World War One Was Exciting!
When Willy was 14 and finished with school he started his three year blacksmith apprenticeship with his father. It was 1914 and World War One had just started. Certainly he thought it was exciting and wanted to be a part of the Great War, but he was too young. He also started writing in his teen journal where he gave a first hand narrative of what was happening at the home-front during the Great War. In August 1914 Willy wrote in his journal:
“I would have liked nothing better than to quit work, take up arms, and join the fight. I was happy as a clam that the war was happening. It was an exciting time. All the young men ran to the barracks and volunteered for duty. Everyone rallied to the colors.”
In 1916 Willy was in the Youth Regiment
Willy wrote: “In August, came something that made the heart of every young man beat faster. There was to be a district sports competition, where all could show what they had learned. Therefore we marched to Freiburg, where the competition was to be held. Youth Company Mucheln was represented by 13 men. It’s well known that Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the famous Turnvater, (ed. the German father of gymnastics) is buried in Freiburg. In my library, I have a book that describes him.
It’s not possible to describe the details. After we, the Freiburgers, and others had assembled, we marched singing to the sports field. Here we started with throwing hand grenades. With 36 meters, I had the best throw. However then came someone who threw 40 meters. Therefore he took first prize, and I took second. At the obstacle race, I failed. I could not keep my balance on the narrow tracks, jumped off, and lost. I did the long jump with 3.8 meters, whereas the winner did 4.1. But everyone, including those who got no prizes, had a good time. The district youth leader announced the names of the winners and said the prizes would be sent to us.
Later, all winners did receive a beautiful book of songs. Then he gave a speech to the young men and to the athletes and thanked us for coming in such numbers. He praised our performances, and said we should strengthen ourselves, body and soul, so that some day when the Fatherland calls, we could do what our fathers and brothers were doing. Everyone received a book and after “Long live the Kaiser!” we sang “Heil dir im Siegerkranz.” (ed. the German emperor’s anthem), Finally we buckled our belts and in a happy mood and light spirits, we went homeward.”
Well into World War One
and still in his apprenticeship, Willy wrote in his journal:
“January 1, 1917: Time passed and Christmas came. It was not merry because everyone’s thoughts were with their loved ones at the front. At the New Year, young men and young girls were at the bell tower having glasses of schnapps and ringing the bells, which were so loud in the silence of New Year’s night that you could hardly hear yourself think. As a result we forgot about war for a moment.
At midnight, everyone shook hands, congratulated each other, yelled into each other’s ears and made even more noise. Those who were not ringing got up to all sorts of jokes and pranks, and to top it off, Mr. Kirchhof appeared in the frock and cap of the pastor. It gave me a real fright until I realized what was going on. Now the bottle appeared again. I was just taking another swig when someone said something that made me laugh, and the stuff went up my nose and ended up on the floor. At one o’clock, with more good wishes for the New Year, everyone dispersed.”
World War One caused struggles at home and Willy’s journal describes his wisdom:
“I have now stepped over the threshold of the New Year. Time rushes on relentlessly. Nothing can stop it and only the enjoyment of the moment lets us slow it down a little. What will the New Year bring me? Will this great war end or, if not, will I also have to put on the uniform? Will I even live to see the next New Year? What will happen? What awaits me?
However I suppose at the start of a new year everyone would like to lift the veil of the future. But those are human thoughts. It has to be taken as it comes. It can’t be worse than the last year. But I don’t care. The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken, praise and thanks be to the Lord. And so I enter the New Year hoping for the best. When I am a year older, I will know everything. Happy New Year!”
Willy was 16 1/2!
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More true WWI stories:
Christmas Truce: https://www.businessinsider.com/christmas-truce-1914-world-war-i-2017-12
11 Best World War I Books: https://explorethearchive.com/best-ww1-books
The Best Books on World War I: https://fivebooks.com › History › Military History