“I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey remembered, “so I let him go.”
British soldier serving near the French village of Marcoing, Private Henry Tandey, a native of Warwickshire, took part in the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914 and the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the latter of which gave him a wounded leg. He was transferred to the 9th Battalion in France after being discharged from the hospital and was wounded again during the Third Battle of Ypres at Passchendaele in the summer of 1917. From July to October 1918, Tandey served with the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment; it was during this time that he took part in the successful British capture of Marcoing, for which he earned a Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery.”
Unconfirmed sources reported that during the final moments of the battle as German troops were in retreat, he spotted a wounded German soldier who came in his firing line. He impulsively let him go as the war was won and his conscience wouldn’t let him shoot a wounded man. He later told his sources “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey remembered, “so I let him go.” The soldier nodded in thankfulness and disappeared.
The soldier is alleged to be the later founder of the National Socialist Community, Adolf Hitler.
A photograph appeared in the London newspaper in 1914 of Tandey carrying a wounded soldier in Ypres, which was later portrayed in a canvas by Italian artist Fortunino Matania. The painting glorified the Allied war effort. A popular story circulates that when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain traveled to Germany in 1938 to engage Hitler in a last-ditch effort to avoid another war in Europe, he was taken by the führer to his new country retreat in Bavaria. There, Hitler showed Chamberlain his copy of the Matania painting, commenting, “That’s the man who nearly shot me.” Though any exact whereabouts of the later Nazi leader on that day in 1918 is not known.
Hitler, who received the news of German surrender while he was in a military hospital in Pacewalk, Germany later said in 1941- “When I returned from the War, I brought back home with me my experiences at the front; out of them I built my National Socialist community.”
There is though no proper authenticity of the Tandey-Hitler encounter. But evidence does suggest the possession of the painting by Hitler in 1937; which is a rather strange acquisition for a man who was reportedly devastated by the outcome of the Great War.
Fair enough to say that the course of World History would have been a lot different had Tandey taken his shot 98 years ago.