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Picture of VE Celebrations in Trafalgar Square in London, UK from 1945

VE Day

- A Personal Perspective

The end of the War.

My grandfather's memories.

Tom Smith: 7th Battalion King?s Own Scottish Borderers, who had been a prisoner for 7 months as a result of Operation Market Garden, had been a forced labourer at the Herman Goering Iron & Steel Works in Germany . This is his account of the end of the war in 1945.

"POW's mostly Arnhem veterans, we had been marching for five days through the Harz Mountains in Germany. We were starving, our guards tried their best to get potatoes which we ate raw. We had left the work camp (the Hermann Goering Iron & Steel Works) because the Americans were approaching. Our clothes and skin impregnated with iron ore which we had shovelled daily. We wore sabots (clogs) as our boots had worn out. We never knew what day it was - but this day was a day of great elation for us, but of great sadness for millions. I will always remember it" ? "We heard a bugle playing the charge very faint but then louder. Being a Western fan, I know it was the Yanks, and sure enough, along came a column of Sherman Tanks 'Old Glory' flying and bugle blowing!..."

"Our guards hopped it and we were free, free!.. a lot of hand shaking and back slapping went on as they gave us all the food and fags they had. The officer in charge, a Major, stood on the leading tank and said 'we are delighted to have liberated you, but, today for us, and the American people, this is a sad day. We have just heard over the radio, that today 12 April 1945, President Roosevelt Died. Will you join me in a minute's silence?'? Four of us decided, firstly to find some food and then head west for home and beauty and off we went into no man's land"?

"Every village, every farm was in ruins. So we left the main road and took to the side roads, got a bit of food here and there. Gradually, we found people, white sheets hanging from windowsills. One village had dead men hanging from the lamp posts ? Russians. The villagers wanted us to stay and protect them from the hordes of slave workers from all breeds, but SS men and German and German Army deserters came into the towns and villages each night for food and comfort and hanged many non-Germans"...

"We used to sleep in barns, etc. Finally we reached Koblenz. By now we had discarded our filthy, lousy uniforms and were in civvies. I had a floral waistcoat. We were arrested as suspected SS men. We had kept our emblems and finally persuaded the officer who we were. Then off through the Ardennes and finally we hitched a lift on a barge on the Marne and got to Paris"...

"We had a letter from an American padre in Koblenz, which we showed at the American aerodrome, and we were flown to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where we stripped, shorn, scrubbed, deloused and kitted out and put in hospital for two weeks. We all had malnutrition" ?

"Then leave to Wickham (Nr Newcastle). I was greeted by my wife and three sons one of whom I had never seen. I asked my wife if it was a boy or girl? I had no letters all my POW life of seven months.

Next day there was a street party, and my old friend Jimmy Frances sang 'Ain't It Glad To Be Home'".