Officer didn’t play ball over New Year match

CANCELLED ... Matthew Nessworthy's unit took part in the truce but was denied a football match.
CANCELLED ... Matthew Nessworthy's unit took part in the truce but was denied a football match.

MUCH has been made about whether it is, or is not, a myth that games of football were played during the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Letters written home by soldiers did indicate informal kick-abouts.

But did two South Shields men come close to taking part in what was planned would be an organised New Year’s Day match exactly 100 years ago today?

Peter Hoy’s researches have turned up Military Medal holder Company Sergeant Major Albert Brown, of Palmerston Street, South Shields, who was serving with the First East Lancashire Regiment, as was Lance Corporal Matthew Nessworthy, of Wellington Street in the town, at Ploegstreet Wood.

Again there was an informal truce and some fraternisation, which did not go down well with a certain Lieutenant – later Brigadier – CEM Richards.

He later wrote: “That evening I received a signal from battalion headqiuarters, telling me to make a football pitch in No Man’s Land, by filling-up shell-holes etc, and to challenge the enemy to a football match on January 1. I was furious and took no action at all. I wish I had kept that signal. Stupidly, I destroyed it – I was so angry. It would now have been a good souvenir. The proposed match did not take place.”

Albert Brown would later be killed by a sniper in August 1917, aged 22.

Matthew Nessworthy died of wounds in May 1915, aged 24. He is commemorated on the Wellington Street roll of honour.