A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: My brother, the soldier - a young girl’s encounter

Sixteen-year-old Piete Kuhr describes in her diary a chilling visit to the Flying Corps barracks in Posen

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The Independent Online

Visited Gil in the Flying Corps barracks. An NCO (very friendly, probably because I am a girl) asked me whom I wanted. But even before I could answer, he said: “It’s Airman Kuhr, as I can see.”

“How can you see that?” I asked in astonishment. “By the resemblance,” he said, smiling all over his face.

So I was allowed to pass. I had to wait in the rather cold guardroom, in which a sergeant sat at a long writing table rummaging among papers; there was also another, older NCO there.

I waited quite a long time; then my brother came. But what did he look like! Was this Gil? This long, pale being in loose-fitting uniform with concertina trousers, thick boots, and a crazy-looking helmet? And his lovely soft, dark hair cut short? Oh, Gil, my brother Willi! I gazed at him flabbergasted. I was roused by the fact that he didn’t cast a single glance toward little me, but clicked his heels together in front of the table, his hands pressed against his wretched trousers, his backbone straight as a ruler, his head held stiff and high, staring vacantly into space. Oh boy, oh Diary! Like a corpse! I have myself played the part of Lieutenant von Yellenic like this and so drilled my boys in the yard, until they mastered the rules just like Willi now.

But that was in a play.

This is reality. My brother, the soldier!

From “The War Diary of Piete Kuhr”, first published in English as “There We’ll Meet Again” (Walter Wright, 1998). Piete Kuhr  (1902-1989) later wrote under the name Jo Mihaly. © Edition Memoria Hürth/Cologne.

Tomorrow: A telegram

The '100 Moments' already published can be seen at: independent.co.uk/greatwar