- Contributed by
- Frank Gutteridge
- People in story:
- Captain Frank Gutteridge
- Location of story:
- Northern Germany
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 16 May 2005
During the last days of the 1944/45 European campaign I was serving as Recce Troop commander with the 1st RTR. We were holding a section of the line south of Harburg, a suburb of Hamburg. There was little enemy action, but large numbers of German refugees were passing my position daily, fleeing from the advancing Red Army. I had earlier been given to understand that Churchill was insistent that we should advance northwards as fast as possible to secure the Kiel canal to prevent it falling into Russian hands. I was eventually notified that some German emissaries weould be seeking to pass through my position to discuss the surrender of Hamburg.
Effectively, we saw a car approzaching us and as we had a loudhailer, we called to it in German to come through our line, where it would be given safe conduct. An open Mercedes arrived containing immaculately dressed officers and a civilian. The officers remonstrated with me about the use of the loud hailer, saying that there were bands of SS roaming around and that if they knew what was going on, this could imperil their mission. I cannot imagine what they thought of us, extremely scruffily dressed. I was wearing corduroys and an old pullover with no badges of rank, in fact, the only item of uniform was my beret and it had struck me that if I had been taken prisoner, I might have been shot as a spy.
One thing led to another and Hamburg was surrendered to us, followed by the unconditional surrender of all the German forces in the west. My regiment was detailed to enter Hamburg. This was supposed to be a proper approach march with correct distances between our tanks and other vehicles. but the whole thing became a farce as others who had no business to be there infiltrated our column, and I had such as the NAAFI and the Church Army interposed between my fighting vehicles. We were guided into ruined Hamburg by smart German policemen. The city stank terribly from the fire bombing.
After a short stay in Hamburg we penetrated into Schleswig Holstein where we eventually celebrated VE day by lining ourselves into two groups and firing Very light rockets at each other. By some miracle, no one was hit or hurt!
For us, the pleasure at the ending of the war in Europe was mitigated by the prospect of being sent on to Burma. BLA (British Liberation Army) was also said to stand for "Burma looms ahead". I have to say that the Japanese surrender after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was received with a great sense of relief by our men, some of whom had been fighting for several years.
I have always been glad to have participated in a small way in the ending of the European war and count myself lucky to have survived the long march from the Normandy beaches up to Hamburg and the German surrender.
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