World War I Scots Refuse to Play Ball with the Enemy


December 25th may be best remembered during the First World War by the soldiers because of a football game held between the British and German troops.

There was one group that refused to participate in the game. Recently discovered photographs revealed the contempt the regiment held when it came to fraternizing with the enemy–even during a brief period of goodwill and peace.

The 1st Bn the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was comprised of men who grew up in the tough streets of Glasgow. These men made it perfectly clear that they would not share in the festivities if the enemy was partaking. Many felt that there was no sense in being merry with men who were shooting at them the day before and will resume to shoot at them tomorrow.

The Scots were very distrustful toward the Germans and they had no qualms telling them as such. One story has circulated that a German soldier called over to the Scottish soldiers and asked why they don’t join them. The Scots responded that they did not trust them especially since they had been shooting at them for four months.

Instead of coming out of their trenches that was near the French town of Armentaieres to shake hands with their enemies, the Cameronians dug in and did what they could to make their Christmas as memorable as they could. The Christmas photos and exchanges came to light thanks to Andrew Davidson. The journalist discovered three photograph albums that was put together by his grandfather, Fred Davidson. Fred served as a medical officer with the Scots during the Great War.

The soldiers used cameras that were banned to take pictures of each other raise their spirits. Their banned pocket Kodak cameras recorded photos of the regiment that showed an unequivocal attitude toward the Germans nearby–even on Christmas.

Fred took a group of pictures of the Scots that included stretcher-bearers and a soldier draped in tinsel as he held a dog on a leash in a trench. He later titled the picture of the dog and soldier: “Xmas 1914. Father Xmas in trenches.”

Many of the soldiers adopted stray dogs and they kept them to help keep the growing rat population under control.

The five stretchers-bearers  were wrapped in goatskin jerkins that were issued to keep out the cold wind.

After painstaking research, Davidson created a book, Fred’s War: A Doctor in the Trenches. This book contains 250 pictures that covered 1914 and 1915. The photographs were taken by Fred Davidson.

Mr Davidson, who lives in Kent, told the Telegraph: “Basically, the Cameronians were a bunch of bloody minded Glaswegians.

“Even though it was Christmas they were pretty grumpy and saw no reason why they should play football with people who had been trying to kill them the day before.”

He added: “These pictures show real people in real war situations at Christmas. The regiment was on its last day of five days’ fighting on the front line before they were due some time off in the bars and brothels of Armentières.”


Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE