Story of a Yorkshire woman who was the FIRST to capture a German aviator on home soil in WWII

If we were confronted in our gardens by a 6ft 4in pilot armed with a pistol, most of us would be tempted to turn and run.

But when farmer’s wife Evelyn Cardwell saw a German parachuting onto her land after his Junkers 88 was shot down by the crew of a Hurricane in World War II, she marched over and told him to raise his hands.

The story of the woman’s incredible bravery in July 1940, where she was awarded an MBE by King George VI, is told in the book Faces of the Home Front 1939-1945, by historians Neil Storey and Fiona Kay.

While her husband was away, Mrs Cardwell, 45, who was only six feet tall, had first tried to call authorities when she saw the German soldier in the sky over her home in the village of Aldborough, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, but then found the phone not working.

Instead, she told one of her farmhands to get on his bike to alert the police, while she mustered up the courage to walk out.

She told reporters how she put on her “strongest frown” and told the pilot, who spoke no English, to “raise his hands” before pointing to the automatic pistol on his hip to help him understand.

He is said to have ‘smiled wryly’ before handing over the weapon and then being marched by Mrs Cardwell along the nearby main road until police and soldiers arrived to take him away.

She became the first woman to capture a German pilot in World War II.

Photos printed in the Daily Mail at the time show Mrs Cardwell posing with her dog and meeting the king, while another shows the flaming wreckage of the German Junkers 88.

Evelyn Cardwell became the first woman to capture a German pilot in World War II when a Junkers 88 was shot down over her home in Aldborough, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in July 1940

Mrs. Cardwell had been warned of the kite’s presence by one of her farm boys, who allegedly rushed to her door to tell her that “German paratroopers are coming, Mom.”

The German was part of a crew of four in the Junkers 88 when it was shot down. While the pilot was killed, three of the men were able to jump out.

Mr. Storey’s book does not tell of the fate of the other two men once they landed.

Ms Cardwell, who was trained to think fast in emergencies as part of her role in the wartime organization Women’s Voluntary Services, told the British media about her experience.

The German was part of a crew of four in the Junkers 88 when it was shot down.  While the pilot was killed, three of the men were able to jump out.  Above: a photo of the wreckage of the plane

The German was part of a crew of four in the Junkers 88 when it was shot down. While the pilot was killed, three of the men were able to jump out. Above: a photo of the wreckage of the plane

‘Here’s How To Get Your Nazi’: The WWII Guide Printed By The British Press For Civilians Facing Downed Pilots

Historian Neil Storey’s book Faces of the Home Front 1939-1945 tells how Mrs Cardwell’s experience prompted newspapers, including the Aberdeen Express, to offer British citizens guides who told them what to do in the event that they saw a downed pilot come across.

The one in Aberdeen was titled ‘Here’s How To Get Your Nazi’.

It read: ‘How would you command a Nazi paratrooper or pilot from a fallen plane if you had the chance, like a woman recently, to capture him?

‘If you couldn’t speak the German language, you would have to limit your commands to gestures.

“But if you learn the following words and passages, you might make your claim clear.”

“The translations provided with phonetic renderings should be of particular interest to members of the LDV.

‘STOP: Halt (pronounce ‘a’ as in apple)

SURRENDER: Ergeben (honorary gay-ben)

‘LET THAT GUN: Waffen-ablegen (waffen ab-lay-gen)

‘I AM ARMED: Ich bin bewaffnet (eech bin bay-waff-net)

‘PUT YOUR HANDS UP: Hande hoch (henday hoch)

‘OR I FIRE THIS GUN: Sonst schlesse ich (sonst shee-ssey eech)

‘KEEP RUNNING: Vowarts ohne halten (fore-verts oney halt-en)’

She said: ‘One of my farmers came to the door of my sitting room and said that some German paratroopers were coming down.

“I immediately went to the phone, only to find it was out of order. What was I supposed to do? We at the WVS had been told by Lady Reading to use our initiative in an emergency.

“So I ran to the door and saw a huge kite parachuting slowly to the ground. He looked like he came right into my yard.

“I didn’t know what he was going to do, so I told my groom’s boy to go to the police on his bike.

“But in the meantime I had to do something. I went into the yard and saw the kite stumbling across the paddock to the house.’

She said that although there were two or three people outside, they did not intervene and so she was forced to take action herself.

“I walked up to the man and told him to put his hands up. He didn’t understand until I gestured and he raised his hands in the air,” she added.

“I pointed to the automatic pistol in his belt and he nodded and handed it to me with a wry smile. He was very quiet and seemed very upset at the sight of his burning plane about half a mile away.

“He looked pale and startled. I led him ahead of me to the road I thought the army would come.

“We waited about half an hour for the police and soldiers to arrive and take the kite.”

A few weeks later, Mrs Cardwell was awarded King George’s MBE honor for bravery.

One photo shows her bowing while shaking his hand at a hotel in the nearby town of Hornsea.

Ms Cardwell’s story prompted the British media to offer advice on how to deal with similar situations involving downed German pilots.

Mr Storey’s book tells of how the Aberdeen Express offered a guidebook titled ‘Here’s How To Get Your Nazi’.

It read: ‘How would you command a Nazi paratrooper or pilot from a fallen plane if you had the chance, like a woman recently, to capture him?

A few weeks later, Mrs Cardwell was awarded King George's MBE honor for bravery.  One photo shows her bowing while shaking his hand at a hotel in the nearby town of Hornsea

A few weeks later, Mrs Cardwell was awarded King George’s MBE honor for bravery. One photo shows her bowing while shaking his hand at a hotel in the nearby town of Hornsea

The Daily Mail also reported on Mrs Cardwell's daring feat of courage

It related how she put on her 'biggest frown' as she approached the German

The Daily Mail also reported on Mrs Cardwell’s daring feat of courage. It related how she put on her ‘biggest frown’ as she approached the German

‘If you couldn’t speak the German language, you would have to limit your commands to gestures.

“But if you learn the following words and passages, you might make your claim clear.”

It then offered a pronunciation guide for words and phrases, including “stop,” “surrender,” “drop that gun,” and “I’m armed.”

The story of the woman's incredible bravery in July 1940, where she was awarded an MBE by King George VI, is told in Faces of the Home Front 1939-1945, by historians Neil Storey and Fiona Kay

The story of the woman’s incredible bravery in July 1940, where she was awarded an MBE by King George VI, is told in Faces of the Home Front 1939-1945, by historians Neil Storey and Fiona Kay

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