2nd May 1945

On this day in history the 2nd New Zealand Division captured Trieste and the Germans surrendered Italy.

The closing stages of the war in Europe saw the New Zealand Division attacking up the north-eastern edge of Italy, finally into the city of Trieste. It was here that the New Zealanders found themselves involved in one of the first confrontations of the ‘Cold War’ with the Yugoslav partisans determined to stay and claim Trieste and the surrounding area as their own.

Tension between the New Zealand and Yugoslavian partisan forces began very quickly and even resulted in the tragic death of a kiwi soldier when partisans opened fire during negotiations between New Zealand and German forces. The threat of violence increased as a Yugoslav demand for the Allies’ withdrawal was stoutly refused by the New Zealand Commander Freyberg. As a result, when VE Day (7th May 1945) was announced there was little jubilation amongst the New Zealand troops who were still standing at arms and facing a very uncertain peace.

Thankfully, a month after VE Day the Yugoslavs agreed to withdraw and the Allies assumed control of Trieste. The threat of hostilities gone, the New Zealanders spent their last few weeks in the area peacefully and pleasantly.