WWI Christmas Truce: How Football United Foes

ABC News' Hamish Macdonald reports on the legendary tale of a soccer match uniting British and German soldiers in a Christmas Eve truce 100 years ago this week.
4:00 | 12/21/14

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Transcript for WWI Christmas Truce: How Football United Foes
Those ceramic poppies in the tower of London were set out this fall to commemorate the soldiers that died in world war I, nearly 900,000. In our "Sunday spotlight" a legendary tale from that war, the Christmas truce, 100 years ago this week a story passed down of soldiers putting down their weapons to play a game of soccer. ABC's hamish Macdonald tells the story. Reporter: On a football pitch in the south of England, they are here to do battle and to remember. It's the british army against the German army tonight. Those great historic enemies united for a brief moment just as they were 100 years ago. It was Christmas eve 1914 on the western front. The great war was entering its first dark winter. This recently discovered letter written home by british general Walter congreeve details an extraordinary truce. Soldiers coming out of the trenches cautiously, then walking about together all day giving each other cigars and singing songs. Although they were soldiers, they were professional soldiers fighting against each other, they were still human beings, and they went out and armed only with their humanity and with their courage. Reporter: But there is one detail of this Christmas truce that has captured the public imagination here more than anything. General congreeve wrote, "I hear it was further north first rifle brigade playing football with the Germans." Reporter: One british supermarket chain has made that story the center of piece of this year's Christmas advertising campaign. My name is Jim. My name is Otto. Reporter: Soldiers play a football friendly in a touching nostalgic portrayal that historians say it may be stretching the truth. It wouldn't have been 11 men against 11 with a pitch mark and 90 minutes and a referee and so forth because it was no man's land. It was, you know, covered in shell holes even if there was no organized game. There is enough evidence to suggest that something happened then. Reporter: Whether it happened or not, the idea of a football truce has become iconic. This month using the Twitter #footballremembers, thousands of clubs across Britain have posted united team photos in tribute, and tonight they're here to see the british and German armies pay tribute too. It's actually essential, I think, that we have this sort of celebration, is that the right word, of that event despite the terrible consequences that surrounded it. All: We love you. We do. Reporter: In the crowd hundreds of optimistic army recruits. Gives you a sense of hope, hope, as well that even in the baddest times people can still get on and put their weapons down and have a game of football. So there's a lot of conjecture about whether that really happened. I don't know really but it's a nice tale even if it didn't happen. Reporter: The details of this story remain far from settled, but they settled this match with a single goal. 1-0 to the british. Great to be a part of. I'll always remember for the rest of my life. It's amazing for the whole team. ? ? speaking in German ] Reporter: Legend has it they sang "Silent night" in English and in German across the trenches back in 1914. But it may be the truth of this football truce lies not in the detail, rather in the meaning. That soldiers wherever and whenever they serve will always look forward to the moment the battlefield falls quiet to that one silent night. For "This week," hamish Macdonald, ABC news, aldershot, England. And we all join them in that.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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