Hanover and the End of the "Fox".
The battle was over but the Brigade, who had seen the chaos of Bremen, the pathetic mass movements of the displaced persons and the horrors of Sandbostel, realised that a fresh task lay ahead. There were very few who found it easy to attune themselves to the new life. There was so much to forget and so much to learn; the days of hurried moves at night, of order groups in damp barns or by the Squadron Leader's tank, the days of great achievements and hilarious welcome, the days of deep sorrow and acute depression, of danger and exhaustion were over. Instead we had to learn how to administer and control large masses of displaced persons, how to guard and disband whole divisions of the German Army and how to set a severely shocked civilian population who had no other guidance on the right road to sanity
In the minds of most, the thought of when demobilisation would come and what life in the England of the future would hold was uppermost, but everybody set out on the task of the next months cheerfully and with the determination to serve the Fox in peace as well as they had in war.
The war had ended in the dismal Cuxhaven peninsular with an anticlimax, but the first task of the peace was a great thrill. Driving past one of our oldest enemies, the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division parked along the roadside, representative detachments from the Brigade joined in the Victory Parade of the 51st (Highland) Division in Bremerhaven. The salute was taken by Lieutenant-General Horrocks.
During the ten days that followed some relaxation was at last possible, the sun shone brightly and the 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps mounted the first post war Ceremonial Guard on Brigade H.Q. It was now possible to look back over the months of continuous fighting and to appreciate not only the deeds of those who had fought but also the untiring devotion of the Services which had maintained the fighting machine in the field. Since D-Day the Brigade Workshops had repaired 702 tanks and 989 wheeled equipment while the Forward Delivery Squadron had handled 1046 tanks and 1159 reinforcements.
News now came that the 8th Armoured Brigade was to proceed South and take over Hanover from the United States Army. Brigade H. Q. moved to the city on the 17th May, the Regiments on the 19th, and the Brigade took over the responsibility for Hanover Stadtkreis and Landkreis on the 22nd from the 84th United States Infantry Division, who, old friends of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry at Geilenkirchen, were also incidentally the Division which had captured the city.
The situation in Hanover is worthy of description. The town which had housed 475,000 inhabitants was now 75 % destroyed and still held 300,000 Germans. All rail communications were severed and canals were filled with bridge wreckage, all important roads were cratered or interrupted by demolished bridges. A critical food situation was not simplified by the lack of officials, all prominent Nazis having decamped, and the roaming hordes of vengeful displaced persons who thronged the streets in search of food and loot. Shots were to be heard throughout the hours of darkness and the civil population experienced a deservedly harrowing time.
When some order had been restored it was found that the Brigade was responsible for 45,000 displaced persons of 22 nationalities in 361 camps. All were in rags and hungry; sanitation was a thing of the past and most of their huts were suffering from bomb damage. In addition there were 2.000 Polish Ex-Prisoners of War whose condition was hardly better than the DPs and 22,000 German P.W.
Such was the situation which confronted the soldiers of the 8th Armoured Brigade and a much depleted Military Government Detachment. The answers were, as always, provided by the common sense and hard work of the soldier on the ground.
From the end of the war until their departure to England for the Far East the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards never returned to the Brigade's area, though many members of the Regiment visited the Brigade frequently. The Regiment's last parade with tanks which was taken by General Horrocks was a most impressive spectacle. No less splendid was the final parade of the Essex Yeomanry in June, held at Hanover before the Regiment went North to join 8th Corps; the sight of the glittering S.P. 25 pounders as they thundered past the Army Commander vividly reminded everyone present of the debt owed by the Brigade to the Regiment for its magnificent support.
The remaining Regiments settled down during the summer and autumn to the job of occupying Germany. There was much coming and going of units but contact among all members of the Brigade was never lost. The tanks disappeared and under the guidance of the Riflemen, the tank crews successfully learnt the role of mounted infantry. For the Brigade these were months of change but not of decay; there was enough, indeed sometimes too much work to do, but almost every aspect of the work was absorbingly interesting and increasingly rewarding.
To replace the losses and changes the 107 Heavy AA Regiment, 113 Light AA Regiment, 5 Reconnaissance Regiment and 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment Royal Artillery came under command of the Brigade at varying times and played their part admirably. At the beginning of the winter the Staffordshire Yeomanry made a welcome return to the Brigade; the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, who said farewell to their tanks at a most impressive parade at Einbeck in the foothills of the Harz Mountains, also rejoined the formation at Hanover. The l3th/l8th Hussars had shortly before left to join 5th Infantry Division in a permanent post-war role of Divisional Cavalry.
Demobilisation was now in full swing and daily more well known faces disappeared. For most of the Brigade Christmas 1945 was the last Christmas in the Army. The 552 Company Royal Army Service Corps did wonders in providing large quantities of ducks, chickens, turkeys and plum pudding and the three days of holiday were a tremendous success.
Soon the tragic news was received that the Brigade was to disband and that the Yeomanry Regiments were to pass into a state of what was called "suspended animation". At the end of January the 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps disbanded and during February all ranks of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, the Staffordshire Yeomanry and the 265 Forward Delivery Squadron were posted away or discharged.
The Headquarters disbanded on the 20th March, leaving the 552 Company Royal Army Service Corps, the Brigade Workshops and the Ordnance Field Park to continue the wearing of the Fox. Three units whose unobtrusive efficiency had done so very much to make possible the deeds of the Brigade - a Brigade which had established a reputation upon the battlefield of which every officer and man can be justly proud and a comradeship which thrived in the atmosphere of a very happy family.
Service and not Self Interest
Duty and not Rights
Self Sacrifice and not Self Preservation