‘THE Keeper,’ a major new film which tells the extraordinary story of an enemy soldier who became an English football hero, has hit the screens across the country this week.
But few people are aware that the film’s central character Bert Trautmann, a German prisoner of war who went on to star in the 1956 FA Cup Final, not only once lived in the South Lakeland area but played for a local side.
According to extensive research by respected sporting historians John Glaister and Terry Ainsworth, Trautmann was taken to the Bela River Camp, near Milnthorpe, after his capture in 1945, and was then employed on local farms during his brief period in the area.
Local historian Cllr Roger Bingham said many residents had memories of the camp.
“It stood on the site where the Wings School now lies,” he said.
“Prisoners were marched there from Milnthorpe station in all weathers and were very unhappy about that.”
The turmoil of the time meant written records are sketchy, but the evidence suggests Trautmann appeared for a team based in Burton-in-Kendal, and indeed saved a penalty in one game.
Mr Ainsworth said Ray Stephenson, a prominent local player from the Ingleton area who has sadly now passed away, had described to him how he vividly recalled taking a spot kick against Trautmann which the German had saved.
Unfortunately, the incident is not re-enacted in the film, which features German actor David Kross as Trautmann and details the player’s incredible journey from serving as a paratrooper on the Eastern front to his capture in Western Europe in the last months of World War Two.
Trautmann eventually settled in Lancashire, playing non-league football before signing for Manchester City in 1949.
Despite initial protests at City’s inclusion of a player who had served with the armies of Nazi Germany, he went on to forge a successful career.
Trautmann’s most celebrated appearance came in the 1956 FA Cup Final against Birmingham City, when he broke his neck in the closing stages of the game but incredibly played on and helped his side to a 3-1 win.
The full extent of his injury was only diagnosed three days later, but after a lengthy lay off, he resumed his career. And Trautmann’s rehabilitation was complete in 2004 when he received an honorary OBE for his work in Anglo-German relations.
He died in 2013 aged 89, but the film version of his remarkable story will revive many memories, not least for any of those present on that day many decades ago when he saved an Ingleton man’s penalty on a muddy South Lakeland field.