Profile: Bert Trautmann

From Nazi soldier to England football hero – the incredible story of Bert Trautmann.

Bert Trautmann and St Helens

Born Bernhard "Bernd" Trautmann, Bremen-born Bert was regarded as the perfect Aryan boy in Nazi Germany and joined the precursor to the Hitler Youth.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, while working as a mechanic, Bert was enlisted in the German Luftwaffe at the age of 18 and went on to win two Iron Crosses for his actions on the Eastern Front.

Bert Trautmann at 17

Bert Trautmann at 17

Eventually, he was taken prisoner by the British towards the end of the war in 1945, seeing out the rest of the war in a Lancashire Prisoner of War camp and held until 1948. It was here that he excelled in football as a goalkeeper in the German POW Camp 50 football team.

Having fallen in love with Britain, Bert refused repatriation to Germany, and instead worked as a farm hand and in bomb disposal before going on to develop his new career as a professional footballer.

Bert Trautmann at 86

Bert Trautmann at 86

Having been playing at amateur level for St Helens Town he signed for top-level club Manchester City in 1949, turning professional in 1950. On signing there was a huge protest by the city’s local Jewish community and it wasn't until he played in the infamous 1956 FA Cup final that Bert’s reputation was finally saved, and remade.

In what was one of the most famous Wembley incidents of all time, Bert broke his neck during the 1956 FA Cup Final in a collision with Birmingham City's Peter Murphy. As there were no substitutes permitted in those days, Bert bravely played on for the final 15 minutes through severe pain, securing victory for his side. He was later hospitalised and spent the following year in plaster.

His football career seemed to be over, but he made a miraculous recovery and kept goal for Manchester City until 1964 before going onto manage many teams both home and abroad.