What If

There are full of fateful moments in life which historian refer to "what if's" of history, where if the events had taken only a slight deviation,
the course of human affairs would have been dramatically different.

Such a moment occurred in the last days of the World War I, in the French village of Marcoing,
involving 27 year old Private Henry Tandey of the British Army and 29 year old Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler of the German Army.

Private Henry Tandey

Private Henry Tandey fought in the 1st Battle of Ypres in October 1914, he was wounded during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and also wounded at Passchendaele in 1917.
Private Tandey was awarded the DCM for determined bravery at Vaulx Vraucourt, the Military Medal for heroism at Havrincourt on September 12th and
Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery at Marcoing on 28th September 1918.

Tandey was mentioned five times in dispatches and earned his Victoria Cross during the capture of the French village and crossing at Marcoing.
When his regiment was held down by heavy machine gun fire, Private Tandey crawled forward, located the machine gun nest and took it out.
Arriving at the crossing, he braved heavy fire to enable troops to roll across and take the battle to the Germans,
the day still not over when he successfully led a bayonet charge against outnumbering enemy troops which helped bring hostilities to an end.
As the ferocious battle wound down and enemy troops retreated, a wounded German soldier limped out of the maelstrom and into Private Tandey's line of fire,
the battle weary man never raised his rifle and just stared at Private Tandey resigned to the inevitable.
"I took aim but couldn't shoot a wounded man," said Private Tandey, "so I let him go."
The young German soldier nodded in thanks and the two men took diverging paths, that day and in history.

Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler retreated with the remnants of German troops, and on Oct 1918, Adolf Hitler was wounded by gas attack near Wervicq.
While recovering from his wound in Germany, he learn of Germany's humiliation of defeat at wars end on Nov 1918.

Private Tandey put that encounter out of his mind and rejoined his regiment, discovering soon after he had won the Victoria Cross.
It was announced in the London Gazette on 14th December 1918 and he was personally decorated by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 17th December 1919,
in newspaper reports a picture of him carrying a wounded soldier after the Battle of Ypres was published,
a dramatic image which symbolized a war which was supposed to have put an end to all wars.

After the war he was posted to Turkey and Egypt on 4th February 1921.
He was discharged from the Army on 5th January 1926 at the rank of Sergeant.
Leaving the highest decorated private soldier in the British Army during the Great War.
Latter, Tandey settled in Leamington where he married, settling back into civilian life he spent the years as plant security chief.
He lived a quiet life and although regarded as a hero by all, he wasn't one to brag or boast, wouldn't mention the war unless asked about it.

In 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his gloomy trip to Munich to meet Chancellor Adolf Hitler in a last ditched effort to avoid war which resulted in the ill-fated 'Munich Agreement'.
During that fateful trip Hitler invited him to his newly completed retreat in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, a birthday present from the NAZI Party.
Perched 6017 feet up on Kehlstein Mountain it commanded spectacular views for 200 kilometers in all directions.
While there the Prime Minister explored the hill top, he notice a reproduction of the famous Marcoing painting depicting Allied troops,
puzzled by the choice of art by Hitler, Chamberlain had asked what it was doing there and in reply Hitler had pointed out that Private Tandy in the foreground and commented, "that's the man who nearly shot me"

Hitler seized the moment to have his best wishes and gratitude conveyed to Private Tandey by the Prime Minister, who promised to phone him on his return to London.
It wasn't until that time Tandey knew the man he had in his gun sight 20 years earlier was Adolf Hitler and it came as a great shock, given tensions at the time it wasn't something he felt proud about.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Adolf Hitler joined the German Army. He was twice wounded, once almost fatally gassed and awarded the Iron Cross in recognition of his bravery.
He believed Private Tandey's benevolent action was part of the grand scheme of things, which was also his sentiment upon surviving assassination attempts later on.
Hitler never forgot the moment he stared down the barrel of death, nor the face of the man who spared him.

After recovering from his wound, defeated in his mind, walking in the street, Hilter stumbled across a newspaper featuring the famous image of Private Tandey which noted his being awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
Hitler knew him and kept the copy, and on becoming Chancellor of Germany ordered the Nazi government officials to obtain a copy of his service record and reproduction of the Marcoing painting,
which he hung and pointed out to loyal disciples with pride.

Tandey was haunted the remainder of his life by his good deed, the simple squeeze of a trigger would have spared the world a catastrophe which cost tens of millions of lives.
He was living in Coventry when the Luftwaffe destroyed the city in 1940, sheltered in a doorway as the building he was in crumbled and city burned like a scene of Inferno.
He was also in London during the Blitz and experienced that atrocity first hand.
Tandey later told the journalist that during the Great War he had as a rule to spare wounded and disarmed German soldiers, so Marcoing wasn't the first or last time he performed a humane deed in inhumane circumstances.
"if only I had known what he would turn out to be. When I saw all the people, woman and children he had killed and wounded I was sorry that I let him go".

Tandey tried to rejoin his regiment to see to it that, "he didn't escape a second time", but failed the physical due to wounds received at the Battle of the Somme.
Nonetheless he did his bit on the homefront, volunteering wherever he could be of service but was always haunted by an act of decency to an indecent man.
Henry Tandey VC DCM MM died in 1977 aged 86, in accordance with his wishes he was cremated and interred at the British Cemetery in Marcoing alongside fallen comrades and close to where he won his Victoria Cross 60 years earlier.

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New Member
Jun 23, 2007
Wow, some turn of events. If only he had shot Hitler that day, everything would have stopped. Fate plays a powerful force.


New Member
Dec 11, 2006
Thanks for telling this interesting bit of history, didn't know that such an event existed...really "what if" man...

Aug 12, 2009
In the Sea
its interesting to observe that a single historical event can have such a disparate effect on the two individuals - one recollecting it as a traumatic event, the other perceiving it as a part of his journey to greatness. historical memories are never static, and should always be perceived within their contexts :)


Senior Member
Feb 24, 2005
Henry Tandey saved the world.
He allowed Hitler to live. So that Hitler would screw up the war for the Germans.
If Hitler was killed there were other evil guys around in Nazi regime who would have just the same started WW2, killed Jews, etc...but they would have been smarter in running the war.

Hitler was a bungling fool who kept interfering with the generals and high command.
He started Barbarossa for nothing. Opened so many fronts for what? Attack Russia? out of his mind. Never learn from Napoleon's mistake.
He commanded Luftwaffe to bomb London instead of vital airfields, factories, military targets...the idiot.
He chased away the Jew scientists who could have built the A bomb for him way before US.
He had brilliant generals/field marshals...Guderian, Rommel, etc...

But don't know how to use them properly.

Feb 2, 2009
There is no " What if " in history. We can only learn from history the mistakes committed by others and not to repeat them in future.

Imagine there is a "What if " by turning back the clock? Even a small event ( like this one above) will change the course of history completely.

Another similar story that I read recently in a China internet is that of 项羽 vs 刘邦. If 项羽 had killed 刘邦 instead of letting him go at 鸿门宴, then there will not be any Han Dynasty in the Chinese history.

Then Chinese will be called Chu people ( 楚人)and not Han people ( 汉人 ).

If there is no Han Dynasty, then there will not be any Romance of the 3 Kingdoms as well !

Apr 7, 2010
Southern Enclave
Lets face it, time and time again, history ALWAYS repeats itself no matter how civilisations tries to prevent that from happening. Politics will always be a playing ground for the super rich and powerful. And with that kind of power, minds will be corrupted, mistakes will be covered up, and then history will again rears its ugly head... That is why good leaders of today will always worry for the future generations, when they see moral standards of today's youth degenerates into unacceptable levels...

I'm always a skeptic when it comes to such matters. The "what ifs" are just sensational stories to entertain the masses (and entertain it will), but will serve no purpose in preventing anything undesirable from happening in the future. Nothing can be learnt out of this, unless one can go back in time and change everything (but whatever for??)...

Entertaining read, nevertheless.

You are all correct, guys.
There is no "What if" in life.

"What If" was actually set by many historians worldwide for case study purposes,
and when the contents was channel to public, it's sometimes for entertainment and leisure reading. No harm though.

The subject can also be "Irony of Life" instead of "What If"
Where the winner was haunted the remainder of his life for his good deed,
and while the defeated purse his dream, with confident and belief that Tandey's benevolent action was part of the grand scheme of things for him.

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