British Army Of the Rhine
The British Army of the Rhine: UK's postwar
commitments in Europe.
The BAOR was positioned for operations on the
North German Plain. I British (BR) Corps consisted of Corps troops and four divisions. BAOR was the main peacetime element of the
British Army from the end of the Second World War until 1994, with the bulk of
the Army based in Germany prepared to counter aggressive Soviet Armoured
attacks. I British Corps was the operational command of BAOR, being subordinated
to NORTHAG (NATO's Northern Army Group).
After the end of the Second World War the British Army was drastically reduced
in manpower to such an extent that the former British Rhine Army consisted of
only two British divisions, the 7th Armoured Division and the 2nd Infantry
Division. These were based in various former German Army barracks in Lower
Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia.
© Welsh Guards Forum
In 1950 these two divisions were reinforced by
the 11th Armoured Division and in 1952 by the 6th Armoured Division. These units
were organised following WW2 guidelines (that is, infantry divisions had 3
infantry brigades, while armored divisions consisted of 1 armored and 1 lorried
infantry brigade). In addition, the Berlin brigade had 3 infantry battalions and
a tank squadron, the Hamburg district had 2 infantry battalions and Corps troops
consisted of a reconnaissance regiment and 4 artillery regiments. Reserves in
the UK amounted to 3 Infantry divisions by the mid 50's (4th & 5th Infantry,
as reserve formations in the UK, the 3rd infantry as strategic reserve) , plus 7
Territorial Divisions and the 16th Parachute Brigade. Other forces were deployed
in the Middle East (Egypt, Libya and Aden), Kenya and the Far East (Malaya,
Singapore and Hong Kong) amounting to 4-5 more divisions.
Until In 1953 the 27th Canadian brigade was
attached but then was relocated to VII (US) Corps as deep reserve, being renamed
4th Canadian Brigade Group in the 60's.
Soon economy reared its ugly head and cuts were
implemented, especially after the Suez debacle, so in the mid 50s 2nd Infantry
absorbed 6th Armoured Division, reducing the number of divisions in Germany to
three, which were renumbered as 1 to 3, all of them armored by the mid-60s,
until 1974 when four smaller ones (1-4 Armored Divisions) were created with the
adoption of the concept of independent battle group.
This reorganization created 5 independent
combined arms battle groups in each division ( 2 armored and 3 infantry, around
the Tank Regiments and the Infantry Battalions, aggregating recon and artillery
elements). Equipment levels actually rose ever so slightly, but manpower didn't
and battalions in the 74 organization had not enough man power to man four
squadrons/companies. However the number of tanks in Armoured regiments rose from 48
to 73. They also had three regiments - one with 5 batteries of 6 abbots (one per
battle group). Another with 3 batteries of 6 M109 and the last with 1 M110
battery and 2 FH-70 batteries for a total of 66 pieces.
In parallel, the concept of independent
battle group was applied to the strategic reserve, with the Field force. There
were four Field Forces:
|5th Field Force: BAOR, Two Para Bns and a
6th Field Force plus the Logistic Support Group: UKMF.
7th Field Force: Reinforces BAOR in wartime.
8th Field Force: UKLF Home Defence.
All had 3 regular and 2 TA Battalions. Supporting arms
were not fixed but would mostly resemble what you might think a Brigade would
deserve - artillery regiment, guided weapons battery, Armoured recce regiment,
signal squadron, an engineer regiment (-), AAC squadron, transport squadron,
ordnance company, field workshop, field ambulance, and a provost coy until 1982
when Brigades came back.
1982 put right what once was wrong. One Armoured
division was re-rolled as an Infantry Division (the 2nd) and there were three
more powerful Armoured divisions which went back to the old 3 triangular pattern
with three companies in an infantry battalion and four in a tank regiment (although
the tanks were reduced from 73 to 58 or 43 in the case of Armored Brigades,
which had 2).
The BAOR varied in strength during its existence
between sixty and twenty-five thousand troops. The troops of the British Rhine
Army were commanded by a four-star general from Headquarters at Rheindahlen,
which also housed the headquarters of RAF Germany, NORTHAG and 2nd Allied
Tactical Air Force.
In the 1980's BAOR consisted of three main
The main force of I (BR) Corps with its
headquarters at Bielefeld. The three armored divisions and the Corps troops were
stationed in 20 areas in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. The divisions
had three brigades each, differing in strengths of armour, infantry, artillery
and engineers. Long range reconnaissance, signals, pioneer and artillery
regiment formed the divisional troops. Each division could call on air support
from an Army Air Corps Regiment equipped with Gazelle and Lynx helicopters.
The British Rear Combat Zone with its
headquarters in Dusseldorf, responsible for the Resupply of the fighting
The British Communications Zone, with its
headquarters at Emblem in Belgium, was tasked to receive reinforcements from
Great Britain into the ports and canals and to co-ordinate their onward movement
to I (BR) Corps.
The fourth and final element was the Berlin
Infantry brigade, which was 3,000 strong and not subordinated to NORTHAG but
under the control of the Allied Control Council in Berlin. It included a tank
BAOR was constantly exercised to ensure its
readiness in time of a crisis. The units of the Territorial Army also carried
out exercises in Germany, with the battalion and brigade scale exercises carried
out in NATO areas. Live ammunition exercises at battle-group level were carried
out in Canada at the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) training area, to enable a three-day exercises
without having to use the same area twice
The 2nd Infantry Division returned to the UK in
1982, after an absence of forty years, being reformed on April 1982 as
reinforcement Infantry division of BAOR from the United Kingdom and to consist
predominantly of TA units (15 Brigade and 49 Brigade). The other Brigade was
Regular Army, originally, the 5th Infantry Brigade until the formation in 1986
of the 24 Airmobile Brigade which 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, since it was intended as a
blocking force for soviet Armoured Thrusts.
3rd Armored Division only had 2 Armored Brigades
in the 80's, the third Brigade being the 19th Infantry Brigade of the United
Kingdom Land Force (UKLF),
which stood ready to reinforce BAOR in times of war.
In the Territorial Army, on 1 April 1967 the
existing - numbered - Division/Districts, which had existed since 1947, were
renamed Districts, and the TA Brigades disappeared. Within a few years all
Commands had been re-designated or disappeared and there remained districts only;
except for HQ The Army in Scotland and HQ Northern Ireland. These were
subordinate to HQ UKLF (ex Southern Command).
The brigade level of command, eliminated in the
1967 reforms, caused little or no direction in doctrine and training from above.
This was resolved in 1982 - as part of the general enhancement of the TA - when
the brigade level of command was brought back in the chain of command though
most brigades were purely administrative headquarters for training
In Time of War
In the event of a war, the BAOR would come under
NATO command. BAOR as 1 (BR) Corps would defend a sector of the North German
Plain as part of Armed Forces Central Europe. BAOR forms part of Northern Army
Group as part of AF CENT and NORTHAG is partnered by the Central Army Group.
NORTHAG's operational area extends from Hamburg down to Kassel and from the
Netherlands border to the inner German border.
In NORTHAG, BAOR was flanked by 1 (NL) Corps to the far north, 1 (GE) Corps to
the immediate north, and 1 (BE) Corps in the southern most position. The 1 (BR)
Corps area extended from a line just north of Hanover down to a line just north
of Kassel, and extended from the inner German border to a line just west of
Soest but the BAOR boundary itself extended right back to Antwerp. In the event
of war, BAOR would become British Support Command, which would supply 1 (BR)
Corps and guard the rear areas.
It was planned that if the area of responsibility of I (BR) Corps came under
threat the Corps would fight with two of it s armoured divisions forward and one
in reserve. The 2nd Infantry Division, after its arrival, was to defend vital
military targets in the Corps rear and with 24 Airmobile Brigade to be ready to
guard against any rapid enemy tank thrust which might develop.
Mobile Civilian Artisan Group Tradesman
Mobile civilian groups were special to BAOR
and under various names existed from 1945 to 1997. Most personnel were former
refugees from Eastern Europe. Mobile Civilian Artisan Groups were under Royal
Engineer control and in general were tasked directly by Engineer Branch HQ BAOR
with small building and repair projects.
Royal Engineer buttons are worn on the uniform.
Dortmund Detachment 72MC SQN RLC
© J Smith
British Forces Posted Overseas Numbers
BFPO 15 - Herford
BFPO 16 - Sennelager/Paderborn
BFPO 17 - Münster
BFPO 18 - Maastricht (Netherlands)
BFPO 19 - Köln/Bonn
BFPO 20 - Dortmund
BFPO 21 - Emblem (Belgium)
BFPO 22 - Lübbecke
BFPO 23 - Celle
BFPO 24 - Iserlohn
BFPO 25 - Brüggen
BFPO 27 - Hannover Isodets
BFPO 28 - Brunssum (Netherlands)
BFPO 29 - Minden
BFPO 30 - Hohne
BFPO 31 - Hameln
BFPO 32 - Verden
BFPO 33 - Hannover
BFPO 34 - Düsseldorf
BFPO 35 - Krefeld
BFPO 36 - Osnabrück
BFPO 37 - Soltau, also Brannenburg
BFPO 38 - Fallingbostel
BFPO 39 - Bielefeld
BFPO 40 - Rheindahlen
BFPO 41 - Detmold
BFPO 42 - Wildenrath
BFPO 43 - Laarbruch
BFPO 44 - Dulmen
BFPO 45 - Berlin
BFPO 46 - Bünde
BFPO 47 - Gütersloh
BFPO 48 - Nienburg
BFPO 49 - Brussels (Belgium)
BFPO 101 - Wolfenbüttel
BFPO 102 - Hildesheim
BFPO 103 - Hamm/Werl
BFPO 104 - Munsterlager
BFPO 105 - Düsseldorf Isodets
BFPO 106 - Soest
BFPO 107 - Lippstadt
BFPO 108 - Kiel
BFPO 109 - Ramstein
BFPO 110 - Willich
BFPO 112 - Menden
BFPO 113 - Mansergh Barracks, Gütersloh (1)
BFPO 114 - Körbecke
BFPO 140 - HQ BAOR