6

A friend of mine has often related a somewhat humourous story of an Irishman in World War 2 (presumably fighting in the British Army) who captured a bridge using "The Gift of The Gab".

Apparently he walked, possibly unarmed, up to the German checkpoint, proceeded to "inspect" the bridge, then went to the officer in charge and managed to convince him that Germany had ceded that bridge to the allies and that they needed to move back.

On hearing this, the German unit packed their things and withdrew and so the bridge was captured without a shot being fired.

Is there any truth to this story? The friend has quite a bit of military knowledge and I don't really doubt his word, but as I haven't managed to find any references to it online I think there may be a bit of hearsay involved.

  • 3
    I would be very surprised if that were true. The military enforces rigid obedience to the chain of command, and agreeing to what an enemy soldier tells you without checking with the superior officers is unlikely in any army. The most similar event that I can think of was the ruse of Murat and Lannes to capture the Tabor bridge during the Napoleonic wars -communication was more difficult-, but even then they did not get the enemy to leave and they just distracted them long enough to take the bridge. – SJuan76 Jul 1 at 19:54
  • There is a similar story about Marcel Marceau history.com/news/… – liftarn Jul 2 at 6:41
  • Did your friend say anything about when this was supposed to have occurred? Something like this in April 1945 against a small unit which just wanted to get through the final couple of weeks alive isn't completely absurd. – John Coleman Jul 12 at 21:50
  • @JohnColeman - unfortunately it was told as an anecdote so no, and we haven't spoke in a long time so I can't follow up... Obviously it would be almost impossible to say "No, that never happened", but if the story does exist I was wondering if it could be confirmed. However it seems not. – colmde Sep 16 at 8:09
  • Thinking a bit more about this, May 1945, post-Hitler but per-surrender, when Germany's sole remaining albeit futile hope was a negotiated armistice with the Western allies, at a small bridge over some minor stream, wouldn't be all that implausible. An officer who just didn't care very much anymore might have accepted it as something which was part of negotiations which were above his pay grade. On the other hand, anything much earlier is completely unlikely. – John Coleman Sep 26 at 15:22
0

Since no date or place is given, no definite answer can be given.

The general order of the day was of no retreat at all, in the last month's a scorched earth policy was in effect. Any claim of 'ceding' a position would not have been believed.

In both cases, leaving an intact bridge in place would have had lead to a summery execution of the officer when he returned to his commander and explained what he had done.

In the last days, a surrender would be more plausible. But never a withdrawal where the officer (and very likely his men) would have had to answer themselves for their actions.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.