They progressed through Germany at a rapid pace and eventually arrived near Berlin. The Allies had been halted to allow the Russians take Berlin. Len witnessed Montgomery drive off to talk to his Russian counterparts twice.
After Montgomery’s second discussion with the Russians, Len and thousands of other assorted troops were ordered to tidy up their camp and get ready for a speech. Montgomery addressed thousands of troops telling them they had come as far as possible and that they would have to move back.
Len actually met up with some of the Russians, he couldn’t understand many of them, but some could speak English. They were amused when one Russian soldier kissed their NCO in a traditional greeting.
There were rumours that Germans were surrendering to the Americans and British, in preference to the Russians. Len was told that groups of Germans may throw down their arms and surrender to them to avoid capture by the Russians. He never personally witnessed any Germans surrendering like this.
He got on well with many of the German civilians, although he didn’t meet many men, the civilian population were mainly women, elderly folk and children. Despite all of the hardships suffered back in Britain, Len still felt sorry for many of these German folk.
He and his unit weren’t told anything about what had happened to Hitler, at the time they thought he might have escaped, the only news they got was about what the Russians were doing.
Back to England
When ordered back to France Len thought they were retreating, probably because of memories at Dunkirk. Even on the way back to France they still experienced pockets of German resistance. The Germans that were left behind in these pockets didn’t know what had happened. Len believed a lot of the French farmers and villagers captured many of these Germans that had been left behind.
Len was told it was all over and the peace treaty had been signed on a snowy, cold morning whilst billeted in a French school building, Len can not remember the exact location.
In order to return to Britain Len had to travel to the Northern French coast with a group of men including an officer who had a map. It was much like the Dunkirk and Battle of France again, accept this time they weren’t retreating under heavy German fire.
When they reached the coast they found themselves a few miles from the ship embarkation point, however some local French men were looking out for stragglers and took them by boat to an appropriate ship home.
Len arrived back in England at Folkestone and surprisingly didn’t wait long before playing football again for Purbrook Football Club, whilst training as a mechanic at Wadham Stringers in Waterlooville.