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Second World War airman's gift to merciful German soldier returned to Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 14:40 13 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:40 13 July 2019

Peter Garland went on to become the Norfolk Chief Constable after serving in the second World War. Photo: Norfolk Police

Peter Garland went on to become the Norfolk Chief Constable after serving in the second World War. Photo: Norfolk Police

Archant

One was a Norfolk airman who was shot down over occupied Europe, while the other was a German soldier who saved him from an angry mob.

The screwdriver that Gerard Fricke was given by Peter Garland in 1944. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodThe screwdriver that Gerard Fricke was given by Peter Garland in 1944. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Their encounter at the height of the Second World War was only brief, but a gift from Peter Garland, who was injured at the time, to Gerard Fricke left a lasting impression.

And in a remarkable twist of fate decades after the conflict ended, the two men were reunited with each other.

Now, their families have been brought together at an emotional ceremony in Hethersett where Mr Garland's gift - an engraved screwdriver - was returned to England.

Mr Garland, who served as the chief constable of Norfolk police from 1965 to 1974, gave Mr Fricke the item after his aircraft was shot down over Germany in 1944.

Former-German soldier Herr Fricke and Peter Garland reunited after 50 years. Photo: Norfolk PoliceFormer-German soldier Herr Fricke and Peter Garland reunited after 50 years. Photo: Norfolk Police

Aged in his 30s at the time, the airman was badly injured and was at the mercy of an angry mob armed with improvised weapons.

But Mr Fricke - a 25-year-old German soldier - showed him mercy and held the local people at bay until an ambulance arrived.

To say thank you, Mr Garland gave him the only items he had in his pocket - two pence and a screwdriver with the name 'Garland' engraved into the wooden handle.

That screwdriver remained with Mr Fricke, and turned out to be key to tracking down the British navigator decades after the war.

The ceremony where the Garland and Fricke families were reunited. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodThe ceremony where the Garland and Fricke families were reunited. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

In a strange twist of fate, Pauline Carver, from Shotesham in South Norfolk, employed a relative of Mr Fricke as a nanny to look after her two children.

The two families became friends and when Mrs Carver when to Germany to visit them, the story of the screwdriver was retold.

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She then took it upon herself to trace Mr Garland, which eventually led to their reunion more than 45 years after the end of the war.

Gerhard Grebbin, nephew of Gerard Fricke, at a ceremony where the Garland and Fricke families were reunited. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodGerhard Grebbin, nephew of Gerard Fricke, at a ceremony where the Garland and Fricke families were reunited. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Mr Fricke's nephew, Gerhard Grebbin, 77, presented the screwdriver to Norfolk police on Saturday at an event attended by both families and Mrs Carver.

In an emotional speech, he said his uncle had always wanted to know what happened to the British airman he saved.

He said: "It was courage and it was humanity. It was really impressive what a young man of 25 years did for another person who just fell out of the sky.

"Peter was 31 and my uncle was 25 when they met for the first time in the war. They were over 70 [when they met] later on.

Simon Robert Bailey QPM at a ceremony where the Garland and Fricke families were reunited. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodSimon Robert Bailey QPM at a ceremony where the Garland and Fricke families were reunited. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

"But I think we all can learn something from them. That courage and empathy are values that share importance for even the young generation.

"We can be very happy we have more than 75 years of peace in Western Europe and we should do everything that it remains so.

"I leave this screwdriver to you as my gift."

Sheila Holroyd, one of Mr Garland's daughters, said her father and Mr Fricke became "firm friends" following their reunion.

When Mr Fricke died, she claimed her father, who was in a care home at the time, already knew before anyone had told him.

Norfolk police chief constable Simon Bailey said that Mr Garland's screwdriver would be "treasured" by the constabulary.

Thanking Mr Grebbin for the item, he said: "The story of your uncle, and of Peter Garland, will live on and we will make sure that generations of police officers that join Norfolk Constabulary will always become familiar with that amazing story, and the importance of empathy and courage."

He also thanked force historian Cedric Smith and his colleagues for helping to research Mr Garland's past.

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