On the outbreak of war in 1914, Hitler, who had previously been earning a living as an artist in Munich, signed up with the Bavarian army. He was to spend the next four years serving as a dispatch runner – delivering messages from one unit to another – on the western front.
Hitler spent much of his time behind the front lines, but that’s not to say he didn’t have his brushes with danger. He narrowly avoided death when a shell exploded next to him in a trench in October 1916 – he spent two months in hospital with shrapnel wounds to the leg. He was awarded the Iron Cross twice for his services during the war, with and it is claimed he was awarded one for bravery after helping retrieve a stricken officer from no man’s land.
In October 1918, Hitler found himself back in hospital after being temporarily blinded by a British gas attack. It was while recuperating that he learned that Germany had lost the war. His bitterness at the news was among the chief reasons that he propelled Europe back into conflict in 1939.