For almost 70 years 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade, also known as “The Iron Fist Brigade”, have been stationed in Germany with their permanent home being in the City of Paderborn since 1992. However this long association with the City is coming to an end with the Brigade returning to the UK as part of Op Faran, the re-deployment of British Army Units from Germany.
To mark the end of this union the City of Paderborn hosted a number of events on Friday in the town centre to say farewell to the British Servicemen and women of the Brigade.
The day began with a Drumhead Service with 300 soldiers representing the Brigade’s units still serving in Germany that was also attended by representatives of the German clergy, On completion of the service the Mayor of Paderborn, Michael Dreier, presented each of the units with a framed certificate as a mark of appreciation and respect for the British Forces for their contribution to peace and security in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
Michael Dreier, Mayor of Paderborne said:
“It will be strange not to see British soldiers from the Brigade on our streets. Former enemies merged into partners and now we part as close friends. There will always be a place and home for them in Paderborn.”
The city also laid on a street party next to the historic town hall that was enjoyed by British soldiers, their families and the local population as a further sign of the close friendship that had developed between the two communities.
The evening concluded with a spectacular ceremony of the Beating Retreat performed by the Band of the Prince of Wales’s Division, where the British and German national flags were lowered for the last time, symbolically bringing to an end the Brigade’s presence in Paderborn.
“Today is a sad occasion, but also a very proud one,” said Brigadier Dom Biddick, MBE MC, who commands the Brigade. Speaking of the Brigade’s time in Paderborn and more generally Germany he added:
“We have had the privilege of serving as part of this community for many decades and during that time Central Europe has witnessed its longest ever period of peace. You could say we have fulfilled our mission, but we have been repaid many times over by their warm friendship.
Without their support to our people, life would have been much more difficult for them, particularly during their frequent and often dangerous operational deployments.”
The Brigade Headquarters and its units will be relocating to the Wiltshire area this summer under the Army Basing Programme. A programme that has been a complex and huge undertaking moving thousands of soldiers, their families and military equipment while working around operational deployments.
But the British Army is not leaving Germany completely. It will retain the Sennelager Training Centre, a Squadron of amphibious Royal Engineers working with the German Army to maintain NATO’s specialist amphibious bridging capability, and other storage facilities.
Words and images copyright MOD