Norfolk

Norfolk WW2 airman 'cheated death four times'

Chief Constable Peter Garland Image copyright Norfolk Police
Image caption Chief Constable Peter Garland led Norfolk Police for nine years in the 1960s and 70s

The heroics of a chief constable in World War Two and the German soldier who saved his life have been remembered by their families.

Airman Peter Garland was shot down over Germany, helped in the Great Escape and endured a prisoners' "death march".

When German civilians wanted to kill him, Gerhard Fricke protected him.

Cedric Smith, a historian for Norfolk Police, said: "He should have died on four occasions, and on each occasion he survived. It's incredible."

He added: "His aeroplane exploded and he fell to the ground, his parachute didn't work then the locals came to finish him off - but the soldier got in the way.

"Then he should have escaped in Great Escape but his name wasn't drawn out of the hat.

"Then on the death march, when about 40% didn't make it, he survived that as well."

Image copyright Garland family
Image caption Gerhard Fricke, pictured in the 1980s and in a German newspaper article. He died in the 1990s
Image copyright Norfolk Police

When Fricke stepped in and helped the RAF navigator - the sole survivor of the crash - Garland handed over a screwdriver engraved with his surname.

On Saturday the screwdriver was presented to Norfolk Police by Fricke's nephew, Gerhardt Grebbin, who said he felt very proud to tell the story.

Image copyright Garland family
Image caption Peter Garland kept a diary on tissue paper during his time as a prisoner of war

"He [Fricke] fended the mob away, took him to his barracks and gave him first aid.

"It shows their humanity and the courage to defend others."

Both men survived the war, with Garland serving as chief constable of Norfolk Police in the 1960s and 70s, and Fricke keeping hold of the screwdriver when he fled from East to West Germany.

Image caption Garland's daughters, Sheila Holroyd, Patricia Riddick and Liz Plummer attended the presentation. Their father died in 2000

They were reunited by chance in the 1980s after a Norfolk woman met Fricke on holiday and found Garland in the phonebook, to the then retired officer's shock.

After his encounter with Fricke, Garland was taken to Stalag-luft 3 prisoner of war camp, where he would drop soil dug from the Great Escape tunnel as he walked about the camp.

He did not make it on to the list of men who escaped - many of whom were shot by the Gestapo - and was among other prisoners who were marched hundreds of miles during a ferocious winter.

Eventually the German guards disappeared and the prisoners were able to make contact with the Allies.

Garland's daughter Sheila Holroyd, of Cambridge, said: "I feel overwhelmed and so very proud of him."

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