Ingenious Word War Two Women use German Parachute for Making Underwear

The women of a small British village called Earlswood in Warwickshire showed wartime ingenuity to make underwear out of a German parachute, according to a story that has emerged 70 years after the end of World War Two.

In the summer of 1941, Germany’s Luftwaffe continued to bomb key targets across Britain in order to stem its war efforts. One German bomber was part of a group of Luftwaffe aircraft that had headed to England to bomb Birmingham. However a single bomber was tasked to break off from the main mission and bomb a factory near Birmingham where Lancaster bombers were being produced.

The bomber’s crew’s instructions were to follow the railway line from Birmingham to Bristol to find the right direction, but they chose the wrong railway line and ended up flying near to RAF Wythall, where anti-aircraft fire succeeded in causing the bomber and its four-man crew to crash near the village of Earlswood. The only survivor was the radio operator Rudolph Budde.

The women of the village saw the bomber crash around two miles away, so they decided to arm themselves with whatever weaponry they could find such as farm equipment, gardening forks, brooms and scissors and head over to the crash site.

They came across Rudolph Budde lying in a ditch, wounded and surrounded by his silk parachute. Rudolph was so scared of the women that he ran off thinking they were going to attack him.  The women were thrilled to seize his leftover parachute which was made of silk – a rare luxury during war time.  The women distributed the silk materials among them so that they could all make new underwear from the soft, delicate material.

Eventually Rudolph was caught by the British Home Guard and was kept a prisoner  for the remainder of the war. He was sent home to Germany once the war ended, The Telegraph reports.

Until now the story hasn’t been well known, but the daughter of one of the original group of women took the silk remnants her mother had given her to an antiques expert. She recalls how her mother said that some of the women in the village wouldn’t touch the silk out of principal because it was German. Her own mother took her share of the silk and made underwear with it. She also kept a five-foot long piece with German printing on it.

The Earlswood Village Museum holds some of the remains of the plane wreckage in its collection, along with artefacts found at the site. The museum had known of the story of the village women but hadn’t confirmed it until now.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE