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The British soldier who met Rommel

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The British soldier who met Rommel

Post Neon Knight on Sun 12 Mar - 23:50

The story of how Erwin Rommel, the German general, saved a captured British soldier and then served him beer and cigarettes has emerged after 70 years. Captain Roy Wooldridge, who was in the Royal Engineers, was taken prisoner during a covert night-time mission to examine submerged mines along the French beaches weeks before the D-Day landings. He was not wearing his Army uniform, nor carrying identification, due to the intense secrecy surrounding D-Day. He was treated as a spy and ought to have been shot. But Field Marshall Rommel, in charge Germany's "Atlantic Wall" defences and highly respected by the British, requested he personally question the new prisoner at a chateau in Brittany.

Capt Wooldridge, a hero of the Battle of El Alamein two years earlier at which Rommel was defeated by the Allies, was stunned when he was presented to the high-ranking officer. Rommel, known as the Desert Fox, asked the Briton if there was anything he needed, to which Capt Wooldridge cheekily replied "a good meal, a pint of beer and a packet of cigarettes". To his astonishment, his wish was granted when he was ushered into Rommel's mess where all three items were waiting for him. Capt Wooldridge ate the food, drank the stein of lager and smoked the German cigarettes, but kept the empty packet as a souvenir. Thanks to Rommel, he survived and was sent on to a prisoner of war camp.

Capt Wooldridge said: "We were taken to a house and interrogated for two weeks - they wanted to know what we had been doing but I didn't say anything. After that I was taken to a chateaux and in the guard room I was given a cup of tea and some cake. I was told to have a wash and smarten up because I was going to see someone very important. I was marched into a room and there stood behind a desk was Rommel. I recognised him immediately because I had studied photographs of him while in the Western Desert. His boss, Field Marshall von Rundstedt was also there - two of the most powerful men in the German army. Rommel asked me what I was doing in France but I didn't say anything. He then asked me if there was anything I required. I just said I could do with a pint of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a good meal. Then I was dismissed. I was taken to his mess and served by his waiter and on the table was a stein of beer, cigarettes and a plate of food. I could't understand it.

I was told that Rommel always wanted to meet men who had been doing something unusual when they were captured. I was meant to have been shot. I was told on several occasions during my interrogation that is what would happen unless I talked. Hitler had issued orders that commandos were to be shot but Rommel declined to obey that instruction. Rommel saved my life. He was a very fine German and a clean fighter.

Capt Wooldridge was taken to a PoW camp in northern Germany where he remained for the rest of the war. He returned to Britain where he become the principal of Derby College of Art and Technology.


Between the velvet lies, there's a truth that's hard as steel
The vision never dies, life's a never ending wheel
- R.J.Dio
Neon Knight
The Castellan

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