Category Archives: News/Stories

Nazi General Anton Dostler Executed for Killing 15 OSS Men

German-General-Anton-Dostler-is-tied-to-a-stake-before-his-execution-by-a-firing-squad-Italy-1945

By Vintage News, November 2015

On March 22, 1944, fifteen soldiers of the U.S. Army, including two officers, landed on the Italian coast about 15 kilometres north of La Spezia, 400 km (250 miles) behind the then established front, as part of Operation Ginny II. They were all properly dressed in the field uniform of the U.S. Army and carried no civilian clothes. Their objective was to demolish a tunnel at Framura on the important railroad line between La Spezia and Genoa. Two days later, the group was captured by a party of Italian Fascist soldiers and members of the German Heer. They were taken to La Spezia, where they were confined near the headquarters of the 135th Fortress Brigade, which was under the command of German Colonel Almers. The immediate, superior command was that of the 75th Army Corps, commanded by Dostler.

The captured U.S. soldiers were interrogated and one of the U.S. officers revealed the story of the mission. The information, including that it was a commando raid, was then sent to Dostler at the 75th Army Corps. The following day (March 25), Dostler informed his superior, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, commanding general of all German forces in Italy, about the captured U.S. commandos and asked what to do with them. According to Dostler’s adjutant officer, Kesselring responded by ordering the execution. Later that day, Dostler sent a telegram to the 135th Fortress Brigade ordering that the captured soldiers be executed. This order was an implementation of Hitler’s secret Commando Order of 1942 which required the immediate execution without trial of commandos and saboteurs. German officers at the 135th Fortress Brigade contacted Dostler in an attempt to achieve a delay of their execution. Dostler then sent another telegram ordering Almers to carry out the execution. Two last attempts were made by the officers at the 135th to stop the execution, including some by telephone, because they knew that executing uniformed prisoners of war was a direct violation of the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. These efforts were unsuccessful and the fifteen Americans were executed on the morning of March 26, 1944, at Punta Bianca south of La Spezia, in the municipality of Ameglia. Their bodies were buried in a mass grave that was then camouflaged. Alexander zu Dohna-Schlobitten, a member of Dostler’s staff who was unaware of the secret Commando Order and who had refused to sign the execution order, was dismissed from the Wehrmacht for insubordination.

Anton Dostler on trial in 1945 — at the Palace of Caserta in Italy. His interpreter is Albert O. Hirschmann.
Anton Dostler on trial in 1945 — at the Palace of Caserta in Italy. His interpreter is Albert O. Hirschmann.
Trial, Execution, and Notoriety

Dostler became a prisoner of the Americans on 8 May 1945 and was put before a military tribunal at the seat of the Supreme Allied Commander, the Royal Palace in Caserta, on 8 October 1945. In the first Allied war trial, he was accused of carrying out an illegal order. In his defense, he maintained that he had not issued the order, but had only passed along an order to Colonel Almers from supreme command, and that the execution of the OSS men was a lawful reprisal. Dostler’s plea of Superior Orders failed because ordering the execution, he had acted on his own outside the Führer’s order. The military commission also rejected his plea, declaring that Dostler’s execution of U.S. soldiers was in violation of Article 2 of the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, which prohibited acts of reprisals against prisoners of war. The commission stated that “No soldier, and still less a Commanding General, can be heard to say that he considered the summary shooting of prisoners of war legitimate even as a reprisal.”

Under the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, it was legal to execute spies and saboteurs disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms but excluded those who were captured in proper uniforms.Since fifteen U.S. soldiers were properly dressed in U.S. uniforms behind enemy lines and not disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms, they were not to be treated as spies but prisoners of war, which Dostler violated.

The trial found General Dostler guilty of war crimes, rejecting the defense of superior orders. He was sentenced to death and executed by a 12 man firing squad at 0800 hours on December 1, 1945 in Aversa. The execution was photographed on black and white still and movie cameras. Immediately after the execution Dostler’s body was lifted onto a stretcher, shrouded inside a white cotton mattress cover and driven away in an army truck. His remains were subsequently buried in Grave 93/95 of Section H at Pomezia German War Cemetery.

Many people taking part in firing squads intentionally miss their target, as they do not want to be the one responsible for the individuals death. Often times, they would even aim for non-vital areas of the body for the same reasons, knowing that the person was going to die regardless, and didn’t want the kill-shot on their conscious. Another reason is that a lot of soldiers feel that it is immoral to execute a defenseless or captured prisoner, despite any crimes the person has committed. This is why there are so many people used in a firing squad. To ensure a quick death. The fewer participants, the more likely it is to cause mental trauma to the gunmen. There is something relieving about knowing that others are there to share the burden of having just taken a life. It’s related to diffusion of responsibility.

One method used to alleviate such burden is to have some of the weapons loaded with blank rounds, so that none of the participants are absolutely sure they are responsible for the kill. Although loading a weapon with a blank round does not alleviate the shooters from a sense of responsibility. The person who has the blank knows who fired the blank, due to the night-and-day difference in felt recoil. Blanks do not create recoil as there is no mass in front of the propellant charge. The purpose of loading a blank is so that none of the other soldiers in the squad know which one of them had the blank in their rifle. This creates a communal sense of knowing that at least one of the shooters had no hand in the execution, but no one knows who except for the man with the blank loaded in his rifle, thereby allowing any of them to psychologically alleviate themselves of any guilt they may have, since as far as their comrades know; they did not fire a lethal shot.

79Shares

German WWII Sd.Kfz. 250 Halftrack Pulled Out of a River in Incredible Condition!

12112149_1027328010645631_7481253715613307252_n-1

by War History Online, 4-1-2016

Look at this amazing find that has just been recovered from the river Pilica in central Poland. This looks like it could be driven away. The level of preservation is unbelievable. Scroll down to page three for the video and also keep your eye out for one of the front tires – it will blow you away, it looks brand new. A big thank you to Tomek Basarabowicz of Poland.

The Sd.Kfz. 250 (German: Sonderkraftfahrzeug 250; ‘special motor vehicle’) was a light armoured halftrack, very similar in appearance to the larger Hanomag-designed Sd.Kfz. 251, and built by the DEMAG firm, for use by Nazi Germany in World War II. Most variants were open-topped and had a single access door in the rear.

The Sd. Kfz 250 was adopted in 1939 to supplement the standard halftrack. Production delays meant that the first 250 did not appear until mid-1941.

12079057_1027328147312284_1733457555343777124_n

12088025_1027328070645625_5210890103397361301_n

12088060_1027328377312261_8333794903752362770_n

12088091_1027328173978948_5770131695889865872_n

12105712_1027328240645608_478503848884261383_n

In 1939, the Inspectorate for Motorized Troops (AHA/In 6) decided that it would be useful for small armored half-tracks to accompany tanks in the attack. They could satisfy requirements for which a larger vehicle wouldn’t be needed, such as headquarters, artillery forward observer, radio, and scout vehicles.

Demag, the designer of the smallest half-track in service, the Sd.Kfz. 10, was selected to develop the “light armored troop carrier” (leichter gepanzerter Mannschafts-Transportwagen) or Sd.Kfz. 250. The D7 chassis of the Sd.Kfz. 10 was shortened by one roadwheel station, an armored hull (Panzerwanne) replaced the sheet steel bodywork and almost every component was specially designed for the D7p, as the armored chassis was designated.

12106784_1027328193978946_7905834034538104827_n

12107856_1027328333978932_1787441026288818852_n

12112149_1027328010645631_7481253715613307252_n-1

Power for the Sd.Kfz. 250 was provided by a Maybach 6-cylinder, water-cooled, 4.17-litre (254 cu in) HL 42 TRKM gasoline engine of 100 horsepower (100 PS). It had a semi-automatic pre-selector transmission with seven forward and three reverse gears:

12112481_1027328113978954_4308228744160332305_n

12118940_1027328297312269_1865508127384195653_n

12122581_1027328090645623_7257892043696995455_n

12144806_1027328270645605_5450458697884637604_n

11219391_1027328217312277_5006705255009765315_n


48Shares

Vom Grenzschutz zur Bundeswehr – From Border Guards to Bundeswehr

Federal Minister Blank welcomes the former BGS members during ceremonial takeover appeal in Bonn.

by Bundeswehr, July 1 2015. 

Am 1. Juli 1956 übernimmt die Bundeswehr 9.752 Männer aus dem Bundesgrenzschutz in die neuen Streitkräfte. Mit diesem Schritt sollen die ehrgeizigen Aufstellungspläne der neuen deutschen Streitkräfte schneller erreicht werden.

Als am 11. November 1955 die Geburtsstunde der zu diesem Zeitpunkt noch namenlosen Bundeswehr schlägt, erhalten die ersten 101 Freiwilligen ihre Ernennungsurkunden. Sie bilden den Grundstock der Bundeswehr. Gemessen an der Zielvorgabe, in den kommenden Jahren 12 Divisionen des Heeres, eine Luftwaffe und Marine aufbauen zu wollen, ein bescheidener Anfang. Rund 495.000 aktive Soldaten soll die Bundeswehr in den kommenden Jahren rekrutieren, um ihren Beitrag im NATO-Bündnis zu leisten.

Sicherung der Zonengrenze

Bereits seit 1951 existierte der Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS). Unter dem Eindruck des sich zuspitzenden Ost-West-Konfliktes und der Aufstellung paramilitärischer Polizeieinheiten in der DDR, hatten die westlichen Alliierten erlaubt, in Westdeutschland eine dem Bund unterstehende Polizei aufzubauen. Sie sollte zunächst eine Stärke von 10.000 Mann haben, über leichtes militärisches Material verfügen und vor allem die innerdeutsche Zonengrenze sichern. Der Aufwuchs der neuen Polizeieinheit ging schnell. Das Bundesinnenministerium konnte sich die Bewerber praktisch aussuchen. So kamen etwa auf die ersten 452 Offizierstellen beim BGS rund 41.000 Bewerber. Nach dem Volksaufstand vom 17. Juni 1953 in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik erfolgte eine Verstärkung des Bundesgrenzschutzes auf 20.000 Mann.

Vor dem Hintergrund des Aufbaus der Bundeswehr kommt es innerhalb des BGS zu verbissen geführten Diskussionen darüber, welche Rolle der Bundespolizei nun zufallen soll. So standen im Wesentlichen drei Optionen im Raum. Zum einen die Überlegung, der BGS könne geschlossen in der Bundeswehr aufgehen; zweitens, dass er als „großer“ Grenzschutz auf 100.000 Mann aufwachsen solle oder aber drittens, dass er in seiner derzeitigen Form weiterbestehen solle. Für die Bundeswehrführung um Verteidigungsminister Theodor Blank war eindeutig, dass man das Personal des BGS für den Aufbau der Bundeswehr benötige. Jedoch gab es auch militärische Bedenkenträger. So wies Johann Adolf Graf von Kielmannsegg bereits 1951 darauf hin, dass es innerhalb des BGS wenig Verständnis für Fragen des Inneren Gefüges (später Innere Führung) gäbe. Zudem sei es grundsätzlich schwierig, reguläre Streitkräfte zur Grenzsicherung einzusetzen. So könnte jeder Grenzzwischenfall zu einem schnell eskalierenden kriegerischen Konflikt führen.

Letztendlich entscheidet die Bundesregierung im Zweiten Gesetz über den Bundesgrenzschutz, dass der BGS zum Aufbau der Bundeswehr herangezogen werden soll. Jedoch wird entgegen der vorherigen Entwürfe den betroffenen BGS-Beamten eine Wahlmöglichkeit eingeräumt. So kann jeder Angehörige des BGS bis zum 30. Juni 1956 einer Überführung zur Bundeswehr widersprechen. Rund 42 Prozent geben eine entsprechende Erklärung ab. Die übrigen 9.752 werden der Bundeswehr überantwortet. Sie werden mit dem nächst höheren Dienstgrad in die neuen Streitkräften eingestellt und erhalten bessere Aufstiegschancen.

The speedboats of Herring class in Kiel. They come from BGS-held and were taken over in 1956 by the German army.
The speedboats of Herring class in Kiel. They come from BGS-held and were taken over in 1956 by the German army.
Übernahme von 9.752 Mann in die Bundeswehr

Beim Bundesgrenzschutz See ist die Übertrittsquote besonders hoch. Von den vormals 1.015 BGS-Beamten treten 872 in die Marine der Bundeswehr ein. Dies liegt vor allem daran, dass der Grenzschutz See mit der Übergabe von Material und Personal an die Bundeswehr zum 1. Juli nicht erneut aufgebaut werden soll. Insgesamt bildet das Personal vom BGS letztendlich die Keimzellen von drei Grenadierdivisionen, mehrerer kleinerer Verbände und trägt entscheidend zum Aufbau der Bundesmarine bei. So kommen die ersten Schnellboote der Bundeswehr aus den Beständen des BGS.

Dennoch kann auch die Übernahme der BGS-Beamten in die Bundeswehr nicht die Aufstellungskrise der Bundeswehr verhindern. Die ambitionierten Ziele, die Verteidigungsminister Blank der NATO zugesichert hatte, werden zum Stolperstein. Theodor Blank räumt am 16. Oktober 1956 im Rahmen einer Kabinettsumbildung das Bundesministerium für Verteidigung. Ihm folgt Franz Josef Strauß, der den Aufstellungsplan der Bundeswehr reformiert und damit schnell Fortschritte erzielt.

Translated English Version:

On 1 July 1956, the Bundeswehr takes over 9,752 men from the Federal Border in the new armed forces. With this step, the ambitious plans of the new formation, German forces are to be achieved more quickly.

As on 11 November 1955, the birth of this time still nameless Bundeswehr suggests, get the first 101 volunteers their letters of appointment. They form the foundation of the Bundeswehr. Judging by the target to want to build 12 divisions of the army, a navy and air force in the coming years, a modest beginning. Around 495,000 active soldiers to recruit the army in the coming years in order to make their contribution in the NATO alliance.

Securing the border zone

Already since 1951 existed the Federal Border Police (BGS). Under the impact of the worsening East-West conflict and the formation of paramilitary police units in the East, the Western Allies had allowed to build a the collar Subordinate police in West Germany. You should first have a strength of 10,000 men, equipped with light military material and secure especially the inner-German border zone. The regrowth of the new police unit was fast. The Interior Ministry, applicants could practically pick. So were 41,000 applicants about the first 452 officer posts at the BGS. After the uprising of 17 June 1953 in the German Democratic Republic there was a reinforcement of the border police at 20,000 men.

Given the structure of the Bundeswehr it comes within the BGS to dogged discussions about shall be for the role of the federal police now. So were essentially three options in the area. Firstly, the idea of ​​BGS can be closed up in the army; secondly, that he should as a “large” border management grow to 100,000 or, thirdly, that it should continue to exist in its current form. For the Bundeswehr leadership to Defense Minister Theodor Blank was clear that we need the staff of the BGS to build up the Bundeswehr. However, there were also military worriers. So pointed Johann Adolf Count of Kielmannsegg in 1951 indicate that there were within the BGS little understanding of issues of the interior structure (later inside guide). Moreover, it is generally difficult to use regular armed forces to protect the border. So every border incident could lead to a rapidly escalating military conflict.

Ultimately, the federal government decided in the Second Law on the Federal, the BGS is to be used to build up the Bundeswehr. However, contrary to previous drafts concerned BGS given a choice. Thus, each member of the BGS contradict until June 30, 1956 an overpass for Bundeswehr. About 42 percent will make a corresponding statement. The remaining 9,752 are handed over to the Bundeswehr. They are set to the next higher grade in the new armed forces and get better opportunities for advancement.

Acquisition of 9,752 men in the armed forces

When Federal See the transfer rate is particularly high. 872 Of the 1,015 formerly BGS enter the Marine der Bundeswehr. This is mainly because that the border guards lake is not to be re-established with the delivery of materials and personnel to the armed forces on 1 July. Overall, the staff from the BGS ultimately forms the germ cells of three infantry divisions, several smaller organizations and contributes significantly to the construction of the German Navy. So come the first speedboats Bundeswehr from the holdings of the BGS.

Still can not prevent the formation of crisis Bundeswehr also the acquisition of BGS in the Bundeswehr. The ambitious goals that Defense Blank had NATO assurances can be stumbling blocks. Theodor Blank grants on 16 October 1956 at part of a reshuffle, the Federal Ministry of Defence. It is followed by Franz Josef Strauss, who reformed the layout plan of the Armed Forces and thus made progress quickly.

0Shares

German Eagle Order II Class with Swords – For Sale

12809732_1046547742079374_4166514132701008398_n

Cyrus at Soldat.com is selling this rare item. Contact him at:

http://soldat.com/ or Soldat FHQ on Facebook.

Here is his description on the item:

Jeweler Quality German Eagle Order II Class with Swords, the one in the photo. This is available this Friday in Europe. I need $787.50USD in my pay pal account (fhq@soldat.com) before then to get it in to the US for you. That includes Pay Pals cut of the action. Will figure ship when it gets here. No, no more photos. No other medals offered up at this time.

Thank you.

12484857_1046547708746044_2658571462496073264_o

12593537_1046547705412711_2042057262641665474_o

12809732_1046547742079374_4166514132701008398_n

41Shares

The Perfectly Preserved World War I Trench

image

By Luke Spencer, Atlas- Obscura
May 27, 2015.

The fields of Northern France and Belgium still bear many of the scars of last century’s Great War, but they are a faint reminder of battle carnage on the Western Front. After the Armistice, farmers returned to find their fields and villages totally destroyed by four years of trench warfare. Craters mark spots where artillery shells exploded but much of the area is now covered over with grass, hedgerows and forests.

Except for one place.

In 1919, a Belgian farmer called Schier returned to his land on a hill over looking the ancient medieval city of Ypres, and simply left it as it was. Once part of the British front line, it lies there today looking much as it did a hundred years ago: a mess of rusted barbed wire, shell holes full of water, trees shattered by artillery fire and a system of trenches and tunnels filled with mud.

Still privately owned by the Schier family, it is one of the few sites in Flanders where you can experience something of the actual terrain suffered by soldiers during World War I. On British military maps, it was noted as Hill 62, for its elevation in feet above sea level. For the tens of thousands who lived and died here it was known as Sanctuary Wood. To go there now is to experience the horrors of life in the trenches for yourself.

 

Looking into the trenches.
Looking into the trenches.

The old medieval cloth manufacturing city of Ypres in Belgium looms large in the British psyche due to the amount of casualties suffered here. In the early stages of the war, Germany raced to the sea in an attempt to defeat France by attacking through Belgium. This strategy, known as the Schlieffen plan, drawn up years before the war started, would avoid the heavy French fortifications further south and seize Paris in a sweeping attack from the side. British made their stand to block Germany at Ypres. In a salient (a bit of battlefield in enemy territory) jutting out from the city both sides dug in trenches and for four years inflicted some of the bloodiest fighting of the Great War upon each other, in the now familiar pattern of minimal gains for massive casualties.

The road leading to the British front lines from Ypres is today marked by one of the most somber of all war memorials, the Menin Gate. A colossal archway on a scale of the main concourse at Grand Central Station in New York, it is covered in the names of nearly 60,000 soldiers of the British Empire who died here. Standing underneath it, the names stretching beyond what the eye can see, it is unfailingly moving. However, these are just the names of those who died with no known grave. They were simply swallowed up and disappeared in the fields surrounding Ypres. Every night at 8 p.m. a memorial service is held for the missing. No wonder British writer Siegfried Sassoon wrote of the memorial—”Here was the world’s worst wound.”

A view of Sanctuary Wood in September 1917.
A view of Sanctuary Wood in September 1917.

The identifiable dead are buried in countless cemeteries located in the Ypres Salient. Almost every copse and country lane features a meticulously tended graveyard, maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. The largest, Tyne Cot, located on a ridge east of Ypres holds nearly 12,000 burials; Sanctuary Wood, a few miles to the south, has just over 600. Each head stone is immaculate, with the grass as neatly trimmed as a vicarage lawn, with memorial books present to help visiting relatives find a particular tombstone amongst the hundreds of thousands.

But while the government-funded commission diligently tend their memorials, the privately-owned Sanctuary Wood is something of an anomaly. Entering the farm house through a cafe, the building was turned into a museum in 1919, and is filled with the rusted artifacts Shier found on his property. Rifles encrusted with mud, German steel helmets riddled with bullet holes, and a collection of period stereoscope photographs of the battlefield. Walking through the farmhouse into the back garden, past rolls of barbed wire and an alarming stockpile of German artillery shells, a wooden sign post indicates the way to the “British Front Line.”

Rusting war toys.
Rusting war toys.

Climbing down into the ruins of the trenches, it is perhaps the only place left to physically understand the daily horrors of life on the Western Front. The flat lowlands of Flanders were particularly susceptible to flooding. The summer of 1917 saw some of the heaviest rainfalls recorded, and the Salient turned into a lethal quagmire of glutinous mud, constantly churned up by incessant shellfire. I visited Sanctuary Wood in the height of a dry summer and still the trenches were swamped with mud and rain. A hundred years later the wood still looked desolate, a nightmarish lunar landscape of craters, shattered tree stumps and barbed wire.

Working at London’s Imperial War Museum, historians Nigel Steel and Peter Hart started in the 1980s to collect firsthand accounts from those who lived and fought at Ypres.

“It was a nightmare,” wrote Private William Collins of the Royal Army Medial Corps, “all you had was a couple of duckboards…..and either side of it was about ten feet of mud. If you fell off it would take a traction engine to pull you out.”

Tunnels within the trenches.
Tunnels within the trenches.

Sanctuary Wood was given its peaceful sounding name in the early days of the war, when the heavy woodland provided perfect cover for respite from German guns, and a place to treat the wounded. Within months though, the constant artillery bombardments turned the wood into a devastated nightmarish landscape. “Ironic to be called by such a peaceful name! – Can a wood be so called when that entire region is….desolate with huge holes, naked and burned, and reduced to shreds,” wrote Phillipe Bieler, a Canadian soldier who recorded his experiences of the front in his memoir Onward Dear Boys.

Others had similar experiences. Private Alfred Warsop of the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters, wrote:

“I was sitting in a trench, soaked to the skin. I had to change position as the side of the trench was slowly sinking being only made of wet mud… The conditions were abysmal enough without the ever present dangers of shellfire, trench raiding parties, poison gas attacks and raking machine guns….There was a flash in the sky. I realized with a shock that I had been badly hit. My right arm jumped up on its own and flopped down. It felt as if my left arm and part of my chest had been blown clear away.”
The preserved trenches at Sanctuary Wood, however, have been controversial. As a privately owned property, the old British front line isn’t protected by the watchful eye of the Commonwealth Grave Commission. All over Northern France and Belgium, farmers and construction workers still regularly find remnants of the Great War, everything from unexploded artillery shells to rusted live hand grenades. The so-called Iron Harvest in 2013 alone unearthed over 160 tons of deadly artifacts. In fact there were so many recovered shells that the Belgian government created a daily pick up service where farmers could leave their deadly discoveries by the side of the road to be picked up, and safely delivered to a specialist bomb disposal service in Poelkapelle. Since the end of the war, over 260 people have been killed by disturbing unexploded bombs around Ypres alone, most recently in 2014 when two construction workers accidentally detonated a 100-year-old shell.

A 1917 aerial view shows the ruins of the Belgian town of Ypres, which was situated near to Sanctuary Wood. Ypres was at the centre of some of the most intense battles of World War One.
A 1917 aerial view shows the ruins of the Belgian town of Ypres, which was situated near to Sanctuary Wood. Ypres was at the centre of some of the most intense battles of World War One.

It’s also commonplace for farmers and construction workers to unearth more gruesome finds. One such was on an industrial site in the village of Boezinge, just outside Ypres, where work was being done on the Ypres-Izer canal. Here in 1992 a section of the British front line was discovered, along with the remains of 155 soldiers. When such a discovery is made the Commonwealth Graves Commission is called in to see if the remains can be identified. A team of archaeologists known as “The Diggers” then go to work to unearth and preserve the site. The continual discovery of remnants from the war are treated with archaeological respect for the site and for those who died there.

Apart from official stewardship, then, Sanctuary Woods’ caretakers have turned what is essentially a memorial site into a living museum. At some point, the Shier family re-enforced the trench walls with now rusting corrugated iron to stop them collapsing. Looking at primary sources, the majority of trenches would have been revetted with wooden planks and lined with sandbags. But this kind of work highlights the argument about the historic site’s care: Is the family desecrating a battlefield or preserving it? As one World War I battlefield touring guide puts it, “The natural desire to be allowed to walk freely amongst historical remains such as these trenches is one side of the argument, the possibility that they will be damaged in so doing is another.”

Part of the interior of the Menin Gate, Ypres, where every night at 8 p.m. a memorial service is held.
Part of the interior of the Menin Gate, Ypres, where every night at 8 p.m. a memorial service is held.

But what Sanctuary Wood does is to enable the visitor with a visceral first-person experience of what it was like to descend into the earth, to slog through mud-filled trenches and avoid being ensnared on rusted barbed wire. In the early 1980s part of Sanctuary Wood collapsed to reveal an undiscovered system of tunnels. Built by the Royal Engineers, it is possible today to walk inside. Such is the rudimentary nature of the living museum that there are no flashlights provided: You enter at your own risk. By the pale light of my phone, I entered the narrow claustrophobic tunnels. Only 4 feet high, and filled with mud, water in some places, rising to uneven dry earth floors, the feeling of finding your way deep underground is claustrophobic in the extreme. These tunnels would have provided protective communication passages between the trenches. For the miners tunneling towards the Germans, dozens of feet below, the suffocating terror must have been imaginable.

For war poet Wilfried Owen the demoralizing effects of trench life under fire left men;

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge.”
While the officially sanctioned Menin Gate and countless surrounding cemeteries and war memorials poignantly speak to the vast loss of life at Ypres, visiting the preserved ruins of the old British front line at Sanctuary Wood is to descend first hand into the wretched misery of trench life on the Western Front. Where soldiers rapidly became, as Siegfried Sassoon described in his 1917 poem Dreamers, “citizens of death’s grey land.”

“I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,

And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain.

Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats.

And mocked by hopeless longing to regain

Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,

And going to the office in the train.”

33Shares

Germany Catches Royal Wedding Fever

Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg pose after their religious wedding ceremony in Potsdam August 27, 2011.  The 35-year-old head of the House of Hohenzollern and great great grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II married Princess Sophie, 33, in a civil ceremony on Thursday.    REUTERS/Paul Schirnhofer/Haus Hohenzollern/Handout  (GERMANY - Tags: ROYALS)
Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg pose after their religious wedding ceremony in Potsdam August 27, 2011. The 35-year-old head of the House of Hohenzollern and great great grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II married Princess Sophie, 33, in a civil ceremony.

Hundreds – not thousands – lined the streets and until they tied the knot the happy couple weren’t exactly household names.
But, while it wasn’t on a par with William and Kate’s big day, this is the closest Germany comes to a royal wedding.
When Prince Georg Friedrich Ferdinand of Prussia married Princess Sophie of Isenburg it was like their country had stepped back in time.

article-2031037-0D991DC100000578-899_306x696
Big day: Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg pose for wedding pictures.

Prince Georg is the great-great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled his country until the monarchy was abolished in 1918.

And while their family’s role may now be long-defunct, this ‘royal’ wedding has rekindled interest in them among Germans.
The couple – who both work as consultants in Berlin – were married in a church in Potsdam, outside the capital, the former seat of the prince’s family.

Sealed with a kiss: The prince, 35, and 35-year-old princess, who both work as consultants in Berlin, embrace.
Sealed with a kiss: The prince, 35, and 35-year-old princess, who both work as consultants in Berlin, embrace.

After Saturday’s ceremony, they travelled by horse-drawn carriage to Sanssouci Palace for a dinner and ball. Several hundred onlookers lined the streets outside of the church to see them, despite the couple’s attempts to keep it low-key.The 33-year-old bride wore a dress designed by Wolfgang Joop, and a diamond tiara belonging to her family.The 35-year-old groom was dressed in a top hat and tails.

Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg set off in a horse drawn carriage after their religious wedding ceremony in Potsdam August 27, 2011.  The 35-year-old head of the House of Hohenzollern and great great grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II married Princess Sophie, 33, in a civil ceremony on Thursday.    REUTERS/Paul SchirnhoferHaus Hohenzollern/Handout   (GERMANY - Tags: ROYALS) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg set off in a horse drawn carriage after their religious wedding ceremony in Potsdam August 27, 2011. The 35-year-old head of the House of Hohenzollern and great great grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II married Princess Sophie, 33, in a civil ceremony on Thursday.
CORRECTS  RELATIONSHIP OF GEORG FRIEDRICH TO GREAT-GREAT-GRANDSON - Georg Friedrich Ferdinand Prince of Prussia , right, and  Princess Sophie  of Isenburg drive in a horse-drawn carriage in front of  Sanssouci  palace  after their wedding ceremony  in the church in Potsdam, Saturday Aug. 27, 2011. The Prince of Prussia is is the current head of the Imperial House of Hohenzollern, the former ruling dynasty of the German Empire and of the Kingdom of Prussia. He is the great-great-grandson and historic heir of Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, who was deposed and, initially, went into exile upon Germany's defeat in the Great War in 1918. ( AP Photo/dapd/ Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert)
Georg Friedrich Ferdinand Prince of Prussia , right, and Princess Sophie of Isenburg drive in a horse-drawn carriage in front of Sanssouci palace after their wedding ceremony in the church in Potsdam, Saturday Aug. 27, 2011. The Prince of Prussia is is the current head of the Imperial House of Hohenzollern, the former ruling dynasty of the German Empire and of the Kingdom of Prussia. He is the great-great-grandson and historic heir of Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, who was deposed and, initially, went into exile upon Germany’s defeat in the Great War in 1918.

Yesterday’s event was broadcast live on local public TV, sparking protest from members of the former communist Left party, and was splashed across the pages of newspapers and glossy magazines.Yet it was a far cry from the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton earlier this year which was broadcast live worldwide and attracted 750 million viewers, including millions in Germany.Prince Georg and Princess Sophie also held a civil ceremony on Friday.From 1871, the Kings of Prussia also served as German Emperors, with Wilhelm II being the last. He abdicated in 1918, following World War I, and the German monarchy was dismantled.

POTSDAM, GERMANY - AUGUST 27:  Georg Friedrich Ferdinand Prince of Prussia and Princess Sophie of Prussia leave their religious wedding ceremony in the Friedenskirche Potsdam on August 27, 2011 in Potsdam, Germany.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
POTSDAM, GERMANY – AUGUST 27: Georg Friedrich Ferdinand Prince of Prussia and Princess Sophie of Prussia leave their religious wedding ceremony in the Friedenskirche Potsdam on August 27, 2011 in Potsdam, Germany.

Descendants of German royal families still carry their titles, although they have no meaning and are legally considered part of their names. Until now Germans little interest in their own aristocrats, but many ardently follow the royal houses of their European neighbours – including Britain’s.

A horse falls while waiting outside the Church of Peace in the grounds of Sanssouci Palace, during the religious wedding ceremony for Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg in Potsdam August 27, 2011.  The 35-year-old head of the House of Hohenzollern and great great grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II married Princess Sophie, 33, in a civil ceremony on Thursday.    REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz (GERMANY - Tags: ROYALS)
A horse falls while waiting outside the Church of Peace in the grounds of Sanssouci Palace, during the religious wedding ceremony for Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg in Potsdam August 27, 2011. The 35-year-old head of the House of Hohenzollern and great great grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II married Princess Sophie, 33, in a civil ceremony on Thursday.
29Shares