COLOGNE – Thursday, 26th December (1918)

In Cologne.  It is a curious thing that after all my pre-war dreams of going to Germany I should now find myself here malgre moi, and upon my soul I am beginning to be reconciled.  We clattered out of our small town at about 9 a.m.  In the distance was a low ridge, crowned with immense works presenting a forest of smoke-stacks against the sky.  A fast electric car service runs about to neighbouring towns and villages.  At about 1 p.m. we reached the outskirts of the city, comprising residential areas, wide, well-paved streets lined with trees and occasional public gardens.

The attitude of the inhabitants is, as can only be expected, cold and undemonstrative, but there has been no jeering or unseemliness of any kind.  Our route lay through the centre of the city, so that we obtained a good impression of its size and architecture.  At last we came right upon the cathedral, the most majestic that I have ever seen.  It stands in a large open space, the rear elevation facing the approaches of what must be one of the finest bridges in the world.

Over this tremendous structure our column passed, perhaps 50 feet above the great rolling Rhine, here 500 yards wide.  This bridge (there are several others in sight) is built of stone and steel, in three arches or spans, each punctuated by twin towers of stone rising to a considerable height, especially those at the approaches, where they are set off by splendid bronze equestrian statues.  The tout ensemble, viewed from our quarters which are just across the river, is indeed magnificent.

Our quarters are in what had been a pleasure ground – switchback railways, katzenjammer castles, and so forth – but appears to have been used during the war as a prison camp.  After tea I went across the bridge into the city – alive with British and Colonial troops.  I entered the cathedral and, tho’ not shown to advantage in artificial light, I was much impressed with the interior as the exterior.  Whereas the latter is of extraordinary richness, the former has an air of solemn grandeur almost plain in comparison, being split into several lofty aisles by long rows of majestic, fluted columns, each decorated with statuary.

nlnzimage 1-2 013771-G NZ troops passing through Cologne

[Image: New Zealand transport and mounted troops passing through Cologne, Germany, as one of the armies of occupation at the end of World War I. In the background is the Hohenzollern Bridge. Photograph taken probably December 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-013771-G]

%d bloggers like this: