England captain Harry Kane becomes ambassador for veterans’ charity

Alistair Mason, PA
·3-min read

England captain Harry Kane is encouraging members of the public to buy a silhouette of a football-playing British soldier in a nod to the Christmas truce of 1914.

Kane and Lord Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army, are backing the campaign, which sees the famous Tommy figure stood with a football under his foot.

The figures are made by veterans working for Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) and Kane has announced he is becoming an ambassador for the Tommy Club, and initiative run by the charity to enable members of the public to give their support.

Kane said: “I am thrilled to be a Tommy Club ambassador.

“RBLI have supported military veterans for more than 100 years and I know the great work they do employing ex-servicemen and women and helping them overcome significant challenges.

“I encourage people to get involved and support the Tommy Club as every new champion makes a difference.”

Tommy figures were first sold in 2018 to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, and updated versions were made this year for the 75th anniversary VE Day celebrations.

The new figure, called Tommy United, remembers the 1914 Christmas truce, which saw British and German soldiers on the front line halt hostilities and meet in no man’s land, with some kicking a football about.

“Soldiers, be they British or German, are just people, ordinary people who are doing a job,” Lord Dannatt told the PA news agency.

“I think the fact that they were able to connect with each other, and the stories are well known – was it them on Christmas eve, both sides singing Silent Night and hearing it drifting across no man’s land, that started a conversation, so that they felt bold enough perhaps on the first light of Christmas Day or during the course of the day to just talk man to man, human to human?

“That’s quite a powerful image about human nature.”

Veteran Tim Brown leads RBLI's factory's fulfilment department
Tommy figures are manufactured by veterans like Tim Brown for Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI)

Tim Brown, who served in the army between 1987 and 2010, is among the veterans working for RBLI constructing the Tommies.

After leaving the army, he worked in various jobs, including as a commercial diver and a lorry driver, until the death of his mother in 2015 triggered severe PTSD from events that had happened nearly 20 years earlier in Bosnia.

“I sent my CV in here and within a couple of weeks I got the job and I was in working,” he told PA.

“It was a safe environment – everyone looks after each other, it’s a caring community to be in.”

For Mr Brown, the story of the 1914 truce has an extra resonance because of something he found in his great uncle Matt Denton’s war diary from three years later.

“On Boxing Day he played football with 128 Siege Battery and the major played, apparently,” he said. “They lost 3-1.

“So he didn’t play football with the Germans on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, but they played a match themselves.”

Matt Denton's diary showing an entry about playing football
Tim Brown’s great uncle, Matt Denton, played football during the First World War (Tim Brown)

He believes the Christmas Day truce still resonates today because it is “a story of forgiveness and coming together”.

And he believes it shows the power of sport to unite people.

He said: “Football is and always has been a common language between different nations and someone happened to have a ball, it overcame boundaries.

“It’s just a shame it didn’t carry on longer.”