Private Henry Tandey, England’s most decorated World War I hero, took mercy on a wounded German soldier and let him live. On the eve of World War II, Tandey found out the life he spared was that of Corporal Adolph Hitler.
by David Robb
It was an act of mercy that led to the greatest crime of the 20th century and perhaps the greatest crime in human history – the Holocaust. This horrible act of mercy was committed on a battlefield in France in 1918 by one of the bravest men in British history – a young soldier named Henry Tandey, who would go on to become England’s most decorated hero of World War I.
Private Tandey had fought at the First Battle of Ypres in Belgium in October 1914, was wounded two years later during the Battle of the Somme, and again at Passchendaele in November 1917. That same year, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his determined bravery at Vaulx Vraucourt on August 28, and the Military Medal for heroism at Havincourt on September 12.
A year later, he was awarded the Victoria Cross – Britain’s highest award for gallantry – for his conspicuous bravery at the Battle of Marcoing. But it was there, on September 28, 1918, at this little village in northern France, that Tandey’s horrible act of mercy changed the world for the worse in ways that no one could have ever imagined. It was a moment of compassion that would cost the lives of millions of people.