Cтатья о встрече солдат Красной Армии с их британскими и канадскими коллегами в Германии в 1945г. подготовлена генерал-майором Великобритании Питером Уильямсом
Питер Уильямс в вооруженных силах Великобритании с 1972 г., после Кембриджского университета, где изучал историю средних веков и феодализм. Потомственный военный. Его дед – активный участник Первой Мировой войны. Будучи кавалерийским офицером в боях во Франции получил серьезное ранение. Погиб в Англии в 1942 году, находясь в должности армейского штабного офицера. Отец – ветеран Второй Мировой войны. Будучи пехотным офицером, в этот период, находился в Индии, Ираке, Египте. В боях под Тобруком был пленен немцами. Проявил мужество и совершил дерзкий побег в Италии.
Такая родословная во многом определила будущее нашего автора. В качестве командира взвода он начал службу в гвардейском пехотном полку в Виндзоре. Затем служил на различных должностях в Ольстере, Омане, Берлине, Гонконге, Германии, Боснии и Герцеговине. В 1981 г. получил квалификацию переводчика русского языка. Служил в Западном Берлине и Восточной Германии в британской миссии, выполняя задания по связи. С 1990 по 1992 г. - в штабе верховного главнокомандующего ОВС НАТО в Европе в должности помощника главкома американского генерала Гэлвина. В 1995 г. находился в составе миссии военных наблюдателей в ходе миротворческой операции в Хорватии, Боснии и Герцеговине. С мая по ноябрь 1998 г. возглавлял группу связи альянса при Минобороны Боснии и Герцеговины. В 1999 г. обучался в Королевском колледже военных исследований и Австралийском военном колледже (Канберра). Затем стал начальником отдела стратегии и политики в штабе ОВС НАТО. В 2001-2002 гг. работал в военном комитете Европейского Сообщества. С февраля 2002 г. по июнь 2005г являлся главой военной миссии связи НАТО в Москве. После увольнения из рядов вооруженных сил Великобритании активно участвует в общественной жизни, выступает с лекциями, ведет исследовательскую работу по истории деятельности миссий связи.
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ALLIED MEETING WITH THE SOVIETS NEAR WISMAR – 2ND MAY 1945
In the final days of April, preparations were made for the crossing of the River Elbe. The 15th (Scottish) Division, with the 1st Commando Brigade in support, would carry this out, while the role of the 6th Airborne Division was limited to following on behind in order to take over responsibility for the eastern bank once the Scots were ready to advance beyond it.
A far more prominent role was envisaged for the Division as early as the 17th April, however, when it was appreciated that it might be advantageous if an airborne operation could secure the airfield at Lauenburg ahead of the ground forces. The 5th Parachute Brigade was earmarked for this purpose, but after several false alarms and much searching for suitable airfields in Germany, from which they could take-off, the operation was finally cancelled on the 29th April, once it became apparent that the enemy in that area were in full flight.
The crossing of the River Elbe began on that same day, two days ahead of schedule because it was feared that the thousands of refugees fleeing to the West from the Russians could make the roads impassable.
With the 15th (Scottish) Division making fine progress, the 3rd Parachute Brigade crossed the Elbe on the 30th April, taking possession of Boizenberg and rounding up 120 prisoners from thereabouts. The remainder of the 6th Airborne Division, now once again under the command of the XVIII US Airborne Corps, soon followed them and consolidated the Elbe bridgehead.
During the evening of the 1st May, Lieutenant General Ridgway, the Corps Commander, visited the 3rd Parachute Brigade and gave orders to the Division to make its way to Wismar on the Baltic coast as quickly as possible in order to head-off the Russian advance.
The 5th Parachute Brigade had been nominated to lead the charge, but Brigadier Hill decided to contest this honour and ensured that his 3rd Brigade was well underway by the time that their sister formation was due to depart. Mounted in lorries and with the tanks of the Royal Scots Greys in support, the two Parachute Brigades then raced across Northern Germany on separate routes.
Due to a complete absence of opposition, progress was much swifter than had been anticipated, yet everywhere there were scenes of Germany in its final chaotic days, as the roads gradually became filled with countless refugees and soldiers looking to surrender themselves to anyone but the Russians. With no time to process them, the airborne troops simply motioned at them to continue walking west.
How many prisoners passed through the 6th Airborne Division's hands on this day was never precisely calculated, but estimates of up to 10,000 have been submitted. Not all of them laid down their arms voluntarily, however, yet as they could not afford to dally in a pointless skirmish with an isolated renegade band, the tanks simply fired a few rounds in their direction whilst on the move and pushed on.
Prisoners of a quite different sort were encountered too; the 5th Parachute Brigade overran a British and American prisoner of war camp, 1,300 of whom began to make their own way towards Lauenburg.
The 3rd Parachute Brigade, led by 'B' Company of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, riding on the hulls of the Royal Scots Greys, won the race to Wismar in the afternoon of the 2nd May. They then established themselves around the town as the remainder of the Division arrived over the following hours. Endless streams of refugees and surrendering military personnel continued to pass through their hands throughout the remainder of the day, and dealing with this tidal wave of humanity became an enormous headache as the cages set up for them were soon overflowing.
The first contact with the Red Army was made later that day (2nd May) when a Soviet officer and his driver, scouting ahead of the main force, ran into a road-block set up by 'C' Company of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. This first link between East and West proved not to be the moment of unrestrained celebration that one might expect; if anything the Russian officer appeared most 'put-out' to find his path blocked.
Brigadier Hill dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Crookenden of the 9th Battalion, along with some Canadians who could speak Russian, to make a more official connection with their approaching Allies. Driving off in the vague direction of where they expected them to be, they soon passed a column of Soviet tanks heading towards Wismar at pace. Crookenden immediately turned about and went after them, just managing to bring them to a halt as they reached the outskirts of the town and found themselves staring down the barrels of a troop of 17-pounder anti-tank guns.
Major General Bols came forward to meet a senior Russian officer, who stated with some resolve that his orders were to continue through Wismar and capture Lübeck. Bols assured him that he had an airborne division and five regiments of artillery at his disposal, and that he would not hesitate to use them if the Russians insisted upon it. The Russian officer backed down.
This historic moment, marking the end of the War and the meeting of East and West after more than five and a half years of horrific bloodshed, was marked by a series of official meetings between dignitaries of both sides, and, at a lower level, a good deal of hand-shaking, incomprehensible but friendly dialogue, and heavy drinking, fueled by vodka and the timely discovery of a series of wine cellars.
Major General Bols met with Marshal Rokossovsky, Commander of the 2nd Belorussian Front, who then met Field Marshal Montgomery at 3rd Parachute Brigade Headquarters on the 7th May. He was welcomed by a 19-gun salute from the 53rd Airlanding Light Regiment, and was invited to inspect the Guard of Honour, provided by the 2nd Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
By this time, however, the situation was beginning to sour somewhat. Politics were taking over, and the barely restrained fraternisation of the first days was being brought under control. The Russians forbade British soldiers to enter their territory, then they established road blocks and, ominously, brought up tanks behind them to reinforce the point. The Iron Curtain was being drawn across the Continent.
Politics, however, were of small concern to the men of the 6th Airborne Division. Having dealt with the acute refugee and prisoner of war problem, they remained in the Wismar area until the 17th May, when they were relieved, in stages, by the 5th Infantry Division, and began to make their way back home, retracing familiar ground until they came to Lüneburg Airfield. Here, the elements of the Division that could be flown home to England waited until aircraft were available to carry them, while the motor transport elements made their way to Calais, and then across the Channel to Dover.
WISMAR REVISITED IN 1980
[From an article by Sergeant R J Macdonald of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the son of a soldier in the Scots Greys who was present when Wismar was liberated.]
On 2nd May 1945 elements of the Scots Greys [an armoured regiment equipped with Sherman tanks] crossed the River Elbe into what was to become the Soviet Occupation Zone. The regiment's task was to meet the Soviet Army, which was advancing from the east, in the city of Wismar on the Baltic coast.
The route to Wismar was not impeded by heavy enemy action; a bigger problem was the flood of German troops moving west in order to retreat from the path of the Red Army.
Riding on the Scots Greys' tanks were members of 6th Airborne Brigade, who were heard to remark that "we never realised that a Sherman tank could do 60 miles per hour [about 100 kilometres per hour]". 'B' Squadron managed to capture five trains full of German equipment; this was another 'first' for the regiment.
At 2100 hours on 2nd May the first elements of the Red Army arrived from the east. They consisted of two White Scout Cars and two motorcycle combinations with seventeen male and one female Soviet soldiers. After 'fraternising' for 30 minutes, the Soviets returned to the east and a roadblock was put into position; 'the Iron Curtain' was in place.
The Scots Greys regiment had moved 60 miles [about 100 kms] in only eight hours. This was no mean feat because many of the vehicles and their crews had fought all the way from France. The regiment took up 'leaguer' positions [tactical halts for resupply and essential maintenance, while keeping alert and ready for action] as follows:
- Regimental Headquarters, 'A' and 'B' Squadrons at Schulenbrook
- 'C' Squadron at Metelsdorf
- 'HQ' Squadron at Beidendorf
On 11th May a victory parade was held and on 27th May a memorial service was taken by the regiment's chaplain, Padre 'Mac' McLellan in Beidendorf Church. Another period of the regiment's long history had ended.