Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Sunday, 1 March 2009

Funeral of WWII surrender witness

Susan Hibbert
Susan Hibbert spent 20 hours typing the surrender papers

The funeral has been held of the last British witness to the signing of the German surrender, signalling the end of World War II in Europe.

Susan Hibbert, from Andover, Hampshire, was a young sergeant in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, based at General Eisenhower's HQ in France at the time.

As a secretary in May 1945, she typed and retyped the surrender for 20 hours.

The 84-year-old's funeral was held at St Mary's Church in Abbots Ann, where she had lived, on Saturday afternoon.

Ms Hibbert was one of the first people outside the most senior officers of the allied forces to know that the war in Europe was over.

She quietly celebrated with Veuve Clicquot champagne served in a tin cup.

The signing of the surrender took place in the early hours of 7 May 1945 in a windowless room at Eisenhower's HQ - a small redbrick schoolhouse at Reims.

The actual signing was carried out quietly and solemnly
Susan Hibbert speaking to BBC News in 2005
In 2005, she told BBC News: "In the days leading up to the surrender, we knew something was happening - there was a real feeling of excitement in the air.

"For five days we were typing documents. We started early in the morning and finished late at night. I typed the English documents, three other secretaries typed the French, Russian and German versions."

The drafts were sent to Washington, London and Moscow.

Then, on 6 May, she began typing the British version of the Act of Military Surrender and finished some 20 hours later in the early hours of 7 May.

Ms Hibbert and her fellow secretaries were invited into a room of allied officers and German representatives of Hitler, who was by now dead, to witness history.

"We were very, very tired. We had been waiting for ages. We came into the room, there were a lot of journalists and photographers," she said in 2005.

The signing of the Act of Military surrender
The Germans sign the Act of Military Surrender in Eisenhower's "war room"
"The actual signing was carried out quietly and solemnly. There was no celebrating."

About 250 people attended Ms Hibbert's funeral, including family, friends, villagers and local politicians.

Sir George Young, MP for North West Hampshire, gave a eulogy.

He later told the BBC: "She was the last British person alive who was actually at the surrender of the German forces at the end of the last war.

"She was there, she typed the document and all the rest of them have passed on so there's that element of history.

"She was hard working and a brave lady and had enormous stamina to stay up 20 hours typing the document.

"This was long before computers so if you made a mistake you had to start again at the top of the page so she kept at it for 20 hours until the document was right."

Abbotts Ann villagers say farewell to Susan Hibbert

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