bblogo Berlin Infantry Brigade
The British Forces

Berlin Infantry Brigade
The British Forces
by
Reinhard von Bronewski
- Thanks for the kind assistance of Col. Wes Polender, U.S. Army -
& the support of Rainer Hoffmann
© Berlin-Brigade.de

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I did not want to maintain a separate website about UK troops in Berlin, because I never had close contacts to them. But it's a fact that the American and British units, sharing the same language and similar equipment, often worked closely together. Both armies shared the Grunewald for training purposes. With this special website section I just want provide some insight and information in order to refresh good memories of our common history. I would also like to say - Thank You - to all members of the former Berlin Infantry Brigade. Let's keep the memories alive!

At the end of this section I have added some related photos. Enjoy!

On July 4, 1945, the first British unit, the 7th Armoured Division, also called the "Desert Rats", arrived in Berlin. A long era began at this moment. WWII had just ended, and at that time nobody really expected that it would be followed by a long "Cold War".

The British Berlin Infantry Brigade was comprised of three infantry battalions and one armoured squadron with heavy tanks. Altogether it included about 3000 soldiers. Unlike the American Berlin Brigade, which rotated individual soldiers into and out of their Berlin-based battalions, the British battalions rotated their various units every two years. Like the American Berlin Brigade, the British Berlin Infantry Brigade also hosted "guest units" from throughout the United Kingdom. I remember units from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Berlin Infantry Brigade maintained five barracks: Alexander Barracks (Hohenzollern Ring in Spandau ); Smuts Barracks, Brooke Barracks, and Wavell Barracks (all three located on Wilhelm Strasse in Spandau, right next to the legendary prison); and Montgomery Barracks (located on Sakrower Strasse in Kladow, a sub-district of Spandau). Montgomery Barracks was not far away from the GDR border near Potsdam. Two infantry battalions were billeted in Brooke Barracks and Wavell Barracks, and the third battalion was billeted in Montgomery Barracks.
Smuts Barracks was the home of the Royal Tank units.
Alexander Barracks housed various offices & storages (supply), had lots of German employees.

The HQ of the Berlin Infantry Brigade was originally (1945-1954) located in Wilmersdorf at Fehrbelliner Platz, before it moved next to the Olympic Statium in Charlottenburg. Located with the other British units were the Royal Military Police (RMP). On several occasions, I went to Hans-Braun Strasse with my American MP patrol partners to pick up or drop of paperwork with the RMP.

British troops also trained in the Grunewald. There, they often bumped into American units. Both forces had the same mission, they protected West Berlin's freedom! They were ready to fight and die for us. They demonstrated to the Soviet & GDR armies that we West Berliners had true and strong friends, and they eventually won the Cold War.

Until of the late 1950s, the British troops used WWII standard weapons in caliber .303 Brit. It were ENFIELD rifles and BREN (magazine fed) machine guns. After that time, British units got SLR rifles, cal. 7.62, Nato, fed by 20-rounds magazines, similar to American M14 rifles. The BREN machine gun chambers were changed to that Nato caliber and the weapons got some modifications. In the 1970s, British troops got new machine guns for belted ammo. They were much more effective (fire power) than the heavy guns with 30 rounds magazines. Now they could use 200 rounds in linked belts, packed in brown steel ammo boxes. The new machine guns had bipods but also could be set up on tripods, similar to the American M60 machine guns.
The new Brit. machine guns were in use until the Allied departure in 1994. (for Infantry but also mounted on tanks & other military vehicles)
In 1988, the SLR rifles (cal. 7.62) in Berlin got replaced by modern SA80 rifles in cal. 5.56, 30 rounds magazines, (similar to the American M16)

During Allied maneuvers in the Spring and Fall, the troops of the allied nations were often seen together. Sometimes they operated side by side as the "good guys"; other times together as the aggressor or OPFOR units. Sometimes they practiced "against" each other. Sometimes British troops trained in the American urban combat training center (Parks Range - "Doughboy City"), and sometimes American GIs trained in the British urban combat training center (Ruhleben Fighting City - "RFC").
See my section about RFC:

Their favorite military training areas in the Grunewald were the beaches of the Havel River next to Kuhhorn (opposite of Villa Lemm), and Schildhorn. British troops could also often be seen training along Schildhornweg, Am Postfenn, around the Teufelssee, Saubuchtweg, Grunewaldturm area, Havelchausee, and all the way down to the Avus. British units, of course, also practiced in the woods of Spandau, Gatow, Kladow, Tegel and Jungfernheide. I met British troops in the Grunewald every week. Their attitude towards training often looked harder or more strenuous than the Americans'. The British troops had a longer distance to travel from their barracks in Spandau or Kladow to the Grunewald Forest. Usually they were seen marching in full battle gear, though they were also sometimes trucked into the woods or came via small boats across the Havel River. Regardless, it seemed to me that they always took their training more seriously than the Americans did. I could often see the drill stress factor in their eyes. They did not often show the relaxed, fun flair that I usually saw in the American troops. The British units also fired blank ammo, but not as much as the American units. I would say they expended less than 10 percent of the Americans' rate of ammo usage. After a mock battle, you never could find many expended blanks, and most of them were picked up quickly by the troops anyway. If civilians collected the brass, it often happened that the British soldiers took it away. The British used lots of "bang" simulators (called "Thunderflashes, Typ Mark 8"), signal flares, and various colorful smoke grenades of green, yellow, red and blue. Often you could find these simulators, usually empty but sometimes full, carelessly left behind. They were nice items for a private New Years' fireworks display. :-)

The British troops never seemed to be pleased to have onlookers, though the Grunewald was like an huge open public park and not a fenced army range. This meant that German hikers in the Grunewald had not much personal contact with them. German civilians could watch the training, but that was it. I recall having only a few nice conversations with British soldiers.

Their field rations looked and tasted different. Sometimes they got food in brass colored cans. (similar to C-rations) Dry biscuits, called Brownies, came in small packs and were wrapped in green foil. Even today you can find such foil remains in the Grunewald. I liked more the American salty crackers but tastes are, thanks God, different. Jam came in small tubes, very unusual way for us Germans. Other times the soldiers got paperbags with wrapped sandwiches, covered with Butter, Cheese & Ham / Bacon slices. Very delicious! Field kitchen tents like in the U.S. Army, I only have seen during Allied maneuvers in Spring and Fall. I also never have seen that warm meals were brought out to the troops. Maybe it happened but I have never realized it.

The main British firing range was located in Ruhleben, next to RFC. In their last years in Berlin, they also maintained a large firing range in Gatow. Nearby, just opposite of the Wall, the Soviets also had a huge tank practice area. Both western and eastern soldiers could always hear the loud firing of their enemy from across the border.
British units also worked on Teufelsberg and at Marienfelde.

In the early years, the armoured squadrons had "Cromwell" tanks but also American M7 "Priest" and M24 "Chaffee" tanks. (when the legendary Desert Rats arrived in Berlin in July 1945)
A few years later, the Royal Tank Regiments in Berlin were equipped with A34 "Comet" tanks which got replaced by Centurion tanks. The Centurian tanks followed 1982 the powerful Chieftain Mk9c main battle tanks. (1988 replaced by typ Mk 10c)
Their small Ferret scout cars were very popular. I can still hear the Ferrets' strange whistling motor sound in my ears. Until end of the 1950s, the Ferrets were armed with .303 British "Bren" machine guns; after that with American .30 cal. Browning machine guns. Often the Berliners could watch the Ferrets while military practice in the woods but also along the Wall doing Border patrol missions.
End of the 1970s, all Ferrets (typ FV701 & Mk2/1) got replaced by new scout vehicles, typ 'FV721 Fox'. (see following photos). These were armed now, with an 30 mm RARDEN machine cannon turret, and like the Chieftain tanks, with mounted 7.62 cal. British machine gun. These guns fired linked (Nato) ammo only, the old Browning machine guns fired linked American .30 cal ammo but also British ammo in 250 rounds fabric (cloth) belts. The 30 mm two-man RARDEN machine cannon turret also was fixed on the roof hatch of some 'FV432 APC'. (without changing the basic tracked APC vehicle)
From the 1980s, each of the three British infantry battalions had 8 'FV721 Fox' wheeled scout cars. Main duty missions were security patrols along the Wall in the Brit. sector of Berlin.

For sure interested Berliners could see these Fox scout cars on the ' Maifeld ' (May Field) right next to the Olympic Stadion. Every year in May was held there the big Queen's Birthday parade. It really was an amazing celebration. Nothingelse I could compare with it. 2 times I had the opportunity to attend. The huge open sports field was 'framed' in the rear by several Chieftain battle tanks which fired honor salut with blank ammo. Soldiers of the 3 infantry battalions marched by and later also fired some kind of 'joy salut' with their rifles. Firing blanks in formation from right to left and back was really a special act for the countless happy spectators. Then all kind of military vehicles like these scout cars drove by. Great music played by their army bands always was another highlight for many visitors. At the end always was an helicopter 'fly over', which showed colored smoke streams behind. These parades always were attended by Royal family members like Prince Charles, Princess Ann, Queen's mum etc. Also the Queen once has watched right next to thousands of Berliners and Brit. family members that great military spectacle. This joyful event was for many Berliners like a magnet, similar to the yearly 'Big Tattoo' (popular Army music action show) in the 'Deutschlandhalle' nearby the 'Funkturm'. Let's go back to the equipment.
Unforgotten also are the various British trucks, APCs, and Landrovers. Some were equipped, like the American jeeps or "Humvees", with light machine guns or anti-tank guns. The British army even had military motorcycles.
In Gatow, next to the Havel River and the Grunewald, the British stationed elements of their Royal Air Force on its local airport. British aircraft included Gazelle AH-1 helicopters (replaced mids of the 1970s Westland-Bell Sioux AH.Mk.1 helicopters), and 2 Chipmunk airplanes.
None of the three Western Allies stationed after 1948 high performance combat aircraft in West Berlin. These were on bases far away in West Germany. (from 1945 until Spring 1948, the Royal Air Force had a few Spitfire, Mosquito and Tempest combat aircraft in Gatow).
Many Thanks to -David Greer- for that detailed info !

Similarly to the Berlin Brigade, the UK contingent was manned by various units.

For an overview and details of these units, I recommend a website developed by David Kunz:

The last British infantry battalion to be stationed in Berlin was the 1st Battalion of The Queens Lancashire Regiment, from 1992-1994. Many old West Berliners miss their former British neighbors!
I almost forgot to mention the great UK Army bands! I loved them all; of course also the 'Pipes & Drums', played by troops from Scotland! Thank you for the music !

Greetings to The United Kingdom !

-Reinhard-
PS: I'm looking for old photos, if somebody has some to share, do not hesitate to get in touch with me. Maybe I can add some to this special section.

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Photo memories
© Berlin-Brigade.de

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