May 8, 2024

1945. Bill Downs from Germany on VE Day

Bill Downs Reporting from Lüneburg on VE Day

Bill Downs

CBS News

May 8, 1945

This is Bill Downs speaking from Lüneburg. This VE Day has started out very quietly here in Lüneburg on the British sector. The convoys continue to roll through the narrow streets, and the long, long lines of surrendering Germans and liberated Allied war prisoners and slave laborers stream back to the rear areas. The people of Lüneburg are going about their business as if it was just another day. It may be VE Day for the Allies, but it's Surrender Day for the Germans.

The people I saw this morning looked like they're trying to ignore the whole thing. The shops are opening up, and already the long lines at the food stores are collecting. Ex-Nazi hausfrauen with their baskets and string bags beginning a life of queueing that has plagued all of Europe since the Nazis went on the warpath.

It's a beautiful day here; the weatherman could not have planned more perfect weather for a surrender celebration. But right now there's very little celebrating. The British are a reserved people, and out of propriety for the French and American and Russian forces still fighting, they did no dancing in the streets when Montgomery signed the surrender terms that put the British Second and the Canadian First Armies out of the war last Thursday.

But no doubt tonight the bottles of French champagne that we find in every rich German's wine cellar will make their appearance. But meanwhile the army is too busy to celebrate Victory in Europe Day. The millions of German soldiers must be kept moving to the concentration areas, the liberated Allied prisoners must be evacuated, and somehow the slave laborers who look to us for help must be housed and fed. But I have an idea that tonight there'll be a hot time in Lüneburg.

This is Bill Downs with the British returning you to CBS in New York.

May 1, 2024

1944. The British Home Guard Stands Down

The Home Guard Ceremony in London

Bill Downs

CBS London

December 3, 1944

Ten thousand men from all over Britain paraded the streets of London today to mark the passing of an era in this war against Germany. Representative Home Guard units from every part of the United Kingdom paraded before the King for the last time in an official stand-down ceremony which in effect disbands Britain's civilian army.

There were tears in the eyes of many spectators as the long line of very old and very young men slung past. They marched well; every man was well-equipped.

It was a far cry from the days of 1940 after Dunkirk when the government issued a call-to-arms for all civilians. In that time these same men, these civilians, took up shotguns and pitchforks and clubs to patrol Britain's vulnerable coastline. No one pretended in those days that the Home Guard could stop a modern Nazi invasion force, but the Home Guard was willing to die in the attempt.

Today they were either too old or too young for the army. There was the smart-stepping old veteran with only one arm. Many elderly men limped, and the beardless youngsters looked embarrassed.

Included were a Home Guard contingent of Americans; middle-aged businessmen long resident in England who for four years thought they should fight for the hospitality and freedom that allowed them to work in this country.

The significant thing about this farewell ceremony is that while this nation is disbanding its civilian army, the Nazis are just organizing theirs. But as late as last week, when I was on the Geilenkirchen front, I looked at the German civilians who were supposed to make up Hitler's Volkssturm civilian army.
They do not have the look of the British Home Guard. It's hard to explain, but in the lean, wrinkled faces of the men who marched for the last time today, there was something far different from what you can see in the face of a German. It's the look of a man who knows he's right—as opposed to the look of a man caught thieving.

This is Bill Downs returning you to Admiral.