A Second World War hero gifted an Iron Cross by an enemy pilot he had shot down graciously returned it.
Norman Ryder’s Spitfire blasted Wilhelm Erdniss’ Messerschmitt 109 during the Battle of Britain in 1940 – and the Luftwaffe airman was caught trying to bury his medal after crash-landing in Kent.
A senior RAF officer offered to give the Iron Cross back to the captured pilot but the German insisted it should go to the man who shot him down.
Mr Ryder rose to the rank of Group Captain and in 1956 travelled to Bonn to hand back the gong to Mr Erdniss.
The remarkable tale emerged after the RAF man’s medals and war logbooks were put up for sale at £30,000.
Auctioneer Paul Laidlaw said: The story shows the chivalry that existed between Allied and German airman.
Norman Ryder was one of The Few and is featured in Aces High, the book that was a tribute to the most notable fighter pilots of the war.
He flew Hurricanes, was one of the first pilots to fly a Spitfire pre-Dunkirk, achieved Ace status in the Battle of Britain, was shot down three times and won the DFC twice.
The RAF officer who interviewed Mr Erdniss sent the Cross to Mr Ryder, then a Flight Lieutenant, with a letter that read: He insisted it should be given to whoever had shot him down but if he could not be identified he would like it back himself.
Gp Capt Ryder’s ‘kill’ was one of 11 planes he took out during the conflict.
His collection, including the letter and his CBE, is being sold at Laidlaw Auctioneers of Carlisle, Cumbria, on September 30 by descendants of the RAF hero, who died in 1995 aged 81.
News Source MirrorNews