#whitefeather diaries

German troops rebel against war

Thursday 17 March 2016

Discontent spread among troops on all sides of the conflict as the war increased. At times, this was limited to criticism of army extravagance or mismanagement, as implied in Laurence's letter in today's entry. Sometimes it spilled over into criticism of the war itself.

Protests became more common in Germany, exacerbated by heavy food shortages resulting from the British naval blockade. In 1917, a dispute over rations on German ships docked in Wilhelmshaven escalated, leading around 600 sailors to walk off their ships and call for an end to the war. The authorities arrested 75 alleged ringleaders. Two of them, Albin Köbis and Max Reichpietsch, were shot by firing squad on 12 September. Albin, who was 25, wrote to his parents hours before his execution. Here is a translation of his letter.

My Dear Parents,

I have been sentenced to death today, September 11 1917. Only myself and another comrade; the others have been left off with 15 years' imprisonment. You will have heard why this has happened to me. I am a sacrifice of the longing for peace; others are going to follow.

I cannot stop it now, it is six o'clock in the morning, I am being taken to Cologne at 6.30, and on Wednesday September 12 at nine o'clock in the morning I am going to be sacrificed to military justice.

I would have liked to press your hands once more to say goodbye, but I will do it silently. Console Paula and my little Fritz. I don't like dying so young, but I will die with a curse on the German militarist state.

These are my last words. I hope that some day you and mother will be able to read them.

Always Your Son,

Albin Köbis

Source: Quoted by Tony Paterson, “The first world war in 100 moments: My dear parents, I have been sentenced to death...”, Independent, 17 June 2014.

Related Materials

Hospital ward
Thursday 17 March 2016

Laurence was promoted to Officer-in-Charge of Transport. He was so absorbed with his work that he forgot his own birthday. The FAU was attached to the French army rather than the British. In a letter to his parents, Laurence expressed his frustration with the British army's wastefulness.