Over 70 years since a German bomber crashed at Earlswood, a remarkable story has come to light of the local ladies who stole an airman’s parachute...to make some pants.
The women saw the Heinkel HE-III come down in a field, off Rumbush Lane -following a major raid on Birmingham on May 10, 1941.
They grabbed pitchforks, brooms and a pair of textile scissors and set off to the scene of the wreckage, where they found a Luftwaffe private in a ditch.
Seeing the mob of ladies brandishing their makeshift weapons, the injured airman - the only survivor of the crash - thought he was about to be attacked and fled.
But actually it was the parachute, not the man, which the women were after - it would provide silk to make underwear out of. The material was a rare luxury in the Second World War.
Private Rudolph Budde was captured the following day by the Home Guard and held as a prisoner of war after being treated for burns in a local hospital.
The episode has now come to light after Christine Thorp, whose mother Irene Smith was one of the women involved, took an off-cut of the parachute to the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.
Mrs Thorp, aged 72, said: “My mother died two years ago aged 95 but a few years before she gave me the piece of the parachute. All the ladies in the village who wanted some silk got some but others would not touch it because it was German. Mother did make some underwear out of her cut but she also got a piece that had some German printing on. It was unusable but she decided to keep it.”
The bomber had been brought down, near Fulford Hall Farm, by anti-aircraft guns at nearby RAF Wythall. Three of the crew were killed, while Gefreiter (Private) Budde was repatriated home after the war. He died in 2003, aged in his 80s.
The Earlswood Village Museum still has part of the wreckage of the Heinkel, which had been adapted to cut through barrage balloon cables.