Re-enactment soldiers at the unviling of the Christmas Truce memorial at Frelinghien
ON November 11th 2008 a plaque to the Christmas Truce was unveiled in the French village of Frelinghien. It is the first official memorial to this remarkable event. The event was co-ordinated by Dr H.J. Krijnen with the aid of Monsieur Bernard Cousin of Frelinghien wh looked after the local organisation. The German organisation was conducted by Herr Manfred Beyer of the Arbeitskreis für Sächsische Militärgeschichte.
Frelinghien is a village on the border of France and Belgium and the memorial can be found in the public park at the end of the village.
The plaque commemorates the Christmas Truce between "A" Company of 2/Royal Welch Fusiliers, the MG Company of Jäger-Battalion Nr 6 and a detachment of Infanterie-Regiment Nr.134. The project had the full support of the Commune, the RWF, the CWGC, the VDK and the Arbeitskreis sächsische Militärgeschichte. The plinth shows the badges of the RWF and Jäger, with the words "Christmas Truce 1914".
The day of the unveiling began with a beautiful mass at the village church with representatives of the 1st Royal Welch, the Panzergrenadier Battalion 371 "Marienberger Jäger", part of Panzergrenadier Brigade "Freistaat Sachsen" - in effect, the 'descendants' of those who took part in original Christmas Truce incident at this part of the line.
After the mass which included Stille Nacht, the villagers and participants marched to the public park at the other end of the village for the unveiling. The very moving event was attended by French Prime Minister's wife, Penelope Fillon (as she is herself Welsh), Honour Guards were provided by the 1st Bn Royal Welsh (the Royal Welch Fusiliers) u/c Lt-Col Nick Lock and the Marienberger Jäger u/c Major Michael Scherner. The memorial was unveiled jointly by Mrs Margaret Holmes, Oberstleutnant (Lt-Col) Joachim Freiherr von Sinner (grandson of Hauptmann Maximiliam Freiherr von Sinner, commander of the MG Coy of JB 6) and Monsieur Dhennin, a local veteran of the wars in Indo China and Algeria and holder of the Légion d'Honneur. Major Miles Stockwell (grandson of Captain Clifton Inglis Stockwell, the commander of "A" Coy 2/RWF) was present.
After a lunch at the village's sports hall there was a football match between the German and Welsh troops. It began with the rolling out of a beer barrel, echoing an incident in the original 1914 truce when the Germans - occupying the village brewery - rolled out a beer to the Allied forces on the opposing side. The Germans won the repeat football match 2-1. The RWF truce did not include a football match. That was further south (although still within the limits of the Commune de Frelinghien) and involved the IR 133 and a kilted Scottish battalion, Seaforths or Argylls I think. Before the 2008 match began, Maj Stockwell and Oberstleutnant Freiherr von Sinner exchanged a handshake, cigars and plumpuddings, as their grandfathers had done.
Maximilian Freiherr von Sinner (left) and Clifton Inglis Stockwell
One of the news cuttings of the event.