Za Zdarovje!

Happy National Vodka Day!

Official caption: Victory in the West: Royal Engineer Sapper Griffiths of Bootle, Lancaster, celebrating the link-up of British and Russian forces by having a drink with a Russian tankman, somewhere in Germany. Photo was taken by Sgt. Oakes 3 May 1945 IWM BU 5238

Both the Sapper and the Ivan are about the same age, teens turned into men through the forge of war. Note the Soviet’s PPS sub gun and Griffiths (dark blue) beret– narrowly covering a field haircut applied no doubt by one of his mates. Also, Griffiths appears to be wearing a German splittertarnmuster camo jacket, surely recently liberated from its former owner.

In the end, the Soviets withdrew the last of their forces from Germany in 1994. The British, meanwhile drew down British Forces Germany from around 2,800 to 185 this year. At its Cold War peak, the Corps-sized British Army of the Rhine stood ready to defend West Germany from guys that looked a lot like the once-friendly Ivan seen here.

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