Balkan Troubles VI – 20th/21st May 1945

The Yugoslavs leave the scene.

On the 20th, Marshal Tito issued orders that all his troops were to be out of Carinthia by 1800 hours on the 21st.

We all breathed a sigh of relief.

Any military operations undertaken at this date would have been very much in the nature of an unpleasant anti-climax.

It soon became evident that these orders were complied with. What was not as certain was whether the odd groups of partisans, who had been operating independently, would all get the orders or, if they did, whether they would comply with them. We had to be prepared to do a bit of sweeping and searching if this part of the programme went wrong.

By the evening of the 21st, it became clear that the chances of any sort of operation were most unlikely and, that evening, the Brigade Group started to disintegrate for the last time. A Squadron 56 Reconnaissance Regiment, ‘D’ Support Group and 254 A/Tank Battery reverted to the command of their units. 17 Field Regiment went under command of HQ RA and the tanks left us.

It almost looked as if the war was over at last. The thought uppermost in everybody’s mind was whether we were now really in our final occupational area. We certainly hoped so. We had expected to saunter straight into it from Italy. We had not been in the picture!

When we had left Italy, we had, to say the least of it, had new experiences. I wonder if a single Brigade had ever before had to deal with so many different nations in so short a time and all at once? We had fixed three international boundaries within as any days. We had handled vast numbers of surrendered Germans, Hungarians, Cossacks and a variety of lesser lights. We had stopped a war. We had fed Heaven knows how many people. We had moved trains around. We had rounded up “dyed in the wool” Nazis. We had liberated prisoners of war; in fact there was hardly any form of diversion that we had not tried.

It was high time we settled down.