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MUSIC: "I Only Want To Be With You" by Dusty Springfield
For British soldiers, military service in Germany
did not finish with the end of the Second World War.
# I don't know what it is That makes me love you so
# I only know I never want to let you go... #
In the decades to come, they would be asked to forge
a new kind of relationship with the German people.
# It happens to be true
# I only want to be with you... #
Here, they would create a new, permanent home
in a corner of Germany known as the Rhineland.
A "bubble" of home comforts in a foreign land.
MUSIC: "Auf Dich Nur Wart Ich Immerzu" by Dusty Springfield
# Dass komische Gefuhl wenn wir uns wieder sehen... #
The whole of the British Army of the Rhine
was a very strange set up, in a way.
It was a British archipelago in the middle of a German sea.
Many were joined by their wives and children,
who would grow up there.
In many ways, looking back now, when you're there as a child,
you think, "This is normality." Of course, it was far from it.
It was a very peculiar existence, but at the same time, huge fun.
We had an enormous amount of fun.
And some young Brits would find romance with German girls.
It was love at first sight.
I never encountered anything like that, to be honest.
But it was also a dangerous mission.
The British Army of the Rhine was our first line of defence
in the Cold War.
While the threat of nuclear weapons loomed large over Europe,
these soldiers were on the front line.
As a Troop Leader, my life expectancy,
if the Russians came over, was about eight hours.
You can't think about that,
so you think about something else and say, "Life is normal,
"have another gin and tonic, let's get on with life."
Now, after 70 years of active service,
the Government is finally preparing to bring British troops home.
This film tells their story.
# Auf dich nur wart ich immer zu. #
NEWSREEL: These are blocks of communal flats,
such as may be seen in Hamburg, Hanover and Brunswick.
The Army usually takes over complete section of a town,
turns out the inhabitants into alternative accommodation elsewhere,
and moves in.
Since the end of the Second World War,
the Rhineland has been the unofficial home of the British Army.
MUSIC: "Yeh, Yeh" by Georgie Fame
# Baby, gehen wir aus? #
If you became a professional soldier in Britain,
from 1945 onwards,
you knew the chances were
you would probably spend half your service life in Germany.
# Ich sag', "Yeh, yeh"
# That's what I say I say, "Yeh, yeh"... #
With 50,000 troops stationed in Germany at any time,
at bases such as Rheindahlen, British soldiers would have to adapt
to living and training there.
I arrived in Germany as a young subaltern.
It was quite a pleasant, very clean town, called Mulheim,
on the Ruhr.
The nearest bigger town would be Dusseldorf.
I remember the very first publication I was given,
once I got off the plane,
was a little book, called, I think, "Bill & Jock Come To Germany".
It had all sorts of interesting phrases.
I suppose THE phrase in German was,
"Noch ein Bier, bitte."
I don't know, I can count a reasonable number...
Eins, zwei, drei, vier, funf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, sehn, etcetera.
The first phrase of German you learn as a soldier...
in my day, is, "Ein Bier...
"noch ein Bier...
"und er bezahlt."
That means, "One beer, another beer...he pays."
MUSIC: "Wishin' And Hopin'" by Dusty Springfield
MUSIC: "Warten und Hoffen" by Dusty Springfield
# Tag aus und Tag ein
# Denn einmal ist jeder allein... #
These soldiers would live in bases that were deliberately cut off
from the local German population.
Here, the Army created a cocoon of Britishness.
# Warten und hoffen und traumen... #
The whole of the British Army of the Rhine was a very strange set up,
in a way.
These little islands were essentially English,
although the architecture was entirely German.
They would have English names - of Wellington Avenue
or Balaclava Close, or something like that.
We have two cinemas here...
a very good cultural centre,
with a library...
Everything would be inside or around the camp,
so you'd have your medical centre,
you'd have your NAAFI, you'd have your cinema.
It was like a little England.
You could go to the NAAFI and buy very familiar products,
you would listen to your British Forces Radio
and hear familiar programmes.
So that was part of the reinforcing, I suppose, of the Britishness,
but also that you're all in this together, I think.
British troops had taken over these bases from the German army.
The vast majority of the barracks were very similar.
Most had been built in the late 1930s for the Wehrmacht,
and I remember well, you could see the racks
where all the Mauser rifles had been stacked.
These had been updated, modernised, and so forth,
but they were essentially the same.
There were these large barrack blocks with tiled roofs,
all at regular spaces,
and broad avenues in all directions.
Deployment of the British Army in Germany
started in the final days of the Second World War.
They first arrived as part of the Allied invasion force
that swept through Northwest Europe
until the Nazi regime surrendered on 8th May, 1945.
From April/May onwards of 1945,
what you had was the British Army
essentially stopping where they were
in large areas of Northern Germany.
They were part of the great victory, so this was an army that had won.
The country was divided into four sectors,
each controlled by one of the wartime Allies -
the Soviet Union,
the United States,
France and Britain.
I don't think there was much love lost
between the British and Germans, generally.
This had been a very hard-fought conflict,
and if you consider also that, in the British Zone,
there were things uncovered,
such as the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen
that really set the tone for that relationship, quite frankly.
But the British Army of the Rhine now had a vital new role,
helping rebuild a country devastated by the war.
NEWSREEL: Our Military Government - that is, your husbands and sons,
have to prod the Germans into putting their house in order.
We cannot live next to a disease-ridden neighbour.
And we must prevent not only starvation and epidemics,
but also diseases of the mind.
New brands of fascism.
I guess for the next year or two,
the big concern for this army of occupation
was resurgence of German fascism.
I suppose you would call it a "policing" role.
They were there to keep the lid on this defeated population...
deal with all that had to happen about reconstructing
order and judicial process...
dealing with prisoners of war and repatriation, and so on...
all that activity going on for those first couple of years.
NEWSREEL: That's why we can't wash our hands of the Germans -
we can't afford to let that new life flow
in any direction it wants.
Left, right, left, right, left!
Platoon, turn left!
And British soldiers found their role as policemen
gave them privileges and power.
In those first years,
after the British people had endured a pretty miserable time
through World War II,
to serve in Germany was almost to be in paradise.
There, you found yourself in a country where the Germans were very
conscious they'd been beaten and the British and Americans had won.
They were terrified of the Russians.
They were prepared to do almost anything for British people.
You could get servants for three-and-sixpence.
You could buy anything, including a woman, for two cigarettes.
Almost anything in this whole, admittedly devastated, country.
But soon, British troops would have to contend
with a serious new threat.
Then, as the late 1940s came,
suddenly it became clear that Stalin's Soviet Union
had displaced Hitler's Germany as a threat to the West.
In June, 1948, this tension dramatically escalated
between East and West.
After the war, Berlin had been divided
between the four wartime Allies.
British soldiers had to travel through the Russian sector
to get to the capital.
But the Soviets closed the motorway and railroad,
which linked West Germany to the city, isolating Berlin.
NEWSREEL: Tension in Germany mounts daily.
With the British, American and French occupation forces in Berlin
dependent for supplies on the link of the hitherto-free corridor,
their position is a difficult one.
The peace treads a lonely road.
The Rhine Army would now be part of an ambitious plan
to re-supply Berlin by air.
Everything you could think of -
coal, salt, oil,
was being brought in
to keep a population of about three million people
provided with the basics of life.
So we were flying in aircraft.
I think they were landing in Tempelhof every three minutes.
The best memory of all was of the candy bomber.
This was an American pilot
who was flying in very low, as they had to, noticed all these children
waving at him, and he had some candy in his aircraft.
Pulled the window back,
dropped it out and watched the kiddies scrambling for it.
The Berliners never forgot that.
The Rhine Army flew supplies into Berlin for almost a year,
until the Soviets finally relented and lifted the blockade.
But this new division between East and West would intensify
and become known as the "Cold War".
By the end of 1949, the Soviet Union had begun testing nuclear weapons.
This threatened the balance of power in Europe
and placed the Rhine Army in a precarious position.
The leaders of the West, both the politicians and the generals,
they find themselves having to think,
not, "We've got an army here in Germany to hold down the Germans,"
but, "We've got an army here in Germany
"that we may need to defend the Germans,
"and furthermore, to defend the vital interests of the West, in Europe,
"that Germany may be about to become the new battleground
"of a new hot war." Never mind the Cold War,
the danger of a hot war seemed very real.
This is the dark shadow
that falls on Germany in the late 1940s/early 1950s
and which remains there for decades to come.
The Army now began seriously to prepare for a Third World War.
Across the Rhineland, British tanks and armoured divisions
trained to repel a Soviet invasion.
But if you served in tanks,
tanks, almost inevitably, meant it was either going to be
Salisbury Plain, or it was going to be Germany.
Professional soldiers hugely value their training areas
and the opportunity to fire live ammunition, and so on.
Nobody wants them doing that down in Hampshire or Wiltshire.
It was getting more and more difficult to find ranges
on which you could fire live ammunition.
Here was Germany, a defeated country.
The Germans wouldn't argue - you could shell almost anything.
It was horrifying, the amount of damage we caused
to some of the little villages.
They're lovely, old medieval villages with cobbled streets.
If you took a squadron of tanks through one of those,
A, the roads weren't wide enough, so you'd smack the buildings,
but, B, you brought all the cobblestones up,
and they must have hated us.
I remember one exercise where, in fact, in those days,
they used to have blank cartridges fired from the tank guns.
Unfortunately, one group
suddenly spotted "enemy" at the far end of the high street,
and they fired their tank gun, which they never should have done,
in the high street,
and it shattered all of the plate-glass windows
of the supermarkets on either side.
These German women came out,
absolutely in a fury,
with their handbags, wanting to attack the tanks.
But, despite complaints from German civilians,
the Rhine Army were here to stay.
And through the 1950s, these soldiers were joined by their wives
and children as the bases were expanded.
MUSIC: "Wooden Heart" by Elvis Presley
# Muss i' denn, muss i' denn
# Zum Stadtele hinaus
# Stadtele hinaus
# Und du, mein Schatz Bleibst hier... #
June Grace was one of many young wives who arrived in Germany
to live with her Army husband.
When I first arrived,
which was in November, 1957,
it was exciting, because I went out originally as a new bride.
Then I became a mum, very soon afterwards.
So everything was exciting and new.
The British Army had a meticulous plan to provide everything
women like June Grace needed.
I was taken to this flat, which was on the fifth floor.
completely furnished from top to bottom,
down to the dishcloth and the bulbs,
and anything I needed, I just had to go to the barrack stores
and it would be replaced.
Every British Army base had barracks stores
which held an array of special Army-issue goods.
Key household items, from furniture to cutlery,
were allocated to families.
# Cos I don't have a wooden heart. #
In the '50s, when servicemen's wives accompanied their husbands,
I think they often thought it was a good deal.
The housing was good.
I think Britain was still under rationing,
so, being in Germany, you could probably get more things
than you could get at home.
There was medical care,
a social life.
On these bases, Army wives would build friendships
with other families stationed there.
MUSIC: "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand" by The Beatles
In the summer we had a little garden, so I'd be out there
doing a little bit of gardening,
taking the children to the kindergarten...
so I then had a couple of hours to myself.
So I probably went to the NAAFI.
Or meet a friend, and we'd have a quick coffee
in either her house or my house.
# Schon wie ein Diamant
# Ich will mit dir gehen... #
Like everyone in the British Army, the women had their own role.
They were to be loyal wives and mothers.
They was little opportunity for a career beyond the base.
At that time, a woman's role...
more to be where the husband was,
with the children.
Therefore, they weren't so much career-minded.
What you can do, as a serviceman's wife,
is what's available to you on-base.
There would be meeting at coffee mornings,
meeting at lunches...
maybe there would be a travel club.
So wives would be organised into taking trips
to visit local beauty spots
or to go to local shopping centres.
Very much, feminised activities.
If you want to do something quite different,
that will be very difficult for you.
Each British military centre boasted its own NAAFI,
an Army shopping and recreational facility, selling goods
and services to soldiers and their families.
NEWSREEL: Our cameraman went round this district, and also filmed
the Army-type high street,
where modest shops are being built for the soldiers' families.
Quite a lot of shopping is done in NAAFI canteens.
You could buy your cigarettes and your liquors there...
with a controlled ration.
You could go in there at any time of the day and night
and get something to eat and drink.
Fish and chips. A bun. Chocolates.
The NAAFI was fantastic.
There were three different shops in the one building.
There was the grocery side.
In the middle was where you'd buy
things like your radios and televisions...
not that there was much television in those days,
but things like that.
Then, the other was clothing.
To shop on the base, soldiers and their families had to use their own
Army-issue currency, known as "BAFS."
The soldiers came in, they got paid in what we called "BAFS",
which was British Forces money, like Monopoly money...
which was to stop us from spending too much money in the German market,
because, when we bought within the camp,
everything was paid for with Monopoly money.
And everyone on the camp could tune into British Forces Radio.
FORCES RADIO: Earlier on, we thought Hamburg was in for one
of those bright but sunless days. However, an hour or so ago,
the sun did manage to break through the clouds...
Since the end of the war, the Army had broadcast news
and music to all military personnel serving in Germany.
RADIO: ...By calling the home and family of Sapper G Scott,
who is serving out here in BAOR 15.
British Forces Radio was broadcast from its HQ in Cologne.
It was organised and run by British soldiers
who had a passion for broadcasting.
On bases across Germany, tens of thousands of troops
and their families could tune in for a reassuring reminder of home.
Forces Radio was the way they brought their little bit
of British culture,
and all those nice, friendly British voices over the airwaves.
You don't always have to be listening to ugly, harsh
German voices on your radio.
You've got your own little world.
I think Forces Radio was more important
than the BBC Overseas Service.
RADIO: And for three years,
the starlings were attacked with a series of frightening devices.
-Wriggling rubber snakes.
High-frequency sound beams.
Little round things that went, "Knick, knick, knick".
We were able to broadcast The Goon Show,
Hancock's Half Hour.
People stayed in in the evenings to listen to those two programmes.
At the same time, we were able to cover a lot of sport in the UK,
and we covered a lot of sport on the continent, as well...
be it the Monte Carlo Rally,
whether it was European Championship football,
whether it was Grand Prix.
The British Army organised a network of sports
for soldiers to compete in.
It was a key part of the experience, and it was here that future
BBC commentator Barry Davies began his career.
They wanted somebody to collate information
about the various matches between the various Army units...
in the Services League, as it were.
I said, "OK. I'll go down to Cologne to do that."
I can remember as though it was yesterday, going into the mess
one Friday evening, and there was a captain there from the REME.
He said to me, "I gather you're on BFN on Sunday."
I said, "No, not exactly. I'm going down there to gather information
"on results and bits of stories I could find..."
He said, "That's not what they've just said.
"They've said, 'Joining us on Sunday
" 'will be Second Lieutenant Barry Davies'."
So, almost by accident, Barry Davies started his commentating career,
reporting on his first football match for British Forces Radio.
The overall Commanding Officer...
said to me when my time in Germany came to an end,
"Go out and give it a go,
"otherwise every time you look at that fella, David Coleman,
"you'll say, that could have been me."
I'll leave it to the public to decide if I was ever David Coleman.
-Is Gascoigne going to have a crack? He is, you know.
Oh, I say!
That... is Schoolboys' Own stuff!
Forces Radio would also launch the careers
of two household names of British broadcasting.
Jean Metcalfe and Cliff Michelmore
presented Two-Way Family Favourites,
the most popular show on Forces Radio.
This programme was set up to allow soldiers and their families
back home in Britain
to request songs for each other.
What it meant was, for the families back home,
it was a chance at 12 noon till, I think, 1.30,
to hear the music and the requests from their loved ones in Germany,
and the same thing, the other way.
RADIO: We're now in this London studio, by our studio clock.
This is the allotted time for our weekly rendezvous with
the people who are away in Germany.
For a large part of its history, the history of Rhine Army,
Germany still seemed relatively a long way away.
Nowadays, it seems like next door,
but it was still somewhere quite remote and exotic.
RADIO: We go to Scotland to make two of these dedications.
First to 42, East Claremont Street, Edinburgh...
Yes, it's love to you Mum, Dad, sister and brother,
At its height, I believe the BBC reckon
that something like 20 million people
in the United Kingdom listened to this amazing programme.
In Germany, we're told by the Bundespost,
it was around seven million.
And by the mid-1950s, the BBC began broadcasting
a television version of the show...
Well, I wonder if you'd like to say something to the folks at home.
I'm sure they'd be very surprised to see you on television.
Yes, I'd love to. Hi, Mum, Dad and Arlene.
Never thought I'd ever have the chance to ever speak to you on TV.
I wish you all well. I'm keeping very fine myself. Be home soon.
-See you then.
-There's only one more thing I'd like to ask you.
That's if you'd like us to play
a piece of music for your people back home?
There is one piece. A selection from...
Annie, Get Your Gun, please, if possible?
I'm sure there's something in Annie, Get Your Gun we could get for you...
# Anything you can do I can do better
# I can do anything better than you
-# No, you can't
-Yes, I can... #
But in this period, Forces Radio and the BBC had strict guidelines
about who soldiers could request songs for.
-# ..No, you're not!
-Yes, I am
-# No, you're not!
-Yes, I am
-# No, you're not!
-Yes I am, Yes I am! #
You couldn't have a request, initially, for anyone else
other than mothers and sisters... and people like that.
I think fiancees were excluded.
Certainly, girlfriends were excluded. You couldn't have a request.
Despite this pettiness, Forces Radio kept the soldiers' spirits up,
as they faced a daily grind of patrolling and training.
Pay attention, I want to say a few words on discipline.
The whole base of discipline in the Army is drill.
Drill fosters in you team spirit, alertness,
pride in your unit and pride in yourself...
You were got out of bed at six o'clock.
The whistle would be blown in the corridor.
It would echo over the whole area.
Get out of bed, everybody down to the washroom,
wash, shower, change, get yourself into uniform.
Down to the kitchen. Breakfast.
Out, back to your room, check that you were in tidy condition...
your hair was all right, your teeth were clean.
Down, eight o'clock, on the parade.
RSM came down three times a week.
Other than that, the Commanding Officer was there.
Now, this brings me onto a point of personal cleanliness.
At home, everything has been done for you by your family...
for most things. But now, you've got to stand on your own two feet.
Late for a parade, or you hadn't shaved in the morning...
your punishment was what they called "scrub the Autobahn."
Half the Autobahn, or a quarter of the Autobahn.
The "Autobahn" was the corridor.
And the scrubbing was done with a toothbrush.
So you had a mug of water, bit of soap and a toothbrush,
and you worked your way along your section of corridor
you'd been given to scrub.
When you did it, you had to wait till the officer came along,
had a look and said yes, it was good or no,
he wasn't satisfied - do it again.
For all the monotony of life on the bases,
the majority of British soldiers rarely ventured beyond the gates,
and into the local German towns.
A British soldier is so well looked after within his camp...
he didn't want to go outside.
He couldn't speak the language.
It was a strange place. So he stayed in.
And he missed a lot of opportunities of going out, meeting local people.
MUSIC: Petula Clark: "Geh In Die Stadt"
But those who did leave the base
began to socialise with the German population.
We had no difficulties with the local people, at all.
When you go into a bar, and they start talking to you,
they're trying to learn English, we're trying to learn German.
You'd end up, they'd be speaking English to us,
cos they want to speak English.
They'd buy you a round, we'd get them a round,
and so the night went on. And the night was then rather nice!
# Downtown - soviel' Gesichter, oh
# Downtown - soviele Lichter, oh
# Downtown... #
For many British soldiers, their first trip off-base
was to visit the local Bierkellers,
where they found the German beer a lot stronger than back home.
When you first come over here, you think, "This beer is nothing!"
and you drink six or seven of these small glasses,
which is about four, three pints.
Only three pints, mind.
The next thing you know, your head started spinning.
And the chap behind the bar - "You new in Germany?" "Yeah."
"Don't have any more."
Not advice that was always heeded.
Binge drinking became part of the British soldiers'
experience of life in Germany.
Their drunken antics often threatened the good relations
between the Army and the locals.
Of course, many problems and crime, and so forth,
were very much linked to this alcohol consumption,
and in many German towns, bars were put out of bounds
to British soldiers, purely because of the trouble that was caused.
When they've had a few drinks, the reserve goes away.
And somebody says, "Bloody Englishmen".
The other one looks around and says, "Bloody Boxhead".
They got that name with their square-headed haircuts.
And the trouble starts.
Many drunken rows centred on
attempts by soldiers to pick up local girls.
When you went down the town, you went into the pubs, the discos.
We were the centre of attraction, because Germany had nothing.
Their work was... there, but the pay was poor.
I don't know what they were earning, but I know I went down
into the disco, and sat there one evening, and had two girls,
one on each side, buying them drinks all night.
The local boys were mad because we got the girls.
Afterwards, when we went outside, they were quite nasty.
"You come down here with your bloody money.
"You're pinching our girlfriends," etcetera.
In spite of their reputation for hard drinking,
by the late 1950s, British soldiers were forging alliances with Germans
as many married local girls.
Marriage between British soldiers and German women... accelerated.
I think one has to remember, in the immediate postwar era,
life in Germany was terrible,
with the destruction from the bombing
and the lack of opportunities.
So, for many German women, even though cold, rationed England
was pretty ghastly,
it still seemed to offer a great opportunity.
Corporal Ken Adams was at the wedding of a British soldier
and a German girl when he first met his future wife.
"Coffee and cake?" Nice. Living room door went open...
she came in.
MUSIC: "Mein Madchen" by The Temptations
It was love at first sight.
You don't think about it, really.
I was busy working.
Of course, my first marriage, divorce.
Working all the time, having a child to support.
You don't think of this.
So it came like a bomb.
At first, communication between the two was difficult.
Dita was shy, and Ken spoke only a few words of German.
Of course, I was very shy. I didn't talk.
I didn't want to talk in English.
So, of course, my mum helped me.
My sister's, at the time, boyfriend,
he spoke a little bit of German,
and my sister spoke a little bit of English,
so we went on all right.
And when we went out to a restaurant,
very often, I had a little piece of paper with me.
I wrote down my questions and he wrote, in English...
all in English.
But I was frightened to say it.
-It was horrible!
Although most people accepted that Dita and Ken wanted to marry,
her father was not happy about her being with a British soldier.
Her father was a very strict person.
He didn't like it, although he never, never complained to me about it.
He never made any...
any restrictions, whatsoever. He just didn't like it.
A second daughter being with an English soldier.
He said to my wife, "Can't you find a German boyfriend?"
Right. Of course, she'd just been divorced from a German.
So she says, "I've already had one."
And that was the answer to that.
Through the 1960s, relations between British soldiers
and German civilians were warming up,
but the political mood between East and West was becoming colder.
The building of the Berlin Wall had set the tone for this era.
The Wall was a hideous sight to see.
I flew over it in 1980,
with the Army Air Corps, to have a look at it, and it looked
like somebody had scored the earth.
It did seem enormously symbolically important
that here were the Russians saying, "We're not going to talk,
"We're going to continue to confront you
"across a frontier of barbed wire,
"minefields and machine guns and watchtowers."
This is not the conduct
of an enemy who might be thinking of making friends.
This is the conduct of an enemy who believes
that we are going to remain enemies for a very long time.
British forces in West Berlin
became even more isolated.
Only the railroad and the motorway
linked the capital with the Army in West Germany.
When driving to Berlin,
British soldiers had to observe a strict protocol
as they were watched all the way by Warsaw Pact forces.
It was strange to think that you were still in Germany
but to get to it, you had to go through East Germany, shall we say,
Russian-controlled East Communist Germany.
You drove into the checkpoint,
checked, ID card, straight through.
Once you were in the corridor, you couldn't stop.
You were not allowed to communicate with anybody.
If you broke down, you stayed in the vehicle.
The Volpos came along, the East German police,
came up to you and started sort of banging and rattling.
You just had a little card with Russian and German writing on it,
put it up against the window, and it said,
"I am a British soldier on duty. Please bring your senior officer."
Secondly, when you left one end of the corridor,
they radioed through to the other end with your registration number
and your time of departure
and you were given, I believe it was one-and-a-half hours for the trip
and if in one-and-a-half hours you hadn't appeared at the other end,
then they came looking for you.
While the vast majority of British soldiers
were stationed in the Rhineland,
there was a small but significant military force in West Berlin.
The presence of the Allies in West Berlin was a symbolic presence,
so the Warsaw Pact knew,
"If we harm West Berlin,
"we harm the Americans, the British and the French."
David McAllister is the current Prime Minister
of the German region of Lower Saxony.
He grew up in West Berlin,
where his German mother and British father worked for the Army.
I grew up in West Berlin.
My father worked for Tels Group.
Tels Group were responsible
for the telecommunications for the British forces.
But much like the Army bases in the Rhineland,
West Berlin felt like a bubble of Britishness.
I had a wonderful childhood in West Berlin
until we moved away when I was 11 years old.
The British were in Charlottenburg and Spandau,
in these two parts in West Berlin.
We lived near the Olympic Stadium.
And even though we were living in the middle of West Berlin,
in the middle of Germany,
it was more or less a very British life.
I remember British kindergarten, British school,
British military hospital.
We went to the Presbyterian church service.
Because it was surrounded by Soviet forces,
Berlin was a precarious place to be during the Cold War.
Good evening, my fellow citizens.
This government, as promised,
has maintained the closest surveillance
of the Soviet military build-up on the island of Cuba.
In 1962, the Soviet Union dispatched nuclear missiles to Cuba,
a move that would leave Berlin in the firing line
if a nuclear escalation resulted.
I was actually on the train going into Berlin when I was met
and my colleague said, "Have you heard the news?"
"No, I've been travelling since 5am."
And he said, "Well, Kennedy and Khrushchev are having
"a great debate at the UN,
"and we think that if it isn't resolved,
"then Berlin's future is in the balance."
So, welcome to Berlin, you may not be getting out of it again.
Down in the zone in Cologne, my wife -
and we had three small children -
was contacted by the Families' Officer
to pack a suitcase and be prepared to be evacuated.
This crisis saw the first use of the term
"mutually assured destruction"...
..and it would change the strategy of the Rhine Army.
Outnumbered five to one by communist forces,
it was estimated the British Army would only be able to withstand
an attack for 48 hours before having to capitulate.
The strategy of the allied armies at that stage,
was to accept the fact that they would never be able
to hold back a major Warsaw Pact invasion.
And so all of our training really was to fight a delaying action,
during which time either the threat of nuclear weapons,
or, in the worst-case scenario, the use of nuclear weapons,
would stop a Soviet takeover of Western Europe.
And British soldiers were expected to fight
until the Western allies launched their own nuclear weapons.
Soldiers have an old joke - they say, in a desperate situation,
"Well, it's time for a futile sacrifice."
Well, the thinking soldiers in the Rhine Army always knew
that they were going to be the futile sacrifice.
The thought was so appalling that you didn't think about it.
One's been since told that, as a troop leader,
my life expectancy, if the Russians came over, was about eight hours.
And you don't think about that. You can't.
So you think about something else and say life is normal
have another gin and tonic, let's get on with life.
In 1968, BBC television followed the 17th 21st Lancers
as they trained for war.
The film featured a young Christopher Marriott,
who commanded a squadron of tanks.
One joins the army, I suppose, because one has certain beliefs -
they might sound rather outdated - about the free world.
Um, yes, one's prepared to fight for them.
One was very conscious going up and down the border
doing border patrols -
normally in the winter when it was bitterly cold -
it brought it home to one in a big way, seeing the actual border,
seeing the towers, the watch towers,
um, people looking at you, you looking at them.
Now, beyond the vehicle track,
they've got all sorts of obnoxious fortifications such as -
the tower you see immediately in front of you,
which is invariably occupied,
and if you look through your binoculars you'll see two chaps
looking at you through the windows.
We were vastly outnumbered, vastly outnumbered,
and in hindsight, if they had come across,
we probably could have slowed them down
for three or four days, unless we had gone nuclear.
And that was our whole training, actually - tactical nuclear weapons.
Trying to corral them into an area
and then...drop something on them that went off with a very big bang.
MUSIC: "Tin Soldier" by The Small Faces
# I am a little tin soldier
# That wants to jump into your fire... #
Through the 1960s,
while the soldiers of the Rhine Army prepared for the unthinkable,
life on the British bases carried on as normal
for the thousands of children who lived there.
This generation of young people grew up embracing the military lifestyle.
In many ways, looking back now - and when you are there as a child -
you think it is normality. It was far from it.
It was a very peculiar existence.
But at the same time huge fun. We had an enormous amount of fun.
But what I remember is
it's like living in a normal village or town -
you've got your friends and your parents
and school and shops...
But the big difference was that there was only one job going on.
Every single job was in the army.
But with so many children living on British bases,
it was the army who were responsible for their education.
The teachers were actually civilians who were
contracted by the British Families Education Service - the BFES.
And they would provide education in English schools
for British Army kids.
And those people were specialists
in providing a curriculum to children
who were being continuously uprooted from one school to another.
I think I went to six schools by the age of nine.
I remember very well going to school in Hohne called Montgomery School.
It was basically a state primary school.
And funnily enough, what I remember of it
is the building and the playing -
all the normal things you do at primary school -
but I can't remember a single friend. Interestingly.
Because it was such a transient population.
A big population, but there was always movement.
So you really never knew
if your friend was going to be there next week.
MUSIC: "Das Waren Die Tage" by Mary Hopkins
For us, in and around a military base in northern Germany,
there was so much debris from World War II,
and we'd go off exploring on our bikes and find a field
full of derelict American tanks
waiting for a scrap merchant to take them away.
And I also remember there was a fairly high level of risk.
We were in an area that had had an enormous war fought over it.
And there was therefore quite a lot of unexploded stuff
still lying around in the '60s.
And one of my brothers,
certainly with our family and a little bit broader than that,
acquired, at the ripe old age of eight or nine,
a bit of a reputation as a boy who'd bring back
something he'd found near the golf course
which turned out to be, say, a German hand grenade,
and there'd be a panic as they got the bomb disposal people in.
But even by the late 1960s,
old wartime prejudices among British Army families remained.
There was some wasteland between where we lived
and some German civilian housing,
and being children, we wanted to get on our bicycles
and cycle over the wasteland and enjoy ourselves,
and we would start to make friends with German children of our own age.
But our parents were uncomfortable about that.
They didn't necessarily, back in those days,
like us... mingling with German children.
And definitely my parents, at least, my mother, would wave for us
to come back in. They didn't like us playing with German children.
MUSIC: "Strange Brew" by Cream
In the 1970s, a new threat to life with the Rhine Army emerged.
The troubles in Northern Ireland
would bring changes for those on British Army bases in Germany.
# Strange brew Killing what's inside of you... #
In the 1970s, when Northern Ireland became a major, indeed THE major
commitment of the British Army, virtually every soldier
of every specialisation, including artillery and engineers,
could expect to find himself doing his stints
on the streets of Belfast or Derry.
A peculiar new cycle evolved, where you'd have units based in Germany,
training in Germany, then one morning they all climb into planes,
wave goodbye to the family.
And the families are left for months on end,
out there on the German bases
whereas the units move on to Northern Ireland
where at times, especially in the 1970s,
they had a very tough, and sometimes very hairy time.
With British troops deployed in Northern Ireland
for up to six months at a time,
many army wives back in the Rhineland grew lonely and depressed.
In 1975, a lot of servicemen from Germany
were rotating through Northern Ireland.
It was a very trying, traumatic time.
The girls, who could be 19, 20, didn't necessarily speak any German,
they had small children,
and from what one gathers, they were getting terribly depressed.
And this isn't a good thing, if the husband over in Northern Ireland,
where it's not very nice, begins to worry about his wife in Germany.
This was an age before satellite television,
so the army decided that, to improve morale,
they would set up their own TV service.
In 1975, popular British television shows were for the first time
transmitted to army bases in the Rhineland.
ANNOUNCER: Seven o'clock on September the 18th, 1975,
an historic moment for us in BFBS
as we open up our first television service.
And it went out in September 1975, and I can remember there was
a newspaper headline for that Christmas week
which said the number of drink-driving offences
had dropped almost to zero because the serviceman, or his family,
were at home watching television.
But the introduction of television
couldn't distract from escalating troubles in Northern Ireland.
In 1978, the IRA detonated a bomb at the barracks at Rheindahlen.
It was the first of several attacks on the British army in Germany.
REPORTER: If this attack had succeeded, it could have affected
a lot more than the British families.
It's possible the Provisional IRA, if they were responsible,
have decided to internationalise the Northern Ireland conflict.
If so, it's a disturbing thought.
At the time, the IRA was attacking service families.
Servicemen were being targeted.
Service families were issued with extended mirrors,
with torches affixed, that you would put underneath the car,
so you could look underneath the car
to see if there was an explosive device fitted to it.
British military bases in Germany could be a very soft target
for the IRA at that time.
-All right, sir.
Into the 1980s,
the resources of the British Army were stretched
between fighting the IRA,
and holding the line against Warsaw Pact forces.
And the bases in the Rhineland began to show signs of this strain.
All those bases and barracks in Germany
which had seemed so cosy and comfortable in the 1940s and '50s,
by the '70s and afterwards, they were beginning to fall to pieces.
They were starting to leak.
And British governments were incredibly parsimonious
about paying for repairs paying for standards.
I remember a general saying to me,
every time I visit a barracks in which our men are living,
I feel ashamed that we're making men live in these conditions.
Even now, the Rhine Army still had the task
of holding off a Soviet-led invasion.
Do you know what's so unrealistic about this? Seriously.
They get the whole battalion on the square -
if the Russians were coming -
they get the battalion on the square in two hours,
and the Russians bomb the square and we're all dead!
Because they know what we do! It's great, isn't it?
The defence strategy of the Rhine Army in Germany,
which had been in place for decades, was slowly unravelling.
We didn't really have a snowball's chance in hell
of stopping the Soviet Union
if it really did intend to capture a large chunk of West Germany
and other parts of Western Europe in those days.
The disadvantages were first that an awful lot of personnel
that comprised the force that would do the fighting
were actually somewhere else.
They were in Northern Ireland.
The second issue that we had was
that an awful lot of our equipment back then
was not fit for purpose - it was old, it was beaten up,
it didn't take kindly to being left idle
when we were in Northern Ireland.
As the Rhine Army felt the strain of these commitments,
on the bases, the wives were also struggling.
This generation of women
were less prepared to accept their traditional role
of wives and mothers.
When the British Army was first in Germany, social expectations
for wives were quite different from how they were later and are now.
Women who perhaps had had careers,
wanted something for themselves that was separate from military life.
And it's very hard for people to have that.
Then, wives would be very much trapped on base.
I just feel like it's an existence. I'm not living,
it's just existing. And he's going on exercise a week after it's born.
-Can't they stop him going?
-They said no.
-So I said, "That's it then. I'm going."
-Are you going?
To Bradford. I said
I just feel like somebody who's locked away in an attic.
Yeah, I felt like that.
No-one would know if I was dead or alive.
While the Rhine Army seemed to be at a crossroads,
across the border, the Soviet Union was in crisis.
In November, 1989, a dramatic turn of events was unfolding.
So an extraordinary night of euphoria in Berlin.
Within hours of East Germany's decision to let its people go
by opening the border to the West,
the city erupted in a frenzy of celebration.
# Freedom for you and me
# Freedom for the world
# I said, freedom for you and me
# Freedom for the world... #
REPORTER: People scrambled playfully, up and down
on the Berlin Wall itself - something they used to be shot for.
The fall of the Berlin Wall,
and the collapse of the Soviet Union,
ended the military threat which had loomed large over the Rhine Army
for the previous 50 years.
Well, the threat if World War III had always been referred to,
in typically British humour, as "the next fixture".
And suddenly they realised there wasn't going to be a next fixture.
Having held the frontline for decades,
the Rhine Army's job as a defence force was now over.
The need to defend Germany against the Soviets
had provided a case for a big army.
Once that threat had gone, the case for a big army was gone.
And this caused a problem for the British government.
The end of the Cold War completely changed
the position of the British Army in the Rhine.
And it's posed huge difficulties for the defence policy ever since
because the Germans no longer felt
they needed defending by the British.
They no longer needed to have Tornadoes flying at nought-feet
over their houses shaking all the tiles off.
They no longer needed to put up with huge tank ranges.
They got pretty restive about the large British presence
and they started to think it would be nice if we went home.
But an agreement was reached with the German government
which allowed the British Army to stay in the Rhineland.
They continue to train there.
And the bases became a transit point for fighting wars overseas.
In the last year,
British troops have begun to be pulled out of Germany,
with the aim of a full withdrawal by 2020.
MUSIC: "Das Waren Die Tage" by Mary Hopkins
From an army of occupation,
to our first line of defence in the Cold War,
this era of active service in Germany is coming to an end.
It seems beyond the imagination of a younger generation
to visualise this great army in Germany
which had been there since the Second World War.
It's an astonishingly long period of time in peacetime
for any army to have been positioned in a friendly country.
And so finally, after almost 70 years in Germany,
the British Army are coming home.
# La la la la la la la
# La la la la la la... #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The affectionate story of British servicemen and their families who had to make Germany a home from home in the decades after the Second World War. For nearly 70 years, generations would grow up on bases with special schools, shops, housing and even their own radio station, as parts of the Rhineland became little bubbles of Britishness.
Featuring a nostalgic soundtrack of German language versions of period pop hits and contributions from military historians such as Max Hastings and former BBC sports commentator Barry Davies - himself a former British Army of the Rhine soldier - as well as those of military wives and children.
Once the front line in the Cold War, the BAOR is now being called home as the Ministry of Defence begins preparations to finally pull British forces out.