A very special ceremony took place this week to commemorate one of the most poignant and significant football matches of all time. Our Academy playing field on the East Campus was twinned with Flanders Peace Field, Messines, Belgium, site of the First World War 1914 Christmas Truce when English and German troops on the front line, put down their weapons and temporarily ceased hostilities to play a game of football.
Our Academy is only one of four schools in the country to have this honour bestowed on their playing fields and the ceremony today was the first to be held.
Oasis Academy students have been involved with the National Children’s Football Alliance Peacefield Project from its inception three years ago. Students have attended history workshops, created exhibitions (currently on display at Maidstone Museum.), and participated in a football tournament in Messine, Belgium competing against other students from all over Europe .
The aim of the Project is to create peacemakers for the future. Young people (inspired by the 1914 Christmas Truce) will absorb the essence of why fair play is important and begin to understand that sport can transcend conflict and cement friendships for life.
Invited guests, the Mayor of Swale, Councillor Lesley Ingham, and students were lead to the field by Standard Bearers from The Buffs and the British Legion.
During the twinning ceremony, in the presence of Paul Auston Esq, DL, Deputy Lieutenant, representing the Queen, David Millar, Executive Principal, John Cavadino, Associate Principal and Colin Farley from the NCFA signed the PFP Declaration, pledging to hold a games event once a year to commemorate WW1 and celebrate peace.
During his speech Ernie Brennan from NCFA reminded students and invited guests of how close Messines, Belgium is to the Isle of Sheppey and encouraged them to always remember those who played in the WW1 match and the importance of peace in the world.
Academy students Patrycja Kowalska (Year 10), Aisha Thwaites and Aailiegha Leslie (Year 8) read Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et Decorum’, after which the playing field was blessed by Jeanette McLaren Chaplain.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled and presented by Paul Auston Esq, DL to the Academy which will be hung in our main Reception. DL Auston spoke of the milions who gave their lives and as a result, how young people can now play sport in peace and harmony.
Finally, The Last Post was played by Year 11 student, Emily Collins – a real honour for Emily on the day before her sixteenth birthday.
Pupils from all eleven primary schools on the Island watched the ceremony and then took part in a 5-a-side football tournament on the Academy 3G pitch. It was a really enjoyable, closely fought contest with all teams displaying a high level of skill. Third place went to Queenborough; second place awarded to St George’s Primary and Iwade snatched first place on goal difference. All students received tournament medals and a commemorative NCFA Football. In addition, Gillingham FC presented the tournament winners with a signed football.
The final event was a re-enactment of the Christmas Truce match by Academy students in Years 7 & 8 dressed as WW1 troops. Just as the score drew level at 1-1 the heavens opened and sadly the match had to be abandoned.
Executive Principal David Millar said “Today has been a very special day. We are honoured to be one of only four schools in the country to have their playing field twinned with Messines. Many of our students are involved in cadet forces and can trace strong military links through their family history. Over the next few weeks, many of us will be cheering on our favourite teams and players in Euro 2016, but I can guarantee that none of the matches we enjoy will be as memorable as that of the WW1 Christmas Truce and nor will any of today’s football stars be as heroic as those who served their countries.”