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Christmas truce that silenced the WWI guns and led to kickabout in No Man's Land inspires charity football match

By Adrian Rutherford

It was a moment of peace and humanity amid the horror of war along the Western Front. Now more than a century later the Christmas truce of 1914 that silenced the guns of the First World War will be remembered.

A charity football match, organised by the Royal British Legion and Ancre Somme Association, will be staged at Mourneview Park, the home of Glenavon FC, on Friday night.

The game between a Northern Ireland Veterans XI and a team representing the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment will re-enact the historic occasion on Christmas Day 1914 when British and German troops staged an impromptu football match in No Man's Land.

A series of Irish League football legends have come on board. They include ex-Glenavon players Geoff Ferris (right), Stephen McBride, Raymond McCoy and Terry Nicholson.

Lexi Davidson, from the Ancre Somme Association, who is one of the organisers, said: "We wanted to do something for the Poppy Appeal and the Somme commemoration this year was still in the back of our mind.

"It was only going to be a small match between members of the Royal British Legion and members of our own association, but as we started to make plans it just grew and grew. Everyone wanted to be involved."

About 17 million soldiers and civilians worldwide were killed between 1914 and 1918. A further 20m were wounded.

Mr Davidson added: "A lot of footballers went to fight, and I think 15 from Glenavon alone died.

"We just thought it was a great way to tie in Christmas and the Great War and raise money for the Poppy Appeal."

Before the game the Christmas truce will be re-enacted by the local Somme Association, while pupils from Lurgan College will sing Silent Night in its original German.

Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer said the club was honoured to be staging the game.

"The events of that Christmas Day all those years ago is a powerful reminder that even in the most appalling of circumstances football can bring people together," he said.

"For a few brief hours on that Christmas afternoon what united the soldiers was more important than what divided them."

The Christmas truce remains a famous moment of the Great War. As Christmas Day dawned on the Western Front, British and German soldiers put down their rifles, climbed out of their trenches and met in No Man's Land, the narrow strip of land between their lines.

They chatted, exchanged gifts, took photographs and even kicked a football around.

In 2014 the truce was re-enacted for a Sainsbury Christmas TV advertisement.

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