Typhoon fighter pilot Derek Lovell received the best present of all on 5 May 1945, when Germany announced its surrender to the Allied forces on his 23rd birthday. Three days later Victory in Europe Day was declared amid scenes of celebration on the streets. As we mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day Derek shares his memories of the last days of war in Europe.
A former Flight Lieutenant, Derek completed the last of his 136 operations on 5 May, returning from a trip over the Baltic Sea looking for shipping as it was thought Germany may move into Norway to continue the fight.
He recalled: "On the 30 April we were just closing the mess when the adjutant came down from his bedroom screaming his head off, 'Hitler's committed suicide – he's shot himself! Open the bar!'
"It was really quiet from then on. We saw a lot of the enemy about but we were told not to touch it."
Following on from May 5, the squadron were tasked to go to Wilhelmshaven where the commander refused to surrender. Derek explained: "We were told to go up there and show him who is in charge. On the way we were told he had surrendered so we flew low up and down the high street."
When victory was announced Derek found himself at a German airfield in Ahlhorn. He described the scene: "The officers' mess was one side of the lawn, the sergeants' the other. So we had a battle with Verey pistols, firing at each other. One went through our CO's bedroom window. We all tore upstairs, put out the fire and chucked everything out of the window.
"The atmosphere was quite a relaxed one. We were talking about would we go to Japan and we discussed what the flak would be like in Japan compared with Europe. That was our biggest problem flak, every time."
Once it became clear they would not be needed in Japan, the squadron spent its time rehearsing and taking part in victory parades.
Derek remembered: "We did one over Brussels and I was leading one section and I got a moment to look up and aircraft went as far as you could see in the sky. There were hundreds of them."