A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at the unveiling of the Football Remembers memorial
Football, then as now, had the power to bring people together and break down barriers.
Thank you Greg. Good morning ladies and gentlemen, Minister.
As President of The Football Association and Patron of the National Memorial Arboretum Appeal, I am delighted to be here today, and to welcome you all to the unveiling of this magnificent new Christmas Truce memorial. It really is the most fitting culmination of the Football Remembers programme, and will serve as a permanent reminder of one of the key moments of the First World War.
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.
In getting to this point 100 years on, I must pay tribute to the British Council for their work in creating a superb education resource which went out to more than 30,000 schools across the country.
The FA, the Premier League and Football League then used this as inspiration to put together a fantastic series of activities to bring the events of the 25th of December 1914 to life.
This week, teams at every level of the game have been coming together before matches to unite for mixed team photos evoking the spirit of the Christmas Truce. This weekend, young footballers from the nations who fought against each other in 1914 will come together in Ypres to compete in the Premier League Christmas Truce International Tournament. Next Wednesday, the British Army will take on the German Army in a special football match, which promises to be truly poignant as serving soldiers repeat this remarkable occasion 100 years on.
Yet for all the undoubted power of these activities, it was felt - this year - that the Christmas Truce also story needed a permanent focal point: a place for people to pay their respects. So, to today’s ceremony and the creation of a lasting monument here at the National Memorial Arboretum.
I was personally delighted to join Theo Walcott in judging a design competition involving schools from across the country. 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. I know his family, friends, teachers and class-mates joining us today are extremely proud.
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. I would now like to invite Spencer to join me for the dedication.
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