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British Forces in Berlin

Cover of the last Berlin Bulletin issue

Image of Brigadier Bromhead Is is with a mixture of sadness and pride that I write these words for the final edition of the Berlin Bulletin. Sadness, because everything here in Berlin from the Allie' point of view has come to an end, but pride that the reason for our being here since 1945 has been brought to a successful conclusion.

The presence of the British Army in Berlin from 1945 to 1994 has been unique but to reminisce in detail over 49 years of the Allied presence is unnecessary. Suffice it to say that our commitment to Berlin through such incidents as the Airlift, the Kruschev Ultimatum, and the building of the Wall has never been in doubt. To that commitment must be added the support that we have received not only from our other Allies but also from the people of Berlin, and in particular from our civilian workforce.

Since the Reunification of Germany in 1990 we have been engaged in the process of withdrawal from the city. Units have held their Farewell or Disbandment Parades, the Boroughs of Charlottenburg, Spandau, Tiergarten and Wilmersdorf have allowed us to exercise our Freedom for the last time, Federal and Land Berlin Fahnenbänder have been presented,we have marched in the Allied Farewell Parade on Straße des 17. Juni and most recently we have taken part in the Luftbrücke Commemoration, the Festakt and the Großer Zapfenstreich on 8 September. All have been important events, and collectively they have been occasions on which we have bidden farewell to our Friends and Allies.

It is to these Friends and Allies and our civilian workforce, as well now to the Russians, that we say "Thank you for your friendship, goodbye and good luck for the future".


Image of Group Capatain ML Feeenan OBE RAFThere is simply not the space in this, the final edition of the Berlin Bulletin, to do justice tothe many years of our association with the city of Berlin. Furthermore, there have been ample opportunities at the various closures and farewell ceremonies for reprises of the genuine mutual respect which has been developed over the years. Understandably, the conventional wisdom for so long was that the events of the last five years "could not happen in our lifetime". Unification has brought about the complete withdrawal of all the foreign forces from Berlin; Royal Air Force Gatow has now been formally handed over tothe Luftwaffe, and will soon be renamed 'General Steinhof Kaserne'. With that simple change of name 49 years of post-war history will have been overtaken, although there will be many, both British and German, who will note the passing with a tear in their eye. It is also very gratifying to note that the 3rd Luftwaffe Air Division has expressed the very clear desire to retain some symbols of our presence and the enormous commitment we made to the people of Berlin by our resolve and by our actions such as, for example, the carrying out of the Airlift.

Despite the many parades and ceremonies, some servicemen and their families will be tempted to focus on purely negative aspects of our departure from the city, and when viewed from a personal perspective there are, of course, many. There is, however, no stopping the march of history, and we all should take considerable comfort from the many demonstrations of true friendship which have resulted from our imminent departure. We should als derive justified satisfaction from the fact that we have succeeded in the task which was given to us, and no-one should underestimate the seriousness of the consequences had the Allies not been so committed. There can be little doubt that the history of Europe would now be rather different. But, as is often the case, it takes the threat of parting to make one realise how much one values someone or something, and will be an unusual person who leaves Berlin without feeling that he or she has had a unique opportunity to share a marvellous experience. I have little doubt that many Berliners will feel that they, too, will have lost something when we leave.

On behalf of the Royal Air Force, I echo the Brigade Commander's thanks to all those who have made the Berlin experience so memorable, and in particular to the Bezirksbürgermeister of Spandau and, of course, the civilian work-force, without whose consistent support our task would have been impossible.


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