This is one of the most enduring stories of German atrocity in WW1. Ever since it first surfaced in the Times of London in May 1915, the credulity meter needle has swung back and forth between ‘truth/fact’ and ‘myth/propaganda’. In 1919 the new German government even laid out a ‘put up or shut up’ demand: produce real evidence or disclaim the story.

Eventually most of the contemporary accounts were marginalized or discredited, and until 2002 our hypothetical needle was definitely sitting on the ‘myth/propaganda’ end of the dial.

Sjt. Harry Band

Then British documentary producer Iain Overton found new evidence in letters that support the ’truth/fact’ position, even identifying the actual victim as 29 year-old Sjt. Harry Band, of 9 Platoon, No. 3 Company, 48th Regiment (Highlanders), serving as part of the 15th (Central Ontario) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Follow this link to read a well-researched and presented dissertation about the incident by Nanette Norris, of the Royal Military College of Canada at St. Jean sur Richelieu, QC.


James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and is affiliated with the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Salonika Campaign Society and the Gallipoli Association.