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Ask the Experts

IRON MAN Despite having failed the army medical, Adolf Hitler (circled) went on to win the Iron Cross twice during World War I


Although Adolf Hitler was in his mid-20s at the outbreak of World War I, he initially tried to avoid conscription. Then, when made to enlist, he failed the medical. Yet by some clerical error or confusion, he still ended up in uniform.

Hitler served in the Bavarian army at the First Battle of Ypres, known as the Massacre of the Innocents. His regiment of 3,600 was reduced to 611, and he was one of only 42 survivors from his 250-strong company. He was also wounded at the Somme and was twice awarded the Iron Cross for bravery, once on the recommendation of a Jewish comrade.

Then, on 15 October 1918, Corporal Hitler got caught in a mustard gas attack by the British. He spent the rest of the war recovering from temporary blindness, learning of Germany’s surrender in a military hospital. At that moment, as he later claimed in Mein Kampf, “the idea came to me that I would liberate Germany, that I would make it great”.



Adolf Hitler adopted his toothbrush moustache during World War I. His gas mask wouldn’t fit over the impressive set of whiskers he had at the time, so he was ordered to clip them back so that his mask would create an impenetrable seal.

Why do we say ‘tying the knot’?

The image of a knot and the act of two people binding their lives together seem to marry up pretty clearly. Knots have appeared in marriage ceremonies in cultures all over the world. ‘Tying the knot’ may come from one, where the wrists of the bride and groom are actually bound – loosely – by a sash, cord or ribbon in an act called handfasting.

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About History Revealed

“Don’t let every little feeling be read in your face and seen in your manner.” Queen Victoria certainly took her own advice. But her personal feelings have since been revealed through her diaries and letters, and this issue we ask the celebrated historian Lucy Worsley how these private words have shed light on Victoria’s life and deeds. Plus: the tale of how modest Oxford don JRR Tolkien was inspired to create Middle Earth, an ancient Athenian whodunnit, our A-Z of executions, the most brilliant beards in history, and more.