Postscript to the Diary first edition
Postscript by Barry Greenwood
The War Diary ends abruptly on 17th April 1945. There is no indication why. I can only conjecture a few reasons:
Firstly, this final “mopping up” phase of the war in Germany was much more continuously active for the squadron than previously – there is a clear hint of this in the entry for 14th. April – leaving less free time for leisure activity. And I’m sure that in what free time my father had, letter-writing home would have taken precedence over the diary.
Secondly, it must have been obvious to all soldiers by this time that the war was all but won, and that “the job” had been done. (VE day was only about 3 weeks away.) There were no longer great events in prospect, nothing hanging in the balance, history no longer in the making. In short, it seemed all down hill from now on, and a bit of an anti-climax compared to what had gone before. Not really worth chronicling.
Thirdly, the original motivation for writing the diary may have waned. It is a bit of a mystery why my father stuck at it through thick and thin. I believe it was partly to relieve the stresses and tensions of the war. Writing it down was a sort of catharsis. He may also have wanted there to be some record of HIM, should he not survive. With victory in sight, these motivational factors would lose much of their force.
Fourthly, my father was still writing regulary to his wife, and may have felt that these letters would provide an adequate account of what remaining events were worth reporting.
After the war, to my knowledge, these diary notebooks, so important to him at the time, were never read by my father, or anybody else. They were carefully preserved, however, along with the letters which he wrote, and have enormous sentimental importance for my mother. This rather re-inforces my theory that the writing was something that helped my father cope with the war.
The diary notebooks came to my attention about two years ago (1986) when my mother produced them from the loft of her house. Transcribing them bit by bit, and following the route on maps, has been for me a “labour of love”, and it is worth recording that today, as I conclude the task, it is Remembrance Sunday.
Like most British people of my generation I have never fought in a war, but have often wondered about what my father went through – what was it REALLY like? I feel privileged to be among a very small number of people who know.
R. Barry Greenwood
Tring, 13th November 1988.
Postscript to the website edition
Postscript by Julie Schroder
Since my brother, Barry, first transcribed the diary nearly 20 years ago, Trevor’s letters have also become available to us, and may help to explain the abrupt ending of the diary on 17th April 1945.
Trevor wrote almost daily to my mother, Jess, throughout his life in the army, but there is a gap in the correspondence between the letter of 12th/13th April 1945 until a long letter written on 17th April. From the diary it is clear that the 14th April was spent moving from Winterswijk in Holland to Schüttorf in Germany. Trevor was immediately busy installing a ‘looted’ generator to provide lighting in the new billet. The next day his troop went to Nordhorn, on ‘bridge patrol’ returning to Schüttorf in the evening of 16th April. On 17th April, back in Schüttorf, he was on guard duty, presumably with plenty of time to think and write, for the first time since leaving behind the recently liberated Winterswijk. In his long letter to Jess, he reflects on the shattered Nazi dream, and his new role: “This is a strange life, Jess. I feel thoroughly incompetent for the part I have to play:- and yet, I must do it… there is no alternative. You see, we are no longer ‘liberators’: we have become conquerors.”
All previous experience of Germany had been on active service, but the arrival of the unit in Schüttorf marked a turning point. The diary entry for the 14th April outlines their new orders: “riot sqdn, road and curfew patrol, tank park guard, billet guard etc.” Although the war was not quite over, it is at this point that Trevor realises that the future role of his unit in Germany will not be to wage war, but to police the peace.
Clearly he felt that the diary of his progress through the war was no longer necessary, but the need to correspond with Jess was as important as ever. Trevor’s life in the army was far from over, and the story of Trevor the ‘conqueror’ continues in his letters to Jess, until his demobilisation in December 1945.
Julie K. Schroder
Birmingham, March 2008.