The British Forces said goodbye to Gütersloh on 13th May with a spectacular parade by 26th Regiment Royal Artillery. The historic occasion marks the end of the British military presence in the town after 74 years and the first time in a century that the British Army will not have any Artillery Regiments in Germany.
More than 1,500 well-wishers, both German and British, ex- Service personnel and families of the Regiment turned out to line the streets as 120 West Midland Gunners marched through the town to music performed by the Band of the King’s Division.
At the town hall the Regiment was awarded the Fahnenband (Ribbon of Honour), Germany’s highest military award, by Brigade General Torsten Gersdorf, Bundeswehr Regional Commander for North Rhine-Westphalia, on behalf of the Federal Minister for Defence. The General said that the honour is a reflection of the Regiment’s role in maintaining security, peace and freedom in Germany and Europe.
In his speech the Mayor of Gütersloh, Herr Henning Schulz, said: “This is a historic moment. You came as an occupying force and became partners in the rebuilding of democracy in this country. In the summer the last 220 soldiers will return to Larkhill and so mark the end of a military chapter. What will not end are the relationships that have been formed during this time: the friendships, marriages and memories.”
Brigadier Richard Clements, Commander BFG, thanked Herr Schulz for allowing the parade to take place. “This is both a privilege and an honour for us,” he said. The Commander went on to say that, since its arrival in 1989, 26 Regt RA has excelled itself both at home and away. In 30 years, in addition to numerous individual deployments and collective exercises, the Regiment has been on 16 operations - from the Balkans to Iraq, Cyprus to Afghanistan and most recently to Estonia.
"This has only been possible because our families were welcomed, supported and looked after while the serving soldiers were deployed on those operations," he said, highlighting the good relations between the British and Germans that have formed over the past decades in the communities in Gütersloh, Marienfeld and Harsewinkel.
Lt Col Kieran Sheldon, Commanding Officer, said: “This day is an incredibly special day for me personally and for 26 Regiment. Obviously I’m the last commanding officer of 26 Regiment in Gütersloh so for us it genuinely is the end of an era.”
After 41 years based in Germany, 30 of which were spent in Gütersloh, 26th Regiment Royal Artillery now looks forward to rebasing to the UK this summer and its new role as a Divisional Fires Regiment.
Words by Army Media Offie (Germany)
Photos by Dominic King, Army Media Office (Germany)