North Luffenham school’s memorial to Christmas truce up for award

St Mary and St John School's entry which has been shortlisted for the ''Football Remembers' exhibition at the National Memorial Arboretum EMN-140813-172619001
St Mary and St John School's entry which has been shortlisted for the ''Football Remembers' exhibition at the National Memorial Arboretum EMN-140813-172619001
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Primary pupils’ poignant model to mark the German and Allied soldiers’ Christmas truce during the Great War has propelled a school’s entry into the shortlist of a national competition.

St Mary and St John Primary School’s entry shows a plinth on a clay base balancing a plastic ball. Inside it are the figures of a German and British Soldier shaking hands, with poppies strewn around their feet.

The inscription on the plinth reads: ‘In honour of all those who fought, and fell, in the Great War, who put down their helmets and rifles in the 1914 Christmas truce, in No-Man’s land.’

The entry, from the North Luffenham school’s Year 10 pupils, aged 10 and 11, was judged by a panel including Prince William and England footballer Theo Walcott for the final short listing in the Football Remembers competition. It was organised by the British Council, The Football Association, Football League and Premier League.

Their brief was to design a permanent memorial to the football matches played along the Western Front during the Christmas truce in December 1914 and is part of events to mark 100 years since the start of the conflict.

Just 34 schools were short listed from thousands around the country. Their entries will be exhibited at the National Memorial Arboretum.

The winning entry will be chosen in September and made into a permanent memorial at the UK’s Staffordshire-based site of remembrance.

Fiona Wilce, head teacher of St Mary and St John’s Primary said: “I’m absolutely delighted. The children had been learning about World War 1. When this competition appeared they wanted to take part and designed a memorial which was very impressive and very original.

“What I really liked was that they worked collboratively. Pupils who were good at art or modelling, for example, worked in the areas that they were good at.”

Staff from the school took the delicate model to London and personally handed it over.

Teacher Clare Briggs said: “Right from the start they were really inspired by the project. In my opinion, they have already triumphed by coming up with such a striking design and making the shortlist.”

Sir Martin Davidson is chief executive of the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

He said: “The football matches played in no man’s land weren’t organised or official, but they are remembered and offer inspiration to this day. We would all like congratulate the young people whose designs have been selected for this special exhibition.”

As part of the Football Remembers project, more than 30,000 schools across the UK were sent an education pack with resources to help children learn about the Truce – including eye-witness accounts, photos, drawings and letters from soldiers, some of which have never been published before.

* The Christmas Truce marks the unofficial ceasefire on the Western Front when on December 25, 1914 both sides in the conflict lay down their arms and played a game of football during an unofficial ceasefire. Parties of German and British soldiers also exchanged seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches. The truce is often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity in the midst of a violent conflict.