Bert Trautmann: 10 things you didn’t know about Bert!

Bert Trautmann: 10 Things you didn’t know about Bert!

On Monday 19th August 2013, Manchester City fans rose as one to honour their former goalkeeper Bert Trautmann. Most of the fans present at the Etihad will never have seen Bert play, but he is a man who has gone down in City’s history as one of their finest players.

If you mention the name Bert Trautmann to football fans they will tell you two key points

    1. Bert was a German POW who played for Manchester City
    2. Bert broke his neck in the 1956 FA cup final and played on to win the cup.

However there is much, much more to his life than that!

Here are 10 things you may not have know about the legend that is Bernhard Carl Trautmann or simply ‘Bert’!

1) Bert Trautmann was a mechanic

Bert Trautmann began a 4 year apprenticeship as a trainee mechanic at a large diesel truck manufacturer in the maintenance depot. After only completing two years he joined the Luftwaffe as a wireless operator.

Having not fulfilled the criteria for wireless operator Bert trained as a paratrooper before working in maintenance on the Russian front. Bert believed (through his mechanic background) that Germany lost the war on the eastern front due to the constant upgrading of tanks and vehicles. This meant that the mechanic had to carry too many spare parts and not enough vehicles were able to be repaired quickly enough.

2) Bert was sent to prison for 3 months

Bert was ordered to sabotage a car to enable his army unit to have a vehicle to use. The plan backfired when another mechanic tried to fix the car and was engulfed in flames.

Bert was court martialled and sent to military prison in the Russian prison of Zhitomir. Shortly after entering prison Bert was diagnosed with appendicitis and completed his sentence in a military hospital.

 3) Bert was a centre half not a goalie!

Bert was a POW at Garswood Park camp opposite Haydock Park racecourse. During his time here he played many football games as centre half.

An Anglo-German match was organised between players from the camp and the locals from around the camp, however Bert had picked up an injury and asked the goalie if he could play in goal for this game! The rest is history!

4)  During the war Bert was captured 4 times!

Bert was first captured by Russians near Zaporozhye and made to repair damaged bridges before escaping back to German lines. Then in France he was captured by the French resistance being gagged and bound for 30 hours before escaping.

Having lost his unit he was captured by American GIs whilst trying to get back home to Bremen. The GIs took him into a field where, fearing he was to be shot, he made a dash for freedom.

During this dash he jumped over a hedge to land at the feet of a peeing British Tommy! This was his last capture which led him to being sent to POW camps in England.

5) Bert was near death many times

Out of 1000 people in his army unit only 300 remained alive. It’s a surprise that Bert was one of them! Doctor’s described him as hours from death when treated for appendicitis. On trips back from the Russian front partisans would ambush the train continuously.

On one trip he made it back to a safe town and made shelter in a school. Due to the hundreds of civilians and German soldiers already in the school, Bert and a fellow soldier made refuge in a store cupboard.

That night Allied planes scored a direct hit on the school. Bert and his fellow soldier were the only two pulled out alive 3 days later!

Whilst on patrol a grenade landed near Bert. He survived but another soldier lay with his intestines hanging out. Bert later tripped on a box and landed on a huge bomb (fortunately it didn’t go off!).

Most people will know that Bert broke his neck in the ’56 FA cup final. But the break was not diagnosed immediately. Bert celebrated with the rest of the team and came back to Manchester after X-rays showed no break.

He was slapped on the back by Frank Swift, he went to an osteopath and had his neck manipulated before finally another X-ray confirmed a broken neck. The specialist said he was a knock from death!


6) Bert was married three times (and reject an attempt to be forced into marriage)

Bert Trautmann was married to Margaret and lived with her in Bramhall and Anglesey. Upon his divorce after living apart for two years he married fellow German Ushi. This marriage didn’t survive Bert’s constant travelling and there was another divorce. Bert then married Marlis at the age of 60.

Bert also had a daughter with his first girlfriend Marion whom he met whilst at the POW camp. Whilst her parents tried to pressure Bert into marriage upon Marion becoming pregnant Bert did not love Marion enough to marry her!

7) Bert’s son was killed by a car 3 weeks after the FA Cup victory

Whilst recovering from his broken neck, Bert accepted an invitation to be a guest at a Germany v England game. This acceptance caused a great deal of anger from Bert’s wife Margaret. 

Margaret wanted Bert to spend time with her and their young son John. Bert went leaving the two behind. Margaret went out with John into Bramhall and was talking with a family friend when John saw a van which sold sweets. 

Given some money John went but was told he was a penny short. John dashed across the road to go and get the penny from his mum but never made it.

A car came from behind the van and hit John. He was confirmed as dead minutes after arriving at Stockport infirmary. Margaret never forgave Bert for leaving them.

Bert Trautmann had gone from the triumph of winning the FA Cup to breaking his neck to losing his son in three weeks.

8) Prior to winning the FA Cup Bert agreed to sign for German side Schalke 04

Desperate to go back to Germany, Bert accepted a player/coach role at Schalke 04 in 1952. His contract was agreed and all that was needed was for Schalke to talk to Man City and agree a fee. 

All this was done without City’s knowledge. A delegation from Schalke made their way to Manchester pretending to be on a fact finding mission.

The delegation showed their hand at the end of the visit offering £1,000 for the German goalkeeper. City laughed at the offer demanding £20,000!

Bert tried to force City’s hand writing an article in the press “Why I have to leave Manchester City”. All to no avail as this was in the era when clubs had the power over players. Bert stayed and became a legend.

9) After leaving City Bert travelled the world teaching football

After leaving City, Bert started by going down the to Stockport as general manager before moving to Germany to manage teams there. Falling out with the owners at County and in Germany, he took up an offer from the German Foreign Office to spread German footballing knowledge.

First stop was as Burma’s national coach where he took them to winning the Fair Play trophy at the Olympics of 1972 before winning several Asian cups.

After Burma he became an advisor to the Tanzania FA before moving on to Liberia. As national coach in Liberia Bert escaped a murderous military coup and was stuck with his team in Ghana!

After Liberia he went on to coach the Pakistan team and then acted as an advisory coach in North Yeman. He hung up his teacher’s boots after being an advisor to the Malta FA.

10) Bert turned down the opportunity to be the North West agent of a German sportswear brand

Bert Trautmann was the first player to wear a new low cut light weight boot designed by his German friend Adolf Dassler. Adolf ran a family company in Germany and became a friend of Bert’s.

After the death of Bert’s son, Adolf offered Bert the chance to be the North West of England agent for the family firm but Bert turned him down. The family firm’s name was Adidas!

Bert Trautmann will never be forgotten!

All these points came from the brilliant book Trautmann: The biography by Alan Rowlands read my review of the book here.

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