Cold War

British Army of the Rhine

BAOR insigniaBAOR was the main peacetime element of the British Army from the end of the Second World War until 1994, with the bulk of the Army based in Germany prepared to counter aggressive Soviet armoured attacks. After the end of the Second World War the British Army was drastically reduced in manpower to such an extent that the former British Rhine Army consisted of only two British divisions, the 7th Armoured Division and the 2nd Infantry Division. These were based in various former German Army barracks in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westfalia.

In 1950 these two divisions were reinforced by the 11th Armoured Division and in 1952 by the 6th Armoured Division. Together they formed I British Corps, which was part of NATO and subordinate to NORTHAG (NATO's Northern Army Group). During the Cold War and the subsequent disarmament the four Divisions of BAOR were continually reduced, restructured and reequipped with new weapons.

BAOR consisted of three main elements:
The main force of I (BR)Corps with its headquarters at Bielefeld.
The British Rear Combat Zone with its headquarters in Dusseldorf, responsible for the resupply of the fighting formations.
The British Communications Zone ,with its headquarters at Emblem in Belgium, was tasked to receive reinforcements from Great Britain into the ports and canals and to co-ordinate their onward movement to I (BR) Corps.

The fourth and final element was the Berlin Infantry brigade, which was 3,000 strong and not subordinated to NORTHAG but under the control of the Allied Control Council in Berlin.

The BAOR varied in strength during its existence between sixty and twenty-five thousand troops. The troops of the British Rhine Army were commanded by a four-star general from Headquarters at Rheindahlen, which also housed the headquarters of RAF Germany, NORTHAG and 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force.

I (BR) Corps consisted of Corps troops and four divisions. The 2nd Infantry Division was one of these and was stationed at Catterick, to be summoned in time of need. 24 Airmobile Brigade also belonged to this division. It was fully air portable and capable of being transported by helicopter with all its equipment. The main task of the three infantry battalions of this Brigade was anti-tank defence and they were equipped with more than 50 Milan anti-tank weapons systems.

BAORThe other two brigades were of Territorial Army units, highly trained and motivated, with their senior ranks including many ex-regulars. The three other divisions were armoured divisions and with the Corps troops were stationed in 20 areas in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westfalia. The divisions had three brigades each, differing in strengths of armour, infantry, artillery and engineers. Long range reconnaissance, signals, pioneer and artillery regiment formed the divisional troops. Each division could call on air support from an Army Air Corps Regiment equipped with Gazelle and Lynx helicopters.

BAOR was constantly exercised to ensure its readiness in time of a crisis. The units of the Territorial Army also carried out exercises in Germany, with the battalion and brigade scale exercises carried out in NATO areas. Live ammunition exercises at battle-group level were carried out in Canada at the BATUS training area, to enable a three-day exercises without having to use the same area twice.

Elements of BAOR were despatched to operate under UN command as part of BATT and UN peacekeeping operations and they also took part in regular deployments to Northern Ireland for tours of three or six months.

BAOR was disbanded on 28th October 1994 with the Prince of Wales paying final tribute to the Army, as a parade of soldiers from the Queen's Dragoon Guards and the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment lifted their caps and roared three cheers for the Prince as he took the last salute from the troops. The Prince said:

"The momentous events in Russia, Central Europe and Germany have brought changes for all of us in Western Europe, almost all for the better. Here today we draw together one of the consequences of these events with the disbandment of the British Army of the Rhine."

In Time of War

In the event of a war, the BAOR would come under NATO command. BAOR as 1 (BR) Corps would defend a sector of the North German Plain as part of Armed Forces Central Europe. BAOR forms part of Northern Army Group as part of AF CENT and NORTHAG is partnered by the Central Army Group. NORTHAG's operational area extends from Hamburg down to Kassel and from the Netherlands border to the inner German border.

In NORTHAG, BAOR was flanked by 1 (NL) Corps to the far north, 1 (GE) Corps to the immediate north, and 1 (BE) Corps in the southern most position. The 1 (BR) Corps area extended from a line just north of Hanover down to a line just north of Kassel, and extended from the inner German border to a line just west of Soest but the BAOR boundary itself extended right back to Antwerp. In the event of war, BAOR would become British Support Command, which would supply 1 (BR) Corps and guard the rear areas.

It was planned that if the area of responsibility of I (BR) Corps came under threat the Corps would fight with two of it s armoured divisions forward and one in reserve. The 2nd Infantry Division, after its arrival, was to defend vital military targets in the Corps rear and with 24 Airmobile Brigade to be ready to guard against any rapid enemy tank thrust which might develop.

BAOR has now been succeeded by British Forces Germany, which also incorporates RAF Germany.

A Little Britain over the Rhine

As well as the members of the Armed Forces, there was also a British civilian presence in Germany with spouses and families living in dozens of small British townships, with their streets named after members of the Royal family and they were sprawled across the northern plains and the fringes of the Ruhr. Shopping complexes offered reminders of home such as marmalade, Bovril and tea bags and olive-painted military buses took army children to schools where Germany and its history were barely mentioned.

F4 taking offWithin their towns and villages, the British forces had their own cinemas, bingo nights and pantomimes, hospitals, clothes shops, postal service and radio station. They were not as isolated as their Soviet counterparts in East Germany and Anglo-German marriages occurred. It was not uncommon for British soldiers and their families to spend three years in Germany without learning more than four phrases of the language. There was little friction between the two communities save for the steady protests about noisy, low-flying British jets.

BAOR bulletin board
A record of our time in Germany

This site is aimed at recording the full breadth of the BAOR/BA(G) experience. The preamble to the Bulletin Board asks budding authors to post the sort of story they would tell "around a fire on Soltau". 

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