• demobbed at Frankfurt 1918 – and Aldershot 1948

    On 8 December 1918 Lieutenant Herbert Sulzbach of the German Imperial army returned to his home town, Frankfurt am Main, gave up his field-grey uniform, and received his demobilisation papers.

    It had been a traumatic few weeks since the bitter moment when he had told his men, on 11 November, that their guns should fall silent and that they had lost the war that they had been fighting for the past four years.

    However, he led his men with pride and discipline on the long march back home, riding on horseback over the Rhine at Bonn alongside his friend, Lieutenant Hans Aldo von Seebach, with whom he had fought in the same unit.

    There was a welcome telegram waiting for him from his brother, Ernst, who was in Stockholm, for which he was grateful. But so many of Sulzbach's school mates had been killed in the war, including the two Princes of Hesse, Max and Friedrich Wilhelm, with whom he had holidayed as a child. It was a sad homecoming.

    Thirty years later, in December 1948, Captain Herbert Sulzbach was demobbed at Aldershot in Surrey. He handed in his khaki British army uniform and returned to his family in London. When the Second World War had ended in 1945, he had this time received a victory telegram from his brother, who was still in Stockholm.

    In Berlin in the 1930s, Sulzbach had been much impressed with Sheriff's 'Journey's End', a play which had been translated as 'Die Andere Seite' ['The Other Side']. At Featherstone Park, one of the PoW theatre groups had staged the play and as Sulzbach returned to his hut afterwards he couldn't help thinking about his own two experiences as a soldier – in field grey in the German Imperial Army, and in khaki with the British Army.

    It was a couple of years before he again caught up with von Seebach, who had since served as a Colonel in the German army. They met in Bonn.

    'Nearly thirty-two years ago we were marching together over this very bridge, both as Lieutenants in the defeated Imperial German army. What a strange world it is!'

    (photo: Herbert Sulzbach in 1918, aged 24, after serving four years in the First World War)


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


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