93 years ago on September 28, 1918 a young British soldier, Private Henry Tandey found himself near the small village of Marcoing, France. He was about to make a decision that profoundly affected human history for many years to come.
It was World War I, and life on earth was a tumultuous blood bath that no one ever could have comprehended. The age of toxic gases being used as weapons was upon the world and automatic weapons were now officially part of the reality of war. Life was no longer made of the simple days on the farm as it had been for so long for many young men of the time.
An original resident of Warwickshire, Tandey had taken part in the First Battle of Ypres in October of 1914. He again found himself in the cross-hairs of war while at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 that Tandey was wounded in the leg. He was later released from the hospital and moved to the 9th Battalion which was in France at the time. During the summer of 1917, he was again wounded. This time he was hurt at the Third Battle of Ypres at Passchendaele. From July 1918 to October of that same year Tandey was placed with the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment. While with that Regiment he helped take part in the British capture of Marcoing.
His story, while not completely verified is quite intriguing. In later reports, Tandey recalled that as the battle neared it’s end and the Germans were retreating he took aim at a wounded German soldier that was passing through his line of site. “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man, so I let him go” Tandey stated. According to the story the German simply nodded in relief and thanks and then vanished.
Although no confirmed records can place Adolf Hitler in that exact location on that day in 1918 near Marcoing, several fascinating and compelling links have risen since to indicate that the wounded soldier Private Tandey decided not to shoot was actually the young Adolf Hitler.
In 1914, a photograph was taken of Tandey carrying another wounded soldier off the battlefield of Ypres. That photo was later published in several London newspapers. Fortunino Matania, an Italian artist, then took that photo and painted it onto canvas. His painting was meant to praise the Allied War effort. In 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made a trip to Germany to speak with Hitler in a last attempt to avoid a second World War. The Prime Minister was taken by Hitler to his country home in Bavaria. While there Hitler showed Prime Minister Chamberlain his copy of the Matania painting of Tandey carrying the wounded soldier off of the battlefield. Hitler told the Prime Minister “That’s the man who nearly shot me.”
While there is little evidence to back up this amazing story of Hitler’s close encounter with death, many events actually suggest that Hitler did have a reproduction of the painting in his possession as early as 1937. This interesting piece of art is a strange thing for a man to possess who by all accounts was extremely angry and bitter over the German defeat in World War I. Even though there is little known fact of whether or not this encounter between Private Tandey and then Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler really took place, it doesn’t take much imagination to put the puzzle together and come to the conclusion that in fact the event did occur.
If it really did take place, one could question how would history have been different had Private Henry Tandey shot and killed the wounded Hitler? How many lives would have been spared by the taking of another? In truth those two questions make absolutely no difference.
What matters is that we understand that if and only if Hitler truly appreciated and comprehended the compassion shown to him that day on the battlefield by Tandey, perhaps World War II might have never taken place.
Private Tandey would go on to earn the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery.
First photo: Private Henry Tandey-Photo by Richard Harvey.
Second photo: A Young Adolph Hitler with his comrades during World War I. Photo by Bundesarchiv
Third Photo: Adolph Hitler Pictured during World War II. -Photo by Bundesarchiv