News from the Green Howards
VE DAY MEMORIES
In a school house in Rhins, Germany's unconditional surrender was signed at 2:41pm on 7th May. (Active operations by the German forces would cease by 11.01pm 8th May.) At 3pm on 8th May 1945 Winston Churchill made a radio broadcast announcing that war in Europe was finally at an end.
For days people had been anticipating the news of the German surrender. They knew it was on the cards and had begun decorating their gardens with red, white and blue bunting and Union Jack flags. Following Churchill's announcement church bells across Britain pealed and people began to celebrate Victory in Europe.
The 1st Battalion Green Howards were able to celebrate Victory in Europe with a parade in front of the Town Hall in Oebisfelde, some fifty miles east of Hannover but for many Green Howards the war was not over.
2nd Lt David Preston of the 4th Battalion was captured by the Germans on the 23rd May 1940 and spent the next five years in captivity. In his memoirs he makes no reference to any celebrations on VE day but records that he spent the 8th May 1945 sat on an air-strip waiting to be flown home.
'...at last in the evening our turn came to enter a U.S. Dakota aircraft. The American crew were incredibly casual to our minds - there were notices about No Smoking and No Alcohol which they paid no attention to, and when I ventured to ask when we were going I was told, "Aw, we just follow the plane ahead"...We just sat uncomfortably on the floor with a deafening noise but were allowed in turns up to the turret to have a look round. I had always imagined my first view of England would be of the coast - white cliffs and all that - but what I saw was equally magical: green fields.'
Preston finally made it back home to Bournemouth on the 10th May 1945. He wryly comments in his memoirs that the most dangerous moment of the war was crossing the Holdenhurst Road to reach his family home.