World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

The political leaders at the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. 8th May 2015
Sheffield Cathedral held a Celebration and Living History Day on Saturday, 9th May 2015
The hoped for Lancaster Bomber flypast couldn't happen because of an engine fire earlier in the week. 
Yesterday morning at 2:41 a.m. at Headquarters, General Jodl, the representative of the German High Command, and Grand Admiral Doenitz, the designated head of the German State, signed the act of unconditional surrender of all German Land, sea, and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command.

General Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General Francois Sevez signed the document on behalf of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General Susloparov signed on behalf of the Russian High Command.

To-day this agreement will be ratified and confirmed at Berlin, where Air Chief Marshal Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General de Lattre de Tassigny will sign on behalf of General Eisenhower. Marshal Zhukov will sign on behalf of the Soviet High Command. The German representatives will be Field-Marshal Keitel, Chief of the High Command, and the Commanders-in- Chief of the German Army, Navy, and Air Forces.

Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight to-night (Tuesday, May 8), but in the interests of saving lives the "Cease fire" began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed to-day.

The Germans are still in places resisting the Russian troops, but should they continue to do so after midnight they will, of course, deprive themselves of the protection of the laws of war, and will be attacked from all quarters by the Allied troops. It is not surprising that on such long fronts and in the existing disorder of the enemy the orders of the German High Command should not in every case be obeyed immediately. This does not, in our opinion, with the best military advice at our disposal, constitute any reason for withholding from the nation the facts communicated to us by General Eisenhower of the unconditional surrender already signed at Rheims, nor should it prevent us from celebrating to-day and to-morrow (Wednesday) as Victory in Europe days.

To-day, perhaps, we shall think mostly of ourselves. To-morrow we shall pay a particular tribute to our Russian comrades, whose prowess in the field has been one of the grand contributions to the general victory.

The German war is therefore at an end. After years of intense preparation, Germany hurled herself on Poland at the beginning of September, 1939; and, in pursuance of our guarantee to Poland and in agreement with the French Republic, Great Britain, the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations, declared war upon this foul aggression. After gallant France had been struck down we, from this Island and from our united Empire, maintained the struggle single-handed for a whole year until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia, and later by the overwhelming power and resources of the United States of America.

Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evil-doers, who are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts in this Island and throughout the British Empire.

We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. The injury she has inflicted on Great Britain, the United States, and other countries, and her detestable cruelties, call for justice and retribution. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!

[Editor's Note: After making his broadcast announcement of Germany's unconditional surrender, Churchill read the same statement to the House of Commons shortly afterwards and added]

That is the message which I have been instructed to deliver to the British Nation and Commonwealth. I have only two or three sentences to add. They will convey to the House my deep gratitude to this House of Commons, which has proved itself the strongest foundation for waging war that has ever been seen in the whole of our long history. We have all of us made our mistakes, but the strength of the Parliamentary institution has been shown to enable it at the same moment to preserve all the title-deeds of democracy while waging war in the most stern and protracted form. I wish to give my hearty thanks to men of all Parties, to everyone in every part of the House where they sit, for the way in which the liveliness of Parliamentary institutions has been maintained under the fire of the enemy, and for the way in which we have been able to persevere-and we could have persevered much longer if need had been-till all the objectives which we set before us for the procuring of the unlimited and unconditional surrender of the enemy had been achieved. I recollect well at the end of the last war, more than a quarter of a century ago, that the House, when it heard the long list of the surrender terms, the armistice terms, which had been imposed upon the Germans, did not feel inclined for debate or business, but desired to offer thanks to Almighty God, to the Great Power which seems to shape and design the fortunes of nations and the destiny of man; and I therefore beg, Sir, with your permission to move:

That this House do now attend at the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster, to give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination.

A letter to my Daddy on VE Day

Eight-year-old Margaret Salter wrote to her father in the RAF in 1945 to describe the VE Day celebrations he was missing in Bournville, Birmingham.

Sixty years later, her story is among more than 17,000 told on the World War II People's War website.

Margaret Salter
Margaret saw "everything you could have wished for" at the street party

  Dear Daddy,

I am going to tell you about my VE Week, it was such a pity you could not be home. On Tuesday Mummy thought I ought to go to school to know when to go back.

There were about 10 children there beside myself; two children said they had seen Mr Hughes (the headteacher) and Mrs Lancaster, but they did not come and tell us what to do.

After about 20 minutes of waiting, I walked home, and saw Mr Ward (who owned the electrical shop) putting G.V.R.W.O.B.P. (meaning unknown - was it G VI R?) in lights, and pink flags up on the Green in front of the shops.

In his window he had golden crowns with coloured lights for jewels. Mummy bought me a two-shilling Union Jack. At eight o'clock, (well past my usual bedtime) Mummy said: "We might as well go down and hear the King's speech through Ward's loudspeakers," and we did.

When we got down on to the Green we saw a huge bonfire piled up in front of the Manor (an ancient black and white manor house).

We saw the illuminated bus go by, all decorated with lights and VEs. It looked very pretty

Mummy asked when it was going to be lit, and she was told 10 o'clock. So we waited. It was lit with large flares. After a bit we went to see the floodlighting at Cadbury's.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, the fire-engine came, but they did not put the fire out, oh no! They drove off again. (56 years later, I was told the bonfire had been built deliberately over the fire hydrant.)

Hitler 'guy'

The floodlighting was simply MARVELLOUS! It lighted up the Works beautifully. (Blackout had been enforced for the past six years, and the floodlights must have been erected in a few hours - I had never seen shops or streets lit up.)

When we came back, it was now about 11pm and the Hitler guy was nearly consumed. It was an awfully good Hitler, with a swastika on head and arm.

Then we danced until midnight on the Green, and I got an invitation to a street party in Maple Road.

Winston Churchill signs to crowds on VE day
Meanwhile in London, Winston Churchill was greeted by thousands

So next afternoon I set out with Pam, Alan, and Margaret D, and all the mothers and fathers went too.

There were long tables set up down the middle of the street, and everything you could have wished for was on the tables; lemonade, cakes, sponges, chocolate cake, chocolate biscuits, bread, fancy cakes and more.

(This was after six years of rationing, where did it all come from? Sugar must have been hoarded for months, in expectation.)

Even when the grown-ups had had their tea, there was a lot left. Then we had games; potato and spoon, potato and bucket races, and more refreshments - ice cream, oranges, sweets and lemonade and chocolate.

Every child had a prize. I had a drawing book and two pencils. I have already drawn two pictures.

Elephant outing

There was going to be another bonfire and we came down to the Green to see it. We saw the illuminated bus go by, all decorated with lights and VEs. It looked very pretty.

Then we went back to the bonfire, and I learned to dance the Military Two-Step with Mummy. I went to bed no earlier than last night.

On Friday I went to stay with Auntie Bessie and Uncle Billy. On Saturday we went to Dudley Zoo. We had a lovely lunch of liver and mashed potato and cabbage, with lime to drink. It was very nice.

Afterwards we went round the zoo. I had a ride on a little Shetland pony, it was great fun. Auntie and I went up to the keep of the castle.

It was a very pretty view up there, you can see for miles. We saw the elephant having an outing, and two bears trying to get each other into the pool.

Very much love from Margaret xxxxxxxxxxxxx.

Producer Katherine Campbell says the site has become the largest online national archive of WWII memories and will be "a legacy for future generations".

Military and home front stories are both important and contributors could also add photographs, she says.

My father returned home before VJ Day.

V.E. Day:

At 02:41 on the morning of, May 7, 1945, at the SHAEF headquarters in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies. General Franz Böhme announced the unconditional surrender of German troops in Norway on May 7, the same day as Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document. It included the phrase "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European Time on May 8, 1945." The next day, General Wilhelm Keitel and other German OKW representatives traveled to Berlin, and shortly before midnight signed a similar document, explicitly surrendering to Soviet forces, in the presence of General Georgi Zhukov. The signing ceremony took place in a former German Army Engineering School in the Berlin district of Karlshorst which now houses the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.

Victory in Europe: News of the surrender broke in the West on May 8, and celebrations erupted throughout Europe. In the United States, Americans awoke to the news and declared May 8 V-E Day. As the Soviet Union was to the east of Germany it was May 9 Moscow Time when German military surrender became effective, which is why Russia and many other European countries east of Germany commemorate Victory Day on May 9.

German units cease fire: Although the military commanders of most German forces obeyed the order to surrender issued by the German Armed Forces High Command, not all commanders did so. The largest contingent not to do so were Army Group Centre under the command of Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner who had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army on April 30 in Hitler's last will and testament. On May 8, Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria, and the Soviet Army sent overwhelming force against Army Group Centre in the Prague Offensive, forcing German units in Army Group Centre to capitulate by May 11 (the last did on 12 May). The other forces which did not surrender on May 8 surrendered piecemeal:

Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers was signed by the four Allies on June 5, 1945. It included the following:

The Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, hereby assume supreme authority with respect to Germany, including all the powers possessed by the German Government, the High Command and any state, municipal, or local government or authority. The assumption, for the purposes stated above, of the said authority and powers does not effect the annexation of Germany.

—US Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series, No. 1520.

Germany has signed an unconditional surrender bringing to an end six years of war in Europe, according to reports from France.

m at 10 Downing Street.

This evening the Ministry of Information has confirmed that an official statement declaring the end of the war, will be made simultaneously in London, Washington and Moscow tomorrow.

The day has been declared a national holiday to mark Victory in Europe Day (VE Day). The following day (9 May) will also be a national holiday.

The BBC's Thomas Cadett watched the official signing at a schoolhouse in Reims, northeastern France, which serves as the advance headquarters of the supreme commander in Europe, General Dwight D Eisenhower.

He said the signing, which took place in the early hours of this morning, was carried out "on a cold and businesslike basis."

Afterwards, he said General Gustav Jodl, of Germany, spoke briefly, saying the Germans had given themselves up "for better or worse into the victors' hands".

The document was signed by General Bedell Smith for the Allied commander, General Ivan Susloparov for Russia and General Francois Sevez for France.

It seems General Eisenhower tried to delay the release of the details of the surrender because of the difficulty of arranging a simultaneous declaration in London, Washington and Moscow.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Soviet leader Marshal Joseph Stalin and United States President Harry S Truman have now agreed to make the official announcement of the end of the war at 1500 BST tomorrow.

Mr Churchill will broadcast his announcement from the Cabinet room at 10 Downing Street.

It was from this same room that previous Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced Britain was at war with Germany on 3 September 1939.

Until today the German surrender has been piecemeal.

The German 1st and 19th Armies have capitulated in the south. The 25th Army has surrendered in the western Netherlands and Denmark has been celebrating its first day of freedom from occupation.

Earlier today, German forces in Norway also surrendered.

The final capitulation has been delayed by the new Fuehrer, Grand Admiral Doenitz. After the death of Adolf Hitler last week, he announced his intention to continue the fight against the British and Americans as long as they hampered his battle with the Russians.

It appears it did not take him long to realise further resistance was useless.

This evening the King sent a telegram to the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower congratulating the troops for carrying out their duties with "valour and distinction".

His message continued: "How unbounded is our admiration for the courage and determination which, under wise leadership, have brought them to their goal of complete and crushing victory."

 The act of surrender was signed again in Berlin the following day before Marshal Georgi Zhukov, representing the Russian High Command.

Also present at the signing were Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Carl Spaatz of the United States Air Forces and General Jean-Marie de Lattre de Tassigny of the French First Army.

The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, refused to accept the surrender signed in Rheims - probably because he suspected the motives of the Western Allies and Germany. He insisted the treaty was ratified in Berlin the following day, so Moscow celebrated VE Day one day later than the rest of Europe, on 9 May.

A victory parade was held in London on 10 August 1945 when once again huge crowds of cheering, flag-waving crowds took to the streets.

Following the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the deaths of tens of thousands of people, Japan surrendered on 14 August 1945. Victory in Japan Day was celebrated on 15 August. It is also marked on 2 September, the day Japan signed an unconditional ceasefire.

The war in Europe was over when Allied leaders gathered in Potsdam, a Berlin suburb, during July of 1945. Meeting to talk about Germany’s future, the decision-makers - Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman - had differing points of view on a number of issues.

Discussing how to govern the defeated nation, and divide power in that ravaged country, the "Big Three" leaders were also thinking about the rest of Europe. Just two months before, in a May 14th speech in London, Churchill rhetorically asked what Europe had become. In light of the estimated statistics - 55 million people who died, 45 million who were homeless and countless more who were suffering from starvation - he gave a grim answer:

It is a rubble-heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground of pestilence and hate.

How could three men, and their staff personnel, really determine what was best for countries in which they neither lived nor ruled? What did they consider as they made decisions impacting all of Europe?

What the negotiators decided would change the world for decades to come.

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D.