Posted on July 9, 2019
The formation, the last of its kind to leave Germany, has been stationed in the country since 1951 and in Paderborn since 1992. ‘The Iron Fist’, which once held 5000 troops, has become an integral part of the city.
To celebrate the relationship, an open-air church service in Paderborn and a ceremony held by the Moehnesee reservoir have been organised. Michael Dreyer, the mayor of Paderborn, paid tributes to 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade: “They will leave Paderborn after 27 years. I’m thankful for the time we spent together. I’m very sad but we are very full of hope that we can keep up our good relationship in the future.”
The Cold War impasse with the Soviet Union dominated the early stages of the Brigade’s term in Germany.
However, intervention in the Bosnian civil war during the 1990s quickly became their most active spell while hosted by Paderborn.
The following decade, ‘the Iron Fist’ travelled to Iraq three times, becoming the last British Brigade to operate there. More recent activity includes leading Task Force Helmand in Afghanistan. Though 200 troops will remain for continued training organisation, including many Royal Engineers required for a German-British amphibious bridging unit, British military families were welcomed to a street parade.
Lance Corporal Tom Rees of the Queen’s Royal Hussars was one of many to call the German city home: “It’s tough leaving Germany this time. Obviously, I would love to stay here but whatever the future holds I’m looking forward to it.”
Local residents were sad to say goodbye to such an integral part of Paderborn’s community. One woman said: “It’s already noticeable that the British community is starting to dwindle and I think it will leave a big hole.”
The coming weeks will see the Brigade’s remaining soldiers move to new bases in Wiltshire and Cyprus, ending the Army’s large-scale presence in Germany from the Second World War.
Meanwhile, 40 miles away, a monument has been unveiled to mark the closure of the British Moehnesee Sail Training Centre. On the reservoir, known as the target of the 1943 Dambusters Raid, a final regatta celebrated the more recent function of training sailors to take to the water for over 60 years. One of the thousands who trained there is a national dinghy sailing champion, Corporal Simon Horsfield.
He said: “It’s a very tricky place to sail, the Moehnesee. You’re very able to adapt to different wind conditions and it makes you a better sailor.”
The water authority that has leased the site to the Army eventually wants to open it to the public, and want to ensure the enduring British presence remains.