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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Veterans marking German surrender
Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery
Montgomery (right) was approached by German officers in his tent
Veterans have met to mark the German surrender at Luneburg that led to the end of World War II.

Around 100 ex-soldiers gathered at a Victory in Europe reception at the Imperial War Museum, in London.

It celebrated 60 years since the German forces in north-west Germany, Denmark and Holland surrendered to Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery.

The surrender to the British soldier was the start of a chain of events which culminated on VE Day, on 8 May.

The surrender to Field Marshal Montgomery, who was commanding all the British and Canadian armies in Europe, was signed inside a tent at his headquarters, about 30 miles (48km) south east of Hamburg on 4 May 1945.

Unconditional surrender

The German forces in Italy had already surrendered to Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander, on 2 May.

The final document of unconditional surrender was signed at General Dwight Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims on 7 May and an official statement declaring the war in Europe over was made simultaneously in London, Washington and Moscow the following day.

Derek Knee
Montgomery had insisted on drawing up a second surrender document
Derek Knee
Former Army interpreter

Ben Duncan, 85, who was among the veterans at the Imperial War Museum event, was with the Hampshire Regiment in Italy when the Armistice was signed.

He said: "First of all we couldn't believe it. You think to yourself 'What, no more patrols?' It took about 36 hours to realise it was all over and we had survived.

"We just sat there wondering what we were going to do. We couldn't get out for a drink or anything because we were up in the mountains."

Mr Duncan returned home to Britain two months later, in June 1945, to the delight of his wife, whom he had not seen for four years.

He said: "I'd had no opportunity to warn my wife I was on my way home. I just walked in on her at about 6am one morning as she was getting ready to go to work.

"She couldn't believe it at first. She was looking in the mirror putting a scarf on her head and she saw me in the mirror."

Bottles

Robin Seymour, 80, originally from Dagenham, in Essex, but who now lives in Australia, found himself in Kiel in Germany on VE Day.

"We just celebrated. We found lots of bottles and got stuck into them," said the former Royal Marine commando.

Steve Dyson
I hid two bottles away inside an empty machine gun box. I vowed that if I survived the war and my brother survived the war, then we would drink.
Steve Dyson

"Bottles were everywhere because the shops were all smashed up - not looted really, just devastated because of the air raids."

He said refugees of many nationalities, including Russians and Poles, were on the roads desperate to get home, as were hordes of newly-released prisoners of war, many of them pitifully thin.

Despite the loss of his wife Ann four years ago, Mr Seymour said he was pleased to have made it to the 60th anniversary.

"I am elated. Every year is a bonus after you reach 65 - even to have survived the war was a bonus."

'Elation'

Steve Dyson, 89, and his twin brother, Tom, were sent home on leave from Soltau, Germany, on leave, on 2 May, just days before VE Day.

Knowing peace was about to be declared, the brothers celebrated with two bottles of beer which Steve had saved since they were last in the UK on the eve of D-Day, 10 months before.

He said: "As we were waiting to go over to Normandy, our group of tanks parked opposite a pub in Fareham.

"We got six bottles of beer and some packets of crisps and while I was drinking one of them, I had a thought and I hid two bottles away inside an empty machine gun box.

"I vowed that if I survived the war and my brother survived the war, then we would drink them."

The pair arrived home in Bethnal Green, east London, the day after VE Day.

He said: "You can just imagine the party we had that night."




SEE ALSO:
Will Young to play VE Day concert
05 Apr 05 |  Entertainment


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