Friday 8 May marks the 75th Anniversary of VE Day – or ‘Victory in Europe Day’ – the day at the end of the Second World War when fighting against Nazi Germany in Europe came to an end.

Did you know that Derby Museums is home to the official Royal Lancers Museum? Here our Military Curator, Angela Tarnowski, gives us an insight into the weeks leading up to VE Day for the 12th Royal Lancers.

Image: The 12th Lancers officers at Trieste a few weeks after the war in July 1945.

For the final 12 months of the Second World War the 12th Lancers fought in Italy, and were attached to 2nd New Zealand Division.  They received an order on 29 April 1945 to `send one squadron to occupy Venice and take the rest of the Regiment on to Trieste’ a strategically important city in the far north east corner of Italy.   Trieste was reached in early May and Lt. Taberer, 12th Lancers took the surrender of the German garrison in the castle and the law courts, whilst the New Zealanders and Yugoslav troops completed the clearing of the rest of the city.  A Cease Fire was ordered, and the German Army surrendered in Italy on 3 May. When Victory in Europe was announced on 8th May 1945 the Regiment were based around Trieste.

One 12th Lancer recounted;

“we celebrated V.E. night …. a lot of good local wine was drunk and the end of the war in Europe was marked with Verey lights, mortar flares, and every form of weapon, which were fired out to sea amid much cheering, that went on until late into the night”

Another 12th Lancers account of VE Day;

“On May 8th we heard the good news of victory in Europe, and naturally determined that the occasion was worthy of a celebration in true Lancer style. The celebrations were outstanding for the amount of light shown. As we had no fireworks the 2″ mortar, previously ranged in daylight, was fired out to sea until all ammunition was expended. All kinds of illumination were used, including Verey lights (German and English), trip flares, and Daimler searchlights. Having banished black-out for ever, we all went happily to bed”.

Image: the regiment taking part in the Victory Parade in London which took place in June 1946.

The 12th Lancers enjoyed some much deserved R & R (rest and recuperation) for a few weeks.  Some 12th Lancers returned home on leave,  some returned home to be discharged from the Army. The majority of the Regiment was sent to Austria in August 1945 as part of the occupying forces to oversee elections.

Find out more about some of this years online VE Day events here:

The Royal British Legion marks VE Day from home

National Army Museum Virtual VE Day 75 Festival