Remarkable story of reconciliation

editorial image

A remarkable story of reconciliation following the First World War has been provided by a Hastings Observer reader, whose father was Captain Charlewood Turner.

Captain Turner of the Connaught Rangers, aged 22, took part in the first battle of the Great War on August 26, 1914.

He was detailed to a platoon to hold back the Germans in a rear-guard action at Le Grand Fayt, near Mons.

In a fierce engagement Captain Turner was badly wounded by a bullet that struck him in the shoulder, resulting in a life-threatening wound; nearly three quarters of the detachment were either killed or wounded. Captain Turner received first aid from a German medical officer but was not removed from the field of battle till the next day, when he was taken prisoner, surrendering his sword to a German officer. Captain Turner was well treated while a prisoner and was transferred to Château d’OEx in Switzerland in May 1916, where he remained for the duration of the war, returning home with a permanently disabled shoulder. In February 1934 Captain Turner received a letter, via the British Embassy in Berlin, from a German officer. The translation ran: “Dear Mr Turner, I hope that I am giving you pleasure by the return of your sword. It has been hanging in my gun cupboard for many years and only on reading of the restoration of their drums to the Scottish Highland Drums by Field Marshall von Hindenburg did the idea of returning your sword return to me. At the same time I would like to express the hope that our two nations never cross swords. During the China Campaign in 1901-1906 I was employed as mounted courier and ordnance officer to Count Waldersee and at that time had the opportunity of meeting and admiring many of your comrades. I was also on friendly terms with young foresters from Cooper’s Hill. The campaign is now far behind us and my old wounds have healed and so I trust that the old mutual respect between our two peoples, who are of the same descent, will again prevail. As a result of a fall in the field in 1915 I suffered a damaged knee, which unfortunately the doctors did not treat properly; tubercle-bacilli got into the knee and ruined the joint. I had to lie in bed for three years after the war but I am now so far recovered that I can carry out my pleasant duties in the woods in spite of a stiff leg. It would interest me very much to hear how you went on after 26.8.1914 at Grand Fait,” Yours very sincerely Karl Pogge Forstmeister (Forester)

Captain Turner was very touched by this the letter and the return of his sword and had made a silver replica, in the form of a letter opener as a gift to Herr Pogge. A correspondence began between the two former enemies and only ended when Captain Turner began to feel uneasy about the rise of Adolf Hitler.