Private Eric Reeves, 1/5th Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, remembers taking advantage of the chaos of the end of the war in Germany to escape.
Eric Reeves
Private Eric Reeves

Oh, and they even bombed us on Boxing Day, Christmas 1944. On Boxing Day they came over and bombed us again and on the 22nd January because the Russian Army now had got to Upper Silesia and of course they had sent apparently a reconnaissance in first over the River Oder and we were not too far from there. They moved us out of the camp and we thought we were going to work, snow clearing or clearing up bomb damage. So we just went out as we would be dressed for work and we kept going. The column I was on, that was the 22nd January, in April finished up in Mousberg in Austria and we had walked all the way. They lost a lot of guys on the way because the Germans did not even have any grub. After about a week a couple of blokes came to me. We were in one of these Dutch barns, just legs and a roof just full of straw bails, and they said "We are going to get into the top of the straw bails and we are going to build ourselves in and we are going to take off". I said "You don’t want to do that". That is old Teddy Cain and Flash Faringdon. I only knew that through a working party not in my hut. They said "We are going", and they were both regular army old sweats and they said "You are coming with us". "You have got to be joking!" I said. "No, you can speak a fair bit of German". I said "I can get by". "You are coming with us", he said, "what do you want to do, freeze to death, starve to death? You stand a good chance". I said "How do you make that out?" Well it was after about a week, and they said "For the last 5 days every time we have moved they have done the count and the German Sergeant Major has told the Commander all correct and we have marched off". I said "Yes". "We know for a fact 15 of our blokes have disappeared and we also know for a fact that they did not know how many they had when we started". A lot of blokes stayed in the camps until the Russians came. That was the idea. Eventually I went with them and the 3 of us we went right through the Reisen Mountains which was Sudetenland and eventually we got into the Czechoslovakian protectorate which is Czechoslovakia proper. There were not a lot of Germans in there. Every village had a Czech / German Burgomeister, a Mayor, but they were always well under control and they passed us along. We eventually, somewhere in Czechoslovakia, that the 3 of us were liberated from a big farm there where we were by a group of Russians, half a platoon of Russians. They got a map out and showed us where the American lines were. Now when the war finished all the armies had to stop at midnight on the 8th so there was an area about 80 miles in diameter unoccupied, just occupied by Germans and whatever and one of these Russians gave me a Walther, one of these old top-loading pistols, and a pocket full of ammunition. Said "The war finished yesterday. If you see any Germans shoot them". So we went down, this was like foothills, something like the Welsh Mountains, not a great big mountain range, but where we were then. We went down where they showed us to this main road and it goes straight to Carlsberg which is about 80 plus miles away and that is where the nearest Americans were. So we went down there and eventually after about an hour and a half of walking a German [?] which is just a great damn big vehicle which has [?], room to sleep 4 or 5 people in it. They only tow trailers. There were two trailer-loads of, well, nearly every arm of the German services on it. They had all disarmed themselves. Well I will say this because, it came out of a sidetrack to the main road, and old Teddy Cain said "Look at that. Stop them Reevo". I was always Reevo. I said "You bloody well stop them". He said "You speak the lingo". I thought, well I have nothing to lose. We were right on a high, the war is over. We were liberated. Put my hand up "Halt!" You speak the lingo and it kept coming. "Halt!" and it stopped and a German Oberfeldwebel (equivalent of a Sergeant Major) hung his head out the door of this great damn vehicle and he said "Who are you?" back in German. Real colloquial German. He said "Who are you and what do you want?" "Tell him we are the bloody British Army". Three of them. We had not had a hair cut for so long, or a shave and so I said "We three people, armed forces army" and he looked and he started laughing. "What is he laughing at?" "He is laughing at us". He said to me "Where are you going?" and I said "We are going to the Americans". "To the Americans, do you know where they are? Hop on". So we three of us drove in with nearly every branch of the German forces into the American lines and that took us a long time and that was only about 80 miles. It was possibly about 10am in the morning. We got there 1.30pm in the afternoon the next day and a long thin American Corporal - and these things are quite high, and we were on a trailer with all this lot - this American said "OK you krauts, get your arse off the vehicle". One of these Germans said "What does he want?" I said "Get off quick!" One of the Germans said it back in German "Get off quick. Americans". Of course they all got off quick leaving us three herberts on top. This American came along and said "Are you krauts going to get your arse off or am I going to have to come up and get you?". And old Cain said "I’d like to see you bloody try mate". He said "Blimey, what have we got here?" We got off and our greeting from the Americans were, well, we don’t know who you are, and they locked us in a barn. So we stayed in the barn all night. In the morning we were interrogated by a Major and a Captain and they decided we were alright and that was it. They asked us if we would help them so our chaps get a bit of R and R, would you help us disarm this lot coming in because it was nearly the entire German army coming through there, away from the Russians. There were stacks, all the weapons you can imagine on each side of the road. There were cars abandoned and when 2 of these German Panzer tanks came in the American Major got hold of one of the crews and told them to push all the vehicles off the road and this tank just nudged all these cars and vehicles and turned them off onto the side of the roads.