Since I arrived in Langeleben in 1968 as an 18 year old
signalman and left in 1983 on promotion to W01, with an
appearance in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in the
pipeline, one could safely say that Langeleben played a
very major part in my 37 year Regular Army career.
But I do, of course, exaggerate when I suggest
that I was in Langeleben from 1968 to 1983.
My service there was not continuous, but it did
span a total of eight years, all of which are filled
with golden memories.
(Note – I apologize for the quality of the photos.
They were taken long before digital cameras
1968 at 225 Signal Squadron
The scene which greeted the small group of us who arrived in
Königslutter on 10 January 1968
could have been taken from the front of any quality
As we made our way from the Bahnhof, through the
town and then up through the forest to the camp, we were
enchanted and amazed by the winter wonderland which
It was certainly a far cry from the weather of Singapore
which some of us had only recently left behind.
Having arrived at Langeleben, the next thing which impressed us
enormously was the quality of the soldiers’
Allocated a bed space in a five man room in Block
8, I was delighted with my built-in wardrobes and
particularly pleased with the green upholstered headrest
at the top of my bed.
Sinks and a drying cupboard ‘en-suite’ were
something unheard of in standard soldiers’ accommodation
of the 1960’s.
The shower room was first class and the modern
bathrooms with their designer shaped bathtubs were
almost too much to believe.
I was not given too much time to settle into my new luxury
accommodation, as, within an hour of arrival, I was
given my marching orders to report to the Naafi bar,
preparatory to departure on my first night out in
At eighteen years of age, I was very much ‘the
new kid on the block’, but had served in Singapore
with older hands like Pete Westwell, Rock Mead and Max
Wilson and they were all keen to show me what awaited me
I will never forget that first night in Grosser Schumann’s, not
least as it marked my first steps on the road to
becoming a reasonably accomplished German linguist.
I had done three years German at school to
O-Level standard and was quickly amazing the Schumann’s
barmaid with my very precise school boy German.
I have to admit that she soon became more bored
than impressed, as it took me about ten minutes to
formulate the most simple sentence.
I learned a lesson from that experience over the
next few months, sacrificing accuracy for speed to gain
a colloquial knowledge of the language, before
reapplying myself to the grammar to polish up my act.
The other lesson, that I learnt that night, was
that German Pilsener is easier to drink in large
quantities than English beer, but no less strong! It was
then a somewhat jaded and hung over Signalman Weir who
paraded outside SSM Blackburn’s office at 225 Signal
Squadron at 0830 on 11 January.
I was a Class 2 Spec Op during this first tour in Langeleben and
my first few months’ employment was spent doing HF
collection in setroom.
I recall that there were usually three of us on
the non-voice HF team.
I believe my supervisor was Cpl Terry Welsh.
I cannot recall which nets we were supposed to
cover, but I do remember that there was a siemens
printer in one corner of the setroom which was used to
task the 13 Sigs controlled HF DF baseline.
I am convinced that every task, that I ever
submitted, came back with the same very general result
‘General Area SW Luckenwalde, East Germany’.
We shared that setroom with the VHF voice team and those
‘Russian Linguists’ were like demigods in my young
I remember one of the them was a Royal Signals
voice op called Ernie Dixon who used to log his traffic
in black fountain pen! Another of them was an Int
Corps,Corporal called Mick Shayle who was also something
of a folk singer, as I recall.
Other linguists there at the time were Cpl Bill
Hogg, who is still a close friend to this day, Cpl Pete
Waller and WO1 Pete Radnedge who, I recall was in charge
Ernie Dixon’s other claim to fame was that he was, I believe,
the very first Moufflon Major – the man responsible for
handling Trotzky, on formal parades.
Ernie Dixon parades with the Moufflon
Trotsky looking for a banana or a cigarette butt.
Much has been reported about Trotzky, but those of us who
knew him personally – though not of course in the
biblical sense – would point out that he was not a
Moufflon, but just a common or garden ram.
He was also an evil tempered beast and morning
waste burning in the middle of ‘his’ compound could be a
hairy experience. Finally there remain some grave doubts
about his sexuality - when Ken Wilford and I took him
across to the antenna field early one morning to give
him a run amongst the goats, which were housed there, he
reserved his amorous interest solely for the billy goats!
The real live moufflon did not survive for long, possibly
due to his aggressive habits and possibly due to the
fact that he was fed on a diet of bananas and cigarette
butts, but the legend of the moufflon survives to this
Signal Squadron of 14th Signal Regiment,
which traces its history back to 1 Squadron 14th Signal
Regiment and from there back to 225 Signal Squadron,
maintains the moufflon emblem as its official insignia.
In the early Spring of that, my first year in Langeleben,
the Squadron was visited by a ‘Recruiting Team’ from the
Language School in UK whose task was to identify suitable candidates for
Russian Language training.
All those spec ops and analysts, who were
interested in undergoing such training, were given an
aptitude test, followed by a brief interview.
I believe a total of eight of us were selected
and some of those, namely Mick Green, Robbie Seaword,
Pete Westwell, Ken Wilford and Rock Mead remain good
friends to this day.
We were to depart for the language training in
UK at the end of August, but before that there was much to
be enjoyed in Langeleben and the surrounding area.
I did not spend too much time doing the spec op thing on
shift, which is just as well, as I suspect that we were
producing very little of value, that was not being
covered at Birgelin or by the US sites elsewhere.
By the time Spring had arrived and the snow had
melted, I was moved to a very ‘cushy’ little job as the
courier. My daily task was to bag-up the classified material for
dispatch to our customers and deliver it to the post
office at Wolfenbuettel for onward movement through the
RE Postal and Courier system.
I would then return with the in-coming courier,
book it into the register and distribute it.
My supervisor on this task was a genial Staff
Sergeant from the Isle of Man by the name of Bill (Wingnut) Irving.
He left me very much to my own devices and I was able to manage my own time freely.
I even had my own office! I have lovely memories of long Naafi breaks at Northampton Barracks,
Wolfenbuettel and pleasant daily drives through the
Reitlingstal, usually being chauffeured by Ken Wilford.
Socially, life in Königslutter could hardly have been better.
By this time I had left the big boys to their
heavy drinking habits and graduated to a younger
‘trendier’ group which was mixture of German ‘boys and
girls’, including Georgie Berg, whom we still see to
this day, and the likes of Phil Cork, Ken Wilford and myself.
It was a very pleasant and effective way to learn
the German language and something of the German way of
life. There was a good disco in Königslutter, and an even better
one still in Helmstedt.
We would spend late evenings playing ‘Chicago’
dice in Ferdie’s place on the Marktplatz
(The same family now owns the Café am Markt),
before climbing into the late night transport back to
Other bars which took a lot of our hard earned Deutschmarks
were the Amtsgericht, Grosse Schumanns (Zur Traube),
Kleine Schumanns, Sabrina’s and the Deutsches Haus, not
to mention the Middle Gezzie in Lelm.
My regular evening excursions to Königslutter ‘to improve
my German’ very nearly got me jailed in the Spring of
1968 in what I will always remember as the ‘Case of the
When a German national flag disappeared overnight from a
flagpole outside the Kinderheim suspicion fell, not
surprisingly, on the British soldiers of the
neighbouring Langeleben Camp. When the authorities then
approached the ‘powers that be’ in the Camp, some very
high quality detective work was undertaken by the Sergeant Major.
He quickly established that only three soldiers
had booked out of camp that night so the culprit must be
one of them.
The three accused were Steve Keal, Max Wilson and I.
We made fruitless attempts to point out to the
Sergeant Major that only an idiot would formally book
out of camp with the nefarious intention of stealing a
flag from the Kinderheim, since there was a perfectly
accessible enormous hole in the back fence.
We were ‘banged to rights’, the evidence was
irrefutable (despite a thorough search of our rooms and
lockers producing no tangible evidence) and we were to
be formally charged at 0830 the following morning.
This is when the law of the jungle thankfully clicked in.
Those readers who served at Langeleben at that time will
remember that Steve Keal was a ‘big lad’ with a
temperament just occasionally disposed to violence
(though only when severely provoked, you understand).
Max Wilson was no lightweight either.
Steve and Max, stoutly supported by all eleven
stone of my good self, conducted our own investigation
into who might have stolen the flag.
Friends and allies within the camp pointed
fingers at one or two likely candidates and some ‘brisk
and vigorous’ questioning by Steve and Max soon produced
A subsequent search of a locker produced the
tangible evidence and two members of B Troop (no further
names are required) spent the next seven days in a small
uninviting room in the Wolfenbuettel Northampton
Barracks guard room. Our good names were cleared and we
did, of course, receive an apology from the Sergeant
Major………well not really !!!!!!
A more enjoyable and memorable highlight of that first
year in Langeleben was an adventurous training sailing
trip from Kiel.
At that time in Langeleben, there was a dear old
Cavalry Major whose name I believe was Major Airey.
He took a group of about six of us out on the
Royal Signals yacht, Petasus, and we spent a pleasant
week touring the Danish islands.
I believe Chris Molesley, now resident in New Zealand,
was one of the other spec ops on that trip.
Other sporting activity in 1968 in Langeleben was for me
limited to a very odd appearance in goal for the
Squadron, when the regular keeper, Lou Disney REME, was
We also played at least one game of Rugby away to the Gunners at
Hildesheim and I recall a young Corporal Vernon Merrick playing at
scrum-half that day. The Langeleben gym offered good
badminton and table-tennis facilities and I recall that
Dave Twigg helped us integrate further into the local
community by arranging for us to be thrashed by the
locals on a regular basis.
So the Spring of 1968 turned into Summer and was a non-stop
cycle of Deutsch, Drinking, Dice and Dancing –
interrupted only occasionally by some limited work in
the tech block.
Even military training was a pleasure that year,
as it was all completed on the shores of the Moellner
See in Schleswig-Holstein, as part of the Squadron’s
annual Summer Camp.
I am fairly sure that I never deployed on any form of
mobile operation/exercise out of Langeleben during that
first tour. (Note –some cynical old mates will claim
that that fact set a pattern for all the subsequent
years of my service at Langeleben -That is not strictly
Those of us selected to return to UK for language training were becoming reluctant to leave
Langeleben, but our motivation for a UK tour was given an extra impetus when the Russians
invaded Czechoslovakia on the night before our scheduled departure.
1969-1972 at 225 Signal Squadron
My fellow newly trained linguists and I returned from
UK to Langeleben in August 1969.
We half expected to pick up on the same ‘life of
Reilly’ which we had left behind the previous August,
but this was not to be the case for several reasons.
More than half of us had got married during our
UK language courses and, whilst we initially returned to
Germany unaccompanied, we were soon busy finding private
accommodation in Wolfenbuettel – but more of that later.
We were now all ‘linguists’ and thus highly employable on
shift work in the block.
No more sinecures like courier duties – we were now on 24 hour shift work.
There had been a regime change amongst the personnel who ran
the operations in the tech block.
Most significantly WO2 Lyn Baker Int Corps had
left and had been replaced by WO2 (Supvr Radio) Ian (Stroppy)
Now, I would not wish to speak badly of dear old
Stroppy, but am obliged to identify that his style of
leadership was different to that which I had experienced
in Langeleben in 1968 and he did not seem to have too
much sympathy or appreciation for this newly arrived
bunch of Royal Signals Voice Ops (Note – we were still
Spec Ops with a language at that point, as the new trade
had not been introduced.)
We did manage to engineer some time off during that early
Autumn of 1969 and we revisited old haunts and old
friends in Königslutter, but reality soon set in and
the search for married accommodation in Wolfenbuettel
I recall that only Pete Westwell had the seniority and
points to get a married quarter straightaway.
The rest of us were obliged to find private
accommodation, the standard of which varied enormously
and was, to a great extent, a matter of luck.
My wife Jennifer and I found a perfectly acceptable modern,
albeit small flat, It was a bed-sit with a bed that
folded out of the wall and had a tiny kitchen and even
tinier shower/toilet but it was warm, cheap and, perhaps
most importantly, only 20 minutes walk away from the
quarters and thus the transport pick-up and drop-off
Jennifer appreciated the fact that it was only half an
hour’s walk from the Naafi.
None of us had a car in those days.
Other couples who were friends of ours, like John and Judith
Neal and Robbie and Sue Seaword had tiny adjoining flats
in a rambling old house in Halschtersche Strasse – try
saying that after a gallon of pils. That house was a
long cold walk away from the transport and the Naafi.
Mick Green, on the other hand, landed squarely on his feet
with regard to the quality of the private accommodation
which he and his wife Lin were able to occupy.
They were lucky enough to house-sit for an
affluent couple who were in the habit of spending the
long cold German winter in Tenerife.
It was a lovely house and the whole gang of us
spent a brilliant 1969 Christmas Eve there.
I remember that Christmas of 1969 for a number of reasons;
some positive and some negative.
On the down side, I was involved in a potentially
serious accident in the Reitlingstal when the Morris
Traveller, taking us off the mid-shift, encountered the
39 seater bus, bringing in the day workers.
The driver, John Jeremiah, managed to avoid the
bus, but not the roadside ditch and it is still a source
of amazement to me that my co-passenger, Colin May,
managed to get out of the back of that two door vehicle,
before I did, although I was sitting in the front!
The other factor which might have spoiled my first married
Christmas in Germany, had I let it, involved promotion. The powers that be had
finally seen fit to recognise the linguistic
achievements of our group of signalmen by awarding us
all our first stripe with effect from 24 December.
All that is, except me, because mine was held
back for a further week, by dear old Stroppy Wilson (or
so I am led to believe) – ‘to teach me some humility’.
On the plus side, it was a brilliant Christmas.
We were all relatively newly wed.
We had no kids.
We did not have lots of cash, but we had
sufficient to allow us to party and we were a great team
of mates. It was cold, indeed very cold.
I recall on Boxing Day walking ten minutes to a
pub in Wolfenbuettel in a temperature of 29 degrees
below - That is cold, nostril freezingly, specs
There were of course no interruptions to the shift cycle over
Christmas and New Year and on into the remainder of that
winter and I consider myself fortunate that I only had
to walk twenty minutes to catch the shift bus on those
very icy winters nights.
By the time that cold Winter of 69/70 ended we had all
gathered together enough points to be allocated married
quarters and were soon established in Danziger Strasse,
Samlandweg, Schweidnitzer Strasse and the like.
An amazing coincidence is the fact that the
married quarter flat which Jennifer and I occupied for
the next two years, in Danziger Strasse, is the very
same one which is now occupied privately by John and
Our contact with Langeleben was now purely for work
purposes. We seldom got a chance to visit Königslutter.
It was too far to take taxis from Wolfenbuettel
and, anyway, we were building a new circle of friends
and contacts in the Braunschweig area.
Notwithstanding that, I believe that memories of
being a ‘pad’ in Wolfenbuettel or Braunschweig are
relevant to the history of Langeleben, as we were still
very much part of the fabric of the camp and the unit.
One of best and most positive moves I ever made was to join
Post SV Blau-Gelb Rugby Club.
Robbie Seaword and I had become keen regular
Rugby players during our long language course in the UK
and were keen to play more often than the odd fixture
available for 225 Signal Squadron.
We heard that there was a German club in
Braunschweig and made it our business to track down its
location and committee.
In the event this was easier than we expected, as
the club’s ground and bar were in the Southern suburbs
of Braunschweig on a direct bus route from Wolfenbuettel,
indeed not very far from the Officers’ and Seniors
Married Quarters in Boelsche Strasse and Kopernikus
The German members of the Rugby Club made us very
welcome and were always ready to give us a lift home.
As the British membership expanded over
subsequent years, they were also known to drive to
Langeleben to pick up players.
Robbie and I played regularly for Blau-Gelb as
did Graham Atkinson, a technician corporal, who I
believe was later commissioned.
He was a superb player, much better than the
journeymen ‘triers’ who were Robbie and I.
Mick Green would also play for the club from time
to time, as would John Neal and even Peter Welch. I made
many good German friends during those early seventies
years, playing Rugby in Braunschweig and those friendships were to be very
successfully resurrected in the early eighties when I
returned to Langeleben – but more of that later.
Young Weir playing Scrum Half for 225 against Braunschweig in 1971
Friday nights and Sunday lunchtimes in Wolfenbuettel were spent
in the ‘Schultheiss’ which was later to become an
Italian restaurant/bar called La Toscana.
We used the Schultheiss and the Tankies used the
This unwritten rule kept the fighting down to a minimum.
Friday nights were poker nights in the Schultheiss, or at least
they were for those with the nerves and funds to gamble.
I would simply sit there in amazement
and, in some cases, shock and horror at the sums
of money which would change hands.
Names which come to mind from that period are
Steve Hodgson, who was a particularly proficient poker
player, Ian Ellinor, who also knew what he was doing.
and a cook lance corporal, called Scouse, who might have
been better off staying at home.
Sunday domino games were far less severe as far as money was
concerned, but they did tend to last a little too long,
resulting in many a Sunday lunch being given to the
I even remember one incident when one individual,
who was married to a German girl, suffered the
embarrassment of her bringing in his Sunday lunch on a
tray and plonking it angrily in front of him in the pub.
I was always careful to get home reasonably close
to deadline after that.
A further positive social development in Wolfenbuettel in
1970 was the setting up of the Wolfenbuettel Garrison
The driving force behind this was the Paymaster
of 17/21st Lancers who was called Dick
Pincott (apologies for spelling after all these years).
It was an interesting, if not unexpected phenomenon,
that virtually all the Lancers members of the Theatre
Club were officers, whilst the Langeleben, 225 Signal
Squadron membership, was predominantly
made up of Wolfenbuettel based Junior NCO’s and
their wives. Two notable exceptions to this were WO1 John
Lovatt, MBE and SSgt Pete Welch, both absolutely top
notch characters, as were their wives, Ann and Wendy.
Whatever! The social mixture in that theatre club, with
Mick Green and myself as the barmen, worked very well
and we enjoyed two very fine years as members, the
highlight of which was a production of ‘Simon and Laura’
in the Lessing Theater in Wolfenbuettel. I wonder if Sue
Seaword can still remember her one line – ‘Dinner is
Behind the bar of the Theatre Club (drinking the profits)
More discerning readers will have noted that I have, thus
far, devoted most of this account of the period
1969-1972 to the social and sporting side of life and
said very little about operations both in and deployed
We did go on shift on a regular basis – Evenings, Days,
Mids, Sleep Day and Day Off was the system we worked.
The turn around between Evenings and Days was
particularly hard, as we had to travel home to
Wolfenbuettel between the shifts.
The Days/Mids switch around was equally tiring
for the same reason.
But we soldiered on and managed to catch a few
hours sleep on the midshift to lighten the load on our
minds and bodies.
Yes, we did sleep on mids, believe it or not, but
we always ensured that at least one of the four of us
remained awake, just in case 3 Shock Army tried to take
us by surprise.
By this time we were just about all JNCO’s and doing
Orderly Corporal was another pain, if you were a
shiftworker. It was Squadron policy that you could not
do this duty and work a shift at the same time.
This meant of course, that every duty fell on
your day off, effectively on your weekend.
I remember trying to explain to SSM Gordon Penman
that it might be considered unfair that my duty was
always on my ‘weekend’, whilst day workers only did a
weekend duty every six months or so.
Gordon Penman, God bless him, consulted the duty
roster, looked at me quizzically and announced, in his
strong Geordie accent – ‘Why Corporal Weir, your next
Duty is on a Thursday, that is not a weekend’.
I tried once more to explain why Thursday could
be seen as a shift worker’s Sunday, but this was all too
much for him to grasp.
I wrote earlier in my account that I could not recall ever
deploying on exercise from Langeleben during my 1968
tour. This was all to change during the 1969-1972 period, as we
linguists were designated as members of the crews of 225
Signal Squadron’s VHF DF vehicles.
Most of our deployments would be non-tactical to pre-recced
sites along the Inner German Border where we would try
to use our new expensive Telegon equipment to good
In reality, I only ever remember getting decent
results against the HQ 3 Shock Army and 47 GTD VHF morse
nets which used to blast out at about strength 10’s for
hours on end. Any signal weaker than that was largely
inaudible on our 40 foot mast mounted Adcock antenna,
and, even if we could hear something, the quality of the
bearing was mediocre to say the least.
The VHF DF vehicles
(L-R Ian Ellinor, Rock
Mead, Chris Mosely, Mike Rogers, Clive Sanders and
Dennis (Buddy Holly) Weir)
I remember one amusing incident from one such deployment
along the IGB to a small village called Eischott.
As the crew linguist, I always worked long days
and was thus stood down by 1800hrs.
On one November evening, I completed my shift and
headed for the village to complete my ablutions and to
enjoy a currywurst, washed down with something
I left at the Det, my Det Commander, Jock Robertson and
a Spec Op by the name of Eddy Bellerby.
When I emerged from the local Gasthaus several
beers and several hours later, a thick fog had descended
over that part of Lower Saxony. Now those of
you with even the same basic knowledge of DF principles,
as I have, will know that the ideal site for a DF
detachment is in the middle of a large open space.
A single landrover and its supporting trailer are
not easy to find in the middle of a large open space
when that space is covered by the thickest fog in
Christendom and it was some considerable time before
Eddy Bellerby finally heard my desperate cries for help,
as I wandered around in ever decreasing circles,
occasionally falling into water-filled ditches.
My favourite and, without doubt, most often recounted
‘exercise’ story concerns the 1970 World Cup.
(Aplogies in advance to all those of you who have
heard it a hundred times before).
HQ 1 BR Corps had cleverly timed Ex SUMMER SALES to take
place at exactly the same time as the 1970 Mexico World
Cup. Clive Sanders, Stu Birchall and I formed the crew of a VHF
detachment and were deployed to the Oderwald feature
South West of Wolfenbuettel.
SUMMER SALES was of course a tactical exercise, so the
instruction was that there were to be no illicit trips
to pubs to catch up with the football.
We stuck this out for a week or so until the
Sunday of the England v Germany
quarter final match came around.
We still had no intention of breaking any
exercise rules, but that Sunday morning we got into
conversation with some German lads who were out for a
walk in the woods.
They convinced us that a trip to the village to
watch the match could be accomplished without any
problem, as they would pick us up in their vehicle and
drop us back to our detachment immediately after the
At the appointed time, we were duly picked up by our new
German friends and ferried to the local pub in the village
of Gross Steimke. The pub was extremely busy, but Clive and I
were made very welcome and, having stashed our rifles
under a nearby table, we found ourselves sitting at the
bar, awaiting kick-off.
England were 2-0 up at half time and the beers were on me.
I was being extremely generous and expansive, but
all that disappeared to nothing when England eventually lost 3-2.
No matter we were among friends and the beers continued to flow.
We left the bar and adjourned to a table in the
corner of the pub, where we were surrounded by a large
group of uniformed German firemen.
I was just on the point of swapping my combat jacket for a
fire brigade tunic when the door opened and in walked
Stroppy Wilson, the SSM, the Adjutant (Tom Swann as I
recall) and the OC.
Without seeing us in the corner, they made their
way to the bar and ordered a round of beers, settling
down on to bar stools for a session.
This was, of course to be our saving grace.
They could hardly charge us for doing exactly
what they were doing.
Eventually we were spotted by the SSM who quietly
came across to the table and suggested that it might be
a good idea for us to leave.
We acknowledged the wisdom of this advice and
left for the pub next door with our new German friends.
(I crept back into the first pub half an hour
later to retrieve our guns !!!!).
An unforgettable incident, but one which our
careers survived, as both Clive and I were promoted to
full Corporal shortly after that.
For Jennifer and me the undoubted highlight of our tour in
225 Signal Squadron was the birth of our daughter
Stephanie in April 1971, but even that deeply personal
event could not avoid the ‘Stroppy’ factor.
Being something of a barrack room lawyer, I had
pointed out to Stroppy that I was not obliged to work
night shifts during the last weeks of my wife’s
This did not please him one bit, but he accepted it and
put me on days.
Jenny was admitted routinely to BMH Hanover on a
Monday morning check-up visit as it was envisaged that
the birth was due within the next couple of days. I made
the mistake of mentioning this to Stroppy and he
promptly banged me on to two mid shifts with the
rationale that Jenny was now in safe hands and my
presence at home was no longer required.
Thus it was, that I was actually on nights at
Langeleben when our daughter came into this world.
Shortly after the birth (ten days actually), I departed for
UK on my A1 Spec Op course along with my best pal, Mick
Green. Jenny was not impressed at being left alone with a ten day old
baby, but thankfully survived the experience and emerged
stronger for it.
Most of our gang became parents during that tour in
Langeleben and Wolfenbuttel and we were all kept fairly
busy with assorted parental duties, such as pushing
prams, baby sitting and changing nappies.
A proud dad on his way
to the Toc H for the Sunday papers
But we still found time to maintain our social and sporting
commitments; at the Theatre Club, on the Rugby pitch and in
the Schultheiss bar. We even went to work on
weekdays, although I believe I had graduated to day
working transcriber by this time.
It was a remarkable couple of years, during which I learned
to drive, honed my German and Russian skills, earned my
first and second stripes and last but not least became a
dad. Many wonderful friendships were forged in the face of the
adversity, represented by private accommodation, Stroppy,
cold damp DF detachments and endless trips up and down
Many of those friendships remain close to this
day particularly with Mick Green, John Neal and Robbie
Many others remain in touch via Christmas card, or the
odd appearance at Langeleben Reunions.
They all have a place in our fondest memories –
even dear old Stroppy.
I left Langeleben on posting to Berlin
in June 1972, shortly after Leeds United finally managed
to win an FA Cup.
I was to return seven years later, but those
experiences can form a whole ‘nother’ chapter, as our
American friends would say.
1979-1983 in 1 Squadron, 14th Signal Regiment(EW)
I returned to Langeleben in August 1979 as a newly
promoted WO2 (EWOp).
Although I was obviously aware that 225 Signal
Squadron was no more and that I was now part of the
Army’s new EW Regiment, nothing much seemed to have
altered in the routine of Langeleben.
We still manned the setroom on a 24 hrs / 365
days per year basis.
We still had the same VHF DF detachments,
although we had acquired some more VHF intercept
vehicles and 70ft masts.
Constant references were made to ‘The Regiment’
and to ‘Scheuen’, but not a great deal seemed to have
True, we were expected to travel to Scheuen
occasionally, if only to play Rugby
or to attend Mess Meetings, but in general we were
initially left to get on with our old task of watching
the Russian hordes across the IGB.
I was now employed once again as a Russian voice
transcriber, working days at the same desk which I had
vacated as a Corporal seven years earlier.
My status was now ‘married unaccompanied’ and I soon
settled into a very comfortable life in the Sergeants’
Mess, where we were ‘organized’ and ‘commanded’ by Ilona
Hauxwell, the Mess Manageress, and ‘pampered’ and
‘spoilt’ by Emmy Sturm, the chambermaid.
The mess was full of people with a similar ‘married
unaccompanied’ status to my own.
My room neighbours included WO2 Tony Buttery, WO2
Neil Dye, WO2 Dave Liddell, SSgt Mick Sposito, WO1 Pete
Smith, SSgt Garry Haynes and my dear old mate WO2 Arthur
Henderson, with whom I enjoyed many a good ‘run ashore’
to the bright lights of Königslutter. Later we would be
joined in the Sgts Mess by that great character Arthur
Verity and by my fellow Russian Interpreter John
Richardson (Note – John reports extensively on this
period of Langeleben in his contribution at Ch 8 of this
Laurie Storey, Arthur
Henderson and Pete Smith prepare to leave a snowy
Langeleben behind and go home for Christmas 1980
Whilst Ilona Hauxwell ensures that they do in fact leave
1 Squadron, Sgts Mess had a huge membership, including at
least fifteen Warrant Officers.
The man responsible for holding the whole of this
‘multi-ego’ Sgts Mess together was the Squadron Sergeant
Major, WO2 Bernie Neillings, and he did so very effectively.
I have served with many good sergeant majors, who were
newcomers to the world of Sigint and EW, but none was
better at handling us than Bernie.
He was enormously popular with all ranks of the
Squadron, not because he was slack, but because he was
fair, yet firm and understood the foibles of those weird
Sigint specialists. It is tremendous news that he has
now begun to attend Langeleben Reunions – no-one is more
worthy of membership of our Branch.
Yes, life in the Langeleben Sergeants’ Mess was a very nice
existence in the early eighties.
I was lucky enough to have one of the larger rooms. The
food was tremendous and those of us, who lived in, did
not have far to go to get a beer.
We made regular excursions to Königslutter and I could
often be found in Braunschweig at the weekends with my Rugby pals.
I had resurrected my connections at Blau-Gelb Rugby Club and
was now the Head Coach.
This picture shows the
Blau-Gelb team in probably 1982.
Second from the right in the front row (kneeling)
is Captain Roy Pugh
Int Corps, a former OC Alpha Troop and a
wonderful man who was sadly killed in the 1994
Mull of Kintyre Chinook disaster.
The annual Christmas Draw was always a spectacular success,
as each year’s President of the Draw Committee attempted
to outdo his predecessor.
I remember Geoff Cromack winning a car in 1979
when Pete Derrick was PDC and then promptly winning a
couple of very high value prizes the following year,
when I was PDC.
Even the routine Mess social functions were classics and one
particular night brings to mind an anecdote which I hope
my best friend will forgive me for recounting.
It was a ‘Golden Oldies’ disco night and the DJ, a squaddie
from Hildesheim, was giving away prizes for people who could quickly
identify bands from the opening bars of their hits.
I had already won one prize, so decided to give
someone else a chance when the DJ put on ‘Love Grows
Where My Rosemary Goes’.
Mick Green’s wife, Lin, immediately began to
shout at him that it was ‘Jefferson Aeroplane’ and that
he should rush up and claim the prize.
I was still quietly pointing out that it was, in
fact, Edison Lighthouse, as Mick jumped to his feet,
rushed across the dance floor, stumbled and drove all of
his considerable sixteen stone frame into the disco
The ensuing light show, as gas filled tubes and
multi-coloured light bulbs exploded, was the optical
highlight of the evening. It was also the end of the
evening as the disco equipment was a complete write off.
I still like to remind Mick and, indeed, Lin when
I see her, that it was, in fact, Edison Lighthouse.
Another on-going highlight of mess life in Langeleben were the
very frequent games of ‘Bridge’ I am still convinced
that Shug Murphy and I and/or Brian Boyle and I, won
enough draw tickets off Vern Merrick and his poor
unfortunate partner, Pete Derrick,
(Pete was unfortunate because Vern never knew
when to say ‘pass’) to have won every prize in every
Once again, I seem to be devoting all of my reminiscences to
social events, rather than to the work we carried out in
Langeleben, so let me now describe the evolution of
Exercises SOUR MASH and WHITE LIGHTNING which were to
keep me in gainful, rewarding and interesting employment
for about two and a half years.
Military exercises can simulate most things, but one of the
things that was particularly hard to do was to simulate
the voice traffic which we would have encountered in 1
Squadron, 14 Signal Regiment, if the Russians had ever
crossed the IGB in a major act of aggression.
At some stage, probably in 1979, some of the 1 Squadron
hierarchy, including, I suspect, Vern Merrick and
possibly Chris Harrison, came up with the idea of using
some of the Squadron’s Russian linguists to ‘play act’
some typical military voice traffic on to cassette.
Their original idea was Ex LOVELY SPEAKER and I
believe it consisted of something like 12 cassettes, all
recorded in a monotone, with no animation or feeling
whatsoever, by Sgt Jos Medcalfe.
Out of LOVELY SPEAKER evolved the first iteration
of SOUR MASH and in January 1980 I was tasked to turn
SOUR MASH into an exercise that would last a week.
The production team consisted of SSGT Geoff Cromack and
myself and we spent the best part of three months
writing hundreds of scripted traffic logs, reflecting a
major incursion across the border by 3 Shock Army.
Then came the time to commit all this traffic to
Having experienced the monotonous, flat,
unanimated traffic of LOVELY SPEAKER we decided that we
must make an effort to inject some life into the
scenario, so we called in help from all the other
linguists, such as Brian Ward, Vern Merrick, Pete
Derrick, Pete Manger and last but not least Robbie
Robbie would turn up for recording sessions with a
hold-all which contained, a piece of vacuum hose, a
kettle, a bucket and sundry other bits and pieces.
He would then have the rest of us in complete
stitches, as he used all these various bits of equipment
to produce a different voice signature for each callsign
as it became active. Simple, but brilliantly effective
and I am sure the intercept operators were grateful for
When we had completed SOUR MASH and run it as a Regimental
exercise on two occasions, I thought my days as a playwright were over.
In September 1981 I returned to Beaconsfield
for six months to complete my Russian studies to
Interpreter level, but as soon as I returned to
Langeleben, I was tasked, this time alongside WO2 Alex
Gaw, to write Ex WHITE LIGHTNING which was to be an even
greater expansion of SOUR MASH.
Alex and I worked together on this project for a
further year and the end result was an exercise which
consisted of 3200 C-90 cassettes.
I believe the cassettes are still in a cupboard
somewhere in 14 Signal Regiment registry.
Just so those who studied Russian at Bodmin or Crail can make a
comparison, my initial language course, to what in those
days was known as colloquial level, was 10 Months in
Cheltenham. That was the level required to deploy to Germany
(Langeleben or Berlin)as a Voice Op.
The full interpreters' course at Beaconsfield
was 18 months, starting from scratch. Because I
had done well on the 10 month initial course and had
later done the Linguist exam (sort of two thirds of
Interpreter level) through private study, they let me
just do the last six months of the interpreter course at
Beaconsfield. Transcribers tended to be those who
had passed the interpreters course.
The Beaconsfield course was accepted by the Institute of
Linguist to be degree level.
Mentioning my old friend, Alex Gaw, brings back memories
of many pleasant Wednesday sports afternoons spent on
the Golf Course in Braunschweig.
This was a beautiful course which, being located
close to the main railway sidings, had suffered severe
damage during WW2.
Its saviours were, or so the story goes, a bunch
of British officers who were stationed nearby after the
war and called in the Sappers to repair the damage.
However true that story may be, we were always
made extremely welcome by the members and staff of that
Some of our golfers were not at all bad – Alex Gaw could
play reasonably respectably, as could Bernie Neillings
and Vern Merrick, but most of us were happy to get close
to 100 for 18 holes and I have an undying memory of our
late friend, Drew Duncan, taking 14 air shots before he
made contact with the ball on the first tee.
Apart from the job satisfaction of the SOUR MASH and WHITE
LIGHTNING series of exercises, the highlight of my
second tour in Langeleben, was without doubt, Ex BEACHCOMBER.
I cannot claim credit for the original concept of
BEACHCOMBER, only for its implementation. Credit for the
original concept must go in the first place to the
Commanding Officer of 14th Signal Regiment
who decreed that in the Summer of 1981 each Troop
Commander was to take his troops away from their static
locations to do ‘something different’.
A second, large share of the credit goes to the
then OC Alpha Troop, 1 Squadron, Captain Ian Henderson
who suggested that I might like to find a project in
Germany where the Troop could do something to support the
environment and strengthen Anglo-German relations.
Thus was formulated the idea to contact a holiday resort on
the German coast which might appreciate some extra
man-power to clean up its beaches.
Through contacts in my second home in Germany,
Dannenberg, I was put in touch with the tourist
authorities in Cuxhaven on the North Sea coast, who
invited me to visit the resort to discuss the project.
Within minutes of arriving in the town, I took a
stroll on the beach and it immediately became clear that
there is not much scope for cleaning a German beach.
The Germans do not have dirty beaches.
The Germans do not scatter litter everywhere and
the Germans do not let their dogs do what dogs do on
beaches in England.
To cut a long story short, my first discussions with the
council soon made it clear that there was valuable work
to be done, but more in the areas of re-delineating
forest tracks, reinforcing the banks of ponds and
doing some basic repairs to dykes.
During the years 1981-1984 Alpha Troop deployed four times to
Cuxhaven; on each occasion for two weeks. During each of these
weeks a team of about ten soldiers would work mornings
under the supervision of professional environmentalists
to carry out the projects described above.
In the afternoons they would visit local military
units, or do something mildly strenuous like hiking 10
kms across the mudflats from Cuxhaven to the magical island
In the evenings they would party !
I could write a whole book on BEACHCOMBER and John
Richardson devotes a lot of his ‘living history’ (cf Ch
8) to this theme, as he was fortunate enough to take
over this project from me when I was finally posted out
of Langeleben in 1983.
Suffice it for me to say that I personally enjoyed each and every day spent in
Cuxhaven and still remember, the project, the people of the town
and all those Alpha Troop soldiers who took part, with a
huge degree of affection.
In the Autumn of 1982 my wife, Jennifer, returned to
Germany when our daughter began boarding school and we moved
into quarters in Ginsterweg, Braunschweig.
My carefree days of living in the Langeleben
Sergeants’ came to an end, as I resumed family
responsibilities and the daily commute through the
Reitlingstal to the top of the Elm.
Living in Ginsterweg was a delight. The Braunschweig Golf
Course was a mere seven iron from the bottom of our
garden and the Rugby Club, of which I was still head
coach, was walking distance away in Mascherode Strasse.
Living in the suburbs of a city meant that we had good pubs and
restaurants on our doorstep. Most importantly, we had
excellent neighbours in the form of Colin and Lynn
May, Roger and Pat Manser, and of course my old drinking
buddy and still very close friend, John Neal, with his
lovely wife Angelika.
John Neal partying in Ginsterweg with Thomas Koch from Blau-Gelb Rugby
That last year in quarters in Braunschweig completed the
wonderful journey that had been my service in Langeleben.
Over a period of 15 years I had lived in as a single
soldier and again briefly as a married unaccompanied
soldier. I had lived in quarters in Wolfenbuettel before being
posted out to Berlin and had returned seven years later
to live in Langeleben once again as a married
unaccompanied warrant officer.
Finally, I was able to enjoy accompanied married
life again in quarters in Braunschweig.
Langeleben was kind to me and very good for my career. I left on
promotion to Warrant Officer Class One and was invited to
Buckingham Palace the following year to be invested as a Member of
the Order of the British Empire
I made many good friends and will always be grateful to them
for their comradeship, encouragement and of course for
I hope to continue to see many of these friends
at meetings of the Royal Signals Association Langeleben
Reunion Branch for many years to come.
 This was put in at the Editor’s request since
it is something of which, we as a whole, should be proud.