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Memorial remembers Christmas Truce


Football offered a rare moment of enjoyment to First World War soldiers

Football offered a rare moment of enjoyment to First World War soldiers

Football offered a rare moment of enjoyment to First World War soldiers

A memorial dedicated to the soldiers who took part in the 1914 Christmas Truce has been jointly unveiled by its 10-year-old designer and the Duke of Cambridge.

Newcastle schoolboy Spencer Turner, who won a national competition to design the tribute, was praised by the Duke for "capturing the very essence" of the troops who left their trenches to play football during the First World War.

The bronze memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire depicts a "skeletal" image of a leather football encasing a handshake between a German soldier and a member of an English regiment in no man's land.

Addressing a memorial service attended by Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and England boss Roy Hodgson, William described the work of remembrance as "stunning".

He said: "We all grew up with the story of soldiers from both sides putting down their arms to meet in no man's land on Christmas Day 1914 - when gunfire remarkably gave way to gifts.

"It remains wholly relevant today as a message of hope and humanity, even in the bleakest of times.

"Football, then as now, had the power to bring people together and break down barriers."

The Duke, president of the FA since 2006, said he had been personally delighted to join Arsenal star Theo Walcott in judging the designs for the creation of a permanent and lasting monument to the truce.

William added: "We were both impressed with the creativity and thought put in by so many talented young people.

"Ultimately, though, we were left with a stand-out winner.

"Spencer Turner, from Farne Primary in Newcastle, captured the very essence of the Christmas Truce with his stunning design.

"It is vital that 100 years on, we keep the Christmas Truce story alive - that moment captured so beautifully by Spencer when hands that had held weapons came together in peaceful greeting.

"For future generations, this memorial will help ensure that not just football, but also a nation, remembers."

Spencer, a keen Newcastle United supporter, helped the Duke to unveil an inscription on the memorial and sat beside England boss Hodgson during the service.

Speaking after the ceremony, the schoolboy praised sculptor Georgie Welch for her "really accurate" bronze of his design.

Spencer, who helped to carve the year 1914 on the stone memorial last month, said: "It was just an amazing experience and I will always remember the day.

"To think that the Prince has chosen my design over the rest, I am really proud of myself."

Spencer's headteacher, his parents and several other members of his family, including his eight-year-old brother Frazer and sister Maisie, two, were also present at the service.

His mother Stacey Bird admitted to feeling "choked" as Spencer joined William to jointly unveil his work.

She told the Press Association: "Just to see the Prince talking to my son, I was just choked.

"I don't think that image will ever leave me. It was an amazing service and I am immensely proud."

Spencer's mother said he set his heart on winning the competition because of his passion for art, history and football, and the fact his great-great grandfather and great- great uncle both died in the First World War.

The 31-year-old, from Westerhope, Newcastle, added: "Seeing Spencer's work come to life and people recognising his talent is every mother's dream.

"It also means a lot that the memorial is British-made. It honours those who fought and it's going to stay there forever."

The memorial project involved the Premier League, the FA and the British Council as part of the Football Remembers initiative.

Virginia Crompton, of the British Council, also praised Spencer's winning entry, saying: "What Spencer has done is to take the old-style football and make that into a kind of skeleton.

"In the middle there are two hands in a very muscular hand-shake and when you look at it, he has brilliantly brought together the story of the truce and football."

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