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VC HERO SPARED HITLER'S LIFE; Town honours decorated soldier who might have averted Second World War.

Byline: MIKE LOCKLEY Sunday Mercury Writer

THE Victoria Cross hero who reportedly had Hitler in his gunsights but showed him mercy has been honoured in his hometown.

A memorial paving stone honouring the bravery of Henry Tandey was unveiled in Leamington Spa last month.

It is a reminder of the Great War courage the man who spent his childhood in an orphanage displayed at St Quentin canal.

But Tandey, born in August 1891, will be remembered nationally as the man who let Hitler off the hook.

In October 1918, at the Battle of Marcoing, the evil tyrant, badly wounded, lurched into Tandey's firing line.

The Warwickshire soldier refused to squeeze the trigger. If he had, the Second World War might have been averted.

According to reports, Tandey was informed of the identity of the man he spared during a 1938 call from then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

The PM had just returned from a fruitless meeting with the Fuhrer to try to avert war.

Chamberlain had been invited to Hitler's hilltop retreat in Bavaria and shown a reproduction of a famous painting called The Menin Crossroads.

Italian war artist Matania painted soldiers of the Green Howards evacuating the wounded at the Battle of Ypres in 1914 - with Tandey in the foreground carrying a comrade on his back.

Incredibly, Hitler recognised the Tommy as the man who spared him. He told Chamberlain: "That man came so near to killing me I thought I should never see Germany again. Providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us."

Hitler asked Chamberlain to convey his best wishes and gratitude to Henry, whose response to the phone call isn't known.

In 1939, Tandey told the Coventry Herald: "Did I see Hitler? I had the sights of my rifle on most of their gun crews, but whether I hit any of them I shall never know.

"I've wondered since how near I came to knocking down the future dictator."

It's the stuff of legend - but is it just that? Sunday Mercury historian Richard Pursehouse has studied the incident and believes there's a whiff of urban myth.

"We believe Tandey was apparently 80km away," says Richard. "If Hitler said it, I believe he said it to wind up Chamberlain.

"But he was a hero, all right. His toughness was forged during a bleak childhood, part of which was spent in an orphanage, and he worked as a boiler attendant at Leamington's Regency Hotel.

"Tandey enlisted with the Green Howards in August 1910, and fought on the Western Front from the very start," he adds. "He was shot in the arm in 1916 and wounded a second time at Passchendaele in November 1917.

"Then he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal in August 1918 for his actions at the second batle of Cambrai. And for leading a bombing party into the German trenches at Havrincourt on September 12, 1918, he was given the Military Medal.

"Finally, the Victoria Cross was bestowed upon Tandey for his actions during a September 28, 1918, counter-attack on the St Quentin Canal. With his platoon was held up by machine gun fire, Tandey crawled forward, located the enemy position and attacked it with a Lewis gun team.

"As he reached the St Quentin canal, he restored the plank bridge. During that night Tandey and eight comrades were surrounded by Germans, yet he led a bayonet charge with such aggression that 37 of the enemy were driven into the remainder of his company.

"Despite being wounded twice, Tandey refused to leave until the fight was over."

When he got his DCM, the Coventry Telegraph reported: "Private H. Tandey, who is the first Leamington man to win the coveted honour, is 27 years of age, and has served ten years with the colours. He has been at the Front since the outbreak of war.

"He is the son of Mr and Mrs James Tandey, of Livery Street, Leamington, and comes from a fighting family. His father is an ex-soldier recently discharged, and his two brothers are serving - Pte. F. Tandey, Prince Wales Own Yorkshire Regt (now crippled), and Samuel Tandey, aboard one of HM minesweepers.

"The hero has spent several of his leaves in Coventry, where his fiancee (Miss Warwick) resides at 37 Clarendon Street.

"About the middle of last month his mother received the pleasant news in the same post that her son had won the DCM and MM. The DCM was conferred for gallantry."

When the Victoria Cross was added to the list, the local press had a field day. One newspaper reported: "This man exhibited great heroism and devotion to go out under the most heavy shell fire. He carried a badly wounded man on his back. He then went out again and found three more wounded men and put them under and fetched a party of men bring them in.

"During a bombing attack on the Hindenburg line, he volunteered to be leading bomber, and then led the party over the open. He took it upon himself to be responsible for holding the bombing block in the trench, and while doing this the party was attacked by enemy in strength.

"The German officer shot at him and missed him. Pte. Tandey, quite regardless of danger, then led his party against the enemy and drove them away in confusion.

This soldier's conduct was throughout of the highest order, and for gallantry beyond all praise.

"Pte. Tandey has been twice wounded. He was employed at the Regent Hotel, Leamington, before enlisting. As a youth he was ever alert and was a leader to his companions.

"His sister told a Midland Daily Telegraph representative this morning that good luck and success had attended every action of his life."

CAPTION(S):

| Tandey in the foreground carries a wounded colleague, while the future Fuhrer is believed to lie far right in the painting

| The young Henry Tandey and inset right, aged 85 in hospital in Coventry with his medals
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 14, 2018
Words:1000
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