• a new recruit in the British army

    As war became inevitable in the late 1930s, Herbert Sulzbach volunteered to fight with any force that opposed Nazism. Eventually, he wrote to Neville Chamberlain in May 1940.

    'Every soldier is of great value now! I offered my services before the outbreak of this war and a second time on 8 September 39 to your government. I then offered my services to Norway and have done the same to the Dutch, Belgian, French and Swiss embassies here. I would only like to serve the Allies, for nothing but idealism and their great and high cause - to help in the struggle against the devils in Germany, and for humanity, freedom and justice.'

    Two weeks later, France fell and Herbert Sulzbach was interned as an 'enemy alien'. But he continued to think of England 'as the home of peace - of justice, humanity and freedom. I was resolved to take my active share in the struggle.'

    Once he was released from internment and allowed to join the British army, Sulzbach was allocated to non-combatant duties with the Pioneer Corps. After initial training at Bradford, he was transferred to a camp at Didcot. The winter weather was dismal, and the work was heavy and monotonous. Sulzbach felt every one of his 46 years.

    'The sixteen men in my hut are nice and I am the oldest.'

    At the beginning of December 1940 he described how

    'Life in the camp is not hard but not too happy: the conditions are depressing. There is mud between the huts, thirty metres from our hut to the toilets (which are terrible open latrines), and to the wash-house where we wash in the darkness at 7am. The dining hall is a hundred metres away. There is no table in our hut, nor any light except for a paraffin lamp. It is impossible to write or read.'

    He gradually got used to things and kept his idealism high, despite the dreary work.

    'I feel that every man must now put all his efforts into this tremendous task and I am glad to work for the country that means freedom, justice and humanity.'

    (photo: Herbert Sulzbach in the Pioneer Corps 1943)


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On my blog I write about biography, Anglo-German reconciliation, and the life of Herbert Sulzbach.


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