Friday, 19 December 2014

Festive Fridays - Christmas Truce

This week Jo Vietzke writes about a school event with a bit of a difference.

Smoke on 'No-man's Land', Seaham College of Technology
Smoke on 'No-man's Land', Seaham College of Technology

It isn’t every day that you are invited to see a trench.

Not satisfied with reading about the First World War in their history lessons Seaham College of Technology decided to get more hands on.  They dug, sand bagged and barbed-wired (the Head assured me that it was harmless plastic but it looked pretty vicious) a 12m-long section of trench.  Over the last few months it has been a fantastic learning resource for schools across the county who have come to get a flavour of life at the Front.

On 10th December the Seaham trench was used as the backdrop for the re-enactment of one of the most arresting moments of the First World War.  At 11am the Seaham Choir sang the German Christmas Carol “Oh Tannenbaum” and a group of chilly but enthusiastic students scrambled up the trench ladders and onto their “No-Mans Land”.   As well as the students from Seaham, a group of students from County Durham’s partner county in Germany, Kreis Wesel, came over especially to join in the commemorations.

The “teams” were kitted out thanks to Beamish Museum who supplied period football shirts and a proper leather football with hand-stitching.  The game itself may have lacked strategic coherence but that was probably in keeping with the historic match!
The photographs here provide evidence of the media interest of the event and students kept getting whisked away from the preparations to be interviewed (after a little media-coaching from International Officer, Brian Stobie). 
English and German pupils in football kit exchange gifts
English and German pupils in football kit exchange gifts

As the groups of kids shook hands and exchanged gifts in front of the cameras, it was hard not to be moved.  It may have been that a bit of snow happened, coincidentally, to get in my eye at that point. The enduring fascination of the Christmas Truce Football match, representing a moment of peace and shared humanity during the horrors of war, is something truly to be celebrated.

Happy Christmas to one and all!

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