March 14, 1945 – News of the War from the European front this day. Allied armies were sprinting across Europe, and were now on German soil. Armored columns were advancing and taking German villages and towns at a rapid rate. This news broadcast, from the BBC World Service and beamed to America, gives a detailed account of one such armored advance and the capture of a German town in less than 40 minutes, owing to the element of surprise, and cleared the area of German opposition in a matter of two days. The biggest concern was from sniper fire and minefields, along with anti-tank fire and pockets of resistance, but Captain Nichols of the 10th Armored Division explains to BBC reporter Robert Reed that speed and surprise are the two key elements that have made these recent advances successful.
Next is a report on the Allied occupation of Bonn and how it’s being carried out – setting up a divisional governing body made up of the remaining city officials who were willing to cooperate with Allied commanders – these weren’t the primary officials, who had left town before it fell, but were secondary officials and assistants who were quite willing to cooperate and were asked vital questions; how man doctors were left in town, how many chemists? How many displaced persons were estimated to be there? What happened to the Allied prisoners held in the Stalag? How many days food was estimated to be left? The officials answered and said there were some 52,000 civilians remaining out of a population of over 100,000. There were about 2,000 displaced persons and allied nationals. The Prisoners of War were removed by the Germans and taken across the Rhine. Ground rules were laid out by the allied officials. All former members of the Wehrmacht were to turn themselves in at once and any Nazi party official was to be taken into custody. It was a process that would be repeated over and over until the fighting in Europe was over.
But despite the wave of Allied forces spreading across Europe, the threat of V-2 Rocket attacks and the bombings in the southern part of England continued. In this broadcast, a BBC reporter was present during one such attack and recorded the aftermath and how the civilian defense went into operation to rescue survivors and put out fires. A very interesting report and one of many examples of how on-the-scene recordings evolved into what we take very much for granted now. This was very unusual for the time and the BBC were pioneers in it going back to the 1930s.
And that’s a small slice of what happened this March 14, 1945, as presented by The BBC’s London Column.