Bill May's memories of the Second World War

Injured at Normandy and entering Berlin and Hitler's Chancellery

By John Cheves

Photo:Bill May in his uniform

Bill May in his uniform

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Young Bill in his uniform

Young Bill in his uniform

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Bill's friend outside Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin

Bill's friend outside Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:A piece of marble from the desk in Hitler's Chancellery

A piece of marble from the desk in Hitler's Chancellery

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Bill and Mary May, 2009

Bill and Mary May, 2009

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Bill May with his war medals, 2009

Bill May with his war medals, 2009

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

The images here were brought to us by Bill May (christened Henry Charles), who served with the British Army in the Second World War. The pictures were in an album of photographs mainly taken by Bill, that included on the first page, a moving memorial to a close friend he had lost in the war. Bill and his wife Mary May (nee Jarvis), recounted their memories of living through those turbulent times.

Injured at Normandy

Bill May joined the TA in 1938, aged 19 and went on to serve with the Royal Fusilliers. He was one of the brave souls who took part in the D-Day landings, landing on Gold beach. He got as far as the sea wall, when he recieved a head injury from a nearby shell. If he hadn't happened to be leaning down to light a cigarette at the moment the shell went off, he would almost certainly have been killed. Bill was rescued by some American soldiers and was later taken to Plymouth Hospital, where the American medic who operated on him told him he'd been "goddam lucky". However this injury caused Bill severe headaches that he suffered from for many years.

Lucky escapes

After some time recovering, Bill joined a unit that handled transport and later served with the Second Devons, which pleased his grandfather greatly, being a Devonshire man himself. Bill travelled through Belgium to Holland and on to Germany at the close of the war. He remembers the Dutch people as being very generous and kind to the British soldiers, offering them boiled eggs as they drove past. During this time Bill narrowly escaped death on a number of occassions. Once when receiving treatment at a dental surgery in Holland, Bill was told to take a walk outside while his tooth went numb, and in the meantime the surgery was hit by a shell. The dentist and all the patients inside were killed. Another time, Bill's trench received a direct hit when he wasn't in it.

The fall of Berlin

Bill entered Berlin soon after it had fallen and spent nearly two years there. He entered Hitler's headquarters in Berlin, the Chancellery, soon after the Russians. The Russian soldiers had destroyed much of the building and Bill showed us a piece of marble that came from the building that he told us was a part of Hitler's desk.

Homecoming

When Bill returned from Germany he came through customs with a P38 and a Luger pistol tucked into his trousers. Bill and Mary were married in June 1947. They had only met three times before they were wed, though they have now been married for over 60 years!

It was a pleasure to meet Bill and his family and we are very grateful to them for sharing their memories and photographs with us.

This page was added by John Cheves on 15/04/2009.
Comments about this page

After getting my heart started I had to take another look at the piece of Hitler's table as I have a piece on my desk now. It is from my uncle and have been trying to prove what it is. Can someone talk to Mr. May about his piece of table as why he knows that it is from the table and not a wall piece or something else. I am not trying to question his piece but to confirm mine as to what it is. My uncle passed away many years ago so can not ask him more about the table. He was with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment from Western Canada and part of the ceremonies in Berlin after the war. I came across your web site via the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, they recomended I look at this article. You may pass on my e-mail address to him if that would help.

By Bill Wright
On 03/08/2009

I too have a piece of Hitlers desk....same colour.......my mother belonged to the British 21st Army Group Headquarters(offensive) and had a tour of the chancellery after the war by the Russians...I wish to discuse more about this to anyone....contact me at anaylor@darefoods.com

By Allan Naylor
On 25/08/2009

The piece of marble possibly came from the large table that stood by the window. See 'Inside The Third Reich' by Albert Speer, page 173. Writing about 1938 he says, "A large marble topped table stood by the window, useless for the time being. From 1944 on, military conferences were held at it. Here outspread strategic maps showed the rapid advance of western and eastern enemies into the German Reich."

By Roy Smith
On 05/03/2010

my family too owns a piece of this desk. it was one large chunk that my grandpa and his buddy busted in half. the other half is in a wwII museum in st. louis mo. wether it came from his desk or a table, or a wall, regardless, it is a historical relic in its own. to me its a happy memory of my grandfather proudly displaying it at family and school functions. you could see his pride in his fellow soldiers and country for defeating hitler and winning the war. "piece of hitler's marble desk and the memories that come with it- priceless" :)

By sarah hirsh
On 25/10/2010

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