The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) began life as an army of occupation following World War Two, but as the threat of a Soviet invasion of the then West Germany increased and with the establishment of NATO, it became more responsible for defence rather than occupation. HQ BAOR moved from Bad Oeynhausen to Rheindahlen in 1954, centralising headquarters functions previously located across north Germany, joining together the HQ of the Northern Army Group, the Second Allied Tactical Air Force and RAF Germany.
Gary arrived as a bright young staff clerk in the early 1980s, by which time the facilities included a NAAFI superstore, German shops, a petrol station where vouchers could be used for rationed petrol, a travel agent (Milatravel), a branch of Commerzbank and Sparkasse Mönchengladbach, two post offices, a dress shop, libraries and cafes. There were separate RAMC and RAF medical centres, five primary schools and a secondary school as well as a Belgian school. The base was truly a ‘town within a town’ – some claimed never to leave it during their entire posting!
Overall, Gary was struck by how clean and efficient everything seemed to be when compared with striketorn Britain of the late 1970s and early 1980s. There were also so many different nationalities and uniforms in the base that Gary spent a lot of time saluting Dutch corporals!