After the success of D-Day the Allies faced months of fighting, firstly in the deadly bocage – hedgerow country of Normandy, and then on through France and into Belgium and Holland.
In March 1945 the Allies crossed the Rhine and from this point it was only a matter of time before the Third Reich came to an end. As the Allies advanced across Germany they encountered resistance from die-hard SS or Vokssturm (Home Guard) consisting of pensioners and young boys.
In spring 1945 the Green Howards 1st Battalion had expected to join the Italian campaign. It was only when their ship arrived in Naples that they learnt that the plans had changed and they were instead heading for France to join General Eisenhower’s British Liberation Army.
On the 16th April 1945 the 1st Battalion moved by road and rail through Belgium and into northern Germany. On the 30th April 1945 they attacked across the River Elbe fighting against young Nazi’s who were still resisting with the tenacity of desperation. This was the last battle for the 1st Battalion. It was only a minor battle but many men who had been with the battalion since Norway in 1940 were killed. Company Sergeant Major Peacock who had been awarded
a Military Medal in Palestine, and a Norwegian Cross at the Battle of Otta in Norway, was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his skill and gallantry commanding his company after every officer had been killed.
On the same day that the 1st Battalion were crossing the Elbe Adolf Hitler committed suicide. It was left to Grand Admiral Donitz, who had been President of the Third Reich for a week, to surrender. Donitz travelled to General Eisenhower’s HQ at Reims in France, and, in the presence of senior officers from Britain, America, Russia and France, surrendered unconditionally to Western and Russian demands on 7th May 1945.
The war-weary British began to rejoice straight away rather than waiting for the official day of celebration on the 8th May. In Germany the 1st Battalion held a ceremonial parade in Lubeck, at which the Union Jack was hoisted.
The war in Europe was over but in Burma the 2nd Battalion fought on until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.