Stoke-on-Trent sculptor's Christmas Eve truce statue

Across a muddy battlefield two young men reach over a football to shake hands – marking one of the most remarkable stories to come out of the Great War.

This iconic image has been crafted Potteries sculptor Andy Edwards to depict the Christmas Eve truce of 1914 – when British and German soldiers left the trenches to meet in ‘No Man’s Land’, where they swapped photographs and cigarettes, sang songs and even played football.

The 8ft statue was originally made out of clay by Andy at the Wedgwood factory in Barlaston, but has now been reproduced in fibreglass. The piece, called All Together Now after the song by Liverpool band The Farm, which describes the Christmas truce, will be officially unveiled at the Bombed Out Church on Monday before being moved to Liverpool Cathedral on Saturday.

It will then be shown on pitch at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium before the game against Chelsea; ahead of a trip to its ultimate resting place at Mezzines for Christmas Eve, where a football match played out between enemy troops was documented by a German officer.

Blurton-born Andy said: “This is a labour of love for all of us.

“The piece makes me think about friends, my friends who helped me put it together and the potteries workers who went out to the front 100-years ago, there’s an unbroken link.That handshake, reaching out to someone who you wouldn’t think to shake hands with, but how they found they shared a camaraderie."

“The truce didn’t hold and since the end of the ‘War to end all Wars’, 160 million people have been killed in conflicts all over the world.”

Since launching the project, Andy has immersed himself in the Great War, seeking professional advice from Jeff Elson, of the Staffordshire Regimental Museum and basing his work on authentic uniform and kit - including a football which was actually recovered from the Battle of Loos.

The two young men in the sculpture look similar – and both share a Saxon ancestry, linking with another statue Andy is working on to commemorate the Staffordshire Hoard – emphasising the common bond they must have felt as soldiers dragged far away from home into a war not of their making and which many didn’t fully understand.

Around their feet are cat footprints in the muddy earth – which nods to a story passed down by word of mouth from the trenches of a cat, who apparently wandered back and forth between the British and German lines until it was - bizarrely and cruelly, so the story goes - executed by the French for fraternising with the enemy.”

Artist Terry Ingram, who has been working with Andy on this project and who also worked with him on the triptych sculpture of Sir Stanley Matthews outside Stoke City, said:

“In his journals a German captain described a football match between the 33rd Royal Saxons and the Scottish Guards. The Germans won the first game, 3-2 and the Guards won the second 4-1.

“He says the men played to the rules, but the game wasn’t pretty due to the frozen ground.”

The project has been entirely funded by Andy and his friends at Castle Fine Arts Foundry, but it is now hoped funding will be sourced to create a permanent bronze version of the statue.

Tommy Calderbank, project leader for Liverpool-based Castle Fine Arts Foundry, said: “What I love about Andy’s piece, apart from being a magnificent work of art, it acknowledges both sides, all sides of humanity.

“I find it very moving, their bravery in not fighting and reaching out to shake hands. There’s the space between the hands there, they are not quite there yet, it is the dramatic moment just before the truce. But of course those same figures went back to killing each other. It represents how for 100 years since we have not stopped fighting wars. This piece says that we need to grab peace now or else condemn our children to another 100 years of warfare.”

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