Picture Postcards from the Great War

The story behind a Great War postcard - Tony Allen

(1) Who was "Rammler" ?

ww1 postcard Rammler, a German soldier shot (without trial)
ww1 postcard Who was


The card illustrated above on the left is not British. On the reverse of it, is a roundel on which is printed ‘PHOTOTYP .  INDUST .  BELGE  .  P.I.B.’ and along the bottom is the announcement ‘Cliché et edit R. Ringoet, 639, ch. Louvain, Brux (Repr. Interd.)’  Next to these printing details appears a few lines in three different languages. The English version says,

"Rammler, a German soldier shot (without trial) at the same time as Baucq and Miss Cavell, for refusing to fire on this nurse. His coffin was found between these two patriots."

Baucq was Phillippe Baucq, shot alongside Nurse Edith Cavell on 12th October 1915, for harbouring British soldiers and helping them to escape. But who was Rammler? Rowland Ryder’s book Edith Cavell (1975) does not mention Rammler by name, but does say something of his execution and contends that he was interned by Captain von Cornberg. Ryder also gives a few details about "the many stories of how Edith Cavell met her death."

One story was that a member of the firing squad refused to shoot a women, whereupon he was himself shot, and buried at the same time as Nurse Cavell. This is what the card contends, but according to Ryder this legend was effectively disproved by Theodore Felstead in his account Edith Cavell: the Crime that Shocked the World  (1940) of the activities of a German N.C.O.  who worked in the Zeppelin sheds at Evere, near Brussels, and who sold information to Allied agents. The Germans detected him, made him work for them for a time and when his usefulness was at an end shot him at the Tir National.

The same picture also exists as one of a set of eight. The set was originally issued in a folder, which has printed on the front of it, "National Shooting Gallery (BELGIUM) SOUVENIR of the CIVILIAN MARTYRS of the GREAT WAR 1914-1918." Inside are eight postcards and printed on the back of each is text in three languages and ‘Photo F. MAT, 90 Rue Georges Leclerq, Forest (Reproduction interdite).’ The text on this identical card however is different,

"The German officer shot at the Brussels North Station, as he delivered false passe ports to Belgians wishing to join through Holland. He wore the Belgian colors in his button hole. That little patriotic souvenir was taken by Dr Vandenven of Schaerbeek and carefully conserved."

Another card (the one Illustrated above on the right) from the folder, appears at first sight to be a close-up view of the identical two cards described above. However, the position of the corpse’s left arm and the shape of the bottom end of the coffin are quite different though the English text on the back of the card says it is of "Rammler, a German soldier shot for refusing to fire on Miss Edith Cavell."

A similar name to Rammler was mentioned in a brochure on Edith Cavell. It was produced by ‘the P.C.C. of Swardestone, Norwich (where Edith Cavell spent her childhood) and it was said to quote Arthur Mee’s story of a private Rimmel throwing down his rifle at Nurse Cavell’s execution and then being shot form refusing orders.

So there are two postcards by different printer/publishers each clearly showing different corpses in similar but different coffins, with both said to be the body of Rammler.

Another card issued by P.I.B. carries the same picture as the one illustrated on the left and, just to confuse matters further, it has a caption on the back; it does not say it was Rammler (though the corpse's buttonhole story appears again) and there are other similarities. Here is the English version in full.

"German officer shot behind the right ear at Brussels North Station while preparing a false passport for a Belgian who wished to go to Holland. The corpse, still wearing rough sandals and wrapped in tarpaulin, eas (sic) taken to the Tir National and buried in a thicket where it as afterwards found in the course of his inspections by Mr. Colinet, a former Director. In the buttonhole of the tunic of this pro-Belgian was a ribbon of the Belgian national colours. The inscription in indelible pencil on the coffin is illegible except for the word 'Krasskell'.

Here we have contradictory captions. Assuming that one card is of Rammler, we also have him in another coffin.The first card said nothing about forged passports and a patriotic buttonhole, and seemingly different locations are given for the forger's death. One caption gives the impression that he was executed, another that he was summarily shot at.a railway station. One caption says that he was killed while preparing a forgery, another when he was delivering his work. yet another says it was he who refused to fire on Nurse Cavell and that his body was found between her and Baucq. 

All very confusing!


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