Private Eric Reeves, 1/5th Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, remembers how, as a returning prisoner of war, the war ended for him.
Eric Reeves
Private Eric Reeves

And then we went in lorries again whole convoys of them to Regensburg Airfield and that was a sight that we, I thought would never happen. We saw Dakotas in line, about half a mile apart, come in and as one hit the ground and started to taxi the other one hit the ground until there was a whole taxi rank of Dakotas. And they put us 18 to a Dakota and then they took off. A guy was there with the Very light pistol and every time he fired a green, one took off, a green, one took off. There were two on the runway as the other one took off. Incredible it was. I thought, what a wonderful air force. Never been in an aeroplane before - that was a thrill. We were on hard benches along the sides that they had put in. Then we were going along nicely and a guy came out the back and said "OK, guys, you want to see Frankfurt? The bombing we did on Frankfurt?" So we said "Yes". We shouldn'tt have done though because the plane just went down and your stomach came up and the earth was up there, the sky was down there and we went... (roaring down). You never saw such a sight of bomb craters in all your life. We eventually landed at Rheims in France and we were put into one of these very posh spa hotels with beautifully cut lawns and stuff and they lined us up on the lawn and they said "OK, guys, now strip. Leave everything there, any valuables you want to keep, just leave them in a pile, and we will leave them there". They took us into a big communal shower and all round were German prisoners of war in shorts with big fluffy towels, bars of soap, even offered to scrub our backs, they did. So we were saying "Get out of it" and we dried off and we walked straight out of there through a tunnel into the longest Quartermaster's store you ever saw and they kitted us out with American uniforms and do you know I was about 9 [stone] 6 when I was captured and I was about 6 [stone] 10 when I got home and they had even got stuff that fitted me, even a pair of boots. And they had boots sort of from size E to double E, to treble E, to quadruple E, and I walked out of there well not in a complete uniform but the shirt, the underwear, trousers. And their shirts had a little bit inside that pulled across so you sort of had a vest across here and iron boots and the lot. Then they took us and gave us some food. No, first of all they said "Come and visit the ladies of the Red Cross". And a guy had come up to old Cainy and old Flash and me, we had kept together until then, never seen them since. Came up and said "My name is Bob Berger and I am going to be your barracks buddy". And being polite I just looked at him but old Cainy said "What is a barracks buddy then, mate?" "Well, anything you want except women and alcohol I have got to supply for you. So he took us to this big marquee with these lovely Red Cross ladies, behind trestle tables which were loaded with pyramids of spam sandwiches and they said "OK, fellas, dig in". We went over there and we had a plateful like that, and, we were just going to take a bite and a British Medical Officer came through the door, "Just a moment, put those back. Just leave them on the plates and put them back" and we all looked at him. "You may take one". Then he gave us a lecture. "The condition you men are in", he said, "your stomachs are probably as big as the size of an egg and if you eat those you will die before you leave the camp". So he said "You may take one". They were feeding us little bits. The Americans, when they gave us our first meal at Rheims, it was iced cooked chicken, corn on the cob, olives, all on a special tray but little bits of each and they told us that you can kill yourself if you eat too much. From there we stayed overnight under canvas and the next day they took us down to another airfield and we saw our first Lancaster bombers and what a sight. The wheels were nearly as tall as me you know. The crew were all standing around and one of them came over and he said "We won’t keep you long chaps, we are waiting for the skipper". The skipper arrived and old Teddy Cain said to me "He ain’t the skipper is he?" I said "I don't know". He said "He is only 15". He was a little slight bloke and he was the Squadron Leader. "Right, chaps, leave the shoots there. They've got no shoots, we've got no shoots. Leave them there. Right we will have 4 across the main spar, we will have one up in the upper turret, one in the nose turret". He looked at me and said "Oh my God, air gunner style". So I was in the tail, crawling down into the tail and we came home in Lancasters. Now I was very thin but I was very fit. Been in the mountains and all that. What made us smile - old Cainy and Flash were the same - what made us smile, when they got there they put a ladder up because you were right up high, WAAFs to help us down, one each side helping us down and then they were going to help us across to the hanger. So we let them. The WVS and the Women's Institute were there with tea and cake. Then from there they took us to Chalfont St Giles in Nissan huts and we stayed over night and the WVS sewed our medal ribbons on and stuff and an officer came in and said "You will get your medals by post". They gave us some money and a British uniform and a new kit bag and stuff. Then they asked us where you lived, sort of thing. I said "I live in Reigate". "Are your people still there?" "I don’t know, I have heard nothing for about 9 months or so", which we hadn't you know. We got no mail while the bombing was going on latterly. "That's no problem". So they phoned Reigate Police Station and Inspector Parker that I knew very well. She said that "An Inspector Parker has just told us that your Mother and Father are still there and he passed your house this morning and said good morning to your Mother". That was that. Then they took us to the different railway stations through London. First time we had seen the devastation in London. Got on a train at Victoria all on my own. Got out at Redhill Station and a porter came up and said "Are you alright?" I said "Yes, I am looking for the way out". He said "You just come from abroad?" "Yes, I have been a prisoner of war". "Come on mate". He took me down in the lift. Then I eventually went home. No flags flying, no banner saying welcome home or anything. They didn’t have time. That was it. That was the end of the war.