Out of the time-shrouded mists of a long ago war, one nearly forgotten by today’s generation comes a story which may or may not be true… it could be a kind of urban legend from history. Indeed the records to confirm it are pretty few. And mostly it relies on memory. Nevertheless, it may be that on today’s date, September 28, in 1918 a British soldier might have had his gun on a German soldier, and let him go. And the soldiers name might have been Corporal Adolf Hitler!
What EXACTLY is Supposed to Have Happened?
Henry Tandy (above), a private in the British in the British army who came from Warwickshire, had served with great distinction and bravery all over the Western Front during World War One. He had fought at Ypres, and the Somme just to name two of the major battles in which Pvt. Tandy took part. He became the single most decorated Private in the British Army during W.W. I. In fact he went on to win the Victoria Cross… England’s highest military award. And this he earned
for “conspicuous bravery” displayed during the period from July to October 1918, when serving with the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment. At that time he took part in the successful British capture of the French village of Marcoing. During the later portion of the battle, when the Germans were in retreat, Tandy later reported that a weary German soldier came into Tandey’s gun sights. The German (above, Hitler, circa W.W. I) was wounded and did not even try raise his own rifle. Tandey chose not to shoot. “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey recalled, “so I let him go.” The German soldier saw him lowering his weapon and nodded his thanks before disappearing.
How Did it Become Known That This Might Have Been Hitler?
Ok. So a Brit soldier lets a German go in the midst of a battle. How did it become known that this might have been Hitler? Well there are no sources to place Hitler’s whereabouts on that day, but an interesting link later developed. A newspaper article was published about Tandy’s being awarded the Victoria Cross in Oct., 1918. Hitler saw this article, and recognizing the picture of Tandy as being the man who had spared him clipped the article and kept it. In 1923 an artist named Fortunino Matania did a painting of Tandy saving comrades at the Battle of Ypres in 1914. In 1937, when Hitler was der Fuehrer and in charge of Germany he was made aware of Mantania’s painting and upon seeing a copy of the painting recognized the man in the painting as having been Tandy, from the newspaper article he had clipped and kept from 1918. Hitler ordered a copy of the painting and had it displayed at his alpine retreat, the Berghof, A year later British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came to the Berghof to make the infamous Munich Agreement (which he said would bring “peace in our time” but did nothing of the sort). Chamberlain saw the Mantania portrait and inquired about it. Hitler replied:
“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again; Providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”
Hitler then asked Chamberlain to give his regards to Tandy so the story goes, and Chamberlain said he would. Whether or not he did so is unclear; accounts exist of a phone call that was answered by Tandy’s nephew William. But it has been reported that the Tandy residence did not have a phone. And there is no reference to Tandy among Chamberlain’s papers about the 1938 meeting. Still Chamberlain must have told someone because the story got out in 1940 and has been talked about ever since. Is it true? We may never know for sure. But it is certainly odd that of all people, Hitler should have mounted an image (below) depicting Allied heroism in his home. He must have recognized something…..