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British Army of the Rhine

The BAOR 1945-1993


Paul Chrystal

Pen & Sword Military    Barnsley, UK  2018

Paperback   127pp   RRP: $26.50 + p&h


Reviewer: Neville Taylor, December 2018


     Unlike its fellow monographs in this excellent series, this publication does not elaborate on a series of battles, but examines the strategic, political and logistical factors involved in placing and maintaining almost 200,000 military and civilian personnel in Germany.

     Under the terms of the 1918 Armistice, a multi-corps British force headquartered at Cologne, occupied the Rhine from December 1918. Its strength grew to exceed of 13,000 before its withdrawal from Germany in 1929.

     The Introduction provides a concise and comprehensive summary of the period 1945-1993. The British Liberation Army (BLA) that had fought from Normandy (1944) was redesignated the ‘British Army of the Rhine’ three months after the War’s end. It was responsible for controlling the corps districts running the military government of the British Zone (the Northern German Plain) and also included one Polish and one Canadian division – a total of 77,000 troops. When German civilians took over the running of government, the BAOR dropped its civil administrative role and was only responsible for the command of the troops in Germany.

     The formation of NATO in 1949 led to the BAOR eventually coming under command of the Headquarters Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) when it was formed in November 1952. This saw the transformation from being an occupational force to being responsible for NORTHAG’s northern front from Hamburg to Kassel to counter a possible Russian and Soviet Central and Eastern states invasion. With 60 Russian divisions in East Germany, all BAOR units were required to have 85 percent of personnel ready for battle at all times. By the mid-50s, the force was re-structured from divisions to brigade groups; 1957 saw a troop strength reduction of 20 percent (from 80,000 to 64,000); the end of National Service in 1960 saw another reduction to 55,000; and the seven brigade groups were reformed into three divisions in 1963. At no stage was the BAOR responsible for the British Sector in Berlin. With the Cold War’s end and the reunification of Germany, the BAOR was disbanded in October 1994, to be replaced by British Forces Germany (BFG) consisting of 25,000 troops.

     Subsequent chapters examine in detail the political and military aspects of the Cold War; Germany’s reconstruction; the housing, training and transport of troops; the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, nuclear and combat readiness; the roles of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force; the NATO countries’ support in Germany, Denatzification of the German population and fraternization of BAOR personnel with locals; and the incredible effort made to provide facilities for troops and their families. The statistics relating to people and financial commitment are at times amazing.

     The BFG today continues its role and will continue to exercise and train on the Northern German Plain. Some stations and barracks will close in the near future e.

     Paul Chrystal has provided a well-researched and east-to-read account of a major Allied commitment that has, for most of us, been bereft of detail for too long. A list of Abbreviations precedes the Introduction, there are eight pages of written sources and one page of web-based items and a short, but adequate Index is included. High quality black and white photographs are interspersed throughout the text.

        This is a most valuable acquisition for the military history section of any library.

The RUSI VIC would like to thank the publishers  for their kindness in providing a review copy.