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Field Marshal Rommel's watch

Wristwatch of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel


On July 17, 1944, Erwin Rommel's staff car was shot down by British aircraft. Field Marshal Rommel was very badly wounded and lost consciousness. Immediately after the action, he was brought to the nearest town of Livarot. There was nothing in this small town except the hospital of the French Cathedral of St. Joseph. The officers who accompanied the field marshal found the pharmacist M. Lessen there. Rommel himself was placed on a wooden table, which today is a museum exhibit.

After the war, the pharmacist M. Lessen recalled:

"Upon arrival, I heard the German soldiers pronounce Rommel's name. On the uniform of the wounded were the general's insignia. It seemed to me that the German officers wanted to hide his identity. I pretended not to pay attention to him. They looked very worried and kept talking about him. They scolded the nuns for letting a wounded man wait on a stretcher in the hallway. I reassured them by saying that this was one of the rules of the hospital. After that, I allowed the wounded man to be brought into the room and laid on an oak table.

The table on which the wounded Erwin Rommel lay


I put bandages on him and recommended that he be taken immediately to the hospital in Bernay, which was the nearest from our city. Since there was no ambulance on site, the Germans removed the front seat in the passenger car and put a mattress there for the wounded. The officer accompanying him asked me to give him an injection, so I injected him with two ampoules of camphor oil. Then I took care of the newly delivered driver, whose left arm was torn off along with his shoulder.

Shortly after the marshal's departure, a military doctor and General Heinrich Eberbach arrived and questioned me about the wounded field marshal. They found two capsules of camphor oil in the ashes inside the fireplace, and took it for inspection.

I kept the victim's wristwatch, which I originally intended to keep as a memento of the event. In the bustle, this clock was forgotten in my room. The next day an officer came to me and asked me to give him what he called the "marshal's watch". So, I got another confirmation that it was Field Marshal Rommel. He told me that the wounded man was doing well, and his driver, unfortunately, had just died.

On the same day, a doctor I knew from the Bernay hospital, passing through Livarot, informed me that a general had died in the Bernay hospital and that his body had been sent to Germany. I believed this news to be true because of the serious injuries, and also because the Germans returned to look for empty ampoules to identify it, and at the same time they did everything to hide the identity of the field marshal.

Information about the death of the German general was reported by someone to London, who hastened to announce it over the radio. Because of this, soldiers from the Gestapo came to me the next day to interrogate me and find out who had transmitted the accident report to London. Naturally, I replied that I did not know. This incident once again strengthened in my mind the certainty I already had about the identity of the wounded man. By the way, at that time the German officers were really sure of his death."

Pharmacist M. Lessen helps the wounded Erwin Rommel
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