Filming locations of The Keeper in Northern Ireland

German-born goalkeeper Bert Trautmann became a Manchester City legend in the post-war years but much of The Keeper was filmed in Northern Ireland.

The Keeper is the incredible true story of a former German Second World War soldier and prisoner of war, who became a hero in England. Bert Trautmann, played in this movie by David Kross, became a legend at Manchester City in a 15-year career that included a memorable F.A. Cup Final. Director Marcus H. Rosenmüller conducted interviews with Trautmann before his death in 2013, which formed the basis of the script.

Bernhard Carl Trautmann was born in Bremen, Germany on 22nd October 1923. He grew up during the Nazi’s rise to power in Germany, joining the Hitler Youth at an early age, and becoming indoctrinated to their beliefs. He enlisted in the Luftwaffe as a radio operator in 1941 but later became a paratrooper and an infantryman with 35th Infantry Division. The British Army captured Trautmann and transferred him to a prisoner of war camp in Essex. While there, authorities downgraded his Nazi status and he moved to Camp 50 in Lancashire.

He rejected an offer of repatriation in 1948, electing to remain in England, and even worked on diffusing German bombs in Liverpool. After protests and initial discontent, Bert won over fans and received an O.B.E. for services to Anglo-German relations. He also became the first sportsperson in Britain to wear Adidas branded sportswear. His real moment of fame came from his heroic appearance in the 1956 F.A. Cup final where he played part of the game with a broken neck.

The Keeper - Filming on Downhill Strand, Co. Londonderry

The Keeper tells the true story of German war veteran turned English footballing hero Bert Trautmann. Many of the scenes for the 2019 movie were filmed across Northern Ireland. Promotional photo.

Local legend claims that Trautmann was once held prisoner in Elmfield Camp, Gilford, Co. Down and lined up for local teams during his time there.

The production team used many locations in Northern Ireland for filming. In particular, they made use of Irish League football grounds, as they matched the required 1940s and 1950s aesthetic. Filming began in Belfast in June 2017.

The Oval, Belfast

Glentoran’s East Belfast ground, The Oval, provided the backdrop for scenes at Manchester City’s Maine Road stadium. During the Second World War, the Belfast Blitz left The Oval’s stands in ruins and the pitch cratered. A memorial at the ground commemorates goalkeeper Thomas Pearson who served in 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

The Glentoran Pillbox

Glentoran Community Trust Photo: A view of The Oval, Belfast in 1953, several years after Glentoran Football Club returned from 7 years in exile while the ground was rebuilt following the Belfast Blitz. Note the pillbox in the distance on Sydenham Hill. Photo supplied by Sam Robinson (Glentoran Community Trust).

Solitude, Belfast

Solitude is the oldest football stadium in Ireland and in the movie it represents Stoke City’s home ground. The first-ever penalty kick taken in international football was done so at this north Belfast pitch. One end of the ground is The Waterworks Stand. The Belfast Waterworks was one of the primary Luftwaffe targets when they attacked the city in 1941.

Wilgar Park, Belfast

Wilgar Park is the home of Dundela F.C. In The Keeper, it doubles as the ground of St. Helen’s Football Club, the first English team to play Bert Trautmann. Dundela Football Club has played at Wilgar Park in the Strandtown area of East Belfast since 1900. During the Second World War, the pitch almost became an emergency landing strip for a bomber that eventually crashed several streets away at Sydenham Park.

Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast

Belfast City Cemetery on the Falls Road, Belfast contains 272 Commonwealth War Graves Commission plots. There are also family memorials to those who served in the Second World War and a mass grave containing the bodies of many who died during the Belfast Blitz.

Belfast City Cemetery Cross of Sacrifice

The Cross of Sacrifice next to the Commonwealth War Graves section in Belfast City Cemetery, Falls Road, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Photo taken on tour of Belfast City Cemetery with Peter McCabe in Spring 2017.

Downhill Beach, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry

During the Second World War, the nearby Downhill House housed officers from the Royal Air Force. It fell into disrepair in the following years. There are still several pillboxes and other wartime fortifications in the nearby area.

Murlough Bay, Newcastle, Co. Down

Like Downhill, Murlough Bay was also used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. There are still pillboxes and evidence of structures in the surrounding landscape. In 2013, the army carried out a controlled explosion on an unexploded 1940s bomb that washed ashore.

Whitehead Railway Station, Whitehead, Co. Antrim

Some scenes in The Keeper take place at the Whitehead Railway Museum. During the Second World War, 8th Railway Construction Company of the Royal Engineers had a base at Whitehead Railway Station. From there, they operated an Armoured Rail Trolley made to look like a cement wagon.

Knutsford Drive, Belfast

Knutsford Drive is a leafy avenue in north Belfast, not far from Cliftonville Football Club’s home ground Solitude. The Cliftonville and Old Park areas suffered as Nazi bombs fell on north Belfast in April 1941.

The Northern Ireland premier of The Keeper took place at MovieHouse Cinema, Dublin Road, Belfast on 1st April 2019, with a public release date set for 5th April 2019.

Explore more Second World War locations around Belfast and Northern Ireland.