Cross-dressing PoW’s arrest site, Cathays Park

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Cross-dressing PoW’s arrest site, Cathays Park

In 1918 an escaped German prisoner of war who was an expert female impersonator handed himself in to police at Cathays Park police station. The station at the time was part of the Law Courts building (the current police station opened in 1966).

Lieutenant Heinrich Ernst Heinz, also known as Lieut Justus, escaped from British captivity three times during the First World War, once by dressing and behaving as a woman. He had a reputation for disguising himself so well as a female that nobody would notice he was a man. Although he was an army officer, he was lightly built and had an effeminate appearance.

In October 1918 he escaped from a camp in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. His PoW camp commandant soon received a parcel, postmarked London, containing his uniform and his Iron Cross (German military medal). This started rumours that he was masquerading as a woman in London’s West End.

He arrived by train in Cardiff on a Sunday evening and checked in to a posh hotel where British army officers were staying. He spoke excellent English and was assumed to be a commercial traveller. The next morning, he ate breakfast while reading the Western Mail, and then walked to Cathays Park and asked for the chief constable. He was arrested and returned the following day to Wakefield, under military escort.

There was press speculation about why the “Hun in petticoats” handed himself in. One theory was that the war reports in the Western Mail – when the Germans were close to defeat – had affected his resolve. Another theory was that he’d caught influenza. Europe suffered a flu epidemic in 1918-1919 but Lieut Heinz survived and gave entertaining talks in Germany about his wartime escapades.

With thanks to Cardiff Libraries, and to Adrian Hughes and Hazel Pierce

Postcode: CF10 3PG    View Location Map