New member dipping his toe in.....


I’m an old fart who did his NS in group 54/06 and spent most of his time in Berlin holding back the Mongolian hordes. Technically it was active service because we expected the Russkies to move in on us at any moment but of course it never happened. Apart from boring duties like guarding Spandau Gaol and patrolling the border of the sector we had a whale of a time soaking up the night life of Berlin which was still in 1930s mode. This was before the Wall and so we had access to the Russian Sector as well.

Don’t worry, I’ll not go on about the old days unless someone asks a question. The thing that has brought me to this site is the sheer novelty of an avenue whereby a serving soldier can actually speak his/her mind. Probably a good job we didn’t have the same opportunity in those days. To give you an idea, a sure ticket home was to leave a copy of the Daily Worker on view in your bed space….. [DW was the official UK paper for the Communist Party]

What intrigues me is that so many things have changed but I detect other things that haven’t. Your equipment is of course totally different, we were still using WW2 17pdrs. [That’s the reason why I posted in Gunners, I was A/Tank right through my service] However, I watch with sorrow those lads in Afghanistan riding round in soft skin LRs and short of logistic support and I have to reflect that some things never change.

So if any of you are interested in finding out what the similarities/differences are, I’d be pleased to respond. One thing that might trigger you off. I read things like the Deepcut report and it’s like another world. Our training was hard but in two years I never saw a single instance of bullying or harassment. Something seems to have changed, and perhaps not for the better.
Hello Swagman - Gunners are usually in after lunch, do have a look around the other forums though.

Welcome and enjoy.
Hello, Swagman. Welcome to the site.

You were in Berlin 7 years before the wall went up, well I was there 7 years before it came down! I was there in 1982, and no doubt did some of the same things you did. I remember guarding Spandau Prison. Hess was the only inmate. We also did things like military train guard on the train that ran through the corridor from West Germany to Berlin. They were interesting times. Berlin still had its vaguely decadent and hedonistic air even in 1982. The nightlife was excellent.

However I was not a gunner!!!

I hope you enjoy being a member of this site.

Ooh, err. Now you come to mention it I remember Mon Cheri's as well. And a few other salubrious joints of a similar sort.

There was a place called "Haus King George" which had a standard show each night featuring various skilled practitioners of their particular art. It was accompanied by a tape recorded commentary. We used to sit and plot how to nick the cassete from the sound system.

Needless to say we never managed it.
Thanks for the responses. When we gurded Spandau it held Doenitz, Speer, Funk and Hess. A hard case called Harry Smart was the chief warder, not a nice man...... They didn't trust us to guard the trains, I think they thought we'd do a runner. We did the border guard and had a whale of a time with the German Police, nearly all ex whermacht, good blokes, we shouldn't have been fighting them. I asked them why they lost the war, they said 'Es Was Hitler!!!' and I think they were right. I remember Gobbler's Gulch, the White Horse and a few low dives down on the Havel. Wonderfully decadent and in the fifties they even had the same buses and trams that ran in the 1930s. Berlin was my only posting outside UK. Loved every minute of it, we were stationed at Gatow in what used to be Luftwaffe officer's billets, lap of luxury compared with the battalion down in Spandau. I did 6 months with the Black Watch teaching them the 17pdr when they came back from Korea, they had the 150mm BAT out there but it wasn't allowed in Berlin in case the Russkies pinched one. Hard lads but good mates. I was carried out of there feet first with botulism afer a dodgy meat pie in the NAAFI and they were told I had died. Not so, I spent my last three years in Berlin on light duties sailing the old German Olympic boats on the Havel from the British Berlin Yacht Club. Some great stories about that but I won't bore you.....
Again, thanks for the welcome.
The first "local" that I met on posting to Berlin (my first ever posting in the army) was the bus driver of the bus I caught into town on my first day off (from Montgomery Barracks). There I was trying out my best schoolboy (failed GCE) German - turned out he was a cockney ex POW. Small world.
Schweik, I too thought I was well-prepared for Berlin with my schoolboy German. We soon found out that the real thing was totally different. After 18 months we had picked enough up to get by and years later I found that what I fondly believed was colloquial German was actually 'platt Deutch' a sort of dialect. The other thing that has struck me, particularly in the context of Deepcut, is the fact that today the guards carried live ammunition. The only time they ever gave us live ammo in Berlin was when we went to the range. The night we arrived at Gatow, young lads fresh out of UK, we were greeted by the sound of heavy small arms fire just over the border in the Russian Zone. We were convinced that we had arrived just in time for WW3 but were told it was pay night at the local Russian army camp and part of the pay was live ammo so they could let off steam. I never knew whether this was right or whether they knew a new draft had arrived and were trying to unsettle us. The 'intelligence' officers they sent in to orient us told a lot of lies about the Reds. We were told they were so thick they thought the lavatories were for wasing fish in etc. Never believed a word of it. The only Russian I ever met was a disabled officer in charge of the Russian Cemetery in the Russian Sector. Me and a mate went to see it one weekend and he saw us (in uniform of course) and gave us the guided tour. It was a very impressive place, beautifully maintained with a sort of rotunda in the middle with a blue ceiling covered with gold stars. There were two T34 tanks on plinths at the entrance and he told us the crews were still inside them, they'd just welded the lids shut. As we left in the rain to walk about two miles back to the bus route a large black limo pulled up and gave us a lift right back to the check point into the British Zone. Driver never said a word but it was obvious the officer had sent him to give us a lift. He had the sense to drop us off out of sight of the redcaps on the bridge, God knows what would have happened if they'd seen us getting out of a Zim.

Similar threads

Latest Threads