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British Army of the Rhine (BAOR)

The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and the Royal Air Force Command constituted Great Britain's armed forces in Germany. Even in peacetime they were deployed close to the borders of the socialist countries. The core of the BAOR (Rheinclahlen, 57,000 personnel, at the outbreak of war up to 150,000) was the 1st Corps, which included a headquarters (Bielefeld), three armor divisions (Verden, Soest, Herford), an artillery division (Bielefeld) and other units and subunits. The right boundary ran from Goslar to Paderborn.The BAOR Commander, when tallying his combat strength, also counts a motorize dinfantry brigade stationed in West Berlin (3,000 personnel, 3 motorized infantry battalions). British Forces were stationed in Germany for reasons of national and NATO security with the agreement and support of the German government. The presence of British and American troops provided mutual security and is a visible display of the UK's support for its NATO allies. The UK has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since 1949.

British occupational responsibilities were first vested in the British Army commander in Germany, then the United Kingdom High Commissioner, and, with the coming of German sovereignty in 1955, the British Ambassador at Bonn. In June 1945 British troops in Germany were deployed along German international borders next to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark in order to stop the flow of refugees and to control smuggling. The British evacuated the civilian population in this area to a depth of three kilometers and created a Prohibited Frontier Zone. The land in this zone was not cultivated, and civilians wishing to enter this area had to obtain a frontier pass. This situation lasted until 1946, when large-scale demobilizations of British troops led to the formation of a British civilian frontier force known as the Frontier Control Service. Prior to the tensions caused by the Berlin Blockade in 1948-49 and the now clear intent of the Soviets to be uncooperative in the joint economic administration of Germany, the eastern zonal boundary of the British occupation zone had been virtually unguarded.

British military forces in Germany had patrolled along the eastern boundary since 1949, but only on a very limited basis. By 1970 the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) had further reduced its operations and was conducting mere token patrols, which consisted of each BAOR division covering a sector of the border once a month. They rarely used helicopters, had no permanent observation posts, and normally did not use ground surveillance radar. In addition, neither the BAOR patrols nor the frontier Service personnel conducted intelligence gathering activities in the border area, leaving that function to their national intelligence agencies.

By 1970 the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) had further reduced its operations and was conducting mere token patrols, which consisted of each BAOR division covering a sector of the border once a month. They rarely used helicopters, had no permanent observation posts, and normally did not use ground surveillance radar. In addition, neither the BAOR patrols nor the frontier Service personnel conducted intelligence gathering activities in the border area, leaving that function to their national intelligence agencies.

In 1974 the British Ambassador informed the Federal Republic that the United Kingdom was relinquishing any remaining border responsibilities it might have, but would retain the "right" to patrol in its former area of responsibility. In 1983 the British conducted limited border operations from Luebeck to Schmidekoph, approximately 650 kilometers or 400 miles. (It is interesting to note that there were variations in the various documents as to how long the British area of responsibility was. The last variation was most likely the result of the expansion of the border patrol area of responsibility of the American units to the south of the British area.)

The British area was divided into two sectors: the northern sector, which stretched from Luebeck to the vicinity of Lauenburg for approximately 100 kilometers; and the southern sector, which ran from Lauenburg to Schmidekoph, a distance of approximately 550 kilometers. The BAOR units, utilizing Frontier Service personnel as guides, patrolled along the southern sector once a week. Although the BAOR units did not patrol in the northern sector, Frontier Service personnel infrequently conducted "visits" in that area. The BAOR divided the southern sector into four divisional areas, with each division conducting 2-day patrols along its sector each week. Patrols varied in size from 9 to 31 soldiers and employed 2 to 5 vehicles. Although patrol members carried weapons, they were not issued ammunition. Even though the frequency of the BAOR patrols had been increased from that of the early 1970s, it was obvious that the primary mission of the BAOR patrols remained symbol, c, with the primary advantage for the British Army being in training.

Army missions include the BAOR's role in NORTHAG, homeland defense, and out-of-area operations. The central focus of the British Army remained its commitment to central Europe and its Corps operations in NORTHAG, including antitank operations, air defense,and offensive support. For more than 30 years, the British maintained a force of at least 55,000 troops in the FRG. The BAOR maintained three armored division headquarters, seven armored brigades, and one air-mobile brigade in peacetime; the total troop commitment to central Europe would increase to more than 150,000 in a conflict as forces fromEngland reinforced those in Germany. Reinforcement includes an infantry battalion andsupporting equipment available to NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for deployment oneither the northern or southern flanks and the U.K Mobile Force (UKMF) for deployment tothe Baltic Approaches.

There was little confidence in NATO that the West's conventional forces were strong enough to prolong the conventional battle for more than a few days, though there was some range of opinion on this matter. The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), which was responsible for the northern portions of the central front in West Germany, had been judged to be capable of holding out for as little as two days in SACUER's Current Conventional Capability Appraisal (known as the Mountbatten Study in the mid-1960s. In any case, the BAOR and many of the other European NATO allies did not maintain sufficient conventional stocks of ammunition and fuel for prolonged conventional combat.

With each post-war decade, there came acrunch point with a major defense review. Gradually the reviews concentrated effort on NATO requirements at the expense of "East of Suez" commitments. Thus the priority attached to the Alliance came at the expense of those aspects of the British defense effort that might have been expected to have the most nationalistic appeal. In the 1960s and 1970s global presence was sacrificed for a regional commitment. In 1981, despite the attachment of an "island people" to its navy, the continental commitment won out, in the form of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), despite its high absolute and foreign exchange cost.

Primarily because of the commitment of troops to Northern Ireland, by 1978 the British Army of the Rhine had only 40,000 men in West Germany, down about 15,000 from the level of several years earlier.

I (BR) Corps consisted of Corps troops and four divisions. The 2nd Infantry Division was one of these and was stationed at Catterick, to be summoned in time of need. 24 Airmobile Brigade also belonged to this division. It was fully air portable and capable of being transported by helicopter with all its equipment. The main task of the three infantry battalions of this Brigade was anti-tank defence and they were equipped with more than 50 Milan anti-tank weapons systems. The other two brigades were of Territorial Army units, highly trained and motivated, with their senior ranks including many ex-regulars. The three other divisions were armoured divisions and with the Corps troops were stationed in 20 areas in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westfalia. The divisions had three brigades each, differing in strengths of armour, infantry, artillery and engineers.

A German-British agreement of December 1983 defined the support to be given by the Germans in transporting personnel and materiel, as well as other support measures, in the event of a reinforcement of the BAOR.

By 1985 the I British Corps (HQ in Bielefeld), following its reorganization, comprised 3 armored divisions with 8 brigades as well as numerous corps units, including 1 artillery division. Battle tanks numbered circa 750, including a number of the improved "Challenger." The current strength of circa 55,000 men was to be doubled if needed through augmentation with the 2nd Infantry Division (York), 1 brigades, and other reserves. The 6th Brigade (Soest), in a departure from the usual organization, was employed as an airmobile unit having a high antitank potential1. In addition, the infantry battalions havebeen undergoing a general reorganization by three categories since April 1984. The newly developed armored personnel carrier [APC] MCV-80 significantly increased the fighting power of the mechanized battalions.

The commander of the BAOR was at the same time commander of the Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) in Moenchengladbach, which in peacetime comprised, aside from the British contingent, one each German, Belgian and Netherlands corps as well as one US brigade. Belonging to the sector of the I British Corps were 13 main garrisons and numerous smaller garrisons. It extended from Moenchengladbach as far as the area of Soltau-Celle-Wolfenbuettel and overlapped with the areas in which the German 1st and 7th Armored Divisions as well as elements of the I Belgian Corps were stationed. Movement through the area of the 1st Armored Division was necessary in order to reach the defense sector near the border. This defense sector of the corps is given in military journals as having a width of 65 km.

The 1st (UK) Armoured Division had been stationed in Germany since June 1960, as part of NATO, first in Verden an der Aller and since 1993 here Herford, North Rhine Westphalia. It was eventually the only British division to be stationed in Germany, (there were four divisions during the height of the Cold War).

In 1990, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the British Government conducted a defense review, which reduced the size of the British Army from 155,000 personnel to 116,000. The impact of this restructuring was that the BAOR was reduced to a strength of a single armoured division with supporting troops. 1 (UK) Armoured Division was then assigned as part of the UK's contribution to the UK-led Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). The Division was not the only element of the British Forces to remain in Germany. BAOR was finally disbanded in 1994, and all remaining UK forces in Germany were grouped together to form the joint British Forces Germany (BFG). The United Kingdom Support Command, Germany, based in Rheindahlen just outside Mönchengladbach, with some 4,700 personnel, replaced BOAR.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2012 18:35:14 ZULU