20 INDEPENDENT PROVOST SECTION, CMP
I was in No. 120 Provost Company, and the first part of the campaign was made at Blay, nine miles west of Bayeux. At this point No. 120 Provost Company, four sections of which had come under Lieutenant P V Hills, Royal Artillery, who was later to take charge of the Provost detachment at TAC Headquarters. It was here that the 20 Independent Provost Section was formed., consisting of one Officer, one Sergeant, two Corporals and fourteen Lance Corporals.
We were always on security at TAC HQ, my officer and myself always went on advanced reconnaissance, our job was to go with Major Odgers and pick a site where our HQ would be moving to, then back to camp, and the next day the HQ would move to that site, this continued all the time.
We went across the river Seine at Dangu on the 1st September 1944. On the 3rd September we went to Conty and on the 4th September we went to Saulty.
We brought TAC HQ caravans and convoy through Brussels to the sound of cheering crowds to the Chateau at Saulty. On the 8th September we arrived at Everburg, and our next checking point was at Hectal, on the 20th September we moved in.
Here at Hectal we saw the planes and gliders going over to drop the parachutes and airmen at Arnhem.
On the 26th September we did an advanced recce to the Lido at Eindhoven, this was our first contact with the Dutch People.
We returned on the 27th September with the caravans. We stayed here at Eindoven until the 9thNovember 1944.
It was here that his Majesty King George VI honoured us with a visit, this being his second visit to the battle zones, when he went back we escorted him half way to Ostend by road.
On the 8th November my Officer, Major Odgers and myself visited Zonhoven to check for headquarters, then returned to Eindoven. We moved to Zonhoven on the 9th November.
This was a very difficult journey because it had to be done in the dark and we had to remove all markings on our vehicles. We did very well as only two vehicles got lost, but turned up later in the day, this was our winter stop for three months because of the Ardennes Offensive.
We had quite a bit of security work to do whilst at Zonhoven, my officer had seen Major Odgers and he gave him a map reference to which we had to go and pick up a five star General. The map reference was on a railway bridge, when the car arrived it turned out to be General Eisenhower, we then had to escort him back to Zonhoven to meet Field Marshall Montgomery.
Early in January 1945 we had the German low flying planes which were straffing right away down the coast, when they came over Zonhoven they were so low we could see the pilots' faces.
On 6th February 1945 my officer and I started to move north again to Geldrop. Next day the TAC caravans and lorries moved up there too.
Whilst we were at this site Mr Winston Churchill paid us a visit.
On the 10th March we moved to Venlo and on the 17th March we moved to Straelen in Germany. We crossed the German border at 9.55 am and on to Straelen in convoy.
We had another visit from the Prime Minister, this was at Wesel and he went over the Rhine at this point, he wanted to see what it was like. when he returned his staff car had gone, a General had told them to go, so Mr Churchill had to go back to camp in a jeep.
We moved from here on the 29th March to Bonninghardt and on the 31st March to Brunen. On the 3rdApril to Nottuln (west of Munster). On the 6th April to Rheine (bombed out barracks), 10th April Ostenwalde, 14th April Nienburg and 21st April to Soltau.
This was the camp where we lost one of our officers, Major John Postan, he was killed and Major Earle was seriously wounded, they were shot up by a machine gun post, both men were well liked by all ranks. Major Posten was buried in an orchard by the side of the camp, most of the camp went to the funeral including Field Marshall Montgomery, who was very upset. (Maj J W Poston, MC and bar (87368), 11 Hussars, died 21/4/1945. Buried at Becklingen War Cemetery, Germany in plot 15. C.. 6.).
On the 1st May 1945 we moved to Deutsch Evern (nr Luneburg) and then on to Luneburger Heath.
On 3rd May 1945 German Officers arrived to see the C in C about the surrender. The party of German Officers under the Union Jack were Grand Admiral Von Friederberg, Admiral Wagner, General Kinzel and Major Fiedel. Monty told them he was only prepared to consider the surrender of all German Forces facing the 21st Army Group. The officers said they would have to get permission from a higher authority. At this point my officer was told to stand by with two L/Cpl's , being L/Cpl Walker and L/Cpl Crownshaw ready to escort two German officers into the German lines. The two were Grand Admiral Von Friederburg and Major Fiedel.
We set off at 15.00 hrs on the 3rd May, roads were clear of air attacks for twenty four hours. The first halt was made ten miles east of Hamburg when most of the forward elements of the fifty third division were waiting to move into the city. It was declared an open city at 18.00 hrs. After we had told the Brigade I C (Intelligence Corps) what we had to do they let us through, but it was at our own risk. Here we put a dirty white flag on our vehicle.
We went down the deserted road towards the city. We ran into a shambles that was Hamburg at 17.00 hrs, the only people on the street were Civil Policemen, who were out in great force. Our officer was reading map 100,000 of Hamburg, we had no difficulty finding our way through the city on to the Kiel road, we stopped about five miles the other side of the city, largely because the odd German troops we met looked very hostile.
We arranged to meet the German officers at the same place next day, they thanked us for a safe journey.
As we were coming back we met advanced elements of the 11th Hussars who were surprised to see us coming from what appeared to them to be a wrong direction, they accused us of swanning, they wondered why 21st Army Group was so far up. We told them we came through Hamburg before 17.00 hrs, we told them not to risk their lives if they came across any German pockets, and they said why, we said it was all over bar the shouting. We would see them at a given point, the sergeant asked how we knew where they were going.
The next day the same escort who took the Germans set off to the given point to pick them up. When we got to Hamburg we visited the 7th Armoured Division to see how well the city was set up. My officer decided to go to Quickborn which was twenty five miles north east of Hamburg so that we could get the German officers before our own troops took them prisoners of war. We came across the same Squadron of Hussars we had met the day before, they were very surprised to see us and then we told them we were picking high ranking German officials up. The Germans arrived and they had another officer with them, Colonel Pollock. They arrived in two cars and we took them back to Luneburg Heath where the surrender was signed in a tent.
TAC HQ started with 20 officers and 200 men and finished with 50 officers and 500 men and about 150 vehicles.
The distance my officer and myself did on escort from Normandy through to Germany and back to Ostenwalde was over 3,000 miles.
Seyss Inquart, Reichkommisar for Holland was captured by 53 (Welch) Division troops, he eventually came to TAC HQ from where he was taken by air by the OC with L/Cpl Crownshaw and Sergeant Forest of the CI detachment and handed over to the Dutch authorities.
At the point where the surrender signing took place a plaque was placed with the following inscription:-
HERE AT 18.30 HRS ON 4TH MAY 1945
A DELEGATION FROM THE GERMAN HIGH COMMAND
SURRENEDRED UNCONDITIONALLY TO
FIELD MARSHAL LORD MONTOGOMERY
ALL LAND, SEA, AND AIR FORCES IN NORTH WEST
EUROPE, GERMANY, DENMARK AND HOLLAND, AND
SIGNED A DECLARATION TO THAT EFFECT