The German GHQ at Spa, March to November 1918

Below is a set of slides which belonged to the late Harry Canvin. It shows scenes of troops in and around Spa during the period when the German GHQ was based at the Hotel Britannique. The Germans moved their GHQ (OHL – Das Oberste Heeresleitung – in German) to the little resort of Spa, deep in the Belgian Ardennes, on March 8th 1918. It was 140 east of Arras and 20 miles south of the Dutch border.

The Kaiser himself was also at Spa, housed a little out of town – and (on purpose) a little out of touch with what was going on at GHQ! It was from here that he travelled to exile in the Netherlands.

There are lots of troop movements going on – perhaps as the Germans moved into Spa in March, or out of Spa in November. The photos include several of British troops entering Spa, presumably after the Armistice.

Provenance of the photos: Here’s what Harry told me:
“A soldier of WW2 returning to his scoutmastership went into the Wolverton hut loft. Finding that the lens of the Magic Lantern was missing, he decided to take the glass slides home, and later, knowing of my interest, offered them to me for professional copying. Sending prints to the Imperial War Museum I was told that they had similar of the Germans leaving Spa, but knew nothing of these.”

Technical note: Harry’s slides are modern 35mm film slides: the copyist didn’t always photograph the glass slides from the correct side, so some of the 35mm images are left-right inverted. I have used evidence in the photos to try to get them all the right way round, but I may not have been completely successful! If you can spot any obvious (or not so obvious) left-right inversions, let me know and I’ll correct them.

Jeremy Cooper

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