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The Man Who Didn’t Shoot Hitler

This is the Story of Henry Tandey, the man who could have killed Adolf Hitler in 1918.

From Preach Jacobs on Medium:

“On Sept. 28, 1918 on a battlefield in France, a wounded German soldier shuffled right into the line of fire of a British soldier named Henry Tandey. Tandey raised his rifle. But when he understood the German was hurt and could not fight back, Tandey lowered his weapon.  The German soldier realized he was in the crosshairs. He nodded thanks to his potential slayer—then scurried away.  The German soldier was Adolf Hitler, then 29 years old.”

∫ The painting Menin Crossroads was commissioned by the Green Howards Regiment from the Italian artist in 1923, showing a soldier purported to be Tandey carrying a wounded man at the Kruiseke Crossroads in 1918, northwest of Menin. The painting was made from a sketch, provided to Matania, by the regiment, based on an actual event at that crossroads. A building shown behind Tandey in the painting belonged to the Van Den Broucke family, who were presented with a copy of the painting by the Green Howard's Regiment. (Wikipedia)

∫ The painting Menin Crossroads was commissioned by the Green Howards Regiment from the Italian artist in 1923, showing a soldier purported to be Tandey carrying a wounded man at the Kruiseke Crossroads in 1918, northwest of Menin. The painting was made from a sketch, provided to Matania, by the regiment, based on an actual event at that crossroads. A building shown behind Tandey in the painting belonged to the Van Den Broucke family, who were presented with a copy of the painting by the Green Howard’s Regiment. (Wikipedia)

“In 1938, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain visited Hitler in Germany to sign the Munich Agreement, conceding parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany—the first appeasement on the path to global war.  During the meeting, Chamberlain noticed a reproduction of the painting Menin Crossroads by Italian artist Fortunio Matania, depicted here. The painting shows a British soldier carrying a wounded man across his back.  The soldier is Tandey.”

“Tandey’s unit, the Green Howards, had given the painting to the German Führer. Hitler told Chamberlain the man in the painting had spared his life.”

“That man came so close to killing me in 1918 that I thought I should never see Germany again,” Hitler said.  The Führer asked Chamberlain to thank Tandey on his behalf. Chamberlain placed a call to London and ended up speaking to Tandey’s nephew.  Filled with regret, in 1940 Tandey told the Sunday Graphic he wished he could go back in time.”

∫ Henry Tandey VC, DCM, MM (30 August 1891 – 20 December 1977) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the most highly decorated British private of the First World War. (Wikipedia)

∫ Henry Tandey VC, DCM, MM (30 August 1891 – 20 December 1977) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the most highly decorated British private of the First World War. (Wikipedia)

“If only I had known what he would turn out to be,” Tandey said of Hitler. “When I saw all the people, women and children he had killed and wounded, I was sorry to God I let him go.”  “I’d give 10 years now to have five minutes of clairvoyance then,” Tandey added. One of the Commonwealth’s most highly-decorated soldiers, he tried to re-enlist at the age 49. But his failing health barred him from further military service.

“Britain’s most decorated private soldier sparing the life of Adolf Hitler makes a great story,” David Johnson wrote in his book The Man Who Didn’t Shoot Hitler. “But for Henry Tandey to be known more for his alleged compassion towards Hitler than for his undoubted bravery seemed to me to do him a disservice.”

The author, David Johnson is a World War I historian who became fascinated by the story of Henry Tandey during a visit to Flanders Fields. General Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL is a retired British Army officer.

“This is a book about two men. The first is Henry Tandey: an ordinary man, born and brought up in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, who displayed extraordinary courage to emerge from World War I as the most decorated British soldier to survive the war. The second is Adolf Hitler who served in the Great War and went on to become one of the most infamous dictators in history, who brought the world to the brink of destruction during World War II. It seems unlikely that their fates should collide. Yet, in 1938, Hitler named Tandey as the soldier who spared his life in the aftermath of the Battle of Marcoing in September 1918. This book will tell the story of Henry’s and Hitler’s war, the moment when their lives became intertwined, whether Hitler told the truth about the battle, and how Henry lived with the stigma of being the man who let Hitler live.” (Amazon)

∫ Henry Tendey at 85 with his Victoria Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal (Photo credit:  The Daily Mirror)

∫ Henry Tandey at 85 with his Victoria Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal (Photo credit: The Daily Mirror)

Recalled in an interview for the Daily Mirror:

David Johnson’s research found remarkable similarities between Hitler and Henry Tandey. Both served on the Western Front, both were wounded several times and both were decorated for bravery.

Henry was born in Leamington Spa in 1891, the son of an ex-soldier. He was a hotel boiler engineer before enlisting in the Green Howards in 1910. When war broke out he joined the British Expeditionary Force in France. Henry arrived in Ypres on October 14, 1914, taking part in the first bloody battle there and helping to evacuate the wounded at the Menin Crossroads – immortalised in that painting.

He was wounded at the Battle of the Somme in October 1916, as was Hitler. In August 1918 at the Battle of Cabrai, Henry won the DCM for storming an enemy post with two comrades, killing several Germans and capturing 20 more.

A fortnight later he earned the Military Medal rescuing wounded men under fire and leading a bombing party into German trenches. And he won the VC on September 28, 1918 at the Battle of Marcoing. When his platoon was halted by heavy machine-gun fire Henry crawled forward to locate the gun post and led comrades to destroy it. He then rebuilt a plank bridge crossing the canal, again under a hail of bullets.

Later that evening he and eight comrades were surrounded by Germans and apparently doomed. But Henry, though badly wounded, led a bayonet charge so fierce that 37 of the enemy were driven into the hands of his company. It was the day he spared Hitler.

In the dying moments of the First World War 22 years earlier, he had pointed his rifle at a wounded German soldier trying to flee a French battlefield. Their eyes met and Henry lowered his gun. The German nodded in thanks then disappeared.

In that moment of compassion for a fellow human being, Henry, then 27, let 29-year-old Corporal Adolf Hitler walk free.  Free to become the most reviled dictator and mass murderer of all time.

“I didn’t like to shoot at a wounded man,” he said in 1940. “But if I’d only known who he would turn out to be…”

Get the book now on Amazon.

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