Final Victory in Italy, 2nd May 1945.

Discussion in 'Italy' started by bexley84, May 2, 2015.

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Today (2nd May), on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Italy, an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of so many men and women and thank them all....including, of course, a number of Forum members.

    My own thoughts are with my Dad (aka Edmund/Eddie/Dickie/Ted/Rosie/Grandad/Great Granddad), who was in Northern Italy on 2nd May 1945...and my Mum (aka Private Webb, Patricia, Pat, Spider, Nanny, Great Grandmum) who was working at the War Office in Whitehall on that day.

    As the Commanding Officer of my father's Brigade, Pat Scott, wrote so aptly at the time when he heard the news of final German surrender:

    "The Army Group South West, under General von Vietinghoff, had surrendered unconditionally to Field Marshal Alexander.

    I authorised a rum issue. There was not much else I could do. I knew we had no rum to issue except the buckshee stuff that the Quarter Masters always kept up their sleeves but I thought this was as good a night as any to work off some of that.

    Such celebrations, as there were, did not go on very long and, by midnight, all was quiet and peaceful. It was such a big event that it took time to assimilate.

    I heard people remarking that, at any rate, we had beaten Monty to it; the ‘D Day Dodgers’ had got in first; and other kindred remarks. Poor old ‘D Day Dodgers’: they had had a long fight for their money.

    What a long time ago, it seems since these early days in North Africa with the appalling discomforts of that campaign. It seems a long time, too, since the epic battles of Sicily and Southern Italy.

    How very few had seen them all. How few in the Rifle Companies, who had landed in North Africa were still with us to see the culmination of their efforts.

    One’s mind turned that evening to a lot of faces of old friends whom one would not see again. One hopes that they, too, were able to join in the feeling of satisfaction and thankfulness that the last shot had been fired. .."

    Please feel free to add any memories of that day to this thread,


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  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    My personal diary for the day

    Wednesday 2nd. May 1945
    Jerry threw his hand in in Italy & Austria. Fired all our 2" mortars, phosphorous bombs & verey lights & had bonfires all over the shop. Cease fire about 11 pm.

  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Ron..

    Pat Scott also wrote:

    "As we went on again, more verey lights than ever seemed to be going up and we began to wonder if it meant that Hitler was dead or what on earth happened. When we got through Ferrara, there was a veritable cascade of stuff going up along the Po. We stopped and asked someone what was going on and were greeted with the surprising information that the war was over... Yes, they said, the war was over or, at any rate, in Italy. We hurried on to get back quickly and see what was the truth about all this. We hurried for more reasons than one. Worse things than verey lights were now flying through the air. Bofors guns had opened up, tanks were sending streams of tracer into the air, there were bangs and flashes on all sides. We had no intention of stopping one of these missiles even if the war was over.

    After going at about 60 mph through a barrage of two inch mortars firing light signals – which I thought might well get mixed up with High Explosive in the excitement – we got back to our Headquarters...."

  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Went to a local Cathedral to offer thanks for the end of the fighting - it was locked…..

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  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Tom.

    My Dad actually got into a church on Sunday May 6th:

    "..E and H Companies were pushed up on to the Yugoslavian border at Caporetto and Plezzo. Here, with some tanks, we hoped to persuade partisans from Tito’s Yugoslav partisan army, who had crossed into Italy, to go back.

    I managed to get to Mass on the Sunday. Although it was Italy, the Mass was in Serbian..."

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  6. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    I've just had the pleasure of speaking to my Dad's friend and former comrade from 2 LIR, Sgt Charles Ward and his wife Margaret (nee Pratt) 1945, they were both serving with SOE (FANYs) in Italy - Charles was based in Bari and Margaret in Siena...

    They'll both be at Westminster Abbey next Sunday..combined age 187 years...

    Thanks to them both..


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  7. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    Extract from the War Diary of 10th Indian Division Counter Morter Organisation.

    Casino Strozzi 2/5/45 22.00hrs News was received of the capitulation of enemy forces in Italy; the following day was declared a holiday, the start of training being deferred to 4th May.

    Just a few words to mark the end of the war in Italy.
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  8. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Diane...
  9. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    56 Recce war diary 2nd May 1945

    Rubinalda 284912, (Copparo)

    10.00 C.O. to 11 Bde. for G.O.C.'s Conference for all C.O's of the Div.

    14.00 C.O.'s "O" Group warning order for Regt. to move to Udine on or after 5th May
    Regt. resting and cleaning up. Info received of unconditional surrender of the German armies in Italy.
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  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    From 1 Durham Light Infantry war diaries in Italy, 2nd May 1945, Messages of congratulations read to all ranks across Italy

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  11. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Lesley and, of course, to your father.

    Drew, thanks for those war diary clips - Alex and McCreery, absolute treasurable, add in Truscott and it's a threesome to behold.
  12. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    A clip from 8th Army News dated 7th May 1945.. perhaps history has shown a few things in a slightly different light but this was the sort of thing that men in the line would have read during that week:

    A transcription of some part of the published text is reproduced here:

    “…on April 9th, the Allies launched their spring offensive to crush the Germans in Italy.

    Again there were anxious days of waiting. Finally towards the end of April, definite word came through that General Wolff was returning to Switzerland. He had with him two German officers, who had been selected to be plenipotentiaries to come to AFHQ with powers to act for himself and General von Vietinghoff in surrendering the German forces in Italy and Western Austria to Field Marshal Alexander.

    Another item of news reached AFHQ about this time. It was learned that that General Wolff had gone to Berlin on April 18th and had talked with Himmler. As to Hitler’s and his own personal future, Himmler mentioned three possibilities:

    1) to fight it out in Berlin.
    2) to retreat to the Alpine redoubt and
    3) to retreat by aircraft to the Berchtesgaden.

    As to the last possibility, Himmler added that Hitler did not like to fly but might do so in an emergency.

    On the second day of General Wolff’s visit to Berlin, he reportedly saw Hitler in a bunker located two hours by motor from the centre of Berlin. He stated substantially. “We must fight on to gain time. In two more months, the break between the Anglo Saxons and the Russians will come about and then I shall join the party which approaches me first – it makes no difference which.“ General Wolff put in a word about the senselessness of further destruction in Italy, to which Hitler did not react. By this time, troops of 15th Army Group were driving the Germans back towards the Po.

    With the report of the arrival of General Wolff and the two plenipotentiaries in Switzerland, AFHQ dispatched a transport aircraft on April 27th to bring the representatives of Generals von Vietinghoff and Wolff to Caserta.

    Field Marshal Alexander repeated his previous instructions that the plenipotentiaries, if they were coming, must have full powers to accept unconditional surrender. Failure to accept these conditions would result in breaking off all contact.

    Flying conditions were miserable but the plane got though and, on April 28th, landed on a field near the Swiss border, ready to bring back the German delegates. It took off immediately, despite weather that would have grounded most planes and was back at Caserta at 4 o’clock the same afternoon. The German plenipotentiaries were met at the airfield by Generals Lemnitzer and Airey, who took them at once to a special camp, which had been set aside for them.

    From here on, negotiations proceeded with uncanny speed. The first meeting with the two Germans was held at 6 o’clock and lasted 20 minutes. Presiding officer at the meeting was Lieut General WD Morgan, Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander. Aside from Generals Morgan, Lemnitzer and Airey, other Allied officers who attended the meeting were Rear Admiral HA Packer - Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief Mediterranean, Brigadier General CP Cabell - Director of Operations and Intelligence Mediterranean Allied Air Forces and Colonel JE Bastion jnr and Lieut Colonel JC Sweetman - Secretary and Deputy Secretary to the Supreme Allied Commander.

    General Morgan asked the Germans if they had full powers to act for their commanding officers. General von Vietinghoff’s representative replied that, within his orders, he had full power to act. He then produced his credentials, dated April 22nd and signed by General von Vietinghoff. The credentials said he 'has been authorised by me to conduct negotiations within a frame of instructions given by me and to make binding commitments in my behalf.'

    General Wolff’s representative produced his credentials, dated April 25th, which authorised him 'to negotiate on my behalf and to make binding commitments on my behalf.' He further explained that Marshal Graziani, Commander of Italian Fascist forces, had given him full authority to General Wolff, who in turn had passed them on to him.

    General Morgan then said he was going to hand over three copies of the Instruments of Surrender and its appendices. He asked the German officers to examine these documents. A further meeting would be held that night at 9 o’clock and, at this meeting, General Morgan would expect to be told whether the terms were accepted. He asked the German officers to withdraw to their camp, where they could study the documents.

    The 9 o’clock meeting, at which General Morgan again presided, was attended by Lieut General Sir Brian H Robertson - Chief Administrative Office AFHQ, General Lemnitzer, Admiral Packer, General Airey, Major General Daniel Noce - Assistant Chief of Staff G3 AFHQ, General Cabell, Air Commodore F Wooley – Chief Intelligence Officer MAAF, Major General AP Kislenko representing the Russian General Staff, Colonel Bastion, Lieut Colonel Sweetman and Lieut M Uraevsky – USSR.

    Here, the details of the surrender were discussed. General Morgan said it was important that the Instrument should be communicated to General von Vietinghoff and that a time should be fixed as soon as possible for the surrender to become operative. He suggested that the German officers should immediately transmit highlights of the document and ask General von Vietinghoff to name a time at which hostilities would cease. The German Commander alone would be in a position to know the time required to communicate the necessary orders to all his forces. He should be asked to inform AFHQ urgently of the time chosen. The German emissaries would then sign the Instrument and later, at the time stated, hostilities would cease.

    After the meeting adjourned, Generals Lemnitzer and Airey remained behind and conferred until 4am with the Germans. A crisis developed threatening the entire surrender negotiations. General von Vietinghoff’s representative, in particular, raised numerous objections to details and insisted that he had not sufficient authority to accept the terms laid down in the Surrender Instrument.

    He kept repeating that he would have to refer various points back to General von Vietinghoff before he could sign. If this course had been permitted, the discussion might have dragged on interminably. For a number of reasons, it became apparent to General Lemnitzer and Airey that what the German was really proposing was 'conditional unconditional surrender.'

    It also became apparent to the Allied Generals, whose experience had taught them quickly to size up the German mind, that the plenipotentiaries could be brought around if the Allied negotiators took a firm stand.

    Accordingly –and this approach was discussed with Field Marshal Alexander and Generals McNarney and Morgan – the Germans were told the following morning that they would either surrender unconditionally or the negotiators would terminate without further delay.

    The Germans signed the Instrument of Surrender shortly after 2 o’clock on 28th April 1945 in General Morgan’s office in the Royal Palace at Caserta and at 245 – less than 23 hours after their arrival in Caserta – and were off by air to the Swiss border. The surrender was to become effective at 12 noon GMT May 2nd.

    The weather again had closed in. Only the skill of the pilot and fortunate timing enabled the Germans to reach the Swiss border before dark. Here they left to complete the journey by road. They passed through Berne at midnight Sunday (29th/30th April).

    Monday was an anxious day of waiting.

    Would the news leak out? A security breach could destroy the secret and painstaking work of many weeks. The lives of Allied soldiers were at stake.At the final parleys in Caserta, an elaborate system of codes was devised by wireless between AFHQ and German headquarters.

    On Monday 30th April, Field Marshal Alexander took steps to ensure that General von Vietinghoff knew of the signing of the Surrender Instrument even if the two plenipotentiaries should fail to reach his headquarters in time for him to carry out cease fire orders at the prescribed hour.

    He informed General von Vietinghoff in his message that the two German delegates had left Caserta on Sunday afternoon, April 29th and said: 'In view of the rapid advance of Allied Armies from the north towards Innsbruck, it appears that you they may have difficulty in reaching you with the Instrument of Surrender signed by them here. I, therefore inform you that these officers signed honourable terms of unconditional surrender of all armed forces, land, sea and air under your command and control to take effect at 1200 hours Greenwich Mean Time on 2nd May. If, by chance, these officers do not reach you in time, I ask you to honour their agreement to avoid further useless bloodshed by ordering surrender agreed upon. If you can get orders to your troops before the agreed time, I urge you to end the useless struggle by doing so at once.'

    On Tuesday May 1st, word came over the wireless that the surrender would be carried out. General Wolff, in requesting Field Marshal Alexander to refrain from attacking German centres of resistance left in cities, said that the surrender would be arranged from Bolzano.

    Also, on May 1st, AFHQ was informed that the two German delegates had arrived back at their headquarters at 1230 that morning after a difficult automobile trip.

    Under the plans made at Caserta, the Germans on Wednesday morning, prior to the effective hour, were to broadcast messages to their own troops in the clear to cease hostilities and surrender.

    On Wednesday morning, May 2nd, AFHQ radio receivers were on the alert for the scheduled German broadcasts to troops to surrender. The first such broadcast was picked up in the clear from Bolzano. Other similar broadcasts were heard, showing that the Germans were carrying out the surrender terms.

    With the German broadcasts coming through as planned, Field Marshal Alexander informed General Wolff that he was making public at 630pm on the afternoon of May 2nd the announcement of the German surrender to the Allies.

    That evening, General Lemnitzer sent a message to the Allied agents, who had participated with him and General Airey in negotiations, which had begun on a slender thread of uncertainty early in March.

    The message concluded:
    'My admiration for your loyalty and devotion to duty during these recent and difficult weeks is equalled only by the pride, which is mine for having the privilege and pleasure of participating with you in this operation, which spells the end of Nazi domination in Europe.'

    The Instrument of Surrender signed at Caserta was to affect, in tremendous part, the speedy conclusion of hostilities throughout the rest of Europe.

    It knocked a million Nazi soldiers out of the war but it did a great deal more than that. It set the machinery in motion, as well, for the surrender of the German armies in the west. It provided the impetus for the complete collapse of Nazism everywhere.

    It led the way and laid the foundation for the return of peace to Europe.”


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  13. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Extract from a letter by a BSM in 76th HAA, San Benedetto Po, northern Italy, written 1 May:

    "Last night after I’d written to you I went for a long walk with Bill Brett and Ron Miles. Thoroughly enjoyed it. We saw many Jerry and Italian vehicles which had been collected in. Dreadful things, dilapidated, and made me feel that it’s been more than just equipment facing us. I noticed all the big trucks that would normally have a double wheel at the back had had one on each side removed, and I presume this was an economy measure. Saw also some of the guns which have been causing us trouble. Great clumsy solid tyre affairs standing with their muzzles drooping almost as though they were hanging their heads in shame. Many of the trucks had been converted from petrol driven engines to charcoal burning jobs – crude in the extreme, looking like some old woman heavily made up to beautify her tired and wrinkled feminine features. Many of the vehicles had been towed. The tow chains and rigid tow bars were still there. Little bits of equipment were still left in the cabs or back as we ourselves might leave them. Pamphlets, letters, photos showing heavily jowled sons of the Fatherland, imposing and regaled in Nazi uniform with shining jackboots and coal scuttle helmets, all were mixed with a melée of black bread left in haste, mess tins and jackets still with their insignia and the Prussian eagle. Everywhere the scented stench of German soldiery, the stink of ersatz oils and petrols, and the sour stench of that black bread. Smells which are so familiar in association with the Wehrmacht, that deflated bubble of a dream “Today Germany, tomorrow the World”. Crowds of Italians and Partisans with their red white and green button holes and arm bands and a legion of rifles and machine guns slung imposingly about their shoulders tried to tell us all about the equipment and the Master Race.

    Bill decided we’d have a jug of red wine. We were all hot and thirsty and so stopped at a rather pokey, if not clean, bar. The usual smell of garlic and onions mingled with the heavy smells of cooking, but we got a good measure at four lire a glass. Being English soldiers we were the source of great interest in this establishment where only a week before a German Sergeant Major had made his residence. Mine host told us of the doings of the “Tedeschi” and how brutal and bestial he was. I was interested to hear that for months and months he was unable to use any of the roads by day for fear of aerial strafing – though how in those ungainly backfiring trucks he’d managed anything I don’t know. His stories of how the German Army was ruled by a rod of iron to the day they were forced to flee on foot before us were richly stabbed with staccato embellishments from his worthy wife who beamed broadly down on her husband crossing and uncrossing her brawny arms over her huge round breasts. In the corner sat an old boy of last war vintage occasionally puncturing the silences between one description and the next with a throaty, “Si, si,” and a hearty spit in the grate.

    They were all overcome with “Mamma mia”s when we told them we’d been in the Army nearly six years, and that we’d been away from home for over two years. They thought we all looked too young to be Sergeant Major and Sergeants. The average Italian looks much older than we do. They were, as they all are here, most impressed with our uniforms and think we look very smart. They can’t get over the fact that the Hun and the Republicans told them before we came that we had no ammunition and that all our trucks, guns, tanks and ships had been knocked out. They left out the planes. The Italians could see these going over in droves everyday and hear them by night as can we today. Their amazement at the continuous stream of trucks, guns, tanks, supplies, and soldiery has genuinely overwhelmed them. They say they thought we’d never come. They are glad now. And as the sun was sinking we came back getting bitten all the way by hordes of mosquitoes that haunt this flat country. I was soon asleep when I got back."
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  14. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    thanks for this - a good clip,

  15. ropey

    ropey Member

    I can recommend Richard Doherty's latest book on this subject: Victory in Italy (Other than the lack of maps).
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