Saturday, 13 May 2017

From the other side ............ messages to Berlin from the Western Front 1916

There is something compelling about this picture postcard.

On the simplest of levels it is that here we have a group of German soldiers staring back at us and that of course makes it different from the usual collection of photographs and picture postcards from the Great War.

And the more I look at them the more I am drawn to those unfamiliar uniforms which look so different from the standard British ones that I know so well.

I have no idea where they are or where they were from and only know that the card was sent in May 1916 to an address in Berlin.

In time I might be able to make something of the message, but I am operating with both hands tied behind my back for not only is it in German but the handwriting  is difficult to decipher, all of which just leaves me with the name Herman Waller.

But despite these problems the card fascinates me not least because some of my great uncles would have fought in those uniforms.

And that makes that conflict a civil war for our family.

Alongside my German relatives we can count six who fought in the armies of the King ranging from two uncles, two great uncles, to my grandfather and great grandfather.

Sadly little of their records, possessions or even their memories have survived the last century and at present there is even less from Germany.

In fact all we have is a sturdy metal note pad case with a name engraved on the back and a raised black iron crossed on the front.

All of which takes me back to the photograph and that less than original observation that once you ignore those uniforms the faces that stare back  could quite easily have been the faces of men from Manchester, London, Rome or Vienna.

Their expressions are a mix of smiles and studied seriousness and just like their opposite numbers they pose with cigarettes in their hands.

And no doubt think of the next meal, the time till their next leave and those back at home.

Picture; unknown group of German soldiers, circa 1916 from the collection of David Harrop

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