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German Naval visit to Cornwall during the "Cold War" of 1938/39

   During the last week of February 1939 the German battleship "Schleswig-Holstein visited Falmouth after the conclusion of a four and half month cruise of the West Indies. The battleship was of the old pre-Great War type, and was commanded by Frigattenkapitän Arnold Bentlage. She had been used in the late thirties as an officer cadet training ship, and when she moored off Falmouth at Carrick Roads, she had a complement of 850, including 150 cadets.

   An officer of the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry was invited aboard and disscussed Anglo-German relations with the German officers, talking about the political situation and finding much to agree upon. There was also much humour and the Kapitän agreed during a break in the dinner, to send 30 officers and seamen to visit Bodmin (Cornwall, England) as a gesture of good will, this group was also to include the ships football team.

   Target Practice

   One of the officers Oberleutnant zur See Otto von Bülow (a distant relative to the famous General) enjoyed his first view of the Cornish scenery and quickly made himself popular at the regiments Bodmin depot. There he saw dart boards for the first time and asking what they were for, was told that they are used by the regiment for target practice! Von Bülow expressed admiration of the bearing and saluting of the British NCOs and men.

   The German guests had arrived at the depot in a large coach hired by the German Consul. The seamen were beautifully turned out in uniform and, shortly after, the team changed into their football strips. In charge of the German team was a Leutnant Bligh, known by everyone as "Mutiny" Bligh, but he was nothing like his namesake and got on with everyone.

   The Football Match

   After the two teams had been photographed together, the Germans presented each member of the british team with a badge, and for the Depot a large photograph of the Schleswig-Holstein signed by the Kapitän.

   Then the football match started. The DCLI team went into the Germans in a typical British fashion, with the result that they scored early on. Then just before the end of the first half, down came the torrential rain and the ground became reminiscent of Calcutta football ground in the monsoon. In the second half the wind rose to a gale, blowing unfortunately against the regimental team. The British team had to play with out some of their best players because they had departed with the 2nd Battalion and some of the players in the 1st Battalion were sick.

   The British team could not keep up the pace, with the result that the German team scored three times (3-1). The Schleswig-Holstein undoubtedly had a fine team although the depot team deserved the warmest praise for its fight in the game. The German goalkeeper was one of the best in Germany, football was the ships strongest game and their team compared favourably with those in other ships of the German Kriegsmarine.

   After the match the 30 Germans were entertained and in return the sailors were invited to sing, producing the effect of a trained choir which was much appreciated by their hosts. At about 7.30 pm the Germans rejoined their coach and after an endless warm hand-shaking and terrific cheering on both sides, moved off having enjoyed visit to the Bodmin regimental depot.

   Not hostile

   Meanwhile Major and Mrs Mercer and Captain and Mrs Wetherell had been attending a farewell party in the Schleswig-Holstein with the Falmouth branch of the British Legion. They had an interesting time and an enjoyable party. An esscorting officer from the DCLI, became the guest of honour of Otto von Bülow who sat at the foot of a large painting of Adolf Hitler. The German officers were friendly and not in the least hostile towards England, though they longed to get their German colonies back.

   The great difference between their views andthose of their British counterparts, was that they believed that Germany was not responsible for the First World War. One of the ships Leutenants insisted on showing the DCLI officer his "office", and the officer said that the table had almost as much bumph as theBritish Army suffer from! The German was pleased to learn the word "bumph" for future use.

   Late evening, the British party left the ship after warm farewells, the sincerity of which could not be in doubt. Their last glimpse of the battleship showed the officers and sailors still standing at the Nazi salute, as they had left them. A final symbol of their courtesy and friendliness.

   It could not last and on 1st Sepember 1939 as the war started, the Schleswig-Holstein shelled Polish forts on the Baltic coast, and the DCLI Regiment went to France and took up positions in the Maginot Line. 

   Three POWs captured by the Germans in the Maginotline, broadcast from Berlin on the evening of March 6th. Lance-Corporal Harold Walford, of Clapham Road, Bedford, whom you see here, said in that broadcast that he had taken part in a football match against the crew of a German Warship.  

Kriegsmarine battleship

Schleswig-Holstein
The two football teams 1939 just before the war
Lance-Corporal Harold Walford, of Clapham Road, Bedford, captured by the Germans, and on German radio said he had taken part in the football match.
 
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