Field1 MayWeather - Foggy early in the morning, with heavy showers throughout the day. During the night 30 Apr/1 May "C" Coy posns. shelled, presumably by American Arty. Firing from the W bank of the Elbe, in support of the American enlargement of their bridgehead. No casualties were caused, though it was a matter of hours before contact was made with Americans responsible for shelling. It caused a great deal of concern to "C" Coy. since there was an amn. train on the railroad which was in their area.
Throughout the day patrols were carried out by "C" and "A" Coys., which netted a good number of prisoners. In one case, a Czeche airman led a patrol to a German platoon position, assuring the patrol that the Germans wanted to surrender. The information was true, and the Germans gave in without firing a shot. Contact was made at 1000 hrs. with the Americans on the right. For the remainder of the day those not engaged in patrolling rested and prepared for the next day's advance.
2 MayDarn broke, cold and foggy, on a history-making day. Tanks of the Scots Greys arrived along with T.C.V.'s. The Bn. embussed at 0500 hrs., with "B" Coy. on the tanks, and "C" and "A" Coys. on T.C.V's. The original plan was to reach Wittenberg by noon. Because of lack of opposition this objective was reached at 0920 hrs. Brig. Hill decided to push on as far as was possible, since it appeared that resistance was fast crumbling.
A refuelling stop would be made at Lutzow 2867 L/S 1/100,000 where tanks would be filled with all the reserve petrol the TCV's were carrying. In a wood at Lutzow just before the refueling point, we came across a German workshop detachment, numbering some 3,000 troops, who had had orders to surrender. The confusion was indescribable in that wood. German civilian woman, men and children were there with the troops, and when the troops lined up three deep on the road, many had their wives and children with them, to accompany them on the trek back to P.W. cage. This was because the rumor was ripe that the Russian Army was only nine miles away. The civilians and soldiers were terrified of the Russians, and wanted only to be taken by us.
After refuelling the tanks we moved off again at top speed. All resistance had collapsed, because the Germans wanted us to go as far as possible. They reasoned that the more territory we occupied, the less the Russians could occupy. Thousands of German troops lined the roads and crowded the villages, some even cheering us on, though most were a despondent looking mob.
On reaching Wismar, 1/100,000 sheet, "B" Coy. was sent straight through the town to take up positions beyond the railway and astride a main road leading into town from the north. "C" Coy. was sent to the East edge of the town to cover bridges and the road leading in from the East. "A" Coy was held in reserve in the area of the Market Place, near Bn. H.Q., which was setup in PRUNDT's Hotel on ABC Strasse. All Posns. were reported covered at ____ hrs., and the situation was well under control. All afternoon and all through the night German refugees and soldiers came through our lines by the thousands. They constituted a serious traffic problem, and finally orders were issued to turn them out into the fields, since it was impossible to cope with them. On the night of 2 May, a Russian officer arrived in a jeep, with his driver. It was quite unofficial, since he had no idea that we were in Wismar until he came to our barrier. He had come far in advance of his own columns, and was quite put out to find us sitting on what was the Russians' ultimate objective.
3 MayWeather - Clear & Sunny.
German refugees and troops still streaming in. Houses being cleared of German soldiers in hiding, and comfortable billets being assured for our troops. Orders were received to keep pushing PWs back along the Div. Axis, and to divert refugees to the fields.
Hundreds of escaped Allied PWs came in, their only concern being to get back to airports and ports, and thus safely back to England. Some, in work camps, sent representatives, who made arrangements for transport and petrol to take them direct from their camps to Luneburg airdrome, where a ferry service for PWs was already in operation. Most were told to take any unattached German vehs. they could find, whereupon they would be supplied with petrol and sent on their way.
There was considerable visiting being done between officers of the Bn. and Russian officers. It turned out that the Bn. had several excellent Russian speakers, one of whom was attached permanently to General Bol's staff, for the "high level" work. The General was very pleased with his work.
Maj. Hilborn acted as chief liaison officer between the Bn. and the Russians, and was wined and dined by them at great length. He brought in several distinguished visitors, who proved to be the most persistent and thirsty drinkers we have ever met. They could stow away prodigious quantities of the stuff and it was amazing the way the way they stood up to it (until they finally sagged into comas).
The first contact was made between "C" Coy. and the Russian Scout Officer on the night of 2/3 May, but the first contact with numbers of troops was made by "B" Coy. to the North of Wismar, with Lt. P.G. Insole doing the handshaking and Vodka-drinking on behalf of the Battalion.
A wine-cellar was found in "A" Coy's position, but it had been looted of all the champagne and better wines by refugees, during the night. "A" Coy. placed a guard on he remainder in order to stop all the civilians looting the ordinary "table" variety that was left.
4 MayWeather - Warm & Clear.
Russian-British liaison still at a high pitch, with much drinking and hand-shaking.
We received word that the number of German PWs taken by the Div. on 2 May had totalled somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000.
News also came through that the German Armies in Northwest Europe had surrendered unconditionally to Field-Marshal Montgomery. This was great news, but still not what we were looking for, namely, unconditional surrender of the German nation to all the United Nations. However, it was a good start.
5 MayWeather - Warm & Clear.
Prisoners and refugees were still streaming back, along with great numbers of our own troops (P.W.X) who had been liberated by the Russians.
Our own troops rested and cleaned up, and in the evening the Y.M.C.A. showed a movie.
6 MayThe weather remained bright and clear, and the main problem was how to keep the troops contented and busy. The "No fraternisation" rule did not help at all, but most of the troops complied with it. There were one or two cases which were severely dealt with, but these were rarities. The German women did not help any, because they knew the troops could not touch them. They flirted openly, and generally made things miserable, especially in the evenings. It was finally found necessary to put the park in the Battalion area out of bounds.
During this period the wine that was left in "A" Coy. area was distributed, and the guard was taken off. The morning after, it was discovered that a Frenchman, who had worked in the cellar, had brought in his friends, and they had broken down the wall to an unsuspected cache of champagne. The whole cache, thousands of bottles, were removed before morning. "A" Coy. had to resume the guard to prevent any future "discoveries" by the thirsty population.
The problem of recreation was partly solved by the Y.M.C.A., which did invaluable work in providing equipment for softball, football, rugby and other games. Every day those who wished could either go sailing in the luxury boats on the Harbor, or go on a swimming party, for which recreational transport was provided.
On the morning of 7 May, we awoke to the news that "unconditional surrender" terms had been signed by the Germans, surrendering everything to the Allies.
This is what we had been waiting and fighting for, for five years and eight months of bitter warfare. And the celebration was worth all the waiting. The gin, whiskey, vodka, wine schnapps flowed, and everybody had a grand time acquiring the inevitable hangover.
Prime Minister Churchill proclaimed May 8 "Victory in Europe" (VE) Day, and the celebrations were carried on and on, partly consisting of joint celebrations with the Russians.
11 MayWeather - Sunny & Clear
3 Para Bde., consisting of Bde. H.Q., 8, 9, and 1 Cdn. Para Bns., marched past Maj. Gen. Bols, Divisional Commander, at 1100 hrs. A very creditable showing was made despite the fact that none of the units had marched past for months. The German people turned out en masse to watch docilely but sullenly.
12 MayWeather - Sunny and Clear.
The Battalion carried on with sports and beach parties, and generally tried to keep busy and amused.
13 MayWeather - Sunny Clear.
A memorial and thanksgiving service was held in the Nikolsikirche in Wismar. Lt. Col. Eadie rad the lesson to a congregation that packed the church.
14 MayWeather remained sunny.
Time spent in recreation, resting and cleaning up. Preparations were made for a move to Luneburg, to take place on 19 May.
19 MayWeather - sunny and clear.
The Bn. embussed in the morning and moved to Luneburg, where the night was spent in bivoac two miles from the airdrome. The move was a little mixed up when a convoy of American trucks carrying P.W.(X) cut in on our convoy and rode double-banked, cutting in and out, for about ten miles.
20 MayWeather - Cloudy and fine.
First party left for the airport at 1000 hrs. and emplaned at 1330 hrs. There was one refuelling stop at Brussels, and the group arrived at an airdrome near Newbury at 1900 hrs. Tea and sandwiches were laid on and helped morale after the long trip. Thence by T.C.V. to Bulford, arriving at 2030 hrs.
21 MaySecond party arrived Bulford at 1400 hrs. Rest of day spent resting and settling in.
22&23 MayWeather - Cold & rainy.
Days spent in preparation for 9 days leave.
24,25,26,27 MayWeather - Cold & rainy.
Days spent on leave. On 27 May a call was sent out, recalling all personnel from leave.
28,29,30 MayWeather - Cool with showers.
Unit packed up and preparing to move by night of 31st May.
31 MayWeather - Showery.
First draft left by train for 3 Cdn. Repat. Deport at Cove, near Farnborough. The draft was given a royal sendoff by Gen. Bols, Brig. Hill, and a great many members of the staff. They had decorated Bulford siding with flags and bunting, and had a band standing by to play us away. A large parachute badge and a large gold maple leaf were made up on plywood, and added a distinctive touch to the decorations.
There was a great deal of handshaking all around, and finally the draft moved out in the train to the accompaniment of the strains of "Auld Lange Syne." It wad the end of almost two years' association with the British 6th Airborne Division, and though we felt sad at parting with so many friends, we could look forward to meeting soon our families and friends at home, who had done so much for us.
But in everyone's mind, as we left Bulford, was the thought that many who had joined us later, were being left behind, in English fields, in Ranville Cemetery in Normandy, other cemeteries in Belgium and Holland, and latterly, on the Dropping Zone and in other places scattered through Northwest Germany.
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