'It was horrible': Gosport veteran looks back on the brutal reality of VE Day in Europe

TODAY, we remember those who sacrificed everything they had so we could have our freedom.

Friday, 8th May 2020, 7:00 am
Veteran Ron Cross MBE, 99, from Alverstoke, will be raising a glass to those he served alongside in the Second World War Picture: Sarah Standing (070520-1539)

On the 75th anniversary of VE Day, when the allied forces formally accepted Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender in the Second World War, we commemorate the fallen heroes – and celebrate the lives of those who survived.

From the blood-soaked sands of Normandy to the murky rivers of the Rhineland, soldiers fought with all their heart to protect their country.

Then on May 8, 1945, the streets of Great Britain exploded with euphoria with the news that the war was finally over.

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D-Day veteran Ron Cross MBE Picture: Sarah Standing (070520-1483)

People partied in the streets, hugged their loved ones tight and dreamed of the better days yet to come.

It is those celebrations that we will replicate today, albeit in different circumstances to what we expected.

But for some veterans of the Second World War, VE Day is a reminder of the stark horrors of conflict, and how we must never repeat the same atrocities.

Ron Cross, 99 from Gosport, fought on the front lines as part of the 79th Armoured Division, from D-Day up until the German surrender.

As a demolitions NCO assigned to a Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers Churchill tank, it was his job to blow up anything in the way to make gaps for tanks.

He said: ‘I remember exactly where I was when we heard the war was over; I had been in Germany but went back to Belgium for a training course.

‘We knew we were close to victory, having broken through the Nazi defence.

‘The news broke and we were all so happy – we knew the end had finally come.’

Sadly, Ron's memory of victory in Europe is tainted with the atrocities he experienced that same day.

He doesn’t like to talk about it much, replaying what he saw that day in his mind.

‘It wasn’t very nice at all, actually,’ he said.

‘Where I was in Belgium, they started rounding up all the people who were friendly with the Germans.

‘They were beaten, their homes and belongings were burned to the ground and their heads were shaven – it was horrible.’

Exactly what happened that day isn’t well documented, but Ron seems to remember it like it was only yesterday.

Today, he raises a glass to those he fought alongside during the Second World War, with fond memories of close friends.

But the sombre reality of the cost victory came at must never be forgotten.