President of the North Rhine-Westphalian Parliament, André Kuper, said: "Today, we see the award of the Fahnenband to HQ British Forces Germany in recognition of their most excellent service in our country, from erstwhile enemies to firm friends, with soldiers, families and German civilians engaging in various activities. Most importantly, we must recognise the services of the British soldiers in defence of our freedom and security not just in Germany but also in Europe.”
In a unique parade, military and civilian staff from the Headquarters in Bielefeld marched together to the forecourt of the parliament building to music provided by the Band of the King’s Division and the Crossed Swords Pipes and Drums. There, Brigade General Torsten Gersdorf, Commander of the Bundeswehr in North Rhine-Westphalia, awarded the Fahnenband to the HQ on behalf of the Federal Minister for Defence.
In his speech, Brigade General Gersdorf said: “I am very honoured to present the Fahnenband to HQ BFG. It is the highest award my country can present to a military unit. Your HQ, as successor to HQ BAOR and HQ USKC, can be traced back to 1945. During the long period of the Cold War, British Forces, along with the Bundeswehr and other allies within NATO, have been ready and willing to defend the Federal Republic of Germany and Western Europe against the former aggression of the Warsaw Pact. Both our nations are united by our shared dedication to democracy, peace and freedom. To this day, British soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder with our NATO partners willing to risk their lives in defence for these fundamental shared values.”
The British Headquarters has had a permanent presence in Germany since 1945 when it was based in Bad Oeynhausen. In 1954 HQ British Army of the Rhine moved to the Joint Headquarters in Rheindahlen and was renamed United Kingdom Support Command (Germany). Following the closure of the base in 2013, the HQ moved to Catterick Barracks in Bielefeld.
The Headquarter’s role is now focused on the planning and rebasing of British personnel and their families to the UK by the end of this year, as well as continuing to provide firm base support to Servicemen and women, host nation liaison and advising on future defence policy in Germany post 2020.
Summing up, Mr Robbie Bulloch, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Berlin said: “It is a great honour to attend such occasions and we have to acknowledge that Europe has seen the longest period of peace and as European nations we have all benefited together from this. And whatever happens over the next six months with our own political development, you can rest assured that it will not alter the UK’s stance on standing together with our European friends and NATO allies. I would like to thank the people across NRW for their personal kindness and generosity for over 70 years to our Servicemen and women and their families.”
Words by Army Media Office (Germany)
Photos by Dominic King, Army Media Office (Germany)