Bernard Morgan, a former codebreaker in the RAF, vowed to keep the document in his family.

On Tuesday, May 8, 1945, the news echoed around the world; the Germans had surrendered to the Allies.

World War II in Europe was finally over.

Forty-eight hours earlier, Sergeant Bernard Morgan was sitting at his desk when a coded message arrived on his Typex machine. It would change the course of history. Eighty years later, he still has it.

Who is Bernard Morgan?

The day Morgan turned 18, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF). Two years later, he stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. The youngest sergeant in the RAF, he joined approximately 156,000 other heroes in, what was at the time, the largest naval, air, and land invasion in history.

He was later awarded the Legion D’Honneur, the highest French order of merit for military and civil achievements for his part in the liberation of France.

“I tell the truth, I was frightened to death,” he shared in an interview with BBC News. The first time he’d ever seen a dead person, Morgan witnessed horrors that day that have haunted him for the rest of his life.

D-Day was a huge turning point in the war. It was the beginning of the end.

But it wasn’t until nearly a year later, in May 1945, that Morgan would find himself at the center of another historic moment.

The Message That Ended the War

In May 1945, Morgan was working as a codebreaker in the German town of Schneverdingen, located 200 miles outside of the Reich Chancellery, where Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30 in his secret Führerbunker.

As a code and cipher operative, his job was to translate secret orders.

On May 4, Morgan decoded a message from headquarters to the commanders, ordering a cease-fire on the second army front the following morning. It was the prelude to the end.

“All hostilities on second army front ceases at 0800 hours tomorrow May the 5th. Work will continue as usual until orders are issued to the contrary.”

On May 7 at 9:15 am, Morgan decoded a second message and became the first Allied service member to learn the news the world had waited a long, devastating six years to hear.

The Third Reich had surrendered.

The note read: ”The German War is now over. At Rheims last night the instrument of surrender was signed which in effect is a surrender of all personnel of the German forces – all equipment and shipping and all machinery in Germany.

“Nothing will be destroyed anywhere. The surrender is effective sometime tomorrow. This news will not be communicated to anyone outside the service nor to members of the press.”

Sworn to secrecy, he and the members of his codebreaking unit celebrated with a huge bonfire into the wee hours of the morning.

“It was a surprise. We couldn’t tell anybody until we got the final message to say the war in Germany was now over.”

Bernard Morgan

30 hours later, on May 8th at 3 pm, Winston Churchill announced it to the world.

The Secret He Kept For 50 Years

When Morgan first became a codebreaker, he had to sign a secrecy document, promising not to divulge any information, including the messages he decoded or his role as an operative.

It was a secret he kept for 50 years, including from his own parents.

In 1994, the secrecy document became null. Morgan was finally free to share what he had been hiding for years.

“It wasn’t until 1994 that I could tell anybody what I did in the war,” he said.

Morgan, now 100 years old, kept a lot of memorabilia from the war. Things like his diaries, a manual entitled, “A Soldier’s Guide to the French,” and the original copy of the message announcing the end of the war two days before it happened.

Despite intense interest from various museums, Morgan has vowed to pass the historic note down to his family when he dies.

“The Imperial War Museum in London and in Manchester both wanted the original copy – they weren’t interested in a photocopy – but I’m keeping it for my family,” he said.

Lest We Forget

While Morgan may not want to give up this particular piece of history, many items of his extensive collection have been featured in museums. And he is more than willing to share his story.

He wants younger generations to know about the men and women who sacrificed their lives for peace and freedom.

“I am always keen for the younger generation to know exactly what went on during the war and to appreciate the sacrifice that our lads made so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today,” he said.

He plans to return to Normandy in June for the 80th anniversary of D-Day to honor his fallen comrades.

Fragments of history, like this note, aren’t just important artifacts. They are living memorials to remind us never to forget the lessons of the past and to forge a better future.