Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8th May 1945 is arguably one of the most significant moments of the 20th century, marking the end of nearly 6 years of war across the globe. For those fighting in the Far East, it was to be another 3 months before the end of their war, with Victory over Japan (VJ) Day taking place on 15th August 1945.
During the Second World War, there were three regiments of the King’s Royal Hussars forbearers – The 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own), 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) and 14th/20th King’s Hussars. The origins of the war raised 23rd Hussars and 26th Hussars can also be traced to the 10th Royal Hussars (PWO) and 14th/20th Kings Hussars respectively, as they provided a cadre of men to form these regiments in 1940/41. (The 23rd Hussars were only in existence from December 1940 to January 1946 and the 26th Hussars from June 1941 to October 1943. They therefore have no formal affiliation with any current regiment of the British Army, although they hold allegiance to the King’s Royal Hussars.)
On VE Day, 8th May 1945 the regiments were dispersed as follows:
10th Royal Hussars (PWO) – Stationed at Ferrara, Italy.
11th Hussars (PAO) – Majority of the regiment at Bendorf, with B Squadron at Orsdorf.
14th/20th King’s Hussars – Stationed at San Valentino, Italy.
23rd Hussars – On the Baltic coast, waiting for orders to advance into Denmark, still held by German forces.
For the 10th Royal Hussars (PWO) and 14th/20th King’s Hussars who were both serving in Italy, the war had ended for them on 2nd May 1945 when all German forces in Italy formally surrendered. The Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to the Allied forces in Italy with an announcement in Parliament : “It brings to a conclusion the work of as gallant an army as ever marched, and brings to a pitch of fame the military reputation of a commander who has always, I may say, enjoyed the fullest confidence of the House of Commons”.
The 10th Royal Hussars (PWO) continued with normal daily routine on the 8th and 9th May. They had held a regimental memorial service on the 6th to commemorate those of the regiment who had died during the Italian campaign. On the 10th May, 300 members of the regiment also attended a service held by 2nd Armoured Brigade. The real celebrations for the regiment had taken place on 2nd May and is best described by a member of the regiment who was present, Vincent Crocker – “The ‘boys’ did some celebrating, firing small arms into the air. There was no wine available, at least not at our farm, but the Regiment made an issue of rum. During the evening the bells from a nearby church were ringing and I recall it affected me very much, perhaps because they conveyed something of the joy of those at home.” (Taken from ‘There’s A Soldier At The Gate’ by Vincent A Crocker)
The 11th Hussars (PAO) spent VE Day celebrating, with Lieut Osborne writing in his diary, “we were merely damn glad that we had got through O.K. and that was all”. The Regimental Journal gave a good description of the celebrations – “That wonderful night will never be forgotten by anyone who was there, with hordes of strange, fur-coated figures swigging rum punch and singing their hearts out. Very lights ricocheting all over the place, and the Colonel going round each squadron in turn, and each squadron striving to produce a bigger and better ‘brew-up’ for him than the last, and succeeding only too well.”
VE Day is celebrated to remember and pay tribute to the sacrifice made by a generation, to ensure the freedom from tyranny that we have today.