German war deaths in Solihull

Soldiers with enemy plane at Earlswood, 1941

The casualty sheets completed by mortuary staff at Robin Hood Cemetery also include three German airmen whose plane was shot down in Earlswood.

Late at night on 10th May 1941, a German Heinkel He111 bomber was brought down near Fulford Hall Farm in Rumbush Lane.  The bomber was a special H-8 type which had massive cable cutting equipment attached to the front of the plane so that it could cut through barrage balloon defences. The plane shot down in Earlswood was from Flieger Division 9 of the Luftwaffe bomber squadron KG 55 (“Battle Wing 55”).

Three airmen were killed and a fourth was injured and taken prisoner of war.  The bodies of the three airmen were found in the early hours of 11th May 1941 and were taken to Robin Hood Cemetery the same day.  Their full details were not known, only their surnames, so little information is included on their casualty sheets (attached above right).

The three airmen were given a military funeral by the RAF on 14th May 1941 and their graves remained at Robin Hood Cemetery for the next twenty years.  One Silhillian recalled how she and her cousin, as children, would pick bluebells to put on their graves (see memories by Mrs J Alder on page 4 of Solihull in Wartime, attached above right).

Once the German Military Cemetery was created on Cannock Chase in the early 1960s, the remains of the three airmen were removed from Robin Hood Cemetery to their new resting place.  The men were:

  • Oberleutnant Johannes Speck, aged 27, (born 15th July 1913)
  • Feldwebel Fritz Muhn, aged 23, (born 28th September 1917) and
  • Feldwebel Siegfried Rühle, aged 24 (born 22nd December 1916) 

Oberleutnant is equivalent to Flying Officer in the RAF.  Feldwebel is a non-commissioned officer, equivalent to Sergeant/Warrant Officer. All three are buried near to each other at the German Military Cemetery, Cannock Chase in Block 3, grave 80 (Speck), grave 81 (Muhn) and grave 82 (Rühle).

Some pieces of wreckage from the plane are preserved at the Earlswood Village Museum, which also has reminiscences from the sole survivor of the crash, Rudolf Budde, who was badly burnt and taken to Solihull Hospital.

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