JHQ Memories of 22909188 Sapper Stan Fowler RE PS
(Extracted January/March 2022 for inclusion in the JHQ Archive material)
So, it was off to Germany.
All the trains into Germany BAOR from the Hook’ were named after colours, all going East, one via a northern route, one via a southern route and so on. I cannot remember our colour off-hand; it was either Blue or Red. The trains were a lot more comfortable than the ones at home. Our group had a couple of compartments to ourselves. The cigarettes that we had all purchased in the NAFFI at the Hook’ were being well used. After about an hour or so we all had splitting headaches with the smoke. A Sergeant from Movement Control came down the carriage and handed out tickets for lunch, which was available in the dining car. We all thought that we would have to pay. On arrival in the dining car, we found tables that had tablecloths on and cutlery laid out. Prior to this, we had to use our own eating irons using a bare table to eat from.
On arrival in the evening at Herford Hop Barnhof, we were picked up and transported in a ‘three-tonner’ and taken to 8 Command Postal Depot where we were given a meal. As I remember it was egg and chips and very nice too. The 8 CPD was located in the requisitioned ‘Poggenpohl’ furniture factory in Herford. We were then transported to the other side of town to our camp, which was Hammersmith Barracks, the original German name of the camp was Estorff Kaserne. The camp was shared with units of 11th Armoured Division. The camp was rumoured to have been a German SS barracks before and during the war, or so we were told. The accommodation was a lot better than we had been used to. There were six to a room with doubled glazed windows to keep the sound and cold out. While I was at 8 Command Postal Depot I did duties in the Telegraph Room, in charge of the German Telegraphists and also in the Registered/ Courier Locker in charge of the German staff there. After which, in about June 1954, I was posted to Munchen Gladbach, BAOR 34 to work in the Registered / Courier Locker.
I did like my posting in Monchengladbach, it was 152 Postal Unit, and the SSO was Major F E Waldren.
The unit was later to be renamed 207 Postal Unit, adopting the new address system of BFPO 40. We had to work long hours but that tended to keep you out of trouble. We lived in a civvy billet in the middle of a residential area. Our billet was self-contained; it was a large house. It was in Gnieisenaustrasse I think it was number 38. There must have been about twenty squaddies in there. We had our own cookhouse and bar. The APO was on the next street, Rheinbahnstrasse, the building is now ‘Courthouse Arbitsgericht’. The APO was in the basement. While there, I did on occasion act as a courier travelling to an APO which was on RAF Eindhoven in Holland. To get there we left Monchengladbach in the morning, returning in the evening. At that time, real coffee was scarce and expensive in Germany. What used to happen was; that you would buy Douwe Egberts Gold or Silver bags of coffee beans in Eindhoven, take them back to Germany and sell or exchange them for whatever was a bargain. The Germans wouldn’t entertain ground coffee, `it may have been doctored’. I still have my Border Pass for that time.
Because of those cross-border mail services to and from Holland, I can see that I was there for most of the period from June 10th through to October 22nd.
I had some leave to take in the autumn of 1954. I packed all my kit and put it into the QM store, as was the ruling, expecting to retrieve it on my return in fourteen days’ time. I got my two weeks supply of cigarettes plus some that I already had and off I went. I arrived back in the UK at Parkstone Quay, and I had to go through customs, “have you anything to declare?” I informed the customs officer that I had my ration of cigarettes, he said that I had more than I should have had and charged me fourteen bob (70 pence). I was then told that there was a National Rail strike and I would have to travel to Sunderland via road in a “three-tonner”, stopping overnight in Nottingham. This was not on; it would be at least one day of my leave wasted. As all army convoys stop for ten minutes every hour. I took the opportunity of getting off the wagon at the first stop. Walked up the road for a few yards and was able to thumb a lift as far as Newark, then another lift from there to Gateshead and so from there to Sunderland. When I arrived home, it was to a new house, the family had moved to 61 Washington Road Hylton Castle.
I enjoyed my leave. After the fourteen days’ leave, I went back to Monchengladbach. On arrival, I was picked up at the Hop Barnhof, only to be told that I was to be posted to Rhinedalen, which was a couple of miles up the road. Rhinedalen was to be the new HQ for BAOR. I was only there a few days. Then I was posted to Dusseldorf, they needed someone to work in the Registered Locker.
I went by truck to Dusseldorf to serve in the APO there which was housed in a building called Steel House, just behind Konigsallee. There again, I was in a civvy billet just the other side of Konigsallee, beside the park, it was not as good as it was in Monchengladbach. You had to find a ‘pit’ wherever you could. There weren’t any lockers and you had to keep your kit packed, any cupboards in the house had been claimed by either rank or first there. We had to mess across the road in a building occupied by the RMPs. I was there for about a month, during which time I saw quite a bit of the city and surrounding area. Soon I was on the move again.
Memories of a tour working in Joint Headquarters Rheindahlen
Postal & Courier Service Directorate – Royal Engineers
26 November 1977 – 2 June 1980
Col Doug Swanson
HQ BAOR had become something of a legend in its own time with a population working there from Army to RAF to UK Civilians to Local Employed Civilians and Members of NATO in HQ Northag plus the Mixed Services Order of Wartime Refugees. It was certainly the Largest British Garrison and Headquarters in West Germany. Self-sufficient in almost every aspect of life from work and recreation to accommodation and entertainment, spiritual and medical care supported by shops and other such amenities. One could say it was possible to spend an entire tour there without going out into the local environments. But who would want for such a life? The history and amenities on site are listed in an annexe to this personal recollection.
Our move was not well timed with only a few weeks to Christmas and made more challenging as no quarters were available; plus, a significant change in climate from Mill Hill. Fortunately, the site planners had anticipated such circumstances as ours and we were accommodated in Cassels House, a hostel for families awaiting quarters. The rooms were fine, as was the food and life was reasonably comfortable, if boring for our partners and families. Once the huge NAAFI shop, just along the road had been explored, that was about it. There were plenty of walks with foot and cycle paths alongside most roads and the two cinemas and theatre for evenings out. Sports grounds abounded and forced the whole impression of a spacious and well-tended village/town. We belonged to F Mess one of the four officers’ messes. They were A, B, E and F plus an RAF Mess and Number One Civilian Mess. “A” Mess was for Colonels and up and F Mess a mix of Military and civilians and B and E for Military. There were 3 junior schools and one secondary one.
The JHQ Building dominated the scene with many incorrect, and derogatory, rumours of what it was like to work there. As a family we were looking forward to joining a magnificently diverse community in surroundings that provided so many opportunities to enjoy our days at our new posting. The thought of working in a building that held so many people and had 11 kilometres of corridors did not worry me, as surely there were plenty of opportunities to learn and get help when stuck with unfamiliar aspects of staff work. Our boss was Col Jack Ashworth, a Lancastrian who had never lost his accent, which did cause a degree of humour from his senior colleagues. Yet, Jack was an absolutely brilliant writer and thinker. None made fun of that side of him! Me? Yes, I could laugh whist enjoying our daily cigarettes and coffee. Jack and his wife Joyce were excellent and generous hosts. Ian Winfield was the other Major in our branch and Charlie Dixon the Staff Captain. In support, we had a warrant officer – Q Johnson and then Q Hamblett, two corporals – Cpls Bushell and Briggs -and a civilian Clerk Typist – Marcia – who had their own office as did each of us officers with the size of them decided by one’s rank. We shared a corridor with the Chaplains, as was often to case in large HQs – Postal and Padres in here! One of the padres was a long-term pal and hero of mine. Robin Roe, MC had played rugby for Ireland and the British Lions along with his fellow padre – Gerry Murphy. Robin was a prop and Gerry the fly half – so plenty of humour there! We spent many hours together with Army rugby in Germany, them in their distinctive green Irish blazers.
A necessary aside or three! Robin and I had served in HQ 1st British Corps together, but now in Rheindahlen, he was the senior Chaplain and an Honorary Chaplain to Her Majesty. One of the requirements of this appointment was to attend one of the annual garden parties at Buckingham Palace. Robin never attended and would receive an annual reprimand from the Lord Chamberlain. Many years later I was working on loan to The Post Office as Head Postmaster in Aldershot and was invited to attend the oldest Venison Dinner in the Country at Farnham Castle. After drinks with Virginia Bottomley and her husband, we sat down to dinner. Opposite me was the Bishop of Guildford. In conversation, he said he had an ex-military vicar working for him in Merrow – Robin Roe. On discovering that I knew Robin well he suggested I phone Robin on Monday morning and say, “I was speaking with your Bishop last evening and he was telling me that your service yesterday was apparently well below par”. Now I had not seen Robin of about 10 years. When I rang and recited the message his immediate reply was “Swanson you b*st*rd!!”, after which we had a good chat.
A third important event involved Robin. When I left 16 Para Brigade it was at relatively short notice, and we had not had our youngest daughter christened – and we had wanted a Para padre to run the service. Now Samantha was approaching boarding school age and really needed to be christened. I asked Robin if he would do the honours. He told me as Senior Chaplain he did not have a church. But hang on for him to make a phone call. He called one of the Garrison Chaplains and arranged to borrow his church for an hour on a Sunday afternoon. And we had a christening organised – pals in the right jobs!!
Back to domestics and us settled into Cassels House along with a few other families and were likely to be there until after Christmas. No bad thing as several fellow stayers were excellent company, especially the Humphries family. Colin was a captain in the Catering Corps and in charge of the Northag soldiers dining hall and Food member of the F Officers’ Mess as well as being a truly brilliant chef himself. So, Christmas and New Year passed with plenty of fun and survival in our forced home with our two elder daughters joining us from school in England travelling on their own from Darlington. After Christmas, it was back to school in England for them and into a school near home for our youngest daughter.
Now well settled at work and doing much writing about issues that needed resolving and keeping our plans up to date whilst getting into the garrison and available sports. The two years before Rheindahlen my rugby was with Mill Hill first XV and basketball, athletics and squash with our Depot teams. Age was advancing and my legs slowing gradually, so decided to play Second XV for Rheindahlen Rhinos. Funnily enough, five other ex-Army or RAF players decided the same which meant we had a mighty experienced Second XV that on the day could beat the First XV. That day was always Boxing Day when the over 30s played against those younger players. For the three years we were there I captained a successful and most sociable and watchable team. Army sporting facilities were excellent, although the RAF gym had better weight training kit. Luckily, they did not have a discus thrower which meant for two summers on Wednesday afternoons I became a Squadron Leader and a member of RAF Rheindahlen. Our Army Athletics team won the Army championships one year as well. Basketball was a real mix of people most who did not know each other. It was on the bus travelling to Dusseldorf to play that I learned that another team member, Billy Stark, had spent part of his youth in Castle Douglas. He turned out the be my best pal from starting school days and was a Warrant Officer in our Corps. Small world – again!
During events with the RAF, I met a fellow Scot and we both thought we had met previously – it turned out that I went to school in Perth with his brothers. This led to invitations to the RAF’s Mess parties that were legend, especially their Rosenmontag event when they brought a Bavarian Band and entertainers up from Bavaria for the evening. The RAF Officers’ Mess had the most brilliant shop at the back and run by the mess. It was certainly the place to buy perfume and attractive objects to decorate one’s shelves.
Into a quarter in Essex Drive just a short walk from the Big House and even nearer the main NAAFI shop that sold pretty much everything for families and singlies. Quarters there were run by the RAF and their excellent management and change overs. Cleanliness was absolute to the Flight Sergeant doing the handover wearing his white gloves. In the summer my old pal Dick Platt was due to arrive and had asked me to take over his quarter prior to him and family arriving. On attending the handover found it was a civilian who was leaving and handing over under the eye of the RAF team. I found the quarter totally unacceptable – dirty, untidy and in need of a thorough clean. The RAF Team agreed so we arranged another take over date a week later. Hardly any changes after the week. The RAF Team immediately asked the civilian to leave telling him he would be billed for cleaning and repairs. And it was fixed. And so, Dick and Doug were reunited as a fine and enjoyable working team and the Platt family lived near us again just like we were for 3 years in Herford with 4th Division. With Charlie Dixon as the Staff Captain and Col Jack in charge we did make a formidable team and life was good. The Royal Engineers HQ, under Maj Gen Barry Pollard, The Chief Engineer BAOR, (photo shows Gen Barry being “sailed” out of the HQ on his departure) in the next corridor were good friends and our senior boss Brig Mike Matthews, who had served in 16 Para Bde when I was there. He was a great leader. As well as good fun and a challenging succeeder.
The COs of our 3 Postal & Courier Regiments were Douglas Harper in Hannover, Len Calcutt in Dusseldorf and Lawrie Watkins in SHAPE. When Col Jack was away on duty or leave, I would stand in for him. This was fun going to the Heads of Arms and Services meetings under Brig Mike Matthews, the DQMG, was really entertaining and enlightening. At one of the meeting Mike informed the meeting that there had been some trouble at the Euro Bar on last Friday evening. This bar was behind the HQ and a good place to meet up with Posties for a beer or two after work on a Friday. At the meeting Mike asked if any of the Colonels and Brigadiers there who went to the Euro Bar. Only Mike and I raised our hands. He told us that there was an opportunity missed to socialise and thank our staff as well as stop trouble brewing unnecessarily!!
On an evening in the summer of 1978, we were at home in our quarter when the door was knocked with a sense of urgency. A young Military Police NCO told us there was an IRA Bomb in the NAAFI car park some 80 yards from our house. Get all your doors and windows open and then evacuate the area to the far end of the street. This we did with a bit of concern as our daughter, Sam was at the cinema on the far side of the garrison. As we assembled at the end of the street, we were told to make our way to the Visiting Officers’ Mess where we would get food and some kind of accommodation for the night if needed. On arrival at the mess, we phoned Dick Platt who was staying in B Mess at the other end of garrison and arranged for him to collect Samantha from the cinema and take her back to his room. In the meantime, the mess was starting feeding and organising beds for mums with children and blankets for the rest of us. The manager, who was a retired Gunner Major, needed little encouragement to start accepting chits at his bar as in most folks’ haste to evacuate we had brought no cash. It was a pretty good evening in the Mess that around 11pm drew to a close when we were told there had been a controlled explosion and we could go home. Apparently, the bomb should have exploded the day before during shopping hours but had failed. We phoned Dick and as we arrived home he arrived with Samantha. A different evening that was a fine example of the Army, RAF and Civilians jointly managing a very difficult, sensitive, and dangerous situation very well. An RAF Police Officer recorded his find thus – On my second day in Germany, I spotted such a model in that colour, brand new, parked in the NAAFI car park. My heart was lost. I peered into it, got on my hands and knees to inspect its underside, stroked the smooth bodywork, tried to door handle to see if it was locked (it was), and gazed at it for many minutes lost in my dreams. That same evening the entire area was cordoned off when it was discovered that the car contained 500 lbs of high explosive, it had been planted there several days before by the IRA but had failed to explode. Earlier that week, eight military barracks from Monchengladbach to Herford had already been bombed in a coordinated attack, this one was planned to be the “spectacular”, but its detonator failed to function. I’ve never been a fan of the BMW since!
In F Mess we had a truly mixed community with Army, Civil Servants Teachers and members of other small organisations. This made it clear that the balance of civilians to Army had grown and another civilian mess was needed. F Officers’ Mess was the one selected to become Number Two Civilian Mess. The military members of the mess would be moved to A, B or C Messes and civilians in either of those messes moved to either Number One or Number Two Civilian Messes. I was entertainments member of F Mess at the time and, in accordance with Army Regulations, was chosen as the officer to auction of all the property of the Mess after we had tried to return presentation items. The auction evening turned out to be a huge success both socially and financially. The front rows at the auction consisted almost entirely of American Officers keen to grab some British history. I thought I would never sell the 24 bundles of 6 each of table place mats. That proved easy – if time consuming. The proceeds from the sale went into mess funds to make sure we cleared all debts before the remaining significant sum was passed to the three other Officers’ Messes and Numbers One and Two Civilian Messes in proportion to the number of members of F Mess who joined them. In the meantime, we did have a final F Mess Summer Ball that was a huge success. Just a snippet off the menu was the 13 Sea Food Starters of the meal thanks to my pal Colin Humphries and his team of Chefs.
Our Branch officers below Col rank were moved to B Officers’ Mess and soon after the garrison Commander sent for me and asked me to take on the role of President of the Mess Committee. This was a fine extra job, as long as things went smoothly. There was of course a challenge. Our four living in Legal Corps Officers over indulged one evening and caused quite a rumpus as well as damaging some of the Mess property. Time to set them straight!! They all in later years recalled with me their impression of the biggest b*ll*cking of their careers – remembered with affection. After the severe telling off I said they would pay for all damage, apologise to the mess and employees and buy me a beer there and then!! We all remained good pals for many years – even until today with one of them living not far away and another prosecuting one of our Postal Warrant Officers for theft taking it easy on me as defending officer at a Court Martial in Dusseldorf. It is true that what goes around does come around in life.
As a major working in the HQ, I was liable for a Headquarters Duty Officer Roster that was no great burden as there were so many of us – so probably every second month. The role involved sleeping in the Duty Officer’s room and dealing with any BAOR wide compassionate issues or security threats to the HQ. In support, there was a Guard Commander and a guard of 8 soldiers (I think) and the Joint Movements Duty Team. These were super well-trained Army and RAF Movers who could get individuals or families home to the UK at great speed from quarter to home location in the UK using all means including helicopters trains, planes, and military vehicles in the UK. There was always 3 or 4 or more of these on each duty. There was also the most secure part of the building to be observed. This was the Intelligence and Security Wing that had security locks on the door and was protected by Intruder Alarms. If the alarm went off it indicated that someone was in the room – and should not be there. Actions were to issue arms and ammunition to some of the Guard and send them with the Guard Commander to investigate by opening the alarmed door with the code that I gave him. After about 30 minutes the Sergeant returned saying he could not get the door to unlock. I called out the Int and Security duty person who turned up and went with the Guard Commander to the Wing. He dialled the combinations, stood back, kicked the door handle, and opened the door! Local knowledge working again. On investigating why the alarm had gone off they found that the painters who had been redecorating the wing had left a ladder propped against the wall and it had fallen to the floor triggering the intruder alarm. Stranger things have started wars??
Speaking of wars, we did go to war at regular times of year, but on exercises as most military units do. However, we did not deploy to the field but moved underground to the cellars below the HQ. Here we had a couple of rooms and operated on war footings there for up to 2 weeks at a time spending most of the time in full NBC kit. My task would be mostly to run the night shift and attend meetings then and deal with exercise issues that related to our trade – and we were always written in with some dire tasks. All signals relating to the exercise were prefixed with “Exercise, Exercise”. When this was forgotten it could have amusing impacts. On one exercise a TA colleague from Royal Mail, with an Irish accent, forgot the prefix and had to task a helicopter for an immediate Courier run. The result was a very senior officer about to go on a trip by helicopter was turfed off his booked helicopter and it was allocated to the higher priority of a Courier trip that only existed on paper! Of course, we did not sleep in the cellars but went home, often in our NBC kit and often by bicycle. Some of our civilian pals laughed at this but were soon silenced when asked if they had NBC suits for the real thing, or an evacuation plan for their families and themselves. Those of us in uniform did have a written plan.
We did, of course have a memorable visit from a TA Party on their Annual two-week Camp. The exact people involved escape me after all the time since. However, there were 8 or 10 officers and a few soldiers who would do many tasks that benefitted from outside eyes and brains. The things they did were on the lines of doing a couple of studies for us, auditing the Command Account, completing annual surveys etc, etc. On the Saturday evening we had them round our quarter for a bite to eat and a bit of Army socialising. Dick and Sheila Platt joined, and I do know that Ken Barker and Paul Forrester were part of the visitors. We had a truly exceptional evening and I vividly remember Ken sitting in our fireplace singing his rugby songs and telling jokes. All excellent bonhomie and genuine friendship and respect. On the following Wednesday evening the TA took us and partners to a schloss for dinner – that is self, Dick and Col Jack. The restaurant was due to close on Wednesdays, but these men, temporarily in uniform, convinced the owners to open and have our dinner in a grand hall with a huge log fire behind us. I often think that too many regulars forget the scale of the positions, back at Royal Mail, held by these volunteers and what an enormous contribution they had made over the years to the way our Service operated.
One final word or two about the GPO people who served in the TA. We had a visitor from a Royal Signals Unit who was their Honorary Colonel. His civvy job was Operations Controller with Northwest Region. I seemed to be his host for quite a few days. One fault that he had was that he said he didn’t smoke. What he meant was he did not purchase cigarettes! However, he told me he had Commanded the Royal Signals GROUP. This title stuck in my mind. This seemed a good tile for our TA Headquarters. Several years later I was able to change the establishments of our TA and place most into four Regiments with a few Squadrons allocated to support our regular units. The title of Commander TA had rested with Commandant of Mill Hill. This was easy to change and the one TA Colonel on our books became Commander 1 Postal and Courier Group RE (V), improving his status and then some. When we joined The RLC at Grantham they envied this and changed their organisation into a group. But it had to be 2 Group as we had One Group!!
My own day job consisted of monitoring personnel matters for our Posties in Germany and SHAPE, ensuring postings were fair and that annual reports were completed and processed on time for the various promotion boards. Apart from this I looked after the operational planning for our Service and ensured that equipment tables provided units with all the kit they needed for peacetime and operational events. Most of these were straight forward except for the acquisition of correct and sufficient vehicles for our role as sole carriers of messages and letters in times of emergency and radio silence. The subject of 65 war reserve ½ ton Land Rovers for 1 Regiment seemed to haunt me – especially on discovering that the Equipment Frequency Forecast that should have secured cover had been filed instead of being signed and submitted before I arrived. We had lost the cover! This is where the Big Headquarters came to my aid as a walk down “Ordinance Mile” (It was so long!) found me in the room with the very expert on the subject. His help enabled me to apply again for the vehicle cover and to go to London to successfully meet the B Vehicle Liability Committee.
Another problem that had been in my mind for 4 or 5 years since I was in Herford with 4th Division. Our mail had originally been moved around the Command by a night train service called the Postal Bag Tender calling at some garrison stations on the route between Monchengladbach and Hannover. The journey operated each way 6 days a week. Sometime early in 1969, it was decided to cease the trains and use a road bound vehicle service between Dusseldorf and Herford making the return journey over the same night. This must have saved a good deal of money. This decision became public at a time when Maj Don London, our DADPCC at HQ 1st British Corps HQ, was on leave. As his regular stand in at such times, it was my job to attend the Brigadier AQs monthly meeting and brief the Heads of Arms and Services. Sometimes the Corps Commander attended. This meeting was one of those, so Lt Gen Sir Mervyn Butler (Tubby) was there. We knew each other fairly well as he was an old wartime Paratrooper. The replacement vehicle for the trains was to be a set of old 39-seater buses with all seats removed and a secure cage built in to hold the Courier Mail. There was the most uncomfortable seat available for the Courier. When I conveyed all this to the meeting General Tubby said, “Sounds like Fred Karno’s Army, Doug!”. I certainly agreed with him. I had argued long and hard and unsuccessfully to have our staff officers bid for proper vehicles, even to the extent of making Col Alex Seaton sit on the Courier’s seat during a visit to us in Herford. He admitted it was not very comfortable, but did nothing about it, despite my suggestion that they acquired some of the redundant passenger seats from the RAF’s Hastings aircraft.
Here we were 5/6 years later, and nothing was done. Searching for trucks was not my expertise, nor did anyone in the HQ know much about it. Brochures of several Bedford trucks were studied and things proper to the task were added like a radio, proper heating and comfortable passenger seats. The Bedford TK 1630 seemed to suit best – and the title has stuck in my head ever since. Of course, by the time of my arrival in HQ BAOR the converted coaches were well into the second time around on their milometers and several had been written off through wear and tear. With help from my Ordinance pals, the case to change to the civilian trucks was assembled and forwarded through the proper channels to MoD. After a visit to and a grilling by the B Vehicle Liability Committee, we had the authority for purchase. At the meeting, one of the members asked me how the old buses were. I replied, “Beyond knackered”. Which clearly summed up their state. We should always respect our Soldiers and ensure they have the very best affordable kit for their tasks! An interesting fact here. I was about halfway through writing the case when I had to leave my office to attend a meeting. On my return, I found the case complete. Col Jack had come into my office and was unable to resist the temptation to finish it. We had it typed and it read so well I submitted it – and it worked! A real joint effort.
Mention of Col Jack’s writing ability I remember one tough day for him. Not long after my arrival, he returned from an interview with the Chief of Staff looking downhearted. He told me he was to be Chairman of The Rheindahlen Saddle Club, just like Alex Seaton before him. One thing the Club needed was new stables and a general tidy-up of their site. He was really daunted by this. Over the mandatory cigarette and a coffee, we discussed what he should do. Turning the job down was not an option. He agreed that he would NOT purchase jodhpurs and riding boots. Discussing the task of rebuilding I pointed out that fundraising and getting support with the work came within his strength – yes, writing. He went away and prepared a list of charities inside and without the Army that might cough up some money. Meantime I popped round to see a pal in Engineer Branch to find out what their Mobile Civilian Artisan Group could do. The outcome was more money than needed for the project and the Royal Engineers Team would arrange the workforce and purchase materials. On the Grand Opening Day Col Jack was to the front as our Commander in Chief opened the newly built stables. Just goes to show that we need to make full use of whatever skills we have to our best advantage.
A couple more memorable days in the HQ. Our Director Brig Jack Bridge was due to make his first official visit to HQ BAOR and this would necessitate an interview with The Commander in Chief and a social function one evening. We thought that a dinner in A Mess might suffice, but then there were plenty of these. Col Jack was keen to have an event including wives. A cocktail party somewhere seemed a reasonable solution. Mulling over such an evening I recalled the dinner nights that I organised as PMC of our Mill Hill Mess. Always have a small group or a string quartet playing in the background. With info from my Engineer pal, I was soon on the phone to WO1 Sleep of the Royal Engineers Band (Unofficial) Germany based in Hameln. The cocktail party in the visiting Officers Mess, with a Palm Court Quartet led by WO1 Sleep, made it a standout evening that year. Col Jack was well congratulated on his imagination and hospitality skills.
One final significant day in this tale was the unveiling of Terrence Cuneo’s painting to commemorate the First International Air Mail from Great Britain to Germany on 1st March 1919 and celebrating the 60th Anniversary. The plane had landed at Cologne, so that seemed the place to hold a small elite luncheon at The Belgium Officers’ Club that was renowned for its excellence in meals and hospitality. Dick Platt would organise this – and he sure did. There were 18 of us at the lunch, including Terrence Cuneo and Brig Jack Bridge (who had both flown over from London for the event), plus Brig Mike Matthews and a few other Heads of Services from HQ BAOR. Dick and I were bookends at the table. The meal was an absolute delight drawing many compliments from the guests. I do remember the starter – Sweetbreads. When in the office Dick read the menu to us. Col Jack asked what sweetbreads were and Dick replied “B*ll*cks, Colonel. Dick later admitted that he had always wanted to say that to Col Jack. After most had gone, we sat in the bar and had a beer or two before our London bound guests left to catch their plane back. Terry Cuneo, who had signed most of the guests’ menus said to me “Come on, Doug, I’ll sign your menu for you. You are a rugby player – yes”. Quick as a flash he draws his mouse kicking a rugby ball at the posts and signs it. It still hangs on the wall in my study.
A couple more stories for the record. One of my previous bosses General Sir Frank King arrives as Commander in Chief. We all knew he was in post but had not seen nor heard from him. One morning when Col Jack was away visiting Berlin my phone rang and it is Lt Col Dick Mundell a well know rugby player and mow Military Assistant to the CinC. He informed me that the General wanted to see the senior Postal Officer in the building in his office NOW! I quickly made my way up to the C in C’s suite. Dick Mundell quickly ushered me into the General’s office saying “Major Swainson, General”. The General corrected him and told him to remember – Swanson. In this huge room with a view out over the parade ground and lawns, I just stood in front of the desk. I asked the General what the problem was. This he replied showing me a long box about a meter long and narrow. His Sergeant had tried to post it that morning and had been told it was too big to go by mail. Casting my expert eye over the parcel I said it looked a bit like a golf club. Dead right he replied, and I remembered the maximum size for parcels – less than 6 feet in length and girth. Well, that is okay, General, I’ll get it posted for you I said. “Is that it” I asked. “No” he replied. “Sit down and have a coffee”. So, we had a good chat about my view of life in the Headquarters and all the facilities that are available. He asked about Val and our girls. I mentioned that we were really happy here and Val was doing a bit of earning running a hairdressing business from our spare bedroom. This resulted in monthly visits of a lady in a big black limousine to have her hair done and a blether with Val. Lady King and the General had been very kind to us when he was Brigade Commander in Minden when we were underage and not entitled to a quarter. He not only allocated a quarter to us – that we would not be moved out of – but also arranged for a free supply of coke for our boiler any time we wanted it by telling the Quartermaster. It would come from the coke mountain on camp. With Val doing hair Lady King was her favourite customer – but not the most senior. That was Baroness Jean Hughes-Morgan, the wife of another kind acquaintance, Brig Sir David Hughes-Morgan, at 1st British Corps and now Head Legal Officer in the Command.
This was not my only contact with Sir Frank. He selected me for his cricket team in the Garrison evening League. I would be his opening bowler and he was the wicket-keeper. One evening after a game I asked him why it was that when I bowled, he would take a couple of steps backwards. Was that because I was so fast? In a very typical General King response he told me not to be so daft. It was because I was so inaccurate, he needed just a bit longer to catch the ball. Fast and furious he told me, but sometimes on the wicket and other balls were not hit for many runs; and that was what he wanted. We served together briefly in Northern Ireland in 1972 when he was GOC there. On Direct Rule the Government needed direct and secure transits for highly classified documents. The Royal Signals had offered a two-day transit time. My offer to William Whitelaw’s Personal Assistant was the same day or overnight. The same day was up to 7 pm posting for delivery that night. We had a Courier on the last flight from Heathrow returning to the UK on the last of the day from Belfast. One afternoon the call came through to me that the Courier that evening would need to be escorted to the GOC’s residence and one of my units to be the Courier back to London. The Courier that evening was ex-WO 1 Ross Jardine – an old pal from Herford days. We had to get a Military Police escort to take him to the Bosses’ Residence to a General who was waiting impatiently for the urgent and sensitive papers. The stand-in Courier task happened several times going to MoD or Downing Street and even to me having to make the journey.
Dick Platt was responsible for all mail matters and was a true expert having served with The Post Office Investigation Branch for some years. It was a real treat to listen to Dick interrogating a suspect criminal. After a spate of reported non-deliveries of parcels to a senior officer in Dusseldorf, Dick decided to investigate. The alleged non-recipient was confronted with photographs of the items, reported missing, hanging on the washing line at his quarter! Wow! Dick had a huge brain and was well able to complete both The Times and Telegraph crosswords before morning coffee!
One day Dick was mulling over an issue of the waiting times at our local Forces Post Office for mail for the HQ that had many listed Registered and Courier Service items to be signed for. Remembering what I had done with a similar problem in Northern Ireland with the HQ Post-Orderly having to wait for all our inbound mails to be sorted to get at the HQ items. NI had one BFPO number – 801 for all mail arriving in the province. Also remembering some difficulties in the past with numbers used by our Directorate I mulled over what looked different from 801. I decided 825 would do the job and we allocated that to HQ Northern Ireland. This meant the complete dispatch arriving in Lisburn for BFPO 825 could be given to the HQ Post Orderly. Dick decided that HQ BAOR would change from BFPO 40 to BFPO 140. It worked!!
A final, almost confession, but done for the good of the Service. Lt Col Len Calcutt had come to see Col Jack with a hugely positive offer from the Commerzbank in Dusseldorf where the Command Post Office money was held and used to pay our monthly debt to The GPO for stock sales. Len had been asked to visit the bank and the manager advised him that for a long time the balance in our account had not dropped below Dm 1m. His advice was for it to be placed on deposit and earn monthly interest. Col Jack had not agreed to the proposition. Poor Len was dismayed and then some. I told him to go back to Dusseldorf and phone me the next week when Col jack would be on leave. In the meantime, I would speak with our Directorate in London and get their agreement to the proposal. This I duly did and was told to get Len to take up the offer and for him to arrange to transfer the monthly interest to the Depot Accounts Branch Number 9 Account. And that was that!
Well, I could digress for more pages and tell snippet stories of meetings, dinners, celebrations, and sporting events. I just hope that I have given you the flavour of what we thought was a brilliant and enjoyable family tour with the most interesting and rewarding place to work and live. The concept of a Joint Headquarters in a purpose-built conurbation certainly gave us all that we wanted in terms of good family time, an eclectic mix of folks and events that most enjoyed and talked about for long a time. Strange to say that Dick and I were to go to Mill Hill afterwards on promotion to join Rolph James’ team at Mill Hill for the celebrations of the Centenary of our Service in 1982 with Dick in charge of the Courier Wing and myself looking after Training Wing and as Second in Command to Rolph and spend much time as PMC of our Splendid Home Mess.
The history of the build and what was there at Rheindahlem
In 1952 work began on the British Forces Maintenance Area West of the Rhine part of the project included the construction of a joint (Army/RAF) headquarters for BAOR in Rheindahlen. Colonel H Grattan (late RE) was appointed Chief Engineer (CE) of this project, the plan was to construct:
- a main office block 300yds long by 180yds wide with three storeys providing 2,000 offices.
- 65 barracks blocks
- over 1,100 married quarters, all heated by district heating.
- three infant and one secondary school
- three churches
- two cinemas
- a theatre
- a swimming pool to Olympic standards
- sports fields
- two gymnasiums
- a NAAFI building and shops
- five officers’ messes with single quarters
- officers’ club
- five dining halls,
- clubs for warrant officers and sergeants and for other ranks
- and two MoD civilian staff messes with single quarters
The complex was designed to accommodate over 7,000 British and Allied service personnel and a civilian population (mostly German) of about 2,500 for ancillary services: a township approaching a population of 10,000.
HQ BAOR moved from Bad Oeynhausen to its new JHQ at Rheindahlen in October 1954, centralising headquarters functions which at this time were scattered in several towns in Northern Germany. It was originally the HQ of the Northern Army Group (NORTHAG), Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF), British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and Royal Air Force Germany (RAFG). In those days Rheindahlen was populated with British, American, German, Dutch, Belgian, Australian and Canadian military personnel (and in many cases also their families).
In appearance JHQ Rheindahlen was more like a medium-size town than a military base, consisting mostly of administrative buildings, living quarters, schools, shops and other areas typical of civilian towns. For much of its existence there was no security perimeter (though buildings with an actual military function were fenced and guarded), but now it is fenced in with check points at the three exits.
Auf Wiedersehen JHQ
by Lt Col (Retd) Graham Meacher MBE
Joint Headquarters (JHQ) Rheindahlen, latterly also called the Rheindahlen Military Complex, was a British Forces base in Mönchengladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. JHQ functioned as the main headquarters for British forces in Germany since being built in the 1950s. Its German address was Mönchengladbach-JHQ with a post code of 41179. Its BFPO address was BFPO 40, to which was later added BFPO 140 for the ‘Big House’ itself. It closed in late summer 2013 when HQ British Forces Germany moved to Bielefeld. The entire complex will be handed over to the German authorities on 12 December 2013 bringing to a close a unique chapter lasting some 60 years.
From a PCS perspective, from which this article is written, JHQ was familiar to many in postal, both Regular and TA. I served at Rheindahlen three times; firstly in 1979 as a corporal in S100, then as a captain/major as OC from 1983-85 and finally as a Lt Col as SO1 Log Sp (PCS) in 1999-2000. For me each of these periods is inextricably linked with a major life-changing event; I left JHQ in 1979 to join RMA Sandhurst for officer training, my son Robert was born at RAF(H) Wegberg in 1985, and my final tour was at JHQ before retiring from the Army in 2000. Lots of great memories, some of which I would like to share with you.
Rheindahlen was unique in many respects, not least for the modern purpose-built sorting office complex in Queen’s Avenue. This had been designed (allegedly) by Bill Whiting and included bespoke facilities which were standard within Royal Mail and the Post Office but unheard of in military postal operations. PCS normally had to make do with adapted buildings so S100 was, at the time, seen as the bee’s knees. There were separate secure FCO and RLE lockers with additional FCO and RLE lockers for local delivery to UPOs. The SNCO I/C Accounts, who looked after several accounts including mobiles, had an office with an integral walk-in safe. There was even a special safe in the SO wall for counter clerks to secure their individual stocks. The main sorting office was bright, spacious and airy with a glass-walled office in the corner providing excellent all-around supervisory vision for the WO I/C S100.
S100 wasn’t perfect though and one of the (few) flaws was that UPOs had to collect normal mail from one end of the building then go to the other end for counter transactions and collection of courier items and registered mail. In later years the public counter was moved to the shopping centre in Oakham Way, next door to the Church Army Centre (where former postie Ivor Sherwood worked as an Army Scripture Reader). The building design included offices for the SHQ – co-located with the BFPO for many years, which was not ideal. This changed during 99 PC Sqn days when the SHQ was relocated elsewhere in Rheindahlen as part of a major refurbishment of S100 to make room for a conveyor system required for changes in operations (road transport of all mails from BFPO London to BFG via SHAPE and JHQ). Let’s go back to the beginning.
Origins (extracted from “The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers” Volume X 1948-1960)
In 1952 work began on the British Forces Maintenance Area West of the Rhine and project planning also started in July for a new combined Army/RAF HQ. Colonel H Grattan was appointed CE (Special) for this project in August 1952, and preliminary work began in October. There was a main office block 300 yards long by 180 yards wide with three storeys to provide nearly 2,000 offices. There were 65 barrack blocks for British military and German civilians, and over 1,100 married quarters, all heated by district heating. There were schools for 720 infants and 400 secondary school children; three churches, two cinemas and a swimming pool to Olympic standards. Playing fields with pavilions were laid down to grass and some seven million tree roots were grubbed out for these and for open spaces and roads. There were NAAFI buildings, shops, stores and officers’ messes with single quarters, five dining halls, an officers’ club, clubs for warrant officers and sergeants and for other ranks.
The complex was designed to accommodate over 7,000 British and Allied servicemen and a civilian population (mostly German) of about 2,500 for ancillary services; a township of approaching 10,000. The site was the Rheindahlener Wald, a forest of about 1,000 acres without access roads; and great care was taken to preserve trees where possible and to provide a layout of scenic attraction. The first priority was to lay the permanent roads, water supply mains and to provide electricity to give access and services for building contractors. Twenty kilometres of road had to be built and 1,000 miles of pipes laid for water supply, heating, gas, electricity, sewage disposal and all that goes therewith. All buildings were heated from two large boiler houses supplying district heating through 17 calorifier stations.
The exploitation and development of the water supply was described in the RE Journal of March 1957. Colonel Grattan had the gift of water divining and was able to find an ample source of good water for the camp, independent of existing German supplies. Four wells were bored and a water-works erected on site. An important feature of the project was that it had to be built quickly since it had to be finished before Germany achieved sovereign status. This was the condition upon which financial approval had been accorded because, after that date, the cost would fall upon the British taxpayer and not on the German support costs. In the event, two years covered the period from the inception of the plan to the completion of the buildings; by any standards this must be judged a creditable achievement. HQ BAOR moved from Bad Oeynhausen to its new HQ at Rheindahlen in October 1954 and established HQ Northern Army Group there.
NB: The ‘Big House’/‘Kremlin’ was originally built for the new NATO Headquarters and contained at one end HQ BAOR and British led Headquarters Northern Army Group (HQ NORTHAG). Comprising the 1st British Corps, a German Corps with its HQ in Munster, a Belgian Division in the Rhineland, a Dutch Division south of the River Elbe and for a time the Canadian Brigade. The other end was HQ RAF (G) and Headquarters 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (HQ 2 ATAF).
In appearance JHQ Rheindahlen was more like a medium-size town than a military base, consisting mostly of administrative buildings, living quarters, schools, shops and other areas typical of civilian towns. For much of its existence there was no security perimeter (though buildings with an actual military function were fenced and guarded), but following a 300lb car bomb explosion carried by the IRA on 23 March 1987 near the Officers’ Mess, where 31 people were injured, the complex was fenced-in with check points at the three exits.
Known as ‘little England’ by the local German community, JHQ was largely self-sufficient in terms of schooling, medical, welfare, spiritual, shopping and recreational provision. There were outstations at Wegberg, approximately one mile away and in Mönchengladbach, about six miles away. There were three local primary schools namely St Patrick’s, St Andrew’s and St George’s along with Windsor Secondary School. JHQ had lots of amenities including a swimming pool, two gyms, fitness centre, a large Naafi complex, several other shops selling various goods, a bank, three churches, an Adult Education Centre, two cinemas (Astra and Globe), a library, a bowling alley, an amateur theatre club plus medical and dental centres. Many facilities were duplicated as a result of having both RAF Rheindahlen supporting HQ RAF Germany and Rheindahlen Garrison, which supported HQ BAOR. Things were rationalised when RAF Germany was disbanded in 1993 and HQ No 2 Group in 1996 as part of the reduction of British Armed Forces presence in Europe following the cessation of the Cold War. This allowed reorganisation of the estate and the Rheindahlen Military Complex (RMC) was created.
As previously mentioned, I was posted to Rheindahlen on three occasions; the first time was in 1979 as a corporal, when I arrived from Det 4 PC Regt RE (formerly Det 115 PCCU RE) at Brunssum. My new unit was still being referred to as ‘West Rhine Squadron’ despite the change to 32 PC Sqn as part of the reorganisation on 1 January 1979 which saw 8 CPCCD RE become 3 PC Regt RE (and subsequently 3 PC Depot). The HQ Sqn became 30 PC Sqn and East Rhine Sqn was retitled 31 PC Sqn. My OC at Rheindahlen was Capt Bill Eeles. I remember Dick Inkpen was WOI/C S100 and I was allocated a quarter at Wickrath. However, I was on my way to RMA Sandhurst, having gone through the selection process whilst at AFCENT, so was really in transit.
My second tour at JHQ was as OC 32 PC Sqn RE from December 1982 to November 1985. I was posted in from Mill Hill where I had been Command Accountant and also heavily involved in the various PCS Centenary events. I had been offered a choice of posting to either 1 PC Regt as Adjutant or 3 PC Regt as OC 32 PC Sqn (then a captain). This proved to be a very difficult decision as I was very keen to get to the Corps area and work for Lt Col Swanson, however, having my own command as a captain tipped the balance and I opted for Rheindahlen (I don’t think Doug has yet forgiven me!). Having taken over from Don Kent, who left on promotion to Verden as OC 11 PC Sqn, I hit the ground running. I soon realised that there was a down side to being OC of the PC squadron sited in the shadow of HQ BAOR, which housed the PCS Directorate with all those subject matter experts lurking! I learned quickly to stand my ground and not be diverted from my task by regular ‘phone calls from the Directorate asking questions regarding the punctuality of various Road Service Schedules or informing me that there was an old pram on the roof of S100 and what was I doing about it! Clearly some people had too much time on their hands. Having line of sight from the Directorate to S100 didn’t help either!
Like many other locations S100 served a wide variety of units and establishments. However, unlike other locations the activity was spiced-up by having JHQ as a main customer. There was a great deal of courier traffic and often special Rapid Response Courier Service (RRCS) runs had to be laid on, sometimes at very short notice. I had a very good relationship with the local AAC flight at RAF Wildenrath (which later moved to RAF Bruggen) and was able to task a Gazelle for some RRCS runs. We used the airstrip at Wegberg for these jobs and there was never any difficulty in finding volunteers to act as courier! Newspaper delivery to the CinC at Flagstaff House was another high profile task, especially if the papers were late. The RMC had a large number of post boxes, which used to be cleared by the PC Sqn three times a day. This was eventually reduced to a single clearance – thank goodness! There were also mountains of video tapes to be handled for BFBS TV in Koln and for distribution across BFG or return to the UK. These tapes were all time-critical so this was always something to watch (pardon the pun).
Rheindahlen was also the home of the BAOR Teleprinter Terminal, which was staffed for many years by several German civilians, under the supervision of Frau Margot van Wyngaarden. In April 1985 Margot received her 25 year certificate of service from Lt Col Peter Wescott, who was my CO based at Dusseldorf when I was OC. International Telegram traffic reduced to the point where the Teleprinter Terminal closed for good not long after this and Margot retrained, with mixed success, as a C4a Counter Clerk. I have a copy of the final service telegram sent to London.
I seemed to spend a lot of time out on the road rushing around doing the mandatory weekly FPO visits and monthly audits. My patch, as the former unit title intimated, included the FPOs west of the Rhine, namely, Ayrshire Barracks (S100A), RAF Bruggen (S125), Koln (S119), RAF(H) Wegberg (S140), Wildenrath (S142) with a mobile to Geilenkirchen (S142A) and Wickrath (S100c). The main FPO S100 had four counter positions, only two of which were staffed – by Frau Heidi Semann and a PC Op JNCO on rotation (often training). There was also a counter inside the ‘Big House’, as the JHQ building was known, designated S100B, with Herr Wilhelm (Bill) Poppels as the C4a counter clerk. This closed on 1st June 1983 as part of a Command Staff inspection Team (CSIT) review of the unit and Bill moved across the road to work at the main counter in S100. I produced a ‘Last Day’ cover to mark this event.
One of the anomalies at Rheindahlen was that the Post Room within the Big House was staffed by PC Ops on the establishment of HQ BAOR but came under the wing of the PCS Directorate for technical operational matters rather than the PC Sqn. This didn’t always work to the best advantage of service delivery.
The equilibrium changed dramatically with the implementation of CSIT recommendations. These included, inter alia, the amalgamation of 31 and 32 PC Sqns to form a single squadron with a major as OC, captain as 2IC and HQ located at Rheindahlen. I was promoted to field rank and Peter O’Rourke, was posted in as my 2IC (having earlier replaced Joe Baker as OC 31 PC Sqn). Jim Donovan was the WO1 at Dusseldorf and Bob Durie was the WO1 at Rheindahlen, having replaced Fred Simpson. The WO1s at both 31 and 32 Sqn were effectively the unit 2I/Cs and granted authority as auditing officers, so sharing the FPO visit and audit workload with their OCs.
The geographical area of my patch more than doubled overnight but the resources to undertake the mandatory visits and audits were effectively halved as the power of audit was withdrawn from the WO1s. It wasn’t long before I persuaded the Commander PCS (who had the unfortunate NATO abbreviated title of COM POST) to reinstate audit authority to the single remaining WO1 on the new establishment. The FPOs inherited from East of the Rhine were well spread out – Dulmen (S144) Dusseldorf (Carnarvon Barracks (S134) and Rhine Centre (S134A)), Emblem (S121) – with a mobile to Herrentals Naafi and RAF Laarbruch (S143). My time on the road (in an Army Mini!) increased significantly.
Options for Change and later years
The 1993 Options for Change defence cuts resulted in BAOR being replaced by the 25,000 strong British Forces Germany (BFG) in May 1994. The first Commander BAOR was Field Marshal Lord Montgomery (1945-46) and the last was General Sir Charles Guthrie (1992-94). During the 1990s and 2000s, JHQ housed the Headquarters United Kingdom Support Command (Germany) (UKSC (G)), later Headquarters British Forces Germany (HQ BFG), which was the administrative HQ of the British Army in Europe. Until June 2010 it was also home to the Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps(HQ ARRC), which was formed in 1992 from the redundant HQ 1 (BR) Corps in Bielefeld and relocated to Imjin Barracks Innsworth in Gloucestershire in 2010 (formerly RAF Innsworth).
My third posting to JHQ was from SHAPE in 1999 when Chris Finnigan and I ‘swapped’ appointments. I became SO1 Log Sp (PCS) with Bill Butt as my right-hand man. Bill had been my CO at 1 PC Regt whilst I was OC 13 PC Sqn in Soest during the late 1980s and I had formed an enormous respect for his technical sagacity. Bill was to prove as invaluable to me as he had been to Chris and his long experience and in-depth knowledge of the workings of BFG kept us on the front foot. One of the projects we completed during my short tour was the refurbishment of all FPOs in BFG to Post Office standards and corporate identity. I had started this whilst at SHAPE. As part of this project, self-inking datestamps for each BFPO location were procured, replacing the old style FPO datestamps and separate ink pads. Bill had previously been responsible for the introduction of a discrete postage payment system for intra and inter-command mails, which Royal Mail didn’t handle. The revenue collected through the sale of ‘Butt’ labels, as they were termed, then went to the MOD (who bore the costs) rather than Royal Mail (who didn’t). During this final tour I also upgraded the Command Accounts computer system and ran a pilot for counter automation. Laura Lamb was the Postal Accountant, having being promoted into the job when Tom O’Grady retired (Laura married Dutchman Ton Vlaming and they now live very happily in Canada).One of the many units served by S100 was the former Kent School at nearby Hostert. Once a monastery, then a children’s home, it was a euthanasia centre in the Nazi era. There is a graveyard and memorial to that unhappy time. It then became a military hospital (Tom Baker did his national service here), before being a secondary school. Options for Change meant there were no longer enough pupils and so it was closed and pupils absorbed by Windsor School in Rheindahlen, which also had boarding facilities. Other locations served locally by S100 were Ayrshire Barracks (North and South), Fife Barracks (Command Pay Office (closed 1996)), Hampshire Barracks, Bracht, Leuth, RAF(H) Wegberg and Wickrath MQs. All have interesting stories to relate, but space precludes the telling here.
HQ BFG left the base in July 2013 and moved to Bielefeld. Almost all of the families and soldiers had left the base by August 2013; the last family – the Harvie Family at 10 Bangor Walk – moved out of JHQ on 27 October 2013. The Rheindahlen Military Complex will be handed back to Federal Authorities on 12 December 2013, bringing to an end 60 years of service at JHQ Rheindahlen. The local German citizens have described the closure as upsetting and that many of them will be deeply saddened to see the base close and their ‘friends’ leave. A limited edition commemorative cover, with an information sheet, has been produced by BFPS and is available at www.bfps.org.uk/shop
The Supervising Office JHQ – how we linked to “The Post Room”
By Maureen Abbott ( W/Cpl M Greig 1965-67 / Mrs Jack Griffiths 1971-74 ),
with additional comments by W/Cpl Sandie Angus 1966-68 [later – Mrs Peter Golightly]
Casting my mind back over those 50-odd years, I have been helped by two long-term military friends who live close by me and from time to time we share a regular day together. When long-term friend John Jackett [ Author ] asked me for our joint memories, prompting this article – we once again put our heads together.
The JHQ buildings were opened in 1954, by the time I arrived in the Supervising Office in late 1965, “The Engine Room” was well established and controlled many offices/departments in the basement. Suitably sustained by a German canteen just along the corridor with takeaways available.
OC was (mostly) a Major – Sandie remembers Capt Robertson, aided by WO 1 Trevor Hill (RAOC), unusually our Chief Clerk was Frau Ruth Walker on the German net, myself and one other WRAC clerk who changed frequently.
Other departments directly under our control were: Printing Duplication, Stationery Library – supervised by Frau Sumner – her husband was an official JHQ photographer, allocation of duties to WRAC staff, German & military civilians which included many service wives – as indeed I was during my second tour, all of whom had registered for employment through the PCLU office. Having passed the various levels and deemed suitable for employment were allocated duties appropriately throughout JHQ.
Adjacent to us was The Post Room, run during my first tour purely by clerical military staff, simply as a mail distribution centre within JHQ. Having said that, Fran remembers that she could post a parcel and buy stamps, so there may have been a “Postie” amongst us, after all.
Names that we can remember working in there: WO 2 Yvonne Beaumont, Sgt Sandy Perry, Pte Fran Vincent (now Harris) and Pte Sandie Angus (co-author – now Golightly). Her husband-to-be Peter was also a PCS clerk upstairs with my husband-to-be Jack. For some reason – which escapes us, they were assisted by two members of the Royal Artillery – Bombardier Dave Knott and another chap we can only recall as Jimmy.
[ Author] S/Sgt Wally Damant formally opened The Post Room as an FPO ( S.100B ) in 1968, with 4 military staff – Jim Steer and Pauline Coombs are two of the names remembered, plus Frank “Tex” Metexas on the counter. He also recalls that all classes of mail were handled by clerical staff prior to PCS taking over in 1968.
Shopping facilities on Garrison included: a large NAAFI shop, amongst the German shops nearby were: a Florist, Hairdresser, Jeweller – we bought our wedding rings there. A driving test office for locals, where theory tests could be taken, identifying parts of an engine on display, as well as how to change a tyre.
Leisure facilities included occasional clothes shopping trips to Holland by PRI bus via nearby Venlo or Roermond – where Jack and I became engaged, alternatively much closer to home was Monchengladbach of course.
Chicken & chips at Fuch`s bar, Pops bar or The Shack, no cars between us, so a good walk to socialise back in those days.
Film nights at the cinema, the NAAFI club or dances at the Queensway were a much closer alternative to our WRAC accommodation along Beresford Road. In block 22 with me were my near-by friends Fran Vincent (now Harris) and June Dudman (now Trouve) Fellow WRAC names remembered from those days: Kay Connor, Dot Thornton, Pat Ansell, June Merrifield, Carol Cameron, Hazel Hetherington, Rita Hill, Hazel Davies, Cindy Wragg, Val Conlin, Lesley Jacks and Sandie Angus (now Golightly) – oh happy days!
I married Jack Griffiths at St Andrews Church in 1967, our best man was Clive Haslegrave, bridesmaid was Carol Cameron, the manager of the NAAFI club did a great job of organising our reception for over 80 guests, their very first wedding and he having just been appointed to that job. When I mentioned my bridesmaids name, it was a great surprise to me that Fran was still in touch with Carol – never connecting her as my bridesmaid all those years previously.
In 1971 having been to the PCLU office, I was very pleased to resume a similar position, Frau Ruth Walker was still there and Frau Sumner was still next door. We decided to retain our initial MQ allocation at Wickrath. Although blocks of flats, we found them very comfortable and the locals did us proud, Goulash soup from the local bar across the road, lives long in my memory!
Sgt Dennis Sweeney was now in charge of the FPO next door, still regarded by me and my colleagues as “The Post Room”,with his wife Sybil and together with John and Marjorie Jackett, we six enjoyed many social evenings in the Sgts Mess, as well as events organised by 207 Postal Unit / West Rhine Squadron, across the road.
One surprise visitor to the Garrison Sgts Mess was Bobby Charlton, I was lucky enough to obtain his autograph, signed on my BAOR drivers licence.
Many colleagues of Jack in the PCS office upstairs were keen soccer players, so it was no surprise on Sunday mornings when The Rheindahlen Rejects soccer team played their matches on F pitch, no games were allowed on Garrison pitches near the churches on a Sunday! Attending Borussia Monchengladbach home games with at least 2 car loads of supporters, some taking their sons along – if only for the half-time `Bratties`. Dennis and several `Posties` from across the road made up the eleven, plus WO 1 Pat Marshall running the line, his youngest daughter Jane made sure some half-time refreshments were available.
[ Author ] As a fellow soccer team member, I have all the players’ names and some team photos in my article attached.
Postal Accountant – BAOR From Dusseldorf to JHQ
By Laura Vlaming (Formerly Lamb)
I started in Accounts in Düsseldorf as a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) in 1984, at the age of 16. When I started, it was all done on paper by hand! Shortly afterwards I got a job taking over from the formidable Hilda Taylor, along the corridor in Mails Branch, where I worked as the records clerk / general dog’s body/tea/coffee maker, (and translating speeding and parking fines!) for a year or so. I then got a job back with Accounts, as a clerk, and stayed there until 1990/91 (Andy Anderson was my boss), when I left to work for an oil company in Düsseldorf, after which my ex-hubby (RAF guy – but Andy Anderson managed to get us a quarter in Düsseldorf!) got posted to Leuchars, in Scotland.
Whilst in Scotland (I was only there 7 months or so), I got a call from Tom O’Grady, asking if I would be interested in returning and applying for his job! Yes! When Tom had been on leave in Düsseldorf he had always, despite my very tender years, left me in charge and I had developed a lot of the forms we used in Word / Excel (Wordstar and SuperCalc before that).
I had developed a great relationship with the Commerzbank, NSB, MOD, Chesterfield and National Girobank.
I had known Tom since my parents moved to Düsseldorf in Jan 83. I remember when Tom and Renate (both good friends, R.I.P) were at our house, and one of my pet mice escaped and ran into the toilet, where Tom was – I had to holler to warn him not to harm him!
So, in 1993 or so, we moved to Mönchengladbach, where I had the weirdest job interview ever: with Tom O’Grady, Nick Wand and 2 others (one was a postie officer, but I can’t remember her name – Cathy maybe, and the other was a Work’s Council representative). Questions like: How comfortable are you with balancing the bank, communicating with the bank/NSB etc, working with spreadsheets and the computer system. It was weird, as my answers were generally along the lines of “for 6 years or so I almost always did the bank balance and enjoyed it; Mr(s). Bank / NSB / Giro Manager and I get on very well, I designed the spreadsheets etc.”
When I left the interview, I bumped into Brian Felks. I hadn’t smoked for a while but was so nervous, I cadged one off him and smoked it there and then! Needless to say, I got the job and did not require any training.
It was funny being back there, as I was basically Fez Huck’s boss, and we had not parted on good terms: I’m sure Andy remembers my parting speech to him, 2 years prior, very well.
Fez retired a month or two later, and I had Gillian McGee (RIP) and Heather as clerks. Tom and I, of course, remained in touch. We were originally in the basement, with our own little wing, opposite the maps guys (Ordnance? I remember it was the same unit Kevin March had worked with), where our main safe was.
At some point, we transferred the main bank account from the Commerzbank in Düsseldorf to the one next to the Big House, so we didn’t have to have our weekly bank run to collect the statements for the reconciliation. Bill Butt was retired then (2IC/SO3?) and had always scared the life out of me, but after I had to stand up to him once (he had asked my new clerk to do some Rugby stuff for him when I was out of the room – that didn’t go well!) things changed and I would now do anything for him.
I think Frank Lea (followed by Chris Finnigan) was in charge then, and we moved our offices to ”Ley Strasse”, the main thoroughfare in the building. After so many other FPO closing, eventually I only had 1 clerk. After a year or so (shortly after Graham Meacher took over), we moved down closer to the entrance. Our main safe was still in the basement and it took a few twists and turns, and the elevator, to get there. It took a lot of time to learn to navigate the building and not get lost!
When Graham was taking over, we had been looking at replacing the computer system, which was completely outdated and inefficient. The computer bods at MOD were involved, but I was not happy with their solutions and thought I could do better myself; so I did.
I worked on IPCAS for a while, testing it myself and with my clerk along the way. It worked perfectly, and Graham pushed to have it implemented. It was in use to the end.
It saved the Accounts Clerks about a day and a half each week, and our auditors at least the same, and was so much easier to use. I received a GEMS award for it, supported by Graham and Howard Hughes (R.I.P)
In 2002, of course, we introduced the Euro, which was quite exciting! We had to ask all of the FPOs what they needed with regards to the currency breakdown and then consolidated the data to order it. I was one of the first people outside the German banking system to actually see the Euros in person, as I went to collect them (escorted, of course)! It was all quite exciting – until it came down to physically counting it out for each FPO. Then the fun stopped. It all went incredibly smoothly though.
One funny memory: every few weeks, we’d transfer money from our regular account to an interest-paying one. I’d just call the bank and get it done. One day, I spoke to someone I had not met before, so ensured my instructions were clear: transfer 1 million (DM at the time) from this account to that account”.
He repeated my instructions to make sure he had it right. When I went to collect the statement, there was a minor discrepancy – there was MINUS one million on the account! So, I did what any self-respecting government-employed person would do: I photocopied it, highlighting the -1 million and wrote ”Oops!” on it and left it on Frank Lea’s desk when he was out of the office.
I told my clerk Gillian that I would give it a maximum of 5 minutes before he stormed in ranting. Sure enough… Of course, I had already sorted the problem: I had called the bank and happened to get the same guy, who immediately said ”Twice in such a short time! You’re the lady who called to ask me too…..”
I said that I was glad he remembered that, as it had happened in reverse, resulting in a large minus. Not a problem and the error was corrected immediately.
My general memories of MG / Rheindahlen / JHQ: when I was born, in December 1967, my parents (my dad was RCT) were based in JHQ, in the Big House and we lived on Hohenzollern Strasse. 25 years later, I was walking through those same corridors of power.
My parents were posted back to Düsseldorf in January 1983, so I went to Kent School in Hostert, taking the hour-long bus journey twice a day. That building was amazing, and there were always stories of bodies and haunted cellars! My husband and I, not too long after we moved back there from Scotland (93, I think), bought an old quarter next to the (now) new soccer stadium (it was in the planning at that time, but not built). I was always well integrated into the German community, being able to speak the language fluently. We always shopped locally and had lots of friends there.
One very close friend is Trish Osmond, whom I have known since 1989 or so back in Düsseldorf. She is now a common face on German TV, having played in several TV commercials, theatre plays and German TV Series (Tatort, and on Stefan Raab’s show), as well as a part in the film Siberiawith Willem Dafoe! She worked in JHQ too, along with her husband (R.I.P) Alan. I often used to take the bus to work from Dorthausen, which was generally filled to bursting with school children. As I was allowed to take my dog (rottweiler Wesson), it meant she was also on the bus – and loved it! She was thoroughly fussed over by the children and it made for a very pleasant journey.
I clearly remember the little shop near the NAAFI that sold absolutely EVERYTHING you could imagine: gardening supplies, sweets, candles, sewing supplies, bird cages, and, my favourite when we visited friends when I was about 10, little firecrackers. I think it was either called or at least referred to, as Aladdins Cave. In 1997 my husband and I (thankfully!) split up, so I remained there by myself. A few years later, I met Ton and left Accounts in September (I think) 2002 to join him in the Netherlands, where we got married a few years later, in 2004. In January 2011 we moved to New Brunswick, Canada, where we still live happily today.
30 years on – A week in Dusseldorf JHQ, June 2009
Jack Griffiths (RIP) & John Jackett [ Edited: March 2022 ]
With 5 postings between us from 1964 to 1980, name dropping will spill out of many of the pages that follow, we firstly apologise to those who were mere mortals at our first meeting and achieved greatness in the years that followed. We mean no disrespect when referring to Col/Capt so and so without mention of MBEs etc, having raised (and set aside) almost two lines in PC deference to the GOC of 1974, we mean no disrespect.
Secondly to those who may have been omitted – not intentionally we assure you, please allow for our present ages and not least – that 30-year gap – or more, to some colleagues..
Having planned a week of German nostalgia since the turn of the year, Marjorie Jackett insisted that the trip should go ahead despite breaking her femur in April. With Cath Griffiths off to Corfu with her friend, John joined Jack for their flight from Birmingham to Dusseldorf on Sunday 31st May, a 78-seater conveying just 15 adults and 3 children, not exactly overcrowded!
Picking up our hire car and switching on the sat nav, we duly arrived at the Hotel Michaelangelo without mishap! The start of the week was warm and shirt sleeves was the order. A short stroll to what was to become our local for a couple of beers for supper and the prospect of finding the Rhine Centre and Golzheim MQs on Whitsun Monday – June 1, was looked forward to.
On Tuesday Brian “Andy” Anderson (Maj Rtd) had very kindly agreed to meet us and show us around. The sat nav duly obliged in taking us to Rheindahlen and in warm sunny weather we showed our passports to gain entry at the security point, one of many by the way. In the hour that we had to spare, we had a look around.
John was WO i/c FPO Trenchard Road shopping centre 1972-74 (now a thrift shop), today’s FPO is still close to the BP filling station but now turned around 90 degrees and is directly across the road from the NAAFI
The rectangle of shops familiar to all who served on the opposite side is still there, now UK shops – travel agents/car salesrooms in the main, rubbing shoulders with the local traders.
Jack worked in the PCS Directorate twice, in 1964-67 with Col Macbeth and staff, then in 1971-74 with Cols. Larry Bennett and Joe Holmes. Other remembered Officers were: Maj Baxter, Maj Streatfield, Maj Kelly, Capt Youdell, Capt Platt, – to name a few.
Dennis Sweeney and Frank “Tex” Metexas are remembered as staffing the Post Room in the basement during our joint tour between 1972 and 74, `Tex was a soccer addict and had many a supper with us in South West extension.
We turned to our right and at the traffic lights came upon the main sorting office, known as FPO S.100 at BFPO 40, the original 1955 building was first extended in 1974, and again in 1998, following the closure of Dusseldorf. During my tour, West Rhine Sqn. of 8 Command PCC Depot was commanded by Capts Bill Whiting followed by Bernard Miles. One of the longest to serve as the WO i/c, was WO 1 Pat Marshall with Ted Ottaway as his no 2 – later Mike Whitehead, notable others in our time were: Geoff Irons, Tony James, Alan Johnson, Mac MacColl, Gerry Maguire, John Peters, Scouse Spence, Graham Warden, Barry Wilding, Harry Wylie and the unforgettable Di Waddington, the life and soul of many a social evening. [ Many years later to return as OC ]
“Little England” was extremely well served with 5 primary schools, 2 secondary schools, a full-size swimming pool with Malcolm Club café in support, 2 cinemas, a theatre, as well as the 2 NAAFI shops – contrast that with our visit 30 years later.
Many of the buildings remain, some added to as modern 3 story accommodation blocks, already believed to be empty, hardly a uniform is seen in “The Big House”. The post room / FCO 1 (across the road) is found to handle perhaps 1 actual classified item per week, Jack (and many others) balanced on hundreds of items per day.
A daily container of ALL MAILS departs BFPO London and arrives at Dulmen each day, various destination mails in individual wheeled cages, are then transferred by stores vehicles and so reach those FPOs / military stations still in Europe, 4 more of which will close next year, bringing the total to less than 20.
Andy and S/Sgt Gary Walker RLC (formerly RE), look at our album of olde photos in the middle of S.100, in what was a very busy area 30 years ago. Gary prints off todays Blueys – Air mail letters sent by computer link from FAMILY AND FRIENDS, the blank airmail type forms are fed into the printer and then a second machine folds and seals them, ready for delivery later today or tomorrow – MAGIC !
John Jackett RE (PCS) – Stationed at Rheindahlen: from 1972 to 1974
“Ich bin ein Rheindahlener“, with a nod to JFK for my intro.
I am indebted to many colleagues for their help, not only with covering all the 60 years during which we provided much more than simply Post and Newspapers to “Little England”, but giving me the insight to portray our “Postie” stories. Firstly as military providers but also on behalf of the many families throughout those years, who enjoyed the wonderful facilities available to us all.
Ich bin vielen Kollegen für ihre Hilfe dankbar, nicht nur die 60 Jahre abzudecken, in denen wir „Little England“ viel mehr als nur Post und Zeitungen geliefert haben, sondern mir auch den Einblick gegeben haben, unsere „Postie“-Geschichten zu portätieren. Erstens als Militärversorger, aber auch im Namen der vielen Familien in diesen Jahren, die die wunderbaren Einrichtungen, die uns allen zur Verfügung standen, geniessen konnten.
Glossary of abbreviations:
BAOR- British Army of the Rhine (MOD establishments throughout North West Europe)
BFPO – British Forces Post Office designated address: Rheindahlen Garrison = BFPO 40 (also later) BFPO 140
BFS – British Frontier Service (random customs clearance of mails)
CDO – Central Distribution Office – for Mails etc
DAPS – (later) DDPCS Our Assistant / Deputy Director (of all things Postal) and staff in JHQ COM-POST: 1982 further title changed to Commander PCS (NWE) (Comd PCS (NWE))
DBP – Deutsche Bundespost
DMs – Deutsche Marks (Currency) was replaced in 2002 by the EURO
E-BLUEY – A Hybrid Mail software application to provide the British Forces Post Office, a service for sending and receiving letters to and from serving UK military personnel their family and friends worldwide
FCO – Forces Courier office – secure location within an FPO for Classified items
FDCs – First day covers of new stamps
FPO – Forces Post Office
GOC – General Officer Commanding
JHQ – Joint Headquarters aka “The Big House”
MOD – Ministry of Defence
MGMSO – “In this respect”: Civilian drivers with a former military connection, housed in military accommodation and driving military vehicles, were very reliable and could load and Sunday newspapers unsupervised.
NSB – National Savings Bank
OE – Office of Exchange – mail via the civilian net
PBT – Movement of mails etc by rail throughout BAOR “Postie” :
RE / RLC (PCS) – Member of the Royal Engineers (later) Royal Logistic Corps (Postal and courier service),
RLE – Registered Letter enclosure – a separate controlled room within an FPO.
RSS – Road Service Schedules of mail vehicles.
SKC – Military cinemas e.g.: The Globe and Astra, later: SSVC tapes for direct broadcasts.
TRS – Trunk road service – conveying mails by night.
UPO – Unit Post Orderly, with authentication to collect all mails for his Unit / Section.
WRAC Womens – Royal Army Corps, our colleagues.
PCS Service – How the “Posties” delivered
From its inception in 1954 and throughout its almost 60 years of history, all classes of mail, UK newspapers, magazines (pp WH Smith), SKC films together with SSVC video tapes, were delivered to Rheindahlen Garrison, by members of the RE / RLC (PCS) with surety and frequency, affected only by weather and UK print-union disputes.
PCS support came under two umbrellas. From at least February 1955, our ADAPS / DDAPS (later) DDPCS with his staff officers and clerks, were housed in “The Big House” (JHQ). From there, all PCS matters affecting the whole of NW Europe were controlled. Whether the change from summer to winter of aircraft schedules, a switch from Lufthansa to British Airways to carry Air Mails, this would be dealt with by “Traffic” staff. “Personnel” was a different matter, instructions would be raised and distributed, and perhaps a different voice – at the applicable level, would be on the telephone to relay the changes.
Just across the road beside the traffic lights of Queens Avenue, was the main Forces Post Office building (FPO S.100). Under various Unit titles, FPOs in the general area being `West of the Rhine` were commanded from offices towards the rear of the building, separate from the mail sorting areas, by a Major and in later years with a Captain as second in command. From S.100 the Warrant Officer in charge would be acutely aware of his immediate boss in the nearby office and the Assistant or Deputy Director, just across the road over in JHQ – no pressure then – in sending out mobile FPOs to support several outposts, including the British Embassy at Bonn.
“The Post Room” under the control of the Supervising office of JHQ, had been operated by military clerks as simply a mail distribution office from the word go, including ‘trolley dollies’ who operated the internal mail distribution along the miles of corridors. In 1968 RE (PCS) staff formally opened FPO S.100.B (closed in 1983), run by a PCS SNCO with a couple of PC Ops and a civilian counter clerk. Direct control, never by the Unit across the road, varied through the years between the adjacent Supervising office until in later years, very unusually, was directly under the control of DDPCS office upstairs.
Major changes took place during those 60 years as to how Mails etc arrived at Rheindahlen. In the post-war period, military addresses had been prefixed B.A.O.R 34 for MG town, where an FPO had existed at Rheinbahnstrasse, (the building is currently The Labour Court / Arbeitsgericht). In 1957 the BFPO address system was introduced, identifying every MOD establishment around the newly built garrison as being: BFPO 40.
Classified items (Confidential and above) were accompanied by PCS couriers, some directly off UK flights – both RAF and civilian carriers, arriving at JHQ and vice versa, overnight security in the JHQ vault is explained in a separate article by Graham Warden. Air Mail and UK newspapers arrived, overall, via Lohausen airport at Dusseldorf. Parcel mail handling saw the most changes. Up to the 1960s mail trains from Liverpool street station, via the Hook of Holland, arrived directly into MG station. Each evening a PBT service, initially MG to Hannover with a reverse PBT coming south to MG, in later years a shorter route enabled a turn-around at Herford. It is clear that PCS staff, DBP staff and local German railway staff worked well together, with stories of goulash soup (at least!!) being enjoyed at the railway station canteen.
By the 1970s everything for BFPO 40 circulated via Dusseldorf. Twice daily Air Mails, regular classified mails, early morning newspaper flights all from the UK, together with air mails from some European MOD locations, also surface parcel mail by container lorries, often 3 per day in the run-up to Christmas, from Home Postal Depot in London, arrived at Caernarvon barracks Dusseldorf. Daily RSS from there, allowed both military and MSO driven vehicles, accompanied by couriers – WRAC (PCS) colleagues in the main, providing requisite safeguards to all of their cargoes, also serving local RAF stations at Wildenrath and Bruggen, delivering all classes of mails alongside those sought after UK newspapers, many vehicle routes serving multiple MOD destinations, in a similar manner.
Return journeys to Dusseldorf at least twice per day, coincided with outgoing links. Air mails were despatched to the UK twice per weekday, also regularly to other European destinations with MOD commitments. Inter-BAOR mails (TRS) were transported overnight in green army coaches (with seats removed), the furthest destination by road being Hannover – which involved a rest-day turn-around, the opposite direction TRS staff taking their rest period at Dusseldorf. Shorter TRS routes turned around and their mails were next day deliveries from Dusseldorf by up to 20 daily RSS routes. Ensuring that all mail, alongside daily UK newspapers, were available throughout BAOR each working day – weather and print-union strikes permitting!
In 1979, following concern over the morning collection/delivery times to JHQ, from FPO S.100 across the road, the simplified BFPO 140 came into use, meaning that every item for JHQ was pre-bagged for direct delivery.
In the middle of the 1980s, morale received a huge lift with the speeding up of personal mail, following the installation at S.100 of an e-bluey machine. In simple terms, it is a means of sending a letter by text to a serving member using the address indicator BFPO 40 – or similar, for anywhere in the world to an FPO which had a similar machine in place. Clicking “Send” and being delivered next post, the receiving machine having sealed the special software print-out, the end product being very similar in shape and size to a single sheet light-weight Air Mail letter.
The PCS Accounts team, previously based in Dusseldorf also moved to JHQ. Initially housed in the basement, later having two different office locations, it was in 1993 that Laura Lamb was interviewed to re-join as the Postal Accountant. Besides updating all computer technology used in balancing FPO accounts (remembering that meant frequent contact with: Commerzbank, National Savings bank, Giro manager, let alone the PCS Officer responsible for where a monetary discrepancy was discovered at the close of day) the end result was a saving of at least a day and a half per working week. During her tenure the Euro was introduced in 2002, the task of distributing a working float to every FPO in NW Europe was taken in her stride as she joined a team of PCS Officers in that laborious undertaking.
Although the CDO at Dusseldorf closed in September 1994, mails etc still evolved there for a short time, some parcel mails were routed through Ayrshire barracks as a temporary CDO, until planning permission was granted, and the official opening of S.100 was in December 1998 – these things take time, the world over. The enlarged S.100 with a bespoke conveyor system became the CDO for all classes of mails exchange, covering MOD bases on both the East and West banks of the Rhine.
At the end of 2007 with fewer MOD establishments within NW Europe, MOD took the view that multiple agencies running half-empty vehicles to BAOR, was a money saving opportunity for the mail distribution service to be combined with the contracted store’s service, resulting in an overland overnight daily service via Dulmen.
Local mail on the German net involved the DBP, civil mail was sorted and bagged at S.100 and delivered to Krefeld for onward circulation.
The BFS was co-located for Customs purposes at the CDO mails centre at Caernarvon barracks, Dusseldorf.
The last mail clearance from Rheindahlen garrison was on 13th September 2013.
PCS involvement within the Garrison – Facilities for everyone
UPOs arrived at the rear entrance of FPO S.100 to collect: mail, packets and parcels – in the case of a major Unit, already bagged up and labelled, maybe SKC films etc. If they had something to post, wanted to purchase the latest first-day stamp issues, send a telegram, send a registered letter, or collect classified items, they needed to come around to the main door affording access to the four counter positions, as well as collection points.
Having completed mail collections and any cash business – all transacted in DMs / Euros, converted to sterling by the counter clerks, each returned to their home base and handed out all mail items as addressed.
Multiple military bus routes conveyed serving personnel and their families to the Garrison and were used by those wishing to use the postal facilities at the Shopping Centre FPO on Trenchard Road, next to the largest NAAFI in the world, meet up with friends, or go shopping at one of the many shops opposite. Perhaps someone stopping to fill their car at the BP garage opposite. All 3 FPOs provided identical counter facilities at various locations within the Garrison. Besides Trenchard Road, beaming `Tex smiling all day in the basement of JHQ for all office staff.
When the revamped S.100 was opened in January 1974, four counter positions were available, having its own car park, but a step or two away from those NAAFI buses. All offering virtually the same facilities as any post office back in the UK.
Various currency restrictions applied from time to time, for instance: If `Grandma wanted to send £10.00 as a birthday present, that sum had to be five postal orders of £2.00 each, made out to a military person, who could cash them at the rate of just ONE per day. In the other direction, postal orders up to the value of £20.00 were on sale, GIRO transfer was introduced alongside long-standing POSB savings accounts.
Queues often formed on the morning that FDCs were available, avid stamp collectors who required their covers “franked” in a special manner, or buying the “Traffic Light” strip down the side of the sheet, knew just what they wanted.
Revaluation of the DM against Sterling offered a chance to save some money – big time! Withdrawing money one week and depositing it again the following week, or vice versa, when the exchange rate had changed or delaying the cashing of a cheque, offered an opportunity to increase the value of your savings. Obviously, this involved keeping a close eye on the financial market to evaluate whether the change would be favourable, as it was not advertised in advance. In June 1973, following a revaluation one FPO banked DM 80,000 (approx. £12,000) – of which £4,920.17 went into National Savings.
`Random Memories` – mostly good, of serving at JHQ and S.100, also the PBT (Inter-BAOR train) Submissions by Graham Meacher MBE, Peter Redfern with Don Scott and Simon Fenwick, Roy Walker MBE and Jim Andrews, Diane Waddington (extract from Doug Swanson article), Wally Damant, Graham Warden and Gerry Maguire, Larry Peacock, Karen Cattell Deves, Mick Gilbertson, Liam Stansfield, Bill Groom and Stuart Cambridge, David Binnington, David Vautier, Sandra Lemmon and John Jackett (Author).
[ Author: This sequence is completely random, based entirely on `memories` found in my filing system ]
Graham Meacher – As promised, I have been doing a bit of digging and come up with the following items about Rheindahlen whilst I was OC 32 PC Sqn RE (1983-85), initially as a Capt then as a Maj when 31 Sqn was absorbed and 32 took over all the FPOs East and West of the Rhine (plus Emblem).I wrote an article a few years ago to coincide with the closure of JHQ in 2012 and this is attached under a separate title. It contains a lot of detail about the PCS set-up during my time.This is a photograph of 5 of the German civilian staff at S100 being presented with LS awards by Col Len Calcutt in 1983, all names are given below.
[ Author: Heidi and Bill – either side of Graham were my two counter clerks in Trenchard Road 1972-74 ]
Another community-related event was a 100km sponsored walk over a weekend, which we organised to raise money for a local children’s home – St Josefs Haus:
Rheindahlen was also the home of the NWE Teleprinter Terminal, which was staffed for many years by several German civilians, under the supervision of Frau Margot van Wyngaarden. In April 1985 Margot received her 25 year certificate of service from Lt Col Peter Wescott, who was my CO based at Dusseldorf when I was OC. International Telegram traffic reduced to the point where the Teleprinter Terminal closed for good not long after this and Margot retrained, with mixed success, as a C4a Counter Clerk. I have the final service telegram sent to London (below):
On September 12th 1985, it was my pleasure to welcome the lady mayoress of Barnet, whose area at that time included our Home Postal Depot at Inglis Barracks Mill Hill, London NW 7.
[ Author Now a housing estate, HPD moved to RAF Northolt in 2007 ]1st Photo: Sgt Phil Howard, Cllr Mrs Barbara Langstone, Maj Meacher, SSgt Roy Walker2nd Photo: Capt Peter (Paddy) O’Rourke (2ic), Mr Langstone, Cllr Mrs Barbara Langstone, Maj Graham Meacher (OC) & WO1 Bob Durie (Sqn WO)
With my BFPS hat on, I produced a commemorative cover to mark the closure of JHQ on 12 Dec 2013 and one of the versions was signed by the Norbert Dude, Lord Major of the City of Monchengladbach, who received copy No1 as a memento (https://bfps.org.uk/product/cc21a-signed-by-norbert-bude/)
Peter Redfern, Don Scott and Simon Fenwick I have loads of memories of Rheindahlen. Posted there 63-68.Arrived with Alan Chapman, Ray Milford and others.A sapper one day and LCpl UK courier the next. No-one turned up to meet me at Gatwick – clapped out J-Van had broken down.Plenty of stories of PBT – John Doherty (RIP) fell off. Terrible in winter – a few swift cliners in the bar at Hannover Station then on to grotty transit block.Christmas function – played the guitar and Joe Smith sang “I saw her standing there” – too loud for the oldies.Took UK courier Wally Damant to Roermond and got in a fight with the Dutch. Kenny Quinn got a bust lip. It was Tom Finney’s fault.Went to the Shack every Sunday and got blathered.JSO canteen next to the block was great for cheap beer. Dick Chappel got married on World Cup final day 66 so we missed the match. Went to the JSO with Union Jack afterwards-great!Got caught in the swimming pool with my future wife by RMP – reprimanded by Garrison Commander Col Porteus VC – an honour to meet him, even though the conversation was mostly `one-sided`!Met my wife of 56 years Anne as well as some good friends I am still in touch with: Kenny Quinn, Ray Milford, Dick Chappel, Don Scott, Les Smith and John Douglas who married Jean from the teleprinter room. They moved to NZ and have just retired.Many more good nights in assorted drinking dens including the RAF bar – climbed in the back room window because we weren’t members. One New Year’s eve I was on the up PBT and met the down crew at Hannover station (Dave Rutherford, Alan Chapman among them) who were smashed and wouldn’t get out of the lift. We managed to get them on the train but later found out they crashed out and woke up in Düsseldorf having overcarried the mail for other stops!! Bit of a stink about that – not sure what the outcome was.Don has been a contributor to the story of the PBT train, conveying overnight mail, the total compilation –During the 1960s parcel mails arrived by train from the UK and were offloaded in Monchengladbach station by Posties from local units. These mails were moved to Germany, via Hook of Holland from Liverpool St. station. Many a beer and goulash soup were consumed from the German railway canteen. Staffing the nightly PBT from MG included: Dave Harmer, Tom Finney, Bob Mckeever, Wally Damant, Ross Jardine, Peter RedfernMick Gilbertson, Don Scott, John (`Doc) Doherty, Ted Hartigan, Fred Toker, and Jim Tuck. PBT details Inter BAOR mails to MG station, mail train departing daily @ : 19.00 hrs. In the earlier 1960s, two PBTs overlapped each other “Down and Up”. Ex MG staff taking a break in Hannover before returning the next night – and so on.MG routing: Initially moved to Dusseldorf sidings – with red-light district scenario, awaiting German mail train through-link to Duisburg where all mails were loaded from CDO Dusseldorf, next stop Dortmund, then Munster, terminating with a days turn-around at Hannover. The 2nd PBT southbound taking the reverse route. By the late 1960s, this had changed to a same night return journey, to and from Herford arriving back around 07.30, duty personnel then had a full day off to resume another night shift. Simon Fenwick – expands: Post WW2 – BAOR Postal: The Base Army Post Office 8, had moved from Brussels and had opened as the Zone Postal Depot (later renamed 101 ZPD) in Herford by 8 January 1946. It was served on a daily basis by rail from Calais to Herford, a service that remained until 1947 when the postal route was switched from Calais to the Hook of Holland. Mails were distributed from Hereford to the Field Post Offices attached to formations through road and rail services. Travelling Post Offices (TPOs) – 1950’s. In the early 1950’s RE Transportation established a train service between the Hook of Holland and Germany. A Travelling Post Office (TPO) was attached to the train to carry mails 09/06/2022, 13:41 Royal Engineers Museum – The Corps and British Army of the Rhine (1945-80) – Part 18 file:///J:/REM/corpshistory/rem_corps_part18.htm 8/8 between the Hook of Holland and Herford. In May 1956 TPOs were established on a route that ran Dusseldorf-Herford-Hamburg and back. All the TPO services had ceased by 1959.Security Courier Services: 1952 The idea that the Army Postal Service should carry the classified mail (usually carried by the Royal Signals) was mooted and it was agreed that trials for such a service take place in 1952. The trials proved successful so in 1954 the responsibility for the carriage of classified mails in BAOR was transferred to the Army Postal Service by 1960 that responsibility was extended worldwide and the Forces Courier Service was formed.
Roy Walker and Jim Andrews – As 2i/c of 99 PC Sqn under the command of Di Waddingtion, I was tasked with moving the CDO from Düsseldorf when it finally closed, into temporary accommodation in Ayrshire Barracks, which used to belong to 79 Railway Sqn. Pioneers were drafted in to build a platform to allow the unloading and loading of the mail container to/from Mill Hill. This was a completely manual process having no MHE equipment. While this was happening, a building application was submitted to the Monchengladbach planning office, for an extension to be built onto the main sorting office at Rheindahlen, which was to include a new bespoke MHE conveyor system for the movement of mails from container to container. On completion of the build, the CDO was moved from Ayrshire Barracks into the main sorting office. I believe the year was 1997. The picture (below) of SSgt Gary Walker in the sorting office in Rheindahlen, shows him standing by the ebluey machine, which I installed.
During an earlier tour as SNOC I/C S100 in 1985/86, we had Cilla Black (photo below: still from Betamax video) visit the office with her show Surprise Suprise, surprising Spr Mark Searle for his 21st birthday arranged by his mother, in retirement he is a Blackpool area taxi driver. Bob Durie was the WO1.
Jim recalls the two evenings, very well –It was `Shaggy` Searles 21st birthday. All attendees had a ball. London weekend television, hosted a huge p*ss up in the copper kettle, in the Altstadt. Sadly, by the time they started filming, everyone was too drunk and unruly to continue, so we had to do it all again the following night, in a 16th-century converted Mill near Rheindahlen, where the flow of ale was a bit more controlled. My main memory of the second night was Steve ‘Windy’ Miller, letting one rip, while Cilla was doing a rendition of, “Ee you were a mucky kid”. Bobby was not amused. I am sure there must be a video of the show somewhere? I had a copy for years but now lost. Wow, 35 years since that awful newsflash the Herald of Free Enterprise rolled over on departure from Zeebrugge. I was in JHQ Rheindahlen at the time, and following the awful news, we were making rapid response trips to Belgium because there were a lot of military personnel or their families involved. There were an awful lot of tragic stories that came out of that disaster. So many lives needlessly lost. One of my memories was of a neighbour a couple of doors away from me who had his brother over, the brother had survived the disaster and been complicit in the rescue of others, he went home, to Hungerford, received as a hero then became a victim of the Hungerford massacre later that year. Sometime later that same month the IRA bombed my camp, a mere 100 metres from my married quarter, my children were asleep when the bomb went off. The windows were blown in and the window frames and glass landed on top of the boy’s beds, they didn’t even wake up. Janice, my wife at the time was carrying a tray with cups of tea with some biscuits across the living room floor, she was toppled but happily uninjured, but our nightcap was destroyed, I was on the phone with my sister Christine when the bomb went off. I will never forget the fear and confusion at that moment. My sister said something like “what the #*# was that then I put the phone down on her. Janice was quite cool and said I’m OK. I checked the children, Hayley was crying, not hurt just frightened, Nick and James were asleep and wondered what the fuss was about. My neighbour whose name has been long forgotten knocked on my door and said, come on mate we need to go and help. So off we went to E mess where the car bomb containing around 300lb of explosive had exploded. The bomb destroyed E Mess, which was a multi-national officers’ mess. Sadly two German waitresses were killed, and the building was flattened but the damage was only half as bad as it might have been. Because the sleeping unit of the IRA had parked the Volvo 460 the wrong way around so the blast was directed away from, and not toward the building. Aren’t memories of your working life quite boring?Diane Waddington – also reflects on a night of terror: Hello John, I note Col Doug Swanson was in JHQ when there was a bomb, I think about 1978 if I recollect correctly, it was in a car parked in the car park opposite the NAAFI and the fuel tank had been removed and stuffed with explosives? It was made safe. I was in Dusseldorf, 73/76 (with you!) when a device went off outside the cinema- can’t remember the name but it was not the one on the corner near the RMP place? I and a few other postie mates had just walked past it, it was in a car parked in the cinema car park, it went off just as we arrived in our accommodation block which was not far away. We were very lucky. Also, at the same time, Feb 74 was the M62 bomb which killed 11 people. Judith Ward was arrested and charged with planting the device. She was IRA and had served in the WRAC (not a postie I think she was signals). When her trial started, not sure of the date, the IRA made threats to the WRAC and all the servicewomen in JHQ (not sure about other locations) were all moved to 2 accommodation blocks under 24 hrs guard until the trial had finished – a bloody squeeze I can tell you. I spent a week sleeping on the floor. Hope this helps, Di[ Author – extract from Col Doug Swanson longer article]On an evening in the summer of 1978, we were at home in our quarter when the door was knocked with a sense of urgency. A young Military Police NCO told us there was an IRA Bomb in the NAAFI car park some 80 yards from our house. Get all your doors and windows open and then evacuate the area to the far end of the street. This we did with a bit of concern as our daughter, Sam was at the cinema on the far side of the garrison. As we assembled at the end of the street, we were told to make our way to the Visiting Officers’ Mess where we would get food and some kind of accommodation for the night if needed. On arrival at the mess, we phoned Dick Platt who was staying in B Mess at the other end of the garrison and arranged for him to collect Samantha from the cinema and take her back to his room. In the meantime, the mess was starting feeding and organising beds for mums with children and blankets for the rest of us. The manager, who was a retired Gunner Major, needed little encouragement to start accepting chits at his bar as in most folks’ haste to evacuate we had brought no cash. It was a pretty good evening in the Mess that around 11 pm drew to a close when we were told there had been a controlled explosion and we could go home. Apparently, the bomb should have exploded the day before during shopping hours but had failed. We phoned Dick and as we arrived home he arrived with Samantha. A different evening that was a fine example of the Army, RAF and Civilians jointly managing a very difficult, sensitive, and dangerous situation very well.
An RAF Police Officer recorded his find thus – On my second day in Germany, I spotted such a model in that colour, brand new, parked in the NAAFI car park. My heart was lost. I peered into it, got on my hands and knees to inspect its underside, stroked the smooth bodywork, tried to door handle to see if it was locked (it was), and gazed at it for many minutes lost in my dreams. That same evening the entire area was cordoned off when it was discovered that the car contained 500 lbs of high explosive, it had been planted there several days before by the IRA but had failed to explode. Earlier that week, eight military barracks from Monchengladbach to Herford had already been bombed in a coordinated attack, this one was planned to be “spectacular”, but its detonator failed to function. I’ve never been a fan of the BMW since!
Wally Damant -John, just to let you know I was a SSgt i/c postroom. The postroom (S100B) did not open under PCS until 1968 the actual date I cannot recall. Yes, the postroom was staffed by a Sgt and Pte clerical and PCS S/Sgt i/c plus three PCS ops. Jim Steer and Pauline Coombs WRAC Sadly other names slip my memory. Perhaps Jim Steer might be able to help? Regards Wally.[Author] Jim Steer has suffered health problems and I am unable to contact him.
JHQ Vault – PCS Security issues, particularly regarding BE Bonn By Graham Warden, with additional comments by Gerald (Gerry) Maguire
[Overview by Author – Classified items in transit and without a 24/7 overnight PCS secure storage facility, needed to be safely stored – in this case, the JHQ Vault.]
When the UK inbound courier arrived in Rheindahlen, the next despatch to BE Bonn would inevitably be “tomorrow morning”, meaning a trip to the JHQ vault to safely store those white bags overnight. Conversely, this would also have happened at the close of the day, with no late departure outbound possible to the UK that day. Graham writes – During the 1973 rebuild of S.100, designed with technical drawings of bespoke lighting systems, etc by Bill Whiting and Ivor Thomas, following their Clerk of Works course.
The move back from our temporary home at Ayrshire Barracks to the new S.100 building was led by Ted Ottaway, leaving me as NCO i/c Ayrshire barracks.Early each morning, usually the Sgt who would deliver to BE Bonn, transferred all FCS mails from the Vault back to S.100. The JHQ Security Guard being on hand to open up – easier said than done, recalls Gerry. In an RCT-operated pool vehicle, the nominated courier set off according to RSS transporting those classified items, calling in at BFBS Cologne on the way. Enjoying lunch in the canteen attached to the Embassy, the long working day ended when they arrived back at Rheindahlen. Gerry recalls some scary journeys, newly qualified WRAC drivers being unused to German autobahn driving, having to take the wheel himself – happy days!Both BFBS and BE Bonn had the luxury of two PCS visits Mon-Sat, the FCO mails only from S.100, whilst a separate RSS conveyed mail and newspapers from Dusseldorf.
UK Courier schedules – Graham outlines: I certainly did my share, usually opting for the Friday out / Monday back, giving me a weekend in the UK. BAOR departure flights varied from Dusseldorf, Bruggen, or Wildenrath – depending on carrier/availability. Landing in the UK may be at Luton, Gatwick or Brize Norton. We were always allocated two adjoining seats, with those white bags taking the spare next to the Courier. In bad weather, I recall sitting for hours in arrivals, waiting for a vehicle from Mill Hill to collect me from “Up North”. Larry Peacock brought “PCS Furniture” to the new building in 1974 –Thanks John, await details of “Rheindahlen” to put in The Posthorn newsletter.
I remember when they opened the new Post office. A WO1 (who I can’t remember), me (then a Corporal) and `Ginge Allen, travelled each day from Dusseldorf installing all the 48 box letter sorting frames, multiple drop bag fittings and date stamp machine. There were a number of design faults.At the entrance, they had electric sockets proud of the wooden protection on the walls. Needless to say, we managed to knock both sets of sockets off the wall with our new parcel skips moving equipment in. There was also a very small conveyor for loading mail. it was easier to throw the bags on than use it. Cheers, Larry Peacock, Karen Cattell Deves – Happy Days.
Worked in PCS Branch in the Big House with Colonel Wescott, Major Wand, Major Whittaker, WO2 Ron, annoying and now have a Brain freeze and have forgotten his name (must be my age LOL) and Eddie Docherty who I took over from. Belgie Bar on a Friday. Happy days then moved over to 99 PC Sqn RLC when I got promoted to SSgt. Had a married quarter in Flint Drive and loved that house had a bar in the cellar.
Mick Gilbertson – I Joined 207 PCCU RE in 68 and did the PBT with Dave Harmer, Bob Mckeever and Tom Finney. Long but happy days. Remember coming back down the line and getting into Duss and no one on the platform so I had to get off and the train left. Only to find the Postie on the wrong platform. Got back to Rhine D about midday. Good job but cold in Winter on the train.
Liam Stansfield – Hi John – having read one of your earlier “Draft reports”, wow lots of memories for us both. The BXO at Dulmen (Inter BAOR transit of Mails by Stores routes) opened in 2008, I remember one of my civvies in Osnabruck having a heart attack just before Christmas 2007 and helping set up BXO Dulmen just afterwards and working there just before Osnabruck closed.I was the last postie in Osnabruck and also “the big house”, I also helped close down: BFPO`s 15/30/31/35/40/44/47 and 140. When you visited in 2009 I was stationed there it was probably my wife working at S.100 when Andy Anderson showed you around. I also remember working at Ayrshire barracks while the new CDO was being built. The Deutsche Post part is wrong all the mail for the Isodet (BFPO 105) and Germany civil mail was sorted and bagged at BFPO 40 and delivered to Deutsche Post in Krefeld for onward delivery. Deutsche Post did do a drop for items that they couldn’t deliver on camp. After JHQ closed this got moved to Gutersloh then down to Sennelager. I might still have all the details on a hard drive for the Deutsche Post as I wrote all the administrative orders and idiot guides for the move. If you want me to read anything I’m more than happy to. My first posting to JHQ was in 1997 and apart from 2002 to 2006, I spent all my time in Germany till 2017, had a year in South Cerney and my last 4 years in HQ BFPO in Ruislip. I also helped set up Sennelager as the new MDC when Dulmen closed. When Osnabruck was coming to an end a book was produced about the garrison and history. I can remember being in a briefing reference the draw-down of JHQ and the subject being brought up then. I think – but not sure (ex Maj) Pete Doherty who was in charge of the big house Admin was thinking of doing the same thing as I know he spent many years in JHQ and he moved up to Bielefeld when JHQ closed. Hope this helps
Bill Groom and Stuart Cambridge –Bill Groom tells me: Although I was serving in Dusseldorf from 1986, my future wife Kim was already at JHQ in the DPCCs office `upstairs` alongside of Pam Shearing. Soon after our wedding, I got a posting from Dusseldorf to S.100, followed by a transfer across the road, where I became the Sgt in charge of the “Post Room” in the basement of JHQ, moving from S.100 across the road, for a two-year tour in 1988, leaving on posting towards the end of 1990. So it was in February 1987 my wife and I were married at St Andrew’s Church, attendants were children of her Chief Clerk Stuart Cambridge. Kim (Kaye) having worked in JHQ whilst I was stationed at Dusseldorf. We were given the Commander BAOR Daimler Staff Car and his driver for use from church to reception, held in the Dutch PMC. Following our marriage, Kim continued to work as a clerk in DDPCS upstairs in JHQ, until our children arrived over the next few years, both born at BMH RAF Wegberg.My son was born at RAF Wegberg in July 1988.My daughter was born in July 1990 also at RAF Wegberg.[ Wedding photos especially with the Daimler >>>>>>>>>>> / would fit in here very nicely? ]
Stuart Cambridge – John, I was WO2 CC DDPCS JHQ 85 – 88 with Peter Wescott DDPCS, Majs Peter Cussons and Barry Linden and Sgt Kim Kaye, Sgt Bill Groom was NCO I/c JHQ post room. Kim and Bill married during this period at one of the churches with my three children as bridesmaids and page boy. Happy times Stuart.
David Binnington – Some `Blasts from the past` of who I knew at S100 from 65 to 69. So here goes: Pete Redfern, Kenny Quinn, Les Tompkins, Dave Jones, Freddie Hanley, Raymond Ambler, Colin Boyd-Felton, Harry Hackett, John Hudson, Clem Clements,? Braybrook, Chris Dimmery, Colin Moss, Dennis Lacy, Ross Jardine, Tom Finnie, Dave Harmer, Wally Damant, Pat Marshall, Ivor Thomas, Don Bramley, Bill Day, Pete Jackson, Danny Mullen, Joe Robertson, Joe O’Toole, Fred Wright, Fred Toker, Jim Tuck. Terry Nutter, Taff Lewis, Phil Roberts, Ray Milford. A couple more names: John Stancombe and Vic Winton. Don Scott, Geordie Turnbull, Taff Edwards,? Mitchinson, Spike Orrit, Sammy Goddard. Brian Youngman-Smith, Geoff Manning, John Hogarth, George Forbes, Graham Stewart, John Fensome, Bill Collins, Dave Wall, Ernie Tomlin, Barry Wilding, Ron Davies, Ron Simmonds, Geordie Coats, John Baldwin, Alistair Gee, whose son was in Hong Kong in mid 80’s. Ray Gaffey was in S100 81/82, Among the girls were: Liz Booth, Jan Wiles, and Linda Neasham. Ticker Tymon and another whose first name is missing but surname Hempenstall. Lydia Thomas, Jan Fairburn, Maggie Hutton, also Sandra Lemmon was there well before meI remember a big thing on the counter was the introduction of being able to open POSB accounts and doing deposits and withdrawals. There was the daily run to the caves in Tongren, I think Ray Milford did a lot of those. I remember doing the counter at RAF Butzweilerhof on occasions when Spike Orritt was on leave. And it was always the girls who did the daily BE Bonn run back then.RE Drivers: Frank Brooks, Danny Bell, Ray Cooke, Dennis Mochan, Pete Riddett, Jim Cuthbertson. The German driver who was permanently attached was Herr Hammacher. Not sure of the spelling and never knew his first name. There was also Frau Frings in the orderly room first OC (207 ) was George Hale, later Officers: Eric Huxley, Colin PawsonHoward Stanley was a 2nd Lt in 66/67. He then took over from Bill Butt in the big house when I was there, another Officer was Barry Cash. There was a PBT story, don’t know how true, about Toker and Tuck who had been in the bar at Herford station waiting for the down connect to arrive and had had quite a lot to drink. Everything had been organised for the Dortmund stop with all the Dortmund/Munster group by the door. On arrival at Dortmund Ray Fenn was on the platform but T and T were sleeping. Ray managed to unload the group mail and put all of Div 1 and 2 plus S100 and Duss group plus Brummie Z in its place signed for everything and hopped off the train as it pulled out. This woke the 2T’s who began in a panic to unload everything onto the platform from the moving train with poor Ray watching on. This I think happened in early 65 or so I was told. Yes I knew about `Doc falling off the train. When we were billeted in block 168 the RMP would collect their post at midnight and bring the late shift back to the block. There was a story that on dropping off one night they said they had seen Doc along the road but couldn’t pick him up as he had a washing machine in his back. There was never a washing machine in the block so Doc had nicked a single tub one from the RAF block. Doc never had a shirt to his name. When they all went out at night he would nip into the RAF block and take one from the drying room and return it on the way back. What a man. I remember the Mayoress of Barnet visiting (1985). I was WO2 Chief Clerk in the big house with Dennis Streatfield, Bill Butt, Barry Cash, Ivor Siddall, Howard Stanley and Len Calcutt. Also, Dave Wall, Stuart Tennyson and Willy Peart. We arranged for other visits but can’t remember where to except that it was Frankfurt way I think.
David Vautier Hi John, Let me start with an extract from 2007 – DAVID VAUTIER, AND HIS JERSEY POST OFFICE MEMORIES. (Written in 2007)
Before reading my memories please realise they are no resemblances to what happens today. Times have changed for the better but still.I joined, from being a butcher boy, at the age of 16. I was a telegram boy until the age of 18. My first bosses were Mr Ben Warren, and Mr Pat Egan, they were in charge of “us boys” delivering the telegrams and were highly respected by us. Mr Warren had lost a leg in the 1st World War, but this never seemed to bother him; he had played football many times for the Post Office as a goalkeeper. There was an occasion when a centre-forward missed the ball and knocked off Mr Warren’s leg, not knowing it was an artificial one. Another time he recalled that he was cycling up King Street and the lady behind him fell off her bike with fright to see Mr Warren’s leg come apart. On one of the late duties at Broad Street every day we had to change every hand stamp including the ones used by all the counter clerks, and check the dies were correct, there were around 20 in total. If any were wrong we had Mr Warren to deal with, and to us lads, he was a bit of a hero. When Mr Warren retired Mr Bernie Le Riche was put in charge of us boys he was not quite of the same calibre as Mr Warren. I nearly lost my job on more than one occasion because he saw me not wearing my Post Office cap. It was a heavy thing to wear especially in the summer months. The discipline was quite strict. It was similar to being in the Army Cadets. When I joined it was only 11 years after the War and all the staff had either left the Forces or had been through the Occupation, and the atmosphere in the Post Office was marvellous. People were different then than they are now; I daresay the same attitude we had was held in other large firms.The people had a greater value of life, and a lot thought it was a privilege still to be alive, some having seen their mates being killed in action. We had staff that had spent the war in Japanese camps and some that had won medals for gallantry including a Victoria Cross. It is no wonder that with the postmen’s encouragement I joined the Army for National Service in 1962. Looking back, they were perhaps the best three years of my life. After demob, I returned to the Jersey Post Office and spent 20 years in the Army Reserve joining The Armed Forces Postal & Courier Service R.E. The Post Office allowed me three weeks off each year for my Army training spent in various countries in Europe, and in the U.K.[ Author: HQ AER & Training Centre RE (PS), following his regular service, I was the Pay Corporal at Mill Hill until July 1965, when Dave would have reported for his 15 days at TA camp ]I have found a few photos of my time in A D A P S, JHQ in the big house.
Here I am working with Brian Harris from Coventry he was also a National Serviceman. A pleasure to have known.
Sorry John my memory is on the way out being 82 this year. The one guy I remember his name Freddie Simpson he is in the middle of the front row. Now remembering the staff in ADAPS. Col. Smart, replaced by Maj Mac Beth. Then we had. May. Baxter, Maj Bennett, Captain Watson Captain, Youdell,, Captain, Baker. Wo1 Conjoice, Cpl Brian Harris. Spr Caines. Then myself. I have mislaid my Red book Discharge Papers. If I come across it I shall forward it on.
1963/64 an evening at the Marlborough Club, Jack Griffiths on the left in cardiganCheers DaveSandra LemmonHello John, Sorry to be so long in getting back to you. I was posted to Mill Hill in November 1964, with 11 other WRAC alongside me, my PTS instructor was George Nicholson.
I am in the middle of the front row I left Mill hill at 07:00hrs on Friday 22nd January 66, can’t remember if I flew from Heathrow or Gatwick, but can remember sliding down the hill to the Tube station in the snow, with 2 cases and a hold-all. I left the UK at 12noon because we were an hour later than Europe I arrived at Dusseldorf at 12 noon. Transported in a green bus that dropped other troops at their bases, finally arriving at Rheindahlen that afternoon. On Monday I reported to the Postal Unit of 207 PCCU.RE, I met WO2 Len Goodall, also in charge of us was WOI Ivor Thomas who had also been my WO2 on section 4 at Mill Hill, Sgt Ross Jardine, Sgt Maggie Burnett (nee Hutton), as she was then, also Cpl Cathy Cunningham who later married a Canadian soldier. I was the replacement for L/cpl Lydia Thomas I can remember Pete Redfern, George Forbes, Tom Ambrose – who was on my PTS in Nov ’64, also Pete Golightly, a lad called Stan another called Bill who lived in MQ’s a lot more I can’t remember the names of. Of the WRAC girls working beside me was a Linn Newsham or Neesham a small blonde girl. Another lass with the surname Kavenagh, an Irish lass called either Breeda or Breege, the two Wakins girls – not related Crystal and Carol (who travelled with me to Berlin in ’67 on a week secondment, which was longer than that). Val Rouse arrived after me. I did the RSS runs to Dusseldorf with mail and brought back mail, long before the WRAC was stationed there. Memories of S100 and the garrison: loved the wee phone box in the Teleprinter room, the RLC cage, hated the post box beside the big NAAFI, it stood at the corner and if you weren’t careful the wind would blow the mail out of the box, I often had to run after the mail, also delivering Telegrams to troops in the Married Quarters. The wee Post Office in Ayrshire Barracks – a couple of miles away, known as S100A.Have very happy memories of Rheindahlen and the Shack, Pops and the Chicken place at the other end of the camp, and past 68 RCT lines I wish that I could remember more, but it was 54 years ago. Hope that you can use some of this information.REgards Sandra, oh – I was known as Sandie, in those long-ago days.
John Jackett – Author As this extract (one of several PCS contributions over the years), reflects on my 2 years of service in JHQ, this seems to be the correct place to finalise these “Memories”
Living – In “A Home from Home“ by John Jackett (1959 – 1981)[ Extract from] Part Three (and last):
Exercising on Alt bier for RetirementWest Rhine Sqn, Rheindahlen – Oct 72 to Nov 74. It is no wonder that Rheindahlen was known as “Little England”, on camp we had the use of 2 cinemas, a theatre, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, 5 primary schools and 2 secondary schools. There were 8 soccer pitches for Army use, plus those for the RAF and other Service arms stationed there, the biggest NAAFI shop in the World – with a smaller one down in Buschoff. Life was always going to be busy anywhere near The Big House, as HQ BAOR was affectionately known, add to that, HQ RAF Germany was by the garrison church. My initial Mess accommodation was at Ayrshire Barracks whilst I awaited my first MQ allocation, there were only about a dozen of us living in, one daily highlight was assembling in the TV lounge to watch Sesame Street on German channel W 3 at 6.0 pm in English, woe betide if our evening meal was late, such were the demands of a simple mess life – a TV show. Meanwhile, the Garrison Mess strength was such, that all meetings were staggered to get everyone in, socially there were German Bars nearby for well attended Unit get-togethers. Capt Bill Whiting handed WRS over to Capt Bernard Miles during my tour, Pat Marshall was WO i/c FPO Rheindahlen with Ted Ottaway as his WO 2 in the Sorting Office, Dennis Sweeney ran the FPO in the depths of The Big House – Frank (Tex) Metexas was his Counter Clerk and I was WO i/c the Shopping Centre FPO in Trenchard Road with Bill Popples and Heidi Seeman on the counter, surrounded by Military and German Shops, the Malcolm Club (RAF) and WRVS lounges, opposite our very own Garrison BP Garage – when I eventually moved into a MQ in Buschoff (South West Extension), it was a 40-minute walk to the FPO.
The Christmas rush was so busy that we were allowed to move next door into The Malcolm Club, extra Counter Clerks were loaned from Pat Marshall. Lady Tuzo was a regular customer, recognisable the first time as being accompanied by her husband’s RAF Sgt Driver, I cannot recall Gen Sir Harry coming in, although we all met him, when he opened the new buildings at the main Sorting Office. Lady Tuzo was very nice and very complimentary about how well we coped, whilst standing in line, loaded down with her parcels. Another surprise I had whilst on the counter myself, was to take a Deposit into a National Savings account, opened in the village where I went to school, I recognised the name as being a lad at school with me, his wife was as surprised as I was – and so we former schoolboys met for the first time since 1948. Maj Dennis (Stroller) Streatfield was in The Big House PCS branch with my good friend S.Sgt Jack Griffiths, a Sunday morning soccer team was organised – to be formed together with the FPO staff in and around BFPO 40, calling ourselves The Rheindahlen Rejects. We had to use “guest players” such as Chris Goodwin and John Peters from time to time, but the usual run-out consisted of these, that I can remember: Jim Brokenbrow, Dixie Dean, Steve Ford, Chris Goodwin, Jack Griffiths, John Jackett, Gerry Maguire, Ted Ottaway, John Peters, Alan Slaney, Dennis Streatfield, Dennis Sweeney, Fred Toker, Graham Warden, Barry Wilding and Roger Williams. Capt Tweedie Brown usually refereed for us, Pat Marshall was either our linesman or carried a wet sponge – and a large hip-flask, his daughter Jane produced the tray of oranges for half-time. Our `fame` must have spread, we were challenged by 8 Command Postal Depot at Dusseldorf, also Cpl Eck Horsborough invited us to a weekend match in Brunsum Belgium.
Acknowledgement I am very grateful to the following members and wives of the Postal and Courier Section of the Corps of Royal Engineers, for differing amounts of input to these articles and who have very kindly allowed me to include their memories of our overlapping service periods together. John Corrigan, Derek and Muriel Ewen Jack Griffiths John and Betty Jackson Lou Lister Geoff Manning Barbara Stevenson (formerly Mrs RJ Inkpen) Graham and Rita Warden.