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VE75

  • VE-DAY 8 MAY 1945 APPLESHAW

On 8th May 1945 Appleshaw joined the nation in celebration of Victory in Europe.
While the fighting men were still away, the village exploded with relief and excitement. Bonfires were lit and much merrymaking and dancing ensued in and around the four pubs in Appleshaw and Redenham, especially at the Bell Inn now the Walnut.
A plaque in the church lists those who died. These men live on forever, their names read aloud each November on Remembrance Sunday.
A large board in the sports pavilion on the Appleshaw playing field lists all those from the village who fought in the war.
Several families in the village have connections with names on the board and many of these have been written up in ARC. The board is certainly worth a viewing if you have not seen it. The stories are available in back-numbers of ARC.
The senior ranker on the board is Brigadier Erroll Prior-Palmer, later Major-General P-P, my father, who died in 1977.
If ever there was a day on which to blow his late trumpet it would be this Friday 8th May the 75th anniversary of VE Day. So here goes:
Ejected from France in 1940 with a ‘Mention in Despatches’, he was appointed as the Commandant of Sandhurst to train up an officer class to invade Europe, as the First War veteran officers, Dunkirk survivors, were retired in some numbers.
On 6 June 1944, D-Day, Brigadier Erroll commanded the swimming tanks ashore at Sword Beach, an operation that successfully took out the enemy artillery saving countless lives.
After Kursk on the Russian Front in 1943, where Nazis and Russians lost around a 1000 tanks each in a matter of days, the 70 day Battle of Normandy was the world’s second bloodiest tank battle. Erroll commanded, firstly, 27 Armoured Brigade and then, after its disbandment, Montgomery placed Erroll in command of the celebrated 8th Armoured Brigade that had fought at El Alamein in 1942.
After the rout of the German army at the Falaise Gap, and now an Independent Brigade, Erroll captured a quarter of north-west France in 3 days in August 1944 and was awarded the D.S.O., the highest medal for officers. He continued to command 8th Armoured Brigade through the fierce battles in Belgium, Holland and Germany ending up at Bremen on 8th May 1945.
Placed in charge of Hanover, Erroll had to avert starvation for the surviving population of 400,000 living in cellars under the rubble of the flattened city. The late journalist and MP, Bill Deedes, who fought under Erroll from June 1944 onwards, christened him the ‘Elector of Hannover’, after George I and II. By 1946 Erroll had re-created the city’s opera company. The opening performance of ‘La Boheme’ was described by Deedes as easily the worst ever.
As a General, Erroll first commanded north-west Germany 1951-53 and was then appointed to head the British Military Mission to the Pentagon 1953-56. He retired from the army in 1958.
Erroll’s elder brother, Otho, commanded the Independent 7th Armoured Brigade throughout the 1944-45 Italian Campaign.
Two military historians have pointed out that in the written history of the British Army, starting in 1715, it is the only occasion on which two brothers, both as Brigadiers, have commanded fighting brigades at the same time in war, Erroll in North West Europe and Otho in Italy.
Otho was also awarded the D.S.O. After the war he was elected MP for Worthing and as Chair of the House of Commons Defence and NATO Committees he was given a knighthood.
Erroll and all those named on the Appleshaw sports pavilion board would be immensely pleased that VE Day was still being celebrated 75 years on.
Without them we would not be here.
Simon Prior-Palmer, 3rd May 2020