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Reform Magazine | December 1, 2023

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Brothers in arms

Brothers in arms

One hundred years ago, Frederick Pickering and Friedrich Hauss were on opposite sides in the Battle of the Somme. Now their grandsons have made the surprising discovery of their shared history

In 1916 Friedrich Hauss, a German theological student, was one of the 4 million men fighting in the Battle of the Somme. One night, he found himself in a castle filled with ammunition which was being heavily shelled.Though he survived to tell the story, he remembered it as the most dreadful night of his life. He prayed: ‘Lord, save me. I will be committed to the work even more.’ He later said that the experience deepened his faith in God.

Ninety-seven years later, his grandson Martin Henninger, minister of the Lutheran Church in Frankenthal, Germany, was in England. He was visiting his friend David Pickering, the minister of St Andrew’s United Reformed Church Roundhay, Leeds, which his own church was twinned with. As they walked round the local park, their conversation came on to the forthcoming centenary of the First World War. David asked Martin: ‘Did you have anyone who fought in one of the world wars?’

Martin said he had. They discovered that their grandfathers had fought in the First World War. They discovered that the two men had both been in the Somme, on opposing sides. While Martin’s grandfather was Friedrich, David’s was Frederick.

Back home, David showed Martin his grandfather’s memorabilia from the First World War: a packet of German tea, some German soap and a prayer guide. According to the family story, Frederick was a stretcher bearer in the war. Both men had also been active Christians, Friedrich becoming a minister, Frederick a church treasurer. How moved and touched they would have been, David and Martin agreed, that their grandsons had become colleagues and friends.


This is an extract from the November 2016 edition of Reform.

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