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16th Signal Regiment, Krefeld, Germany

on Sun, 19/12/2010 - 3:35pm

After my sojourn at 608 Signal Troop/17 RVD I was posted to 16th Signal Regiment, Krefeld (about 10 miles NE of Viersen). On transfer I was given leave to return home during which Jean and I were married. Five days later my leave pass expired and I returned to Germany to 16 Sigs. It was 3 months before I saw Jean again.

View of main entrance

Bradbury Barracks is where 16 Sigs. (and 16th Regt. RA) were based. In the above link, the second photo (Guard Room) shows the fields opposite the main gate (shown left). I remember trekking straight across that field a few times from a pub we frequented. We used either the track or road to get there. But after coming out of the pub after a bier you got your bearings from the camp lights and off you set.

I was back in a barrack room again (although I later moved to a two man room with Martin Prior) and putting some of my Tele. Tech. training to use 'down the hole' in the comcen workshop maintaining Creed 7B teleprinters, perforators and 6S tape readers.

At some point later we began working shifts of 8hrs. on, 24 off, 15 on, 24 off. Each night shift had one Tele. Tech. to man the Workshop and one Line Tech. to man System Control. Both were allowed an evening break and when your Line Tech shift buddy (mine was Martin Prior) went off to the NAAFI you had to take over in System Control. After a few times it wasn't a problem although there always seemed to be something new cropping up. One of our duties in System Control was to monitor signal strength (ZBZ 1 to 5) and switch transmission to the alternative mode when strength dropped. We also had to contact the BundesPost and report "Der lietung von wherever bis Krefeld ist kaput." With such fluid Deutsch we didn't need to shout to be understood. They would call back when the line was no longer 'kaput'. I was quite nervous the first time I was left with responsibility for System Control.

I didn't drink or smoke when I arrived but did both before I left about a year later. Looking back there were a number of 'firsts' and one 'last' during my time at 16.

  • I saw the last National Serviceman there posted out. He was given VIP treatment.
  • The first contingent of Signals WRAC were posted in bringing about quite a change in many squaddie's behaviour and off-duty appearance about camp.
  • I heard and heard of The Beatles for the first time (due to the WRACs selecting them on the cookhouse jukebox). This was one of them. You probably know it.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

  • I was introduced to brandy & coke, German mustard (senf ), German bier and ticks on beer mats. And to pay for these, the Deutschmark (£1 = 11DM).
  • I learned my first words of squaddie Deutsch. Guten abend. Zwei bier bitte. Noch zwei. Wie viele, bitte? Danke schon. 'wiedersehen. And of course, Vie gater schtraps. To which the correct response was Schwarz, danke.
  • Buying cigarettes (I didn't smoke until I came here) and buying them in packs of 200. Rothmans tipped as I recall. (It was the late eighties before I eventually gave it up.)
  • Seeing the effect ultra violet (UV) light had on white objects - all aglow in every bar. I'd never seen anything like it, as I suppose most Brits hadn't at the time.
  • I had my first Halb haenchen mit fritten
    Half chicken & chips (schmecken gut)
    from the Balkan Grill after 'shooting through' for a few beers in Krefeld.
  • I had my first of many trips to Holland.
  • I also had my first go at sailing - more on that shortly.

Krefeld Postcard

In the postcard above (hover over to enlarge) the top left pic shows the main tram stop that we used in town. Two types of tram operated from that stop - the local tram and the inter-city tram (the yellow tram). The inter-city used a wider track and went to Dusseldorf. The tram-line from camp is at the bottom. We used the tram between the Eisstadion terminus and the Ostwall/Rheinstrasse junction. The yellow Volks' at the bottom of the pic would get the view of Rheinstrasse seen in the top right pic. I bought Jean an Omega wristwatch from a Jewellers on the far left of that pic.

View of Tivoli beachThe 'we' I refer to was Keith Durrant
Keith Durrant fixing something - he never stopped.
, 'Jock' Wishart, Dave 'Piggy' Poole, Martin Prior, Dave 'Punchy' Ayres, Cliff Monks, Ken Northey and others. During the summer of '63 we sunbathed (kein bier) down the road on the man-made 'beach' behind the Tivoli bar. After coming off shift this was a pleasant place to relax on a nice summer morning. At lunchtime we'd either go back to camp or have 'ham und eier'
Ham and eggs (schinken mit ei)
(as we called it) with a beer.

In the early summer Keith and I decided to join the sailing club run by Capt. Boast. (Keith and I first met during our T3 courses at 8 Sigs. We were on different Tele. Tech. courses but shared the back of a Morris Minor van for a few weekends with others getting a lift. It was winter '62-'63 and was very cold in the van but it was a lift.)

The Regiment had two GP14 sailing dinghys. Our joining doubled the club membership because I only recall two other members - Dave Tanner and a WO. Our sailing took place at a Dutch sailing club by the Maas canal in Roermond, Holland. The stretch of water had large barges on the town side (as can be seen in the photo below) and club dinghys on the canal side. On our first visit a Bedford 3 tonner
Bedford 3 ton truck with rear canvas cover.
took us and the two GP14s there where we off-loaded and assembled them. Us and boats at jettyThereafter, over the summer, Keith, Dave and I travelled in the back of Capt. Boast's Merc' every (shift permitting) Saturday (with his family in front) and spent a very relaxing and pleasant day away from camp. This being the army of course you couldn't just mess about in boats, you had to work toward achieving a certificate of sailing competence. I'd only ever been in a rowing boat before so there were a few things to learn. One of which was capsizing the boat then righting it - that water was cold.

When the WRACs arrived some of them needed teleprinter training. The training area was at the top of (I think) the WRAC block and I was given the task of keeping the machines in running order. Thus I spent a couple of weeks up there with the ladies between rooms and teleprinters.

About mid-June I got a two week pass and return flight home. This time the airports were Dusseldorf and Gatwick
Gatwick Airport Postcard c.1963.
. I hadn't seen or spoken to Jean (telephone contact was possible but difficult to arrange) for three months so it was almost like meeting for the first time. I stayed with her at her mum & dad's place. It's funny but when you met people during leave one of the first things they'd say was "When do you go back?" and it was the last thing you wanted to think about. There were then about 50,000 of us in Germany but on leave people would say, "Oh! so-and-so's serving in Germany. Do you know him?" The two weeks were soon over and it was to be four months before I saw and spoke to Jean again.

Back in camp, apart from sailing our free time was spent either on our pits listening to BFBS radio (I particularly enjoyed '1800 Club' with record requests from British Forces in Germany), socializing in the mess, eating in the cookhouse (you had to take your own mug and utes), going to the 'pics' at the AKC cinema on camp, taking a stroll to a country pub or going down town to either look around the shops or drink in the bars. All the bars had UV lighting which helped to create a great atmosphere with the pop music of the time. Click on the player below to hear a short medley of popular UK and German recordings of the time.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

At some point during that summer the whole regiment carried out military training in the field. Groups of about 50 of us at a time, chosen from different sections of the regiment (so that it could continue to fulfill its normal role), spent a week under canvas in a wooded area near the Dutch border (it was near to Venlo, which at the time meant nothing to me). It was quite novel as I hadn't been under canvas since basic training. We learned about various military field crafts and things like 'thunder-boxes' and 'desert roses'. One night, for a bit of fun, we held a court marshal of one of the officers on the charge of 'having provided sharp edged desert roses'.

Map showing routeThere was a night exercise where platoons were halved and put on different trucks with the tarpaulins down so you couldn't see out. They went off in different directions and stopped occasionally to offload a half platoon. This was to simulate a parachute drop that split each platoon. The first task was to establish from our maps, compasses and the area (in the dark), where we were. Each platoon had a rendezvous location as a map grid reference so once you found out where you were, you then located the two points on the map then made your way to the platoon rendezvous point. You had to be careful because there were army vehicles (the supposed enemy) nipping about trying to find you. I was responsible for my half platoon so had the maps & compass. I recall making our way through a boggy area (about half way) and later lying in a field of cabbages near a road when a wagon stopped and squaddies jumped out. My group quickly and quietly crouched and moved quickly away. Two fields later when we paused I realised the compass was missing - I'd left it where we were lying. I had to go back to retrieve it - which luckily I did. We got to the rendezvous but the other half never turned up. Our objective was another map reference but we lost so much time waiting for the others that we gave up and found our way back to camp. You can imagine the reception we received when we got in at about 2 a.m. having failed.

As winter began 'Jock' Wishart and I were posted back to 8 Sigs. Catterick for our T2 course (see second part of 8th Sigs.). We returned to 16 Sigs early in '64 and after a few weeks I was posted to 614.

I think it may have been just prior to my 614 posting that the Corporal's Mess was transferred to a building across from the WRAC block and by the gym. I can remember the opening night and having a few 'carly & limes' and a good night being had by all. But I don't remember many other nights in there. I remember lots of nights in the old mess where I learned to drink and smoke. 'Zimmy' (Frau Zimmerman) served behind the counter. I developed a liking for hot meat pies covered in German mustard and still cover my meat pies in senf to this day - I can't get the senf they had in the mess though.

Google Earth viewThe 2002 image to the right shows Bradbury Barracks layout as it was. Much of the barracks remain so it was easy to mark out the buildings I knew. The Comcen relied mainly on BundesPost provided land lines, but in a field on a small hill in the upper right corner of the site (now a car park) there were radio transmitter-receiver vehicles and aerials for use when lines went down - as they often did.

Click this button to see latest map of the area above.