After almost six years of war with Germany, the end came in Europe on the 8th May 1945 with the signing of a complete and unconditional surrender. This is only part of the story though: from mid-April 1945 whole formations of the German armed forces had been surrendering to the Allies, most notably in Italy on 2nd May 1945 and in Northern Germany, Holland, and Denmark on 4th May 1945. The final surrender was not achieved until 9th May 1945 when the Channel Islands were liberated.
Representatives of the President of Germany, Grand Admiral Dönitz, approached Field Marshal Montgomery at his Tactical Headquarters on Lüneberg Heath on 3rd May 1945 but did not have the necessary powers to agree an unconditional surrender. The next day, Admiral Friedeburg, the head of the German Navy and Dönitz’s personal representative, returned to the Field Marshal’s tented headquarters at 5 o’clock in the afternoon UK time, with the surrender signed half an hour later.
Field Marshal Montgomery’s negotiating position had been unequivocal:
‘You must understand three things: Firstly, you must surrender to me unconditionally all the German forces in Holland, Friesen and the Frisian Islands and Heligoland and all other islands in Schleswig-Holstein and in Denmark. Secondly, when you have done that, I am prepared to discuss with you the implications of your surrender: how we will dispose of those surrendered troops, how we will occupy the surrendered territory, how we will deal with the civilians, and so forth. And my third point: If you do not agree to Point 1, the surrender, then I will go on with the war and I will be delighted to do so." Monty added, as an after-thought, "All your soldiers and civilians may be killed’.
Immediately after the War, a memorial was placed on what was termed ‘Victory Hill’ but this was dismantled in 1958 when the needs of Cold War training meant that the Lüneberg Heath training area required expansion. The dismantled memorial was removed to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, rebuilt, and stands today as a reminder of the events of 75 years ago.
If you want to learn more about the events of VE Day, please take a look at the National Army Museum’s website. As well as information, they will be running a series of virtual educational events and activities from 7th – 9th May.