Montgomery’s 21st Army Group (comprising the British Second Army and First Canadian Army) crossed the Rhine on the 23rd March 1945 (Operation Plunder) and made swift progress eastwards as German resistance crumbled.
The Rhine crossings and the location of Lüneburg (captured 18th April 1945) are marked on this map.
It can be seen that the Netherlands and a very large area of NW Germany were quickly overrun.
The Head of State, after the death of Adolf Hitler, was Groß Admiral Karl Dönitz. He knew (from captured documents) the plans for the Allied Zones of Occupation and felt he should instigate a series of local surrenders which would 'buy time' to allow as many troops as possible to be captured by the western allies before the complete cessation of hostilities.
At 08:00hrs on the morning of the 3rd May 1945 a German delegation led by General Admiral von Friedeburg crossed the British lines north of Hamburg and were escorted to the Villa Möllering in Häcklingen, the Headquarters of General Miles Dempsey (Commander, British Second Army).
The senior members of the German delegation:
Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, General Eberhard Kinzel and Rear Admiral Gerhard Wagner
After questioning, it appeared that Friedeburg was a representative of General Keitel (head of the Army) and Admiral Dönitz (Head of State) who wished to surrender. General Kinzel was acting on behalf of Field Marshall Busch (head of Army Group Northwest) and Rear Admiral Wager was a senior member of von Friedeburg's staff.
Four of the German delegation were taken to report to Field Marshal Montgomery at his HQ situated approximately 8km east on the Timeloberg (an area of higher ground on the Lüneburger Heide). The others stayed in the Villa.
The German delegation seen arriving at the Villa Möllering.
A smaller group of four leaving the Villa Möllering to be taken to Montgomery's HQ on the Timeloberg.
Photo credit: IWM
Montgomery was advised by radio of their departure for his HQ and, on their arrival, they were made to wait in the open under a Union Jack that had been set up on a pole. When Montgomery appeared from his famous caravan he asked, through an interpreter: "Who are these men?" and, on receiving their answer, he asked, "What do they want?".
To increase the psychological pressure, Montgomery produced maps which made clear to the German delegation the hopelessness of their military situation.
Field Marshal Montgomery (centre of the British uniforms) meets Admiral von Friedeburg (who holds a letter from Field Marshal Keitel), General Kinzel and Rear Admiral Wagner.
Major Friedel is just off picture on the RHS. Captain Derek Knee (at attention) was Montgomery's interpreter.
The letter from Field Marshal Keitel offered to surrender Army Group Vistula.
This army group comprised arround 500,000 troops but were badly equipped and "shattered skeletons of their former selves".
Army Group Vistula was deployed north of Berlin in an area that would become part of the Russian Zone of Occupation.
Montgomery would have nothing to do with German forces on his eastern flank as this was "Russian business".
Marked in red are the locations of Lüneburg and the area occupied by Army Group Vistula.
Montgomery said that only unconditional surrender of all German forces to his northern and western flanks would be acceptable........this meant the Netherlands, all of northwest Germany (including the Frisian Islands and Heligoland) together with Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark.
At this point the German delegation were offered lunch (which included wine and brandy) and given the opportunity to consider what had been said.
The German delegation felt they did not have the authority to make the necessary decisions. It was agreed that Admiral von Friedeburg and Major Friedel would return to Dönitz's headquarters which was located in the Naval Academy in Mürwik, a suburb of Flensburg to seek his approval. Allied air operations over the area were suspended in order to ensure safe passage and Lt. Col. Warren (Montgomery's Adjutant) guided the two German officers back through the British lines. The remaining two officers stayed at Montgomery's HQ.
Flensburg and Lüneburg are shown at the top and bottom of this map..... the distance between them is over 200km.
The 11th Hussars, stationed at Quickborn were told to expect the return of the German delegation. In the afternoon of the following day (Friday 4th May 1945) the Germans recrossed the British front line and they were escorted back to Montgomery's HQ.
Captain Horsford of the 11th Hussars meets the German delegation near Quickborn, north of Hamburg.
A press conference was called for 17:00hrs and Montgomery outlined what had taken place and what was about to happen.
The German delegation with the addition of Col Fritz Poleck arrived whilst the press conference was still in progress.
When Montgomery finished the press conference, the German delegation were once more paraded under the Union Jack for the photographers. Montgomery took von Friedeburg to his caravan and asked if would sign the surrender document.
Having finished his press conference, Montgomery exits the tent to meet the German delegation who were once more paraded under the Union Jack.
They were shown into a carpeted tent and the terms of the surrender were read out by Montgomery.
At 18:30 the German delegates signed the Instrument of Surrender which would come into force at 0800hrs British Double Summer Time on Saturday 5th May 1945.
Montgomery's Adjutant, Lt Col Trumbull Warren, later described the events in "Monty, Biography of Montgomery" by Nigel Hamilton.
The senior German officer was General Admiral von Friedeburg, commander-in-chief of the German fleet. General Kinsel, chief of staff of the German army was “a magnificent looking officer about 6' 5" ... complete with monocle -- a real professional Prussian.” Next was Rear Admiral Wagner, flag officer to the admiral of the fleet. And Major Friedel, who had “the cruellest face of any man I have ever seen.” A fifth officer -- a Colonel Poleck -- joined the group for the signing.
The five German signatories plus Field Marshall Montgomery sit at the table, covered by an army blanket, to sign the surrender document.
The two officers with their backs to the camera are likely to be (L to R) Major Hans Jochen Friedel and Colonel Fritz Poleck.
Lt Col Trumbull Warren is standing behind Montgomery.
Although covering a large geographical area and involving a significant number of German units, the surrender on the Lüneburger Heide is viewed strictly as a local capitulation.