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Germany 1945: letter to the Headmaster

This letter was sent to Headmaster Alfred Clarke by William Barton Kirby (RGS 1933-1939) who was on active service in Germany as peace was announced. On 4 May 1945 German forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allied forces on Lüneburg Heath, South of Hamburg.


Victory in Europe
From: Capt. W.B. Kirby

Date: 5 May 1945

Dear Sir,
Tonight it is very quiet in the camp after last night’s celebrations. The general feeling is one of thankfulness rather than rejoicing, for we know that this is the first night we can go to sleep and expect to awake alive in the morning. We haven’t had that feeling of security for many months now.

Yesterday the front was very quiet and we knew that peace negotiations were going on and we prayed that they would be successful.

In the evening I was out on reconnaissance patrol when the quiet was disturbed by the rattle of machine gun fire. I thought at first it was a counter attack but when I saw an infantryman walking up the road in a bowler hat and waving an umbrella, I knew that the negotiations had, in fact, been successful.

My first reaction was to fire my guns wildly in the air and add to the din that was already going on.

I suppose now we shall settle down for a time to the comforts of occupation and then set sail for the Far East. I shall still have a lot to do as my squadron leader was killed last week and also the sergeant-major – a grievous loss to us all.

I’m off to bed now – at a ridiculously early hour.

Yours very sincerely
Barton Kirby


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