Apologies for not posting any interesting original material in the past few weeks, I’ve been busy dealing with the holidays and the celebrations that inevitably pop up at this time of year. Today’s blog post will be about a topic I’ve become fascinated with over the course of the past two years. Have you ever wondered why stereotypical WWI German media characters from WWI always seem to have a large scar on their face? Ever wonder why they always seem to be on the cheek and always are attributed with men of high status such as generals and higher ranking officers?
Well, recently I was able to purchase on eBay an inexpensive photo ($4.99) on eBay that perfectly personifies the image of a young WWI German soldier with a prominent facial scar.
Mensur Scar (New photo to collection)
Was this scar the result of a bad shaving accident? In fact, the answer is exactly the opposite; this left cheek scar is the result of a deliberate action.
After a solid night of internet research, I was able to cobble together an answer regarding the odd number of facial scars associated with late 19th and early 20th century German and Austrian soldiers. The Dueling Scar!
Male (upper class) students who were members of fraternities of major German and Austrian universities during this time were often engaged in academic fencing which at times would, at times, become a duel between competing fraternities. These individualized duels between students eventually became a badge of honor among fraternity members – taking a blow to the face showed courage and was a lasting reminder of the fraternal bond. Since these boys were often from a higher class, it was no surprise that many eventually became officers during WWI. This act was well know during the time and eventually became banned around the time of the outbreak of the war. The ban was lifted when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Many of the German officers of WWII had these scars given the fact that they were in university prior to WWI.
Skip ahead to 2:50 to see the duel in action!
Otto Skorzeny with Mensur Scar
YMCA Ladies were sent overseas to help bring a glimmer of American home life into the trenches in France and Germany. YMCA workers were attached to specific divisions and were tasked with putting on events, providing comforts of home, and entertaining the US soldiers with music and reading material. Interestingly enough, female YMCA workers were only selected from a pool of women ranging in age from 25-45 with a few older exceptions. No women whose parents were born in an enemy country could serve and women who were British or Canadian could not be sent to France. The YMCA was often criticized for price gouging US soldiers when charging fees for cigarettes, shaving material and everyday odds and ends.
Through a collecting friend and author I was able to obtain a nice side profile shot of a YMCA woman associated with the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Division. The uniforms for the female YMCA workers was designed by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and was a gray-green in color with a French horizon-blue collar. The pair of US triangles on the upper collar lapel were embroidered in silk and sported red-edged details. This particular woman is wearing an incredibly rare beret stye hat with a felt YMCA patch attached.
WWI YMCA Worker
Originally a member of the 8th Co. Coastal Artillery based out of Narragansett Bay (RI) until April 1918, Walter eventually joined the 102nd Field Artillery of the 26th Yankee Division. I was lucky enough to acquire two inscribed photographs depicting Walter in both roles. His seated portrait was taken before his June 1918 departure for overseas service.
An interestingly decorated backmark shows that the seated portrait was taken in at 162 Thames Street in Newport, RI. The Electric Studio’s logo includes a fanned array of lightning bolts emanating from the written portion of the backmark.
For further information on the Rhode Island National Guard unit Walter belonged to, click the link below: