat tour will recreate this poignant moment, with the Edinburgh team pitched against Belgians at the exact moment the match is said to have happened 100 years ago.
Ian McGregor, chief executive of Poppyscotland, said: “The 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War has provoked strong emotions across the country and we would like to commend Mercat Tours for giving the public the opportunity to mark such a poignant event.”
Last month, it was revealed the ball used in the match 100 years ago may have been sent by Evening News readers.