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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

9th Battalion DLI: In Berlin, June - September 1945

Part of an online exhibition from Durham County Record Office commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe on 8 May 1945

Soldiers from B Company, 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in Kangaroo armoured carrier, Germany, late March 1945 (D/DLI Acc: 10050)

DLI Newsletter, No 46, November 1945 

14 June 1945 
'The Col [Colonel] warned us to prepare personnel and transport for a highly important ceremony to take place in an undetermined but near future. We had already 'poshed up' our vehicles with paint, but apparently it wasn't the right colour... 
We learnt too that the Bn [Battalion] was to be left out of the highly important ceremony. We learned that the Bde [131 Brigade] was going to Berlin, but for various reasons we were not going with them, though we should join them later. This was a great disappointment to us.'

Ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Kurfürstendamm, Berlin, August-September 1945. Photograph from Roy Griffiths’ album (D/DLI 7/273/16(12))
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Early July 1945 
'We learned that we would be going to Berlin eventually, and the hectic repainting of vehicles started all over again... Meanwhile the Colours had arrived safely [from Brancepeth Castle - the DLI's Depot] with Maurice Kirby... He gave us all news of you all at home and went away loaded with souvenirs for the Regimental Museum.'

Late July 1945 
'After an uneventful journey we arrived in Berlin on 30th July 1945, having seen our first glimpse of Russian soldiery en route. For this Bn [Battalion] it was the climax of a great war record from Africa to Berlin, first with the honoured 50 Div [Division] and finally with the equally honoured Desert Rats. France and Dunkirk 1940 - El Alamein to Tunis - Sicily - the beaches of Normandy, through France, Belgium and Holland - from the Rhine to Hamburg, and then at long last Berlin.

 

 

The ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Kurfürstendamm, Berlin, August-September 1945. Photograph from Roy Griffiths' album (D/DLI 7/273/16(12)).

We are in Berlin as this goes to press, and life here is quite unbelievably fantastic... Our barracks were previously occupied by the SS... Our chief occupations from the duty point of view are security guards and curfew patrols with a special mobile patrol always at hand, to curb any D.P. [Displaced Person] or other trouble. The security guards include the Potato Guard - by virtue of the fact that it literally guards potatoes...

 

The Reichstag black market, Berlin, August-September 1945. Note the US and Soviet soldiers. Photograph from Roy Griffiths’ album (D/DLI 7/273/16(27))
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The fraternisation ban has been lifted now and both parties seem very willing to fraternise, though home press accounts are somewhat exaggerated. A few men can be seen dancing at public dance halls, whilst there are a number of civilian cafes and restaurants, which, having been vetted from the medical point of view, are open to British soldiers...

 

'The Reichstag black market', Berlin, August-September 1945. Note the US and Soviet soldiers. Photograph from Roy Griffiths' album (D/DLI 7/273/16(27)).

 
The Black Market exists, and one cannot be blind to it; fantastic sums change daily for the most ordinary goods, whilst the Berliner has already reached the stage of selling his soul for the chance of a square meal. Beneath a superficial atmosphere of gaiety lies the stark reality of starvation and disease. The destruction wreaked by incessant bombing and weeks of street fighting defies description...

9th Battalion DLI Guard of Honour for a meeting of the Allied Control Council in Berlin, 20 September 1945. Lieutenant Alan Capstick is carrying 9 DLI’s Regimental Colour. Photograph from Alan Capstick’s collection (D/DLI Acc: 10050)
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We have had a very good time when off duty. Entertainments and recreation are easy to find. Clubs, cinemas, theatre, tennis, cricket, football, riding, boating, swimming, hockey are all easily available.'

 

 

On 20 September 1945, the 9th Battalion DLI provided a Guard of Honour for a meeting of the Allied Control Council in Berlin. Conspicuous by his height, Lieutenant Alan Capstick is carrying 9 DLI's Regimental Colour recently arrived in Berlin from the DLI's Depot. Photograph from Alan Capstick's collection (D/DLI Acc: 10050).

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