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Kent soldiers remembered at service in Comines-Warneton in Belgium as Uefa president Michel Platini unveils new memorial


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When soldiers entrenched around the small Belgian town of Comines-Warneton went over the top on Christmas Day 1914, it was to prove one of the most famous encounters of the First World War.

It was no attack ploughing through the mud towards the German lines, however. With it came a banner of peace and symbol of humanity amongst the carnage of war - culminating in a game of football.

Kent soldiers were stationed in the area around the Ploegsteert Woods, known among Tommies as Plugstreet, and were among the men who clambered out of their trenches to cross No Man’s Land and meet with their German counterparts.

A new memorial to the Christmas Truce football match in Comines-Warneton including an old-fashioned ball on top of a German shell dug out of the ground
A new memorial to the Christmas Truce football match in Comines-Warneton including an old-fashioned ball on top of a German shell dug out of the ground


Carols drifted over the lines from both sides and an impromptu game of football kicked off.

The Buffs, the East Kent Regiment, were on the frontline in Plugstreet on Christmas 1914 having been involved in a number of engagements in the early months of the war before stalemate and trench warfare set in. While the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment were stationed in reserve around Plugstreet.

Last Thursday, a brand new memorial to the men who experienced a small part of that peace was unveiled by Uefa president and French football legend Michel Platini.

Uefa president Michel Platini with Mayor of Comines-Warneton, Gilbert Deleu unveiling the new memorial to honour the Truce
Uefa president Michel Platini with Mayor of Comines-Warneton, Gilbert Deleu unveiling the new memorial to honour the Truce

Mr Platini said: “We are gathered here as one to mark that moment of brotherhood and friendship which reassures us of our shared humanity. I find it particularly moving to imagine those young men 100 years ago finding a common language in football to express their shared brotherhood.”

And Kent links are at the very core of this story of humanity, brotherhood and peace in the unimaginable conditions of freezing ground, snow laden and sodden trenches.

The graves of two young Buffs, Privates Edward James Williams and V.G Le Feaver killed on the same day served in the area the Truce happened
The graves of two young Buffs, Privates Edward James Williams and V.G Le Feaver killed on the same day served in the area the Truce happened

The officer who instigated the Christmas Truce left for France from the gates of Shorncliffe in Folkestone.

Captain Robert Hamilton, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was based in Folkestone before being mobilised to France and departing the Shorncliffe base to cross the channel from Southampton in August 1914 landing at St Nazaire.

His war diaries document the moment soldiers entered No Man’s Land brandishing cigarettes in their helmets, exchanging buttons and sharing photographs.

His grandchildren were the guests of honour of Folkestone charity the Shorncliffe Trust, at the commemorations in Belgium.

Shorncliffe Trust chairman Chris Shaw (left) with Capt Hamilton's grandchildren Andrew and Eppie
Shorncliffe Trust chairman Chris Shaw (left) with Capt Hamilton's grandchildren Andrew and Eppie

FA chairman Greg Dyke and Scottish FA chairman Campbell Ogilvie attended the commemorations and gave their support to the Trust’s bid to gain a Christmas number one with the release of The Farm’s All Together Now.

The Trust is looking to build a brand new heritage and education centre at Shorncliffe to tell the story of Kent and Folkestone’s involvement in the war.

Chairman Chris Shaw, who laid a wreath, said he was very “pleased and moved” to have been involved in the day and the day was a culmination of three years’ work to bring Capt Hamilton’s grandchildren Andrew and Eppie back to where he served after leaving Folkestone.

He added: “It’s great we’re leaving a legacy about the Truce and remember those that lived and those that didn’t come back. I’m pleased Shorncliffe can play its part in the story as it did 100 years ago.”

Read more about the service in this week's Folkestone & Hythe Express.

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