My Granddad and World War I


One hundred years ago the most terrible of wars began. Up to that time there had been no war like this. I blame the industrial societies for it. In their search for growth potential they did not allow any restrictions; “markets, customers and resources,” was the cry for the “promised land”.

My Granddad, Otto Hannemann, was a carpenter foreman in the growing city of Berlin. Born in the small town of Lukenwalde, south of Berlin, he looked for work in the big city to support his growing family. In the first picture we see him with one of his two daughters and my dad. It seems they are all dressed up for  a Sunday outing. In July 1907 my father was six years old.

July 1907

July 1907

These were the years of peace and  future  well being. I don’t know much about my Granddad. My father seemed to be proud of him and proclaimed that “he built all the bridges” over the railway lines out of Berlin to the South. In the next picture we see him with some workers on a building site. I have been assured that he is in the picture. I think it is him on the far left with his hat on. The occasion is most likely a “Richtfest”,  the celebration of the erection  of the roof supports.

IMG_20141103_0001

When the war started he was not called up straight away. Only later, in the beginning of 1916, he was called upon as he was a reservist (Landjäger). In the picture he looks rather serious, probably anticipating what lay ahead of him.

Early 1916, it is still Winter

Early 1916, it is still Winter

It is the same picture my Grandmother had in a large frame on the wall of her bedroom. It seems he had his training in Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg.

The next picture was taken on the 15th February 1916. He was sending the card as a birthday gift. For whom, I don’t know. You can see him on the left in the back row.with the arrow pointing at him.

15.2.1916

15.2.1916

In the next picture you can see him second from the left in the centre row. On the back he wrote that those are the men from room 13 and he added, which mystifies me,  “the ‘washer children’ are not in the picture”. Whatever this means?

14.4.1916

14.4.1916

The next picture could be from the same period. The soldiers in “drill uniforms” usually worn on work duties. It looks to me they are waiting to be issued with food. He is in the centre and is marked with a red cross.

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I have no idea when he was sent to the Western Front. Perhaps he was even opposite Australian forces.

The following photo was made on Sunday 14th May 1916. It tells on the sign  “Rat-Goulash on the menu for the day”.

14 th of May 1916

14 th of May 1916

On the 15th of July 1916 he wrote at the back of the photo that he sent to his loved ones, that really they don’t have to eat rat-goulash yet. The picture has been staged he assured the readers, but still there are lots of rats to be seen. And they say Germans have no sense of humour.

I don’t know what happened to him after his arrival at the front. We know from the war reports and history books that it was hell. On the 2. 12. 1916 he fell. Some reports tell of cold and frosty days. He is buried in a war cemetery just  outside Lille.

Granddad's final resting place.

Granddad’s final resting place.

When the fighting stopped all soldiers hoped they saw the last of it. But the struggle was not over. World War Two, the next conflict, was even worse.

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10 thoughts on “My Granddad and World War I

    • What I learn from the pictures is that he was fully aware of what was going on and what was required of him. From his work he was used to cooperate with others.

  1. These are great historical photos, Peter. Even though you never met your granddad and even though you do not know a lot about his life, just by looking at these photos you must have a pretty good idea what his life would have been about. Imagine your great-grandchildren may be able to look at these historical photos. This is pretty amazing! 🙂

  2. https://berlioz1935.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/october-27th/
    https://berlioz1935.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/6-november/
    Here is my birthday present to her. A flash mop in Leipzig singing the “Ode to Joy”.
    “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA !”

    André Rieu – Ode an die Freude (Alle Menschen werden Brüder)ioz

    Hi Berlioz! I just had a great time going through some of your blogs.
    Apart from this very interesting blog about your grandfather, Otto Hannemann, I also viewed the blog about your father, Richard Hannemann, who was born on the 27th October 1900 and then I noticed a link to your blog about your mother, Frieda Hannemann, who was born on the 16 November 1900. You remembered her birthday by publishing “Ode to Joy”. I listened to this video of the flash mop singing in Leipzig and then I discovered another video of Ode to Joy (Alle Menschen werden Brüder). an Andre Rieu presentation. It is wonderful to listen to when everybody joins in.

    Anyhow, I think these three blogs of yours together make a pretty good memoir that should be of great value to your descendants.

  3. I am sorry that your grandfather joined the ranks of millions of others who never came home. How remarkable to have the photo of his grave. And how sad to have no memories of the man. A death of a young German soldier is directly linked to my being on this earth. If he had survived the war, my Oma would have married him and a completely different family formed. I wrote about him here, you may enjoy it:
    https://silverinthebarn.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/dulce-et-decorum/

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