May 1945

On 2nd May 1945, there was full and final surrender of all German forces in Italy.  Army Group South-West, under General von Vietinghoff, surrendered unconditionally to Field-Marshal Alexander.

From the Commander-in-Chief came this message to the troops:

“After nearly two years of hard and continuous fighting, which started in Sicily in the summer of 1943, you stand today as victors in the Italian Campaign. You have won a victory which has ended in the complete and utter rout of the German armed forces in the Mediterranean. Today the remnants of the once proud army have laid down their arms to you-close on one million men, with all their arms and equipment.

You may well be proud of this great victorious campaign, which will long live in history as one of the greatest and most successful ever waged.”

Both battalions of the London Irish Rifles now settled down to a period of peacekeeping duty, or that was the plan.

The 1st Battalion moved immediately, along with the rest of 167 Brigade, to Venezio Giulia to keep rival groups of Yugoslavs apart whilst the 2nd Battalion, with 38 (Irish) Brigade, moved first to Udine and,soon after VE Day, northwards into Southern Austria to take part in most complex duties involving various groups of Yugoslav, German, Cossack, Croatian, Bulgarian and Hungarians as well as the ever present Red Army.

Most difficulty negotiations now took place with both Lieut Colonel Bredin and Brigadier Scott taking leading roles and it was only at the end of May that the issue of frontiers in the region was resolved – at least for the present.

Both battalions would now spend the next few months in relative calm, a quite remarkable period of serenity after nearly three years of bitter conflict for the men of the London Irish Rifles.

Within a year most men of the Regiment would be able to return home to their families.

Read the London Irish at War – May 1945.