Facts and Fictions
Hitler did indeed possess a copy of “ The Menin Crossroads,” and it certainly had a special significance to him. In the museum of the Green Howards is a note dated 1937 from Hitler’s secretary. ‘I beg to acknowledge your friendly gift which has been sent to Berlin through the good offices of Dr. Schwend, “ the note reads.” The Fuhrer is naturally very interested in things connected with his own war experiences, and he was obviously moved when I showed him the picture and explained the thought, which you had in causing it to be sent to him. He has directed me to send you his best thanks for your friendly gift which is so rich in memories.’
However, it is here historical certainty ends, and legend begins. Chamberlain’s diaries and letters show nothing to suggest he attached any significance to Hitler’s revelation. He also could not have phoned Henry Tandey, for, according to British Telecom’s archives, in 1938, Henry Tandey did not have a phone. Tandey did learn of the story- but second hand, from an officer he met at a regimental reunion in 1939. The officer had heard the tale anecdotally from Chamberlain. Once again, Tandey could not confirm he had saved Hitler.
Crucially, however, it is impossible that the soldier Tandey spared on September 28, 1918, on the Marcoing Bridge was Adolf Hitler- because Hitler was not there. Records from the Bavarian State Archives show that on September 17, Hitler’s unit was moved 50 miles north of Marcoing. Hitler himself was on leave between September 25-27. So even if his regiment advanced to Marcoing, Hitler could not have joined them in time.
So why was the picture of “The Menin Crossroad” so important to Hitler? And why did he tell Chamberlain that Tandey saved him at a battle that took place four years after the events in the picture? It is possible Hitler fabricated the story out of self-aggrandizement. He was obsessed with showing he was fated to lead Germany to greatness. What better way than to claim fate spared his life at the hands of an enemy hero?
However, there is also the possibility that Tandey did save the Fuhrer’s life- but not at Marcoing. Hitler may have confused Menin with Marcoing- or deliberately switched the two, so his salvation corresponded with Tandey’s greatest triumph. We can never know.
Henry Tandey died in 1977, and his ashes were interred at the Marcoing British cemetery, near the place he fought so bravely. Whether or not he spared Hitler that day in September 1918 is in serious doubt. However, what is certain Tandey’s rare ability as a soldier. His actions throughout the Great War saved many of his comrade’s lives. It is for his exceptional bravery and skill that people should remember Henry Tandey- not for hypothetically sparing the life of a man he probably never even met.