Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Only if...

The highest decorated British soldier in the First World War, Private Henry Tandey, might have prevented the Second World War when he had in his sights Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler. An account of a really big "what if?"
.... Tandey was mentioned five times in dispatches and certainly earned his VC during the capture of the French village and crossing at Marcoing, his regiment held down by heavy machine gun fire Tandey crawled forward, located the machine gun nest, and took it out.

Arriving at the crossing he braved heavy fire to place wooden planks over a gaping hole enabling troops to roll across and take the battle to the Germans. The day still not over he successfully led a bayonet charge against outnumbering enemy troops which helped bring hostilities to an end.

As the ferocious battle wound down and enemy troops surrendered or retreated a wounded German soldier limped out of the maelstrom and into Private Tandey's line of fire. The battle weary man never raised his rifle and just stared at Tandey resigned to the inevitable. "I took aim but couldn't shoot a wounded man," said Tandey, "so I let him go."

Tandey put that encounter out of his mind and rejoined his regiment, discovering soon after he had won the Victoria Cross. ....

In 1938 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), Conservative PM from 1937-40, made his gloomy trip to Munich to meet Chancellor Hitler in a last ditch effort to avoid war which resulted in the ill-fated 'Munich Agreement'. During that fateful trip Hitler invited him to his newly completed retreat in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, a birthday present from Martin Bormann and the Nazi Party.
.... While there the Prime Minister explored the hill top lair of the Fuehrer and found a reproduction of Matania's famous Marcoing painting depicting allied troops. Puzzled by the choice of art, Hitler explained "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 seized the moment to have his best wishes and gratitude conveyed to Tandey by the Prime Minister, who promised to phone him on his return to London. It wasn't until that time Tandey knew the man he had in his gun sight 20 years earlier was Adolf Hitler and it came as a great shock. Given tensions at the time it wasn't something he felt proud about.

The story first broke in 1940 but no one gave it much thought at the time.... [more]
I've made a few formatting changes and added the Matania painting from an image on the web.

First World War.com - Feature Articles - How a Right Can Make a Wrong