Unknown Soldiers

If anybody out there can identify these First World War soldiers, please let me know! Thanks!

unknown-germanThis German soldier is very young. His face still shows its childhood roundness, but his physique and the size of his nose show that he’s well into his growth spurt. It’s been a few hours since he washed his face, because the adolescent oily shine has returned to his nose. His upper lip might have been chapped, as if he’d been wiping a runny nose on a rough woolen sleeve, and his eyes are more tired than child’s eyes should be. I would be surprised to find out that he was much older than sixteen years. (He resembles my oldest son at that age.)

The picture was taken after mid-1916, because that’s when the Stahlhelm began to replace the Pickelhaube. He’s been on active duty long enough to see action, and he’s been decorated, but he hasn’t been out long enough for his uniform to begin to break down: after a while, even the cleaning and pressing that uniforms were given after delousing couldn’t restore the crisp look that his collar still shows.

I can’t tell what’s on his shoulder tab, nor see the details of his buttons, and there’s not enough of his right cuff showing, for me to be able to identify his unit.

I’ve seen the photo in several different places on the Internet, but I haven’t been able to track down who owns it.

The pencil scrawl is illegible to me, although the last word may be “Franz.” A blogger in northern Germany took a copy of the photo to her mother, who speculated that the rest of the writing may be in old-style German script, but they couldn’t puzzle it out, either.

The youngest soldiers were chosen to train as storm troopers, so it’s unlikely that this boy survived the war.

The photo below is the frontispiece of the book Great War Tommy. Outside of identifying his cap badge as that of the Essex Regiment, and dating him to about 1915, because of the style of his accouterments and rifle, the caption says he is unknown. However long he’s been in the Army, his footwear looks as if he’s done a lot of marching. The shape of his face shows that he’s older than the German.

great-war-tommy-unknown soldier


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