• in a military hospital 1941 - 42

    In November 1941 Herbert Sulzbach was stationed with the Pioneer Corps at Salcombe, in Devon, when he had to be admitted to a small military hospital with severe abdominal pain. He found himself in a ward with four young British soldiers, all of them admitted on the same day. That evening as they talked,

    'Conversation turned to personal topics, and I told them about Germany, which I loved, and Nazism, which I hated. It must have been strange for them to be in a room with a former German officer from 1914, who today was one of them.

    'One had lost his father in the last war. The father of another had died ten years before as a result of his injuries from 1917. We became quiet and it was painful for me to think that maybe I had been guilty of their deaths. Then the young man whose father had fallen in 1918 said, without any bitterness but as to a friend,

    “How strange that in 1914 you fought against our fathers and today you are a comrade of their sons.”

    'Then he turned over and went to sleep. He had spoken my thoughts exactly.'

    Sulzbach was moved to a larger hospital at Moretonhampstead for surgery, when his inflamed appendix was removed. He was unwell for many weeks and in mid-January 1942 he was sent to a convalescent home - Bystock Court, near Exmouth – to recover completely. He had been looking forward to going there.

    'It should be fantastic. It is a millionaire's estate for a hundred men - with splendid rooms and amazing food. In the afternoons you can go for free to cinemas in Exmouth!'

    Eventually, after five months in medical care, he was transferred back to his company, which was then on duty in Falmouth, Cornwall. He was glad to feel better, but in particular, he had been glad of the earlier encounter with the young British soldiers, when he had been able to explain both his own experiences and the realities of Nazism.

    (photo: Bystock Court in 1946, when it was used as a convalescent home for Polish servicemen.)


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


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