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.

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    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, 2019 at 19:54
  • There is a similar story about Marcel Marceau history.com/news/…
    – liftarn
    Jul 2, 2019 at 6:41
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    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. Jul 12, 2019 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.
    – komodosp
    Sep 16, 2019 at 8:09
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    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. Sep 26, 2019 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


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.

After Joseph Goebbels Werwolf speech, roaming stand courts and execution commandos (sometimes called "Wehrwolf-Kommandos") of the SS existed that were still active during the last days of the Battle of Berlin.

In both cases, leaving an intact bridge in place would have had lead to a summary 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

Joseph Goebbels Werwolf speech of March 23 1945

Ende März 1945 rückte Joseph Goebbels als "Generalbevollmächtigter für den totalen Kriegseinsatz" vom ursprünglich geplanten Konzept eines Guerilla-Kriegs durch Kleingruppen ab. Er proklamierte eine neue "Werwolf"-Ideologie, die einen rücksichtslosen Kampf eines jeden Deutschen bis zur "Selbstvernichtung" forderte. Der "Werwolf", so Goebbels in einer Rundfunkansprache, "hält sich nicht an die Beschränkungen, die dem innerhalb unserer regulären Streitkräfte Kämpfenden auferlegt sind [...]. Für die Bewegung sind jeder Bolschewist, jeder Brite und jeder Amerikaner auf deutschem Boden Freiwild. Wo immer wir eine Gelegenheit haben, ihr Leben auszulöschen, werden wir das mit Vergnügen und ohne Rücksicht auf unser eigenes Leben tun [...]. Haß ist unser Gebet und Rache unser Feldgeschrei. [...] Der Werwolf hält selbst Gericht und entscheidet über Leben und Tod."

Diese von Goebbels propagierte "Werwolf"-Mentalität und die aus ihr geborenen Aktivitäten richteten sich auch gegen die deutsche Bevölkerung. Eine unbekannte Zahl "wehrunwilliger" Soldaten und Zivilisten fielen noch in den letzten Kriegstagen Exekutionskommandos zum Opfer. So wurden am 28. April 1945 im oberbayerischen Penzberg 16 Männer und Frauen von einem "Werwolf"-Kommando unter der Führung des Schriftstellers Hans Zöberlein (1895-1964) hingerichtet: Sie wollten die Stadt nicht gegen die Alliierten verteidigen.

At the end of March 1945 Joseph Goebbels withdrew from the originally planned concept of a guerrilla war by small groups as "general representative for the total war effort". He proclaimed a new "werewolf" ideology, which demanded a ruthless struggle of every German to "self-destruction". The "werewolf," according to Goebbels in a radio address, "does not adhere to the restrictions imposed on those who fight within our regular armed forces ... For the movement, every Bolshevist, every Briton and every American on German soil is fair game Wherever we have an opportunity to wipe out their lives, we will do so with pleasure and without regard for our own lives [...] Hate is our prayer and revenge our field-crying [...] The werewolf holds court himself and decide about life and death. "

This Goebbels propagated "werewolf" mentality and the activities born of it were also directed against the German population. An unknown number of "defenseless" soldiers and civilians fell victim to execution commandos in the last days of the war. Thus, on April 28, 1945 in Penzberg, Upper Bavaria, 16 men and women executed by a "werewolf" command under the leadership of the writer Hans Zöberlein (1895-1964): They did not want to defend the city against the Allies.

Sources: (in German)

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    References regarding the general orders of April and early may 1945 would imporve this answer.would improve this answer. Dec 10, 2019 at 2:20
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    @PieterGeerkens Added sources and references to Wehrwolf-Kommandos Dec 10, 2019 at 8:24

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