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Chapter 10


AN ESTONIAN’S ‘LIFE AS A SPY’

A contribution received thanks to Gordon Peacock which shows the ‘other side’ at work.

The 86th Independent Radio Technical Regiment Osnaz 1963-66

The call-up (povestka)was for 27 November 1963, when I was to second year in my studies at the English philology department in the Faculty of History, “ report to the Voyenkomat (voyenny komissariat), the local conscription office in the Estonian university town of Tartu”. I had completed the first year and attended classes for the first two and a half months of the Philology.

Keen Linguist

I had been a keen linguist since secondary school, where I had avidly read adapted English books ever since I started learning the language in Form Eight. But 1 soon felt I was ready for a more serious challenge and, probably influenced by Cuba joining the Soviet bloc in 1959, searched libraries in my native town of Viljandi for material to start learning Spanish. The search brought up only an elementary school book and after literally reading it through and with nothing else to go on, German soon took my fancy. I taught myself the language with the assistance of a pre-war serial publication, diligently doing all the grammar exercises and learning the peculiarities of Plusquamperfekt. Preparing for my school-leaving exams I decided I should try take the exams in English and German and was awarded an “excellent” mark (5) in English and a “good” one (4) in German.

My school Russian was poor at the time although we had had the subject since Form Two. Russian was not a popular subject in Estonian schools in those times, so when preparing for entrance exams to the university I consulted my Russian secondary school teacher. However, there was too little time and so my efforts in Russian were only valued with a “satisfactory” mark (3) at the exam. As I got a “three” also for my Estonian essay, in which I compared the Ten Commandments with the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism, finding that there was much in common between them, I feel that my enrolment may have partly due to my extra mark in German.

At the university I immediately enrolled in an optional class of Spanish. But as the classes took place only once a week 1 soon found the progress was too slow. So when browsing the shelves at the Tartu Teadus bookshop I came upon a slim East German volume entitled “Wir lernen Spanisch sprechen” (Spanish self-taught), I quickly decided to buy it - after all, it only cost a few kopecks. I read the book from cover to cover within perhaps a month and then went and bought the next two books in the series, Italian and French.

Meanwhile I had signed myself into a once-weekly class of Arabic at the university’s Oriental Studies Room but there, too, progress was slow and I barely managed to learn to read the script and acquire some set phrases, such as “There's no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet.” Contrary to how this looks, the class, given by the now prominent poet and political writer Jaan Kaplinski, had nothing to do with Islamic propaganda.

So by the time of my conscription I had acquired shallow background knowledge of quite a number of languages (I had even had a go at Kiswahili) and filling in my conscription questionnaire I naturally entered all my newly acquired linguistic skills in the appropriate box. I presume this rather impressive although boastful list may have decided my fate for the next three years. Nevertheless, I had no idea on 27 November what kind of service was in store for me and visualised the horrors of three years in the infantry, a construction battalion (stroibat), the strategic missile forces or worse still, in the navy, where the term of service was four years.

Hair Cut

I was taken with dozens of other young men sharing my fate by train under escort (konvoi) from Tartu to Liepaja in Latvia, with stops at transfer points (peresylochnie punkty) at Hiiu in Tallinn and in Riga. At a certain point during the konvoi all conscripts had their hair cropped.

Arriving in Liepaja I was bunked in a huge barracks hall, perhaps 40 metres long by 30 wide, filled with double-deck bunks. Our uniforms were issued to us immediately on arrival. We were taken to a sauna, left our own clothes there and emerged dressed in khaki. Daily working uniform included an overcoat (shinel’). This was rolled up and carried over the shoulder on guard duty as well as during exercises, when we also had to carry a gas mask. The overcoat was a nuisance to carry but good to use as a blanket whenever there was a chance to take a nap.

The regime was rigorous. When the alarm sounded everyone had to be in line within a minute, in trousers, boots and long-sleeved shirt. Those who didn’t manage this in time were punished, usually by assigning them to “dva/tri naryada vne ocheredi” (two or three extra details). On the order “Left turn!” we were marched out in single file to fall in outside the front door for morning exercises. This happened in any kind of weather and usually involved some warming up, then a run round the block, a distance of about one and a half kilometres.

The barracks, probably purpose-built in the late 19th or early 20th century, stood perhaps half a kilometre from the city centre at the corner of Apsu (Wasp) and Darza (Garden) Streets. When I arrived at the end of 1963 both the streets were open to the public but within about a year a fence was put up around the area, enclosing the barracks, the lorry park across Apsu and the club, sports ground and infirmary across Darza.

After morning exercises some time was set aside for washing and shaving (with cold water), polishing boots and copper belt buckles (blyakha) as well as sewing a strip of white cotton cloth as a collar to the army jacket (gimnastyorka). In the line-up for breakfast the sergeant carefully checked the results and discovery of yesterday's collar or an insufficiently brilliant belt buckle necessarily brought punishment.

40 Metre March to the Mess Hall

Breakfast was in the mess hall downstairs. We were not allowed to walk there independently but lined up in column of threes in front of the door, given the order “Right turn!” and marched the 40 metres to the door to the mess hall, where there were further orders were given to get us to enter the mess hall in single file. We were even ordered to sit down, and after eating to stand up. The meal consisted of a few slices of black and white bread, mashed potato or porridge (wheat, buckwheat or millet), washed down with tea. For lunch there was kisel (a starchy sweet fruit drink), also soup and sometimes, perhaps once a week, a minced meat burger (kotleta). We sat ten men to a table and the meal was served by one of the chaps in the middle (razvodyashchy) with a ladle from large metal pots (bachok) and passed round. The “cutlery” was limited to aluminium tablespoons.

The conscripts were mainly from the Baltic countries, including several called up after graduation from the university. This was because military instruction at universities had recently been discontinued and university graduates who had not had any military training were to be called up for two years, given special instruction and released with the rank of junior lieutenant. Apart from myself there were others whose university studies had been interrupted by conscription while most had a secondary education. Later another batch of young men came from Ukraine, as well as a few from Georgia, but they didn’t end up serving in my company (rota).

Drill and Classes

For the first two months most of the day was spent on marching drill and classes (zanyatiya) including weapons training. Each recruit was issued with an AK (Kalashnikov) automatic rifle, and these were kept in special locked cupboards (piramida) along the barracks walls.  Special attention was paid to the speed of disassembling and reassembling the rifle as well as cleaning it after use. Other instruction included ZOMP (zashchita ot oruzhiya massovogo porozheniya - protection from weapons of mass destruction), physical training - there were parallel bars, a horizontal bar, a buck and a pommel horse in the barracks and soldiers were encouraged to exercise on them in their free moments - service manuals, political education (held in the Lenin Room - Lenkomnata), special skills, such as Morse code, referred to in military jargon as SES (stantsionno-ekspluatatsionnaya sluzhba), and the basics of radio engineering (radiotekhnika).

During that stage I learned the American GI’s phonetic alphabet Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, etc., and will probably remember it to my dying day. The Lenkomnata perhaps needs a little explanation. It had of course a bust of Lenin, and nearly all the walls of the room were covered with various political posters, notices with the soldiers’ performance results and a board of honour with the portraits of exemplary soldiers, but it also had a billiard table, chess and draughts tables as well as a TV set. Apart from political classes, it was the place where Komsomol meetings took place and where the men spent most of their free time.

Towards the end of the initial training period the young soldiers were taken to a shooting range outside the city where we were to demonstrate our marksmanship with our personal AKs. My performance was average, although I had done better shooting with an air rifle at secondary school military training classes. The recruit period ended with all conscripts taking the oath of allegiance to the Soviet Union, upon which we were assigned to our combat units and real service began.

My service boiled down to six-hour shifts at the regiment’s position (pozitsiya) on the outskirts of Liepaja. It was quite a large fenced territory consisting of a reception centre or PTs (priyomny tsentr), garages for military vehicles, the fuel depot (sklad GSM - goryuche-smazochnykh materialov), direction finding equipment, the unit’s pig farm, some potato plots and last but not least the guard room. I spent most of the time during the rest of my service of two years and nine months either at the PTs or on guard duty. We normally worked six hours and then had 12, sometimes 18 or more hours off before another six-hour shift at the PTs. When there was a detail manned from our company and I was not included, which was quite often, we worked six hours at the PTs, were driven back to the barracks, had our meal and climbed into our bunks to get some sleep before we were woken up in time for the next six-hour shift. This kind of arrangement was called six by six (shest’ po shest’).

The PTs was a single-storey building filled with radio receivers. It had a long corridor, a command room, a room for technicians and another for radio monitors. There were four shifts in 24 hours, starting at 09.00, 15.00, 21.00 and 03.00 hours. Shifts began with instruction by the duty officer for those posted for duty for the next six hours, including DF operators. The combat (boyevoi) nature of the service was often underlined. The actual work consisted of monitoring certain frequencies and putting down all the communications we could hear.

OUN

My duty was to monitor voice and teletype (TTY) communications between stations in the North Atlantic and North Sea navigation network. It had stations from Germany (DML) to Norway (JXP, JXS, JXT – if I remember correctly JXT was situated on Jan Mayen), the Faeroe Islands (OUN), Iceland (NMS2) and Greenland (VDB, VDB2). OUN was the main station, which called the others for radio checks every hour on the hour. The network operated on two short-wave frequencies on SSB (single side band) and it was quite difficult at first to catch what was being said in this slightly garbled high-pitched English, often mixed with static. After all, I had had little chance of hearing real native English speakers communicating with each other during my studies, as all our teachers at the university had been Estonian. But eventually my ears got used to the peculiarities of the signal.

For TTY there was a different frequency and when we heard a station calling another, saying it had a TTY message, I was supposed to quickly tune one of the two receivers to the TTY frequency and switch on the TTY printer. All communications were recorded in pencil on A4 sheets and handed over to the command room at the end of the shift. To help us out there was an army tape recorder, Zvuk-1, at the desk. During my whole service I only remember one incident when there was free voice communication between two stations of the OUN network. It happened between DML in Sylt, Germany, and VDB2 in Greenland. There was a new man at VDB2 and calling DML he enquired about life there and spoke about his own experiences, including meetings with polar bears in the neighbourhood. Although interesting, the conversation was evidently of no value to the officers who were trying to crack the code the network was using in its TTY messages.

Work on post (boyevoi post) was actually quite interesting. Towards the end of my service I even started to think that it would be great to have a job like this on Civvy Street. We were supposed to keep only one of the two receivers on the OUN frequency and were encouraged to search for stations of military relevance on the other one. I remember that only once I chanced upon open communications between units involved in war games in West Germany.

In my own interests I regularly used the other receiver to listen to various English-speaking stations, mainly the BBC and Voice of America, and to print news from news agencies - above all AFP, but also Reuters, UPI, the Italian ANSA and others. The teletype signal was easy to recognise and assess in terms of printing quality and so we had easy access to news no Soviet news channel would ever carry. I managed to smuggle out some of these news reports and I still have them stacked away somewhere in my bookcase.

The valve receivers were large heavy boxes but their technical performance was great, as far as I could judge. The old-type KROT receiver had the short wave divided up into l2 frequency bands with two tuning controls, one for rough and the other for fine tuning. Using these controls it only took a few seconds to find the desired frequency. Instead of the KROTs we later came to have R250Ms which, if I remember correctly, had 24 frequency bands from about 200 metres to cover the whole short-wave band. This machine was even more impressive in its performance. The TTY printer made a lot of noise despite its wooden casing but when the signal was loud and clear it produced faultless text, although only in lower case. The tape recorder was also far better than similar civilian machines at the time. Towards the end of my period of service officers of our company were testing mnogokratka, a teletype machine that was supposed to be able to receive four different texts from one signal, but my service ended before they could get it into operation.

Apart from searching the bands and listening to news I sometimes tuned in to music stations - to listen to the British Top Twenty, German Schlager or Italian canzoni, although this was strictly prohibited. Nevertheless, we obtained our own tapes and later smuggled them out of the unit with recordings of Western music. Yet another way of whiling away the long night hours was to take an English book on shift in the leg of my army boot. Often I managed to read it through in six hours. Night shifts were particularly suitable for this as there was next to no fear of any officer suddenly turning up in the monitoring room. It was a good thing we were permitted to use dictionaries during the shift, as a detective story could easily be slid under the dictionary in case of trouble. Although no reading matter was allowed during the shift, some officers closed their eyes to such misconduct. Books could be borrowed from fellow-soldiers, all of whom had a small stock, but later we discovered a better source - an officer from our regiment who had served for a few years in Cuba and had brought back several suitcases full of American paperbacks. Most were detective stories but there were some Steinbecks among them. Often I worked on my teach-yourself books during the shift.

There assignments for those manning other desks included monitoring coded messages sent by US B-47  aircraft on their regular reconnaissance flights up the Baltic over international waters. As soon as a signal was picked up orders were given to the DF operators sitting at radar screens in their lorries in the Liepaja pozitsiya as well as to posts in Kaliningrad , Ventspils farther up the coast and Kuressaare (then Kingissepa) in Estonia. If the tracks happened to be closer to shore than usual a Vozdukh! alarm was given. The idea was probably to raise the soldiers’ vigilance, as no real attack could naturally be expected from a routine reconnaissance mission.

Although I kept my OUN assignment all through my service at certain times most other regular duties were abandoned and all efforts were switched to the US space programme. That was a time when the Soviets and Americans were running neck and neck in the space race and the 86th Independent Radiotechnical Regiment also apparently wanted to do its bit. We were sometimes given additional duties of monitoring US satellite tracking stations as far away as Kano and Mauritius and the aerial system was even improved to intercept remote radio communications. On launch days, however, we were put on combat duty (boyevaya zadacha) to receive the press agencies and listen to the Voice of America. The UPI or AFP flash messages from the Cape Canaveral launch pad went immediately to the command room.

It must have been in my third year of services that a university course mate of mine arrived in our unit. While majoring in English he devoted a lot of time to learning Swedish and must have acquired quite a good knowledge of the language in two years. He had been conscripted one year after me and sent to a unit in Riga that had similar duties to ours. Wearing naval uniform he was put aboard a navy ship in Liepaja for the purpose of intercepting communications between Swedish aircraft and ground stations as well as between naval ships. I no longer remember exactly, but I have the impression his mission lasted about a month. Later he told us how Swedish and other aircraft had flown low over their ship. He then returned to his unit in Riga and I only saw him again during my third year at university. After graduation he got a job at Radio Estonia’s Swedish service and was one of the compilers of the first post-war Swedish-Estonian dictionary.

Canadian Tom

After one year of service a new batch of conscripts came to the unit. Some of the new recruits came from Central Asia and communication with them was a really difficult because of their extremely poor command of Russian. But among the new men in our platoon was a chap called Tom (with Russified patronymic), as I could read from his service i/d (voyenny bilet). Born of Latvian parents and brought up in Canada, he had lived in Riga from the age of 14 when his parents had decided to return to their native country. I never understood the reasons why the family had left the free world to live in Soviet-occupied Latvia, and Tom was either unwilling to explain or didn’t know.

Although not very intellectual, he was a native speaker of English, the first I had personal contact with, apart from my optional Spanish teacher at Tartu University, Arthur Hone, who had arrived in Estonia shortly before the outbreak of World War II to marry the writer Aira Kaal and never had the chance to return to England. Later my lecturer on English and American literature, he lies buried in Tartu’s Raadi cemetery, with a modest memorial erected by his students. When I had a chance of improving my English at Surrey University in 1986, I visited his sister in Wimbledon and later met her son at my lodgings in Guildford.

Tom was a nice sort and I was lucky to be bunked next to him. I put this opportunity to advantage, speaking English with him as often as I could. At the time there was a craze among the radio monitoring group of copying the lyrics of popular songs, which were often quite difficult to decipher. Here Tom came to our help with the trickier bits, such as “slide rule” in Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World” and many others. But the biggest bonus from bunking next to Tom for the next 21 months was that when I re-enrolled in the university after my service I could speak English more or less fluently at colloquial level, although with an American accent.

Sitting in the PTs listening in to conversations somewhere thousands of miles away was not the only aspect of the service. There was a more military side to it as well - details, 24-hour duties in the barracks, at the pozitsiya, the unit headquarters or in the mess hall. The details rotated from company to company and provided a certain change from the daily routine, although it was certainly much nicer to sit in the PTs than walk around the GSM storage area for two-hour shifts with your AK slung over your shoulder, or to wash dishes in the mess hall, actually in a room next to the kitchen. All those assigned for a detail were permitted a few hours sleep after lunch and had to be ready for the detail instruction (razvod) later in the afternoon. The razvod actually boiled down to little more than a check whether the men had clean white collars, shining belt buckles and boots and whether their hair was properly cropped.

The mess detail was regarded as, and in fact was, the most onerous one: there were the tables to be cleared, the dishes of about three to four hundred men to be washed - aluminium bowls (miska) and enamel-lined but badly chipped metal mugs (kruzhka), large metal serving pots along with the aluminium table spoons - and the food to be laid out for the next meal. It was hard work, particularly if you were unfamiliar with it and didn’t know the tricks that made it much easier. For example, fat could easily be washed off if some mustard powder were added to the water. Otherwise the fat could only be removed in very hot water that made you hands red and burn all over. I remember going to sleep in the small hours after the evening meal and asking the orderly (dnevalny) to wake me at half past five or six so as to have breakfast ready in time.

Orderly service was much easier. You stood at a small box (tumbochka) guarding the entrance to the barracks. The orderly was also responsible for order in the barracks, among other things checking that the bunks, and particularly the stripes on the blankets, were all in line. On the arrival of an officer he had to shout “Attention!” and call out the duty sergeant who was in charge of the orderly detail. A less pleasant aspect was the orderly’s duty to clean the toilet.

Finally there was guard duty, carried out at two different locations within the regiment and occasionally at the garrison detention cells. A guard consisted of three men for each post, and the duty was in three shifts of two hours each - one on the post, one staying alert in the guard room and one resting. In summer it was a real pleasure to walk around the post and watch the neighbourhood, but with bitter cold in winter in was not so pleasant. To keep warm in winter guards wore large sheepskin coats (tulup).

The worst location was guard No 1, the headquarters of the unit in the beach area of the city. Post 1 on that guard duty during a weekday meant that you had to stand for two hours next to the regimental flag, closed in a glass case, and if an officer passed, which happened every few minutes, you had to pull yourself to attention.

Guard duty at the pozitsiya was much more pleasant, particularly if you were assigned to post No 2 or 3 in summer. These two posts were only a few hundred metres from the sea and there were no buildings between them and the beach. The beach in Liepaja is soft, sandy and wide, a holidaymaker’s paradise, and although there was no way we could get to the actual seashore while on duty there was a certain sense of freedom in the scenery that made you forget your automatic rifle and dream of the time when you would eventually be free to return home.

On a Pass

As service progressed and I moved on from the first year to the second and from the second to the third, I was allowed out more often on a Sunday pass. The old part of the town is very nice. At the time when I served there the barracks was situated in an area of mainly wooden one-family houses lined along the streets. There are several churches - one, as I learned later, was where a Finnish infantry company had had its services during World War I. A funny little tram ran through the old town, single track for some of the distance, so that a tram approaching the point where the tracks merged had to wait for the other tram to pass before it could continue. The city centre had a teacher training college, a theatre and a department store as well as a municipal library. I remember spending a lot of  time there reading various foreign papers and magazines. Naturally, they mostly came from socialist countries, but there was also an Italian left-wing magazine, Vie Nuove, and I went there to read it whenever I had a chance.

Being Estonian I knew very well that Russian soldiers were not welcome in a Latvian city. On my earlier visits to Latvia I had been ignored by Latvians when attempting to approach them in Russian, for example to ask the way. So I asked one of my Latvian fellow-soldiers to teach me some Latvian, which he was quite pleased to do. The words and expressions he taught me proved quite useful in the city and raised my self-confidence. I even bought a Latvian-Russian and Russian-Latvian dictionary (still have it on my shelf) and attempted to read Latvian newspapers, although not very successfully, as other languages, mainly English, but also Italian, were my priority.

I had got married shortly before being conscripted to give my girl friend confidence that we would continue to live together after my service, and I was lucky enough to see her several times during my years of service. She often came to Liepaja during the three years. This was something even the officers understood and so I didn’t have to plead with them too much to give me a pass to spend time with her. These were naturally the best hours and days of my stay in Liepaja and probably another of the reasons why I do not look back at the three years as wasted time.

By the time I graduated from university I had received three more years of military training (one day a week was reserved for it). After completion of fourth year studies at the university we were taken to Klooga for a two-month training camp and commissioned as junior lieutenants of motorised infantry. By 1986 I had been promoted senior lieutenant of the reserve and transferred to the category of political officer - all without any initiative of my own. That year I was called up for 25 days’ Spetspropaganda training. One of those called up with me is now the Estonian Ambassador to NATO. The purpose of this Spetspropaganda training was to give us an idea how to publish newspapers in English and German for the local population in countries where the Spetspropaganda unit would be stationed. The rather primitive presses for printing the papers were mounted on army trucks. Very little imagination is required to understand the circumstances in which this could have happened! This may give you an idea of what Soviet military doctrine was about even in Gorbachev's time!

MERCURY GRASS AND ALL THAT – A 70 YEAR OLD’S BLOG

Jeremy Wheeler’s notes on life at JSSL, Crail, Maresfield, Birgelen and RAF Gatow – in West Berlin during the approx. period from June 1956 to end January 1958.

I successfully completed my 28th Intake Russian Translator's course at JSSL Crail early in 1957. I had been an average student with some moderate abilities as a linguist having taken French and German at "A" level with Latin and Greek at "O" level  and had passed all of the regular Russian examinations to which we were subjected every two weeks with something - but not a lot - to spare. I cannot say that I strained myself that much and could probably have done a little better had I spent more time learning my Russian vocabulary and less time in the bars of the various local licensed premises.  The first among these was the East Neuk in Crail - owned by Duncan Jardine – where I regularly played dominos with Cpl. Jim Hopper, a red-headed solicitor, who wore smart Scottish regimental tartan trews with a fancy bonnet to match and who had a Law degree from Edinburgh together with his fellow Scot a Glasgow University man called Alick Holland, a Cameronian. Other regular ports of call were the Pitmilly House Hotel and the Royal Hotel in St Andrews.

My regular pursuit of a number of ladies at University at the Union dances, and my playing rugby and squash, when I should have been revising, also took their toll on my examination performances. I did not realise when playing rugby at Crail that our standoff half - a certain RAF man called Eddie George - would one day be Governor of the Bank of England. The scrum-half Naval Coder David Parry- Jones was also quite useful. Neither of them, however, could compare in the eyes of C.P.O. Pearce, our Crail rugby coach, with Carwyn James, who had been at Bodmin and later played for Wales and became a legendary coach of the British Lions. Rugby at Crail did also mean obtaining tickets for internationals at Murrayfield. I recall with pleasure those wonderful Edinburgh Rose Street and finishing up extremely drunk at a dance at the Herriot Watt Engineering College later that night.

As a somewhat laid back 19-year-old, in the early stages of the Crail Russian Course I had been no match for the super brains like Messrs. Dan Salbstein from Epsom School, Michael Gale a Law graduate from Kings College Cambridge, David Wiggins with a First in Greats from Brasenose, Oxford who had come top in The Civil Service Exam for the whole of UK and David Storey from Westminster School, who were all amongst others whisked off to Cambridge to do the Interpreter's Course, about which much has already been written by others. One unfortunate fellow - a smallish fair-haired chap, whose name escapes me - had also scored high marks in the first major examination, which would have meant normally that he would have gone to Cambridge with the others. He was, however, deemed a security risk by some obscure powers that be apparently, so he told me, because it had been discovered that his father had once met Mr Harry Pollit –the British Communist Party leader- and so he was returned to his unit almost immediately. Furthermore, he was one of the few that had actually studied Russian before going to Crail, which was perhaps also not a good thing to have done in the eyes of those mysterious powers that be!

My one lasting achievement at Crail seems to have been that I managed to coin the nickname of Sorok Odeen (41 in Russian) for that rather sinister and pale-faced instructor, who used to teach us endless strings of codes and numerals using a microphone and tape recorder. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Peter Duskin on Intake 32 (2 after me) that later kursanty long after my time also called him that.

GCHQ, Cheltenham

Following my seven months at Crail, along with most - though not all - of my fellow army kursanty from 28th Intake, I attended a course on Russian Radio Voice Intercept at Benhall, out on the Gloucester Road, which was part of the GCHQ Complex in Cheltenham. Those wooden huts were until quite recently still there, though they have probably now gone since the new multi-million GCHQ centre was constructed.

During our 3-month course, we lived in Cheltenham's Milverton Hotel, an impressive looking building which is now (or was anyway until recently) the Headquarters of the International food company Kraft Jacobs Suchar. In 1957, the Milverton was owned or managed by a Mr Runciman and we lucky National Service privates lived there and worked in civilian clothes, with most weekends free, whilst we were still in the Army. This for those who know anything about National Service in general was a quite genuinely bizarre situation. Mind you, the Milverton Hotel, despite its imposing colonnaded front, was not luxurious by any means, but we did have our meals served to us in the hotel dining room by waitresses with clean cloths on the tables, which were properly laid, with water jugs, etc.

Most of us lived in the Hotel's Annexe in Parabola Road, overlooking the famously upmarket and expensive Cheltenham Ladies College, which was something of a diversion that stirred the minds of not a few of us, whose encounters with the opposite sex had for the most part been limited to a few "gropes" with well brought-up girls at St Andrews University or nurses on holiday in St Andrews for the "Glasgow holiday fortnight"

In 1957, coffee bars were still in vogue and there were quite a few in Cheltenham. After dinner at the Milverton, we used to repair to one called The Black Tulip in the Parade for a cappuccino or espresso. Our favoured drinking spot was a place further up the hill near the Queens Hotel in Montpellier Street called "The Buttery Bar" kept by a dark somewhat Italianate-looking Welshman called Tony, where they sold Wm Younger's No. 3 on draught, which was a favoured tipple of the more hardened drinkers amongst us led by the late and much lamented Huw Lloyd Williams – already by that time an articled solicitor from Wrexham. He and my pals Roger Beasley, who died in Brazil a few years ago and Eric Pusey a Modern Language Graduate from Exeter University and Michael Goldsmid, ex Haileybury took our beer rather seriously - much as people these days view wine. MacEwans and Younger's beers both being found in and around Crail had remained our favourites.

Cheltenham was really quite a pleasant town, and was still in those days peopled by lots of retired military and civil service officers and outwardly a bastion of gentility. However - like many towns- it did have its rougher spots particularly in a place at the bottom end of the Promenade known as Dingle Dell where some of the town's hard men gathered. The Town Hall had dances on Saturday nights which were fairly lively. It had, I recall, an upstairs balcony from where one could look down on the dance floor.

An amusing diversion at Cheltenham was - just to show how relaxed things were and how far we had drifted away from the reality of army life- that Mike Goldsmid, being a fairly affluent young 18-year-old, decided that the Milverton Hotel annexe wasn't perhaps quite good enough and he and I went looking for rooms in an annexe to the Irving Hotel owned by Mr Charles Irving - actually the Local Conservative MP and sometime Mayor of Cheltenham. He was somewhat amazed, bemused and possibly even "taken" with the idea that a couple of army National Service privates should consider renting his white-carpeted apartment! The mind boggles, but we decided against it in the end.

As for the voice intercept course given by Major Thomas - a somewhat odd, humourless and rather ill-dressed middle–aged individual with darns in his shirts and socks, who's Russian was not very good - it taught us the rudiments of listening to Russian radio communications. "Moofta Ya Beriosa. Kak Schlieshete Menya? Shlieshoo Vas Horosho" "Mojno Oonishtojit Tanki Protivnika?" "Da Ogon." Other call-sign exchanges that remain in my head from GCHQ are "Vremochka Ya Donoschik" and "Baraban Ya Ikrenka "  In the Russian military vernacular there seemed to be a tendency to exaggerate certain words or actions and the word "Oonishtojit", which means "to annihilate" or  "destroy", was always used in the military sense to mean "attack" as opposed to the normal word for attack which is "Napadat" which did not seem to be used very often as it possibly might mean that whatever or whoever was being attacked might not be "annihilated".

Thomas used to constantly refer to "tanks coming over Cleeve Hill", which sometimes gave the impression that he was maybe a bit mad – poor old chap! He was assisted by the affable Corporal O'Sullivan, whom he used to treat like a bit of dirt. The most important thing about the day's work at Benhall seemed to be - in the eyes of Thomas - the destruction of the "secret waste", which had to be burned in a special incinerator. Most of us National Servicemen actually found all of this quite hard to take very seriously.

The final memory of Cheltenham was a talk given to us by certain Colonel Clutterbuck- a name so unlikely that it must surely have been pseudonym - about Operation Stopwatch /Gold which readers may recall was the codename for the Allied operation when they dug that famous tunnel into a Russian telephone exchange in Berlin. "Clutterbuck" had evidently been involved in this or so he seemed to imply, though his name does not appear in Davis Stafford's book "Spies beneath Berlin" about this extraordinary operation that had taken place in 1955 – some 2 years earlier.

Maresfield Intelligence Corps Centre

Following the completion of our GCHQ course in Cheltenham, some of us endured a nasty shock to our systems in the form of a few weeks at Maresfield in Sussex, the headquarters of the Intelligence Corps - the regiment that we were now due to join since becoming fully qualified "spies of the airways". Up until that point, we had all retained our membership and rank from our first regiments, presumably on the basis that in the event of our committing any serious misdemeanours or failing to pass examinations, we could be sent back from whence we came with a minimum of military bureaucratic fuss. Whilst we mostly remained with the rank of Private, we were considered to be "Tradesmen" with quite a large number of stars (5 or something) which did improve our pay rates a little bit.

After our "cushy number" at Crail and then the even more luxurious living in Cheltenham we were given at Maresfield a sharp reminder that we were actually still National Service Privates in the Army, though fortunately this did not last too long.

Maresfield, despite being in an attractive part of the Sussex countryside near Piltdown where the famous hoax prehistoric man had been "found", was an appalling place seemingly staffed by people on the road to nowhere. I had to endure a few weeks of extreme boredom at this depot where we were given occasional pieces of Russian to read and translate from magazines and spent the rest of the time doing fatigues, including shovelling coal all day, the grime from which was nearly impossible to remove from one's skin in the primitive washing facilities of those appalling huts. I recall with great displeasure that decomposing camp being in a partially wooded area where there were a few pieces of Russian military hardware scattered around including some extremely outdated looking field guns amongst the trees, the design of which looked as though they had come from the First World War or possibly even earlier!

Mercifully my posting to BAOR came through fairly quickly and with my new cap badge and green shoulder flashes it was as a member of the Intelligence Corps that I set off with other fortunate colleagues by train to Colchester and then from Harwich to the Hook of Holland onboard a total dump of a troopship to arrive eventually in Germany at Birgelen near Moenchen Gladbach. Fortunately, our North Sea crossing was calm and there was in my case no occurrence of the appalling sea sickness that some unfortunate soldiers often experienced huddled in bunks below deck in quite dreadfully cramped conditions.

Birgelen No. 1 Wireless Regiment

Thus in the summer of 1957, I duly arrived at the quite smart, modern, white-painted Mercury Barracks of No. 1. Wireless Regiment Headquarters at Birgelen near Moenchen Gladback. This was situated right on the Dutch-German border near a crossing point called Vlodrop and was in a pleasantly forested area. It is now a golf course as I discovered when passing by a few years ago.

Birgelin itself was a smallish village with one largish and fairly primitive, but not unpleasant, "Gaststaette". There was also a rather nice place called the "Dalheimer Muehle" to which one could walk through the forest, where I used to eat "Rueissche Eier", which I considered appropriate for a man of my status as a Russian linguist. A bit further afield was the pleasant, modern and quite prosperous town of Heinzberg where there was a nice open air swimming pool, where we could "eye the local totty".

With due military precision, the first thing that happened upon my arrival in Birgelen was the removal of my newly-acquired I- Corps green shoulder flashes and their replacement with blue Royal Signals flashes – the second change of regimental identity I had endured, having initially been in the Royal Artillery and trained as a "Predictor Operator" on Heavy Anti-Aircraft guns.

Of course at Birgelen there were a number of earlier JSSL kursanty around from 26 Intake including Truss Hurran the fair-haired Wadham College graduate and the inventor of what became the universally used description of all things military as being related to "The Cloth". Hence the food in the canteen became known as "The Cloth Load". Another guy called Marshall from 26th intake was also involved with a German NAAFI girl whose bosom was certainly larger and firmer than anything we had ever seen in England. We heard from the members of 26th Intake about the Regiment's various listening outposts at Dannenberg, Langeleben and Berlin and I was pleased when it was announced that I was to go to Berlin which sounded culturally a lot more interesting than the other two desolate spots on the East German border in the middle of nowhere. It subsequently appears, however, that most people enjoyed all three detachment locations and I understand the local females were particularly cooperative in Dannenberg according to my late friend Roger Beasley. Unfortunately, I cannot really remember who amongst my colleagues went where. The somewhat "camp" Norman Henderson from Mill Hill School, with whom I later shared a flat in London, was certainly at Langeleben, as I believe were Mike Frank Bentley, Frank Wheeler- my namesake - and possibly Mike Hallett.

By way of private "cultural" excursions from Birgelen, prior to my departure for Berlin, l accompanied various kursanty friends on several weekend visits to exciting European cities like Amsterdam, Roermond, Eindhoven, Duesseldorf and Cologne. I also visited Rheindahlen the NATO HQ to sign the Nato Secrets Declaration as an addition to the UK Official Secrets Act that we had signed earlier prior to doing our Cheltenham course.

One further piece of military stupidity arose in Birgelen, when we were ordered to go to Hoehne Barracks on the Luneburger Heide near Celle to take an "A" Level Russian exam. Not having opened a set book or even knowing in advance what the books were, our chances of passing "A" level" were nil. Still, we did visit Belsen concentration camp when we were there. Hoehne was the HQ for British Tank and Guards regiments where I committed the sin of saluting a Warrant Officer in the Royal Tank Regiment, as with his sun glasses and superior quality uniform and peaked cap, he looked really like an officer! A far cry from the sort of NCO's whom we had come across in basic training in the Royal Artillery. I received an embarrassing but fortunately fairly mild bollocking.

Several of us lucky "voice ops" from 1 Wireless Regiment then flew in the summer of 1957 in a Hastings aircraft of Transport Command from RAF Wildenrath directly into Gatow, which was to be my base for the next 7 months.

I returned once more for a brief stay to Birgelen from Berlin via the same RAF "Hastings" and Wildenrath route at Christmas time 1957. That Christmas period was notable for quite serious amounts of drinking by certain sections of the community, which culminated in a 3-ton truck being driven round the square at high speed on Christmas Eve until it turned over. The truck was still lying there on its side when we had our Christmas lunch in the canteen accompanied by recordings played over the loudspeaker of Jimmy Shand and his Band compèred by the RSM..   Also back in Birgelin, we had the chance then to meet up once more with friends, who had returned also from Langeleben and Dannenberg. I later finished up sharing a flat in London with two of them.

I Wireless Regiment, Royal Signals Detachment at R.A.F. Gatow, Summer to mid December 1957.

Berlin - the City in 1957

My time in Berlin, which had once been one of the world's most impressive cities until its semi-destruction in 1944/5 by the relentless allied bombing raids and the final bitter street-by-street battles between the Wehrmacht and the advancing Red Army, was undoubtedly the highlight of my late teens and an essential part of my entry into adulthood.

It was only 12 years since the end of the World War II and the division of the city into its 4 zones as decided upon at the Potsdam Conference of 1945 was still in place. The Berlin Wall was still 3 years away and the city centre was a free zone and its citizens and the troops of the occupying powers were in theory free to travel where they liked, within the confines of the city, where there were, however, distinct contrasts in living standards between the various occupied zones of the city.

As members of the occupying forces, we were permitted to go to the Russian sector, but were supposed to wear uniform if we did so and for obvious reasons, in view of our involvement in - for want of better words - a form of espionage, such visits were not encouraged by our superiors.

In 1957, much of the city was still in ruins and the earlier destruction was epitomised by the shattered shell of the spire of the so-called Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche church that stood in a stark and somehow eloquent outline at the end of the Western showpiece of the Kürfürstendamm near the entrance to the Zoo U-Bahn, which was effectively the heart of West Berlin. Opposite it was the new Europa shopping centre, which far outshone anything that we had even seen in drab 1950s Britain. The streets in the Western sector were filled with a good selection of new Mercedes and Opel cars as well as the ubiquitous VW beetles. However despite these brash showings of modernity, an atmosphere of ruin and decadence remained to some extent in the air that almost tended to overshadow the strenuous efforts that had been made to rebuild the devastated parts of the city in the British and American zones. Mournful hit records still bemoaned the state of the world. "Heimatlos sind viele aus der Welt" was sung by Peter Alexander in one of his great hits together with his other popular smash "In der Taverne von Santa Marie". However, if you have ever heard a record by the great Marlene Dietrich entitled "In the Ruins of Berlin" then that best sums up the underlying atmosphere of the city that could still be to some extent perceived when I was there. A fine piece of writing that also describes this very well is Ian McEwan's novel "The Innocent" about a young English Post Office technician recruited to work in Berlin on the telephone tunnel operation in 1955.

In 1957, Harold Macmillan was telling the British that they "had never had it so good", the Russians had launched Sputnik and their dog Laika had also gone into space, Althea Gibson had been the first black lady to win Wimbledon, Derek Ibbotson had recaptured the world mile record at 3 minutes 52.7 seconds, Sibelius had died and the Queen visited Eisenhower at the White House. Berlin however, remained a Western democratic island in the midst of the solid Soviet red sea that was East Germany US nuclear missile bases were established in Europe. Facing the West behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Germany was a vast and highly mobile Red Army kept in a state of readiness to sweep across the Northern European plains. In Berlin we were part of what was little more than a token occupying force with little chance of withstanding any Russian advance into the Western Sectors of the City. There was talk of the US having "atomic cannons" but that I fear was just pie in the sky. Thus, the main activity in Berlin was that of spying on the Russians and of them spying on us. In this activity as we soon discovered, we young Russian speaking graduates of JSSL and GCHQ in Gatow were actually right in the front line.

Berliners over the years had developed a sophisticated indifference and thick-skinned attitude to what was going on around them aided by a sometimes grotesque sense of humour and taste for things that could be occasionally seem quite bizarre to us young Englishmen. There were still traces of the 1930's world of Christopher Isherwood and of the (admittedly later) musical Cabaret about life in Berlin. Having gone through such appalling experiences, Berliners were very determined to survive, to live on their wits and thrived on their catchphrase that said: "Der Berliner hat eine grosse Schnautze" meaning that " Berliners have a big nose", though there is a good deal more to its meaning than that.

The British and US Zones covered the better remaining and best rebuilt parts of Berlin. In contrast, the once splendid "Unter Den Linden" or "Stalinallee" as it was later called on the other side of the Brandenburger Tor was really very drab. Although the Russian sector did have the better Opera House of the two in Berlin there was little to attract one to that part of town. The ruins of the old Reichstag destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1933 were still there but apart from the awful monolithic Russian War memorial with its goose-stepping guards, there was not much of interest, although we were told by more enterprising older hands that the Soviet sector was the place to pick up great bargains on Zeiss optical equipment and Leica cameras.

One place that seemed to be a magnet for many impressionable young servicemen was the Maison de France bookshop in the Europa Centre that sold green-coloured paperback books in English of an explicit sexual nature quite unlike anything that we had ever read in UK where " Forever Amber" or even the novels of Dennis Wheatley had probably been the closest to a pornographic book that any of us had ever been.

In Berlin we saw really modern departmental stores and buildings for the first time in our lives with the splendid new Ka De Weh, the flash Kempinsky Hotel in the Ku-damm and the remarkable strangely-shaped new Kongresshalle. A total revelation for me and others was the first large fast food joint I had ever seen called Huhne Hugos, where one could buy half a chicken and eat it in one's fingers on the spot at high tables standing up at a remarkably cheap cost. Some of us thought that this would have been the way to make money in UK, but then never had the ultimate enterprise or resources to carry it through. For us eating half a chicken or even a whole leg in austere Britain where we had grown up and where chicken was still a luxury item was almost unthinkable.

Our presence in Berlin was very much welcomed by the Berliners, as the Western allies had kept the city dwellers from starving during the fantastic Berlin Airlift operations a few years earlier when the land borders had been closed off by the Russians. Gatow airfield had also been a vital part of that supply line.

The local "Berlinerdeutsch" dialect was mercifully quite easy for the English to understand compared to some other German dialects, with its somewhat clipped delivery method and pronunciation of Ich (I in English) as Ick. People tell me even today that I speak German has a discernable Berlin accent.

A subject that was of course dear to the hearts of most national servicemen was the local beer. In Berlinthe most popular breweries were Schultheiss and Berliner Kindl. These were both "Weisse" beers being brewed with a mixture of wheat and barley. Another drink which was sometimes called a "Berliner Weisse" was a fairly revolting mixture of beer and strawberry juice. There was a wide selection of beers available from other areas of West Germany including Dortmund's Union, Kronen and Hansa beers and the Munich Loewenbrau and Koenig brands, though these were more expensive than the local Schultheiss. The brand from Duisberg, which was also popular and which was the advertising man's dream was Bittburger Pils ("Bitte ein Bit" being their slogan – well it would have to have been wouldn't it?). Oddly enough, even today I think too that "Trink Coca-Cola – eiskalt" still has a pretty good ring to it.

As for the local food, we all became quite fond of the "Schnitzel" styles of cooking pork and veal, which was a rarity in England(as it still is today) being quite new for us. Goose was quite often found on the menus with "Gänzebraten" being a popular Berlin speciality.

Prostitution was by no means an underground occupation in Berlin and at the top end of the market flashily dressed blondes would cruise along the Kürfürstendamm in smart Mercedes 240 SL Sports cars and similar exotic machines. I was with someone once who called one of these ladies of the night over and she drew up with a white poodle sitting in the passenger seat. When my "voice op" colleague learned that her price was some 200 Marks he then asked her the price for the dog as an alternative, which did not cause much amusement from her side. Ah the joys of youth!

Off-duty Entertainment

In Berlin being as it was a major city, there were any number of diversions for us by way of bars, cafés, night clubs, dancehalls and other delights and we sampled the offerings in numerous establishments and other places of entertainment. One of the small drawbacks to this was that we were a small group and as we worked on shift duties one could not always go out with friends as we were not all free at the same time and so excursions sometimes had often to be made on one's own.

The ubiquitous availability of "Bratwurst" or "Bockwurst" (or "Fooking Brockworst"as the British squaddies called it) stalls or "Imbisses" where one could sample at little cost various forms of sausages was also something unusual.

Starting with the most basic or lowest forms of entertainment, the two most popular places to drink for the infantry squaddies (Black Watch at that time I think?, who would not often venture into places in the city where they might be outnumbered by the locals, were "Steffs" (The Stephanie Bar) and the "Funk Eck" in Spandau, which catered almost exclusively for British other ranks. Fights and excessive drunkenness were not infrequent in these two places that were kept under fairly close scrutiny by the Military Police. I only ventured once into "Steffs" - more to observe the scene than to actually enjoy myself - as such places tended to be not much more than extensions of the NAAFI, except for not actually being on military premises.

An interesting spot to visit for what seemed to us dazzlingly brilliant food, wines and a great selection of liqueurs was the French Forces NAAFI, which was more like a proper restaurant. It was amazingly cheap and we could actually pay in the local forces money called SCRIPT. Not unsurprisingly, no French forces ever came to dine in the British NAAFI!

Travel around Berlin unless one owned a car, as some of the NCOs did such as John Mallam, was usually by 3 methods: the Strassenbahn or trams and the two train systems of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn. The latter, which was partly above ground, covered mostly the Soviet sector so was only used rather infrequently. To get from Gatow into the first main part of the city centre, one went initially by tram along the Heerstrasse for several miles as far as Reichskanzlerplatz (now called Theodor Heuss Platz), where there was a British Forces Centre complete with RVS ladies and a Cinema that showed British films called I recall "The Jerboa" (or Desert Rat). At one stage, some of us went there to learn how to Rock and Roll though personally I did not last long at that.

Not far from Reichskanzlerplatz, I discovered a rather refined and well furnished bar called "Miniatura" where we drank beer and Steinhäger and smoked white clay pipes in a friendly atmosphere and where the patrons seemed to be quite sophisticated Berliners. The place had a slightly odd atmosphere, though I never detected anything untoward going on there even though I went there fairly frequently.

We visited a couple of bars in Berlin out of curiosity having been told that they were "interesting". The first one with a name that I have forgotten was what would nowadays be called a "gay" bar where we went to observe the antics of the queer waiters. In those days, Germany still had its law no. 175 against homosexuals or "hundertfunfundsiebisgers" as they were known, but the owners of this particular establishment obviously paid the police well. From amongst my fellow National Servicemen, there were a few who were possibly repressed "gays" but in those days no-one would have dared to openly admit to being "queer" and a sound heterosexual attitude was the only one that was permissible.

Even more exotic was Das Zwilicht Bar - a lesbian establishment - where the waiters wearing starched shirts and tails with very masculine looks were all women as were most of the clientele. Many of the night clubs one of which I recall was the San Francisco in Kantstrasse had quite sophisticated satirical shows in addition to the usual run of acrobats, magicians and strippers. None of us had ever seen such places in the UK, where most of our socialising had been in local pubs or at rugby and cricket clubs or University Unions.

I think the Berliners actually expected young men from the occupying military to visit such places out of curiosity and there was no resentment of our presence there in either places. We were nearly always in civilian clothes in West Berlin unless on duty.

Another quite interesting place not far from the Zoo U-Bahn station was the "Rheinsiche Winzerstube" , a charming, but newly-built and quite large place designed to look like a wine cellar where a man played the Zither (that instrument made famous by the wonderful Carol Reed directed film The Third Man based upon a Graham Greene story). One could eat or just drink Rhine or Mosel wine or beer there in a pleasant atmosphere. By means of special effects, a view over the River Rhine was created on one wall and sunshine followed by a violent thunderstorm was simulated in a very realistic manner.

Berlin was also famous for its telephone "Tanz Bars", where one could talk to ladies by phone on other tables. The most famous of these was the large "Rezi Bar" in the area known as Sud Stern in the American Sector, where there was a good big band.

Jazz lovers, like me, as a former visitor in England to "Humph's" club above Macs Restaurant at 100 Oxford Street and Cy Laurie's in Great windmill Street, were well catered for in Berlin by the "Eierschale" and "Badewanne" clubs where - particularly at the latter - one could hear visiting seriously good visiting American jazzmen. I saw Wild Bill Davidson there. The Eierschalle was the more downmarket of the two, but was frequented by students from the Freie Universitaet of Berlinmany of whom were from the East so it was interesting to get to know them.

Major indoor sporting events were held at the Sports Palast and soccer matches and other open air events took place in the Olympic Stadium in Spandau not far from the famous prison where some of the former Nazis who had not been executed or committed suicide following the Nurnberg Trials - including Rudolf Hess - were still held. I had the pleasure- and it was as it turned out a very special one - of going to the Olympic Stadium to watch the all-conquering Busby Babes of Manchester United convincingly defeat the local Eintract Berlin. This was prior to the decimation of that great team in the Munich air crash.

Another place of interest I discovered was the Dahlem Museum in a prosperously pleasant and leafy part of Berlin in the American Sector. The most notable exhibit there at that time was the famous and beautiful head of Nefertiti.

Finally for fresh air lovers there was a large wooded area called the Grünewald and the large Hafel Lake. Parts of the Grünewald were used, as has been recorded by others, for military exercises by the Western occupying forces.

Despite the wide range of places to go, entertainments to be enjoyed and the large size of the city, we still felt that our life was a little claustrophobic there. There was the autobahn along which road traffic could travel to the West and there was the train link to Berlin from Helmstedt. Every night when cruising the shortwave bands, we would pick up the train radios: "Hemstedt this is Berlin. We knew our lifeline and way out of that place was still up and running.

The more enterprising people amongst us used to make profitable use of our cigarette allowances collecting these from non-smokers and selling supplies of cigarettes at good prices to Berliners. The cigarettes in question – non-filter tipped of course- were all of excellent quality and purchased in beautifully fresh in tins. The Red and White and Black and White Sobranies were excellent quality and some of us also smoked the exotic Black Russian brand and the even more outlandish flat Turkish Passing Clouds in their turquoise coloured packs. I have long given up smoking and was never a serious smoker anyway except when having a few beers, but I was pleased to note that my former Berlin "Midty" colleague and nowadays eminent London literary agent Gillon Aitken still smokes Senior Service without filter.

Gatow Location

The Gatow Airfield was one of Berlin's original four main airfields and located in the British sector of the 4-part divided city out on its Western extremity with its perimeter right next to the Russian Zone, which started at Kladow to the North of Potsdam. Its runways were used for a limited amount of British military air traffic only and it was located not far along the Heerstrasse from the British SIS (Secret Intelligence Services) HQ, which was then established at the Hitler-built 1936 Olympic Stadium in Spandau.

Berlin's 3 other airfields were:

- Tempelhof in the US Sector, on the south side of the city, which was also used for civilian flights and was comparatively close to the city centre, though as I recall only then used for flights to other West German cities, as Berlin was not a normal international flight destination at that time. Tempelhof was also the location of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) HQ, with whom we were involved in our joint intelligence gathering activities.

- Tegel in the French Sector, which was only used by the French military and

- Schoenefeld, to the South West of the city, used in those days solely by the Russians and for flights to other East European destinations. This airport is now - some 50-odd years later - destined to become Berlin's main airport and Templehof and Tegel are likely to close.

The Gatow base as an RAF station was mainly staffed and guarded by the RAF, with the armed defence such as it was being provided by the RAF Regiment or Rockapes as they were affectionately known. Like many air stations, Gatow's facilities were quite widely spread out and there was a lengthy walk from the main gatehouse to our quarters and from our quarters to the radio signals intercept rooms. The canteen and NAAFI were also quite a long way from where we were billeted.

Security was quite tight as befitted a base for covert activities within such close proximity to our potential enemies, although I never felt that it was too overwhelming or much of a real inhibiting factor. The Russians watched us closely with binoculars from watch-towers on the far side of the perimeter fence and their proximity was reportedly quite unnerving for some RAF signals staff (I was thankfully not amongst them), who spent night watches out on their own in the nearby small DF station. With the forest of aerials of all shapes and sizes sprouting from the roof of our operations area, there could hardly have been any doubts harboured about the real purpose of the building. The story goes that some of our Russian counterparts actually wished "a Happy Christmas to all our listeners in Gatow" over the airways, though I personally have no proof of this.

From the overall comfort viewpoint, however, Gatow was an Alpha Plus location as it had been a former Luftwaffe officers training base and the comfortable, double-glazed and parquet floored upstairs rooms that we occupied with generous locker and room spaces and modern washing facilities were a far cry from the ones I had earlier been forced to endure in places like Oswestry, Tonfanau, Shoeburyness and Maresfield.

Amongst the camp's facilities was a splendidly large and usually deserted indoor pool that I frequently used. I also played a few games of Rugby for the station, but cannot remember much about my fellow players.

During the quite lengthy walk to and from the canteen for meals, we passed through a small wooded area with our "eating irons" in our hands and I gradually became an expert knife-thrower and even with my blunt and ill-weighted army-issue knife, I could hit any selected spots in the pine trees encountered en route. It's amazing what practise does to make perfection!

The guardhouse at Gatow staffed by Rockapes, who always behaved impeccably, used to check on whether one was FFI or Free from Infection. In the event of having had any form of sexual intercourse with the local populus, one was expected to dip one's member in a jar of disinfectant, something which I fortunately never had to experience.

The Rockapes equipped with Sten guns also guarded the entrance to our communications room which was up a staircase. A second guard was located halfway up stairway as well. On occasions when I had to take copies of our logs over to Templehof – the CIA HQ-, I was accompanied by an armed Rockape. We voice-ops were always unarmed, in sharp contrast to our US counterparts, who, when one met them, appeared to be walking arsenals with grenades hanging from their lapels, plus a bayonet, knife, machine pistol and Colt revolver at the hip. Perhaps I exaggerate, but it seemed a bit like that in contrast to our total defencelessness.

During my stay, I was involved in a rather unusual escapade at Gatow. A couple of us voice- of the plane looking out of the window to try and identify any military activities ops were asked (it was asked and not ordered) to go up in a Vickers Varsity plane that had arrived in Gatow and would be doing a series of "circuits and bumps" ostensively to "test the station's radar". We sat on crates in the fuselage or tank movements, etc taking place within the area. Never having been trained for any observation work and not having any cameras or binoculars or maps, etc.  at our disposal, the exercise was a completely fruitless one. However the experience of taking-off and landing and taking-off again about 6 times without any "fasten seatbelt "signs or indeed any seats - let alone belts - was a novel one for a couple of army blokes.

Aside from that, after we made our final landing, this escapade turned out to have had a more serious side than we thought. Apparently, the Russians had been so incensed at this British plane that was encroaching further and further out into their jealously guarded airspace that they had sent a message to the Americans to the effect that they were about to scramble a MIG to shoot down our plane if it did not immediately return to land at Gatow. Thus ended the only episode during my National Service when my life was actually in real danger of being abruptly terminated. Needless to say we had no parachutes! Actually I believe were sent up to provoke some Russian radio traffic for the RAF listeners to pick up in the event that a fighter was scrambled – but who knows?

Logging/Voice Operations

The Signals Detachment at Gatow in 1957 was under the command of an I. Corps W.O.II - the splendid Scot Ron Cooper- a genuinely nice, but strict, capable and well-disciplined chap, who I believe had the respect of most of those under him. I suppose there must have been an Officer in charge in view of the supposedly extreme importance of the work we undertook at Gatow and the high emphasis it was given not only by GCHQ, but also by our US allies. I for one, however, never met any Intelligence officers in Berlin, which even today I find strange. The whole of the voice intercept work seemed to rest in the hands of us few young National Service privates! Somebody please tell me that I've got this wrong!

We of course had Royal Signals staff with us, who handled the Morse code traffic and were also responsible for the technical equipment and radio receivers that we used, some of which latterly became quite advanced compared to the old grey British Army sets that we first used. There were also RAF Russian Linguists at Gatow, but we didn't really mix much with them in the same way that we had at Crail and they worked in a different place and I believe on different airways traffic to us. Most RAF linguists I have spoken to seem to only have worked on air traffic which was, I gather, fairly boring routine stuff.

In contrast to that, we in our small detachment became involved in a rather more exciting type of radio voice traffic, which was codenamed "Mercury Grass". Whether other units were also involved in this I do not really know, but when I mention this codename to most former kursanty, I am usually met with a stare of incomprehension. I recall this as being a Red Army radio telephone system for communicating with Moscow, on which there was voice, morse and teleprinter traffic all seemingly on top of one another and it appeared that the Russians thought that this was jammed so that nobody could listen to it on a normal radio receiver. This assumption fortunately turned out to be incorrect and we could hear it all loud and clear via certain American descrambling machines and our state of the art radio sets. In addition, we had an absolutely vast high-speed steel cased tape recorder, which was the size of a tea-chest, the large tape spools of which had to be changed over quite frequently because they ran at quite high speeds.

I recall we worked 3 daily "round the clock", 7/7 shifts, which finished with 2 nights of the 11-7 midnight shift or "Midty" as it was known, followed by 2 days off, which gave us a fair amount of free time, although on the first day I was usually pretty tired and sleep was often hard to get.

When I first arrived in Berlin, we concentrated on mostly tank movement-related traffic, but I believe most of that was being picked up by other stations anyway and it was really only with Mercury Grass that life grew a bit more exciting when we could listen to Podpolkovnik (Lt. Colonel in English) Dobrov talking to one of his fellow officers or even to his wife. Whether or not the traffic from Mercury Grass was in the end of value after all the analyses had been made is perhaps open to question, but it was undoubtedly at that time thought to be the " bee's knees".

The ultimately funny outcome of Mercury Grass occurred when on the BFN/BBC linked request programme "Forces Favourites", which was widely listened to in those days on Sundays at lunchtime, some ex Gatow voice ops, who had left the service, sent a request through for "the boys in Gatow" which was for the Inkspots' recording of "Whispering Grass." This was seen apparently as a serious breach of security!

Ideally we should have been taught proper Russian shorthand, (Russian shorthand – think about that!) but in our frantic attempts to record conversations in writing we did become pretty fast writers of rather imperfect and badly scribbled Cyrillic Russian script. Certainly by the end of 1957 I could write Russian much faster than I have ever written English and even today, when my knowledge of Russian has almost disappeared, or is anyway dormant, I still experience an insane desire to start logging it whenever I hear it spoken on the radio.

During my time in Gatow, we received considerable attention from our US allies and in fact one of their operatives was sent over to join our day shifts to see what we did. His grasp of Russian appeared fairly minimal, though he seemed at nice chap. We also participated in a "competition" with them with our logs over a couple of weeks being compared with those of our US counterparts, who were receiving the same traffic. We were told that we won this contest hands down, though we had no way of knowing whether that was just bullshit to raise our morale, but I think that it was probably true. It was rumoured that few of the American listeners-in could actually identify Russian let alone understand it. Perhaps that was also just British-inspired rumour, but we will never know anyway.

We had, as I said earlier, some genuine Royal Signals staff, who also worked in our Gatow ops room, though they really had little to do with us or indeed we with them, being as we were totally ignorant of the subtleties of Morse Code and they knowing no Russian.

Oddly I was the 4th member of my family to be involved in "sigint". My sister was a Bletchley Park-trained expert on signals codes during World War II who served in Colombo on Mountbatten's Far East Command staff in the WRNS. Two of my sisters-in-law also worked at Bletchley Park, so perhaps all members of our family were somehow considered as ideal material for such work.

I feel that I and most others were, despite our outward disdain of all matters related to the "cloth" or services, pretty conscientious in our dial twiddling activities to the extent that we were completely washed out at the end of a night shift. Of course, we used to listen by way of a rest and diversion to AFN (American Forces Network) Berlin's programmes: "This is PFC George Hurd here bringing you Music in the Air with the Orchestra of Hugo Winterhalter" etc. Popular hit songs of the time were Pat Boon's "Love Letters in the Sand", Pressley's "All Shook Up" and "Teddy Bear". Elvis was actually in Germany at that time and some kusantys even claimed to have seen him in Rheindahlen. Katerina Valenti was a popular and very good German singer as was Peter Alexander. AFN also played requests from Germans: in the immortal words of PFC George Schultz "and now for Uschi and Guta down there in Wilmersdorf" etc…Odd how the mind plays tricks.

Having all those aforementioned aerials on the roof (folded dipoles and birdcages, etc) we had the capability of picking up radio traffic from many far flung places and occasionally changes in the weather affected the ways in which the ionospheric radio waves bounced, allowed us to hear some pretty strange traffic. In this respect, one Sunday morning there in Berlin I listened loud and clear to the Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars talking to one another.

Berlin: Dramatis Personae

This is now the hardest part because my memory of people is sometimes not as good as it is for places and events.  I know there will be people that I will omit and they may have even been close friends, which makes it even more unforgivable, but I can do little about that.

I have already mentioned our fearless leader WO II Ron Cooper and under him there were:

1. Staff Sgt. Adams affectionately known as "Slug",

2. Sgt. John Mallam, who came I think from Tonbridge in Kent. John was the owner of a rather smart Mercedes, whose attractive wife had been a P.T.I. in the WRAC.

I believe the above three were actually Intelligence Corps staff.

3. Cpl. "Wiff" Smith. A friendly, dark well-built chap.

4. Cpl. Roots. Smallish with glasses.

5. Johnnie Guy. A smallish signalman, who nearly wore himself out with a seemingly insatiable German girl that he met, who was camping down by the Wannsee. Johnnie spent many long hours of exhaustingly physical amorous endeavour in that tent or so he told us.

6. Tudgy. A small dark and friendly signalman.

7. Terry Worley. Tallish, dark slim and good-looking East Ender, who worked in civilian life in an undertaking business, where he used to lay out the "stiffs". Good and amusing company.

All of the above were genuine Royal Signals guys.

The kursanty "voice –ops" were:

8. Eric Pusey. JSSL 28th Intake Fair-haired chap of medium height with a M.L. Degree from Exeter University. Now lives in Northants like me.

9. Steve Whitelaw. Ex Cranleigh School. Small, dark and amusingly eccentric guy, who was I believe also on 28th Intake.

10.Harry Beckett. ML graduate from Fitzwilliam Cambridge who hailed from Sheffield. Charming, quiet and fairly studious chap, of medium height with a slightly chubby face. I think that Harry was from 30th Intake.

11. Rod James. Welshman who had been educated at Marlborough College. Shortish, dark fellow, with a quick wit. Was also from 30th Intake I think.

12. Mike Jackman. Quite well built fresh-faced chap from Dulwich College. Mike was quite religious but always friendly and smiling. He was known by some as "Jovial Joe". He was on 28th intake

13. Gillon Aitken. Ex Charterhouse School. 30th intake. Tall, slim and rather distinguished -looking with a razor sharp wit. I have remained in occasional touch with Gillon over the years. Nowadays he is a well-known literary agent in London and has in addition published several translations of Russian books.

14. Michael Goldsmid ex Haileybury College. Darkish hair of medium build with a generous nature. Good sense of humour. Michael was one of our more affluent members, though he tells me that is no longer the case! His parents lived in London NW1 as I vaguely recall. Mike was a keen cricketer and rugby player. I am delighted to say that I have just re-established contact with him after some 48 or so years.

I cannot actually remember whether Alec MacShane was also in Berlin or not but think he was.

As for me, I am a farmer's son from Stowe near Buckingham and went to school at Lancing College Sussex.I didn't bother with university and decided to try to start earning money immediately after National Service. Nowadays, I am working as a Freelance Translator of German, French and Italian – don't do Russian – too much like hard work - to supplement inadequate pensions! Initially I trained as a banker in the City of London followed with a spell in an Advertising Agency and then I had a career selling tractors, earthmoving machinery, cars and trucks around the world for some 35 years. I lived at various times in Belgium, Italy and Switzerland and travelled the world on business. I now live in rural South Northants in a village called Byfield.

I have met a few fellow Crail kursanty over the years, but alas very few of members of my own intake or fellow Gatow voice ops. It's all a bit late now and some of us are even dropping off our perches. But I would like to hear from any colleagues or others with common experiences from those far off days of some 50 years ago.

Jeremy Wheeler



A little more on Mercury Grass - Mike Bulmer

It was used on the 70 Meg band and was mainly voice transmissions. At times they would go into speech privacy (scrambled) and all we could do was record it.

Callsigns were always 3 figure calls which equated to either to a person, station or a relay station. Intercept Ops had to have a knowledge of Russian (thanks to Benhall) as the number callsigns in Russian, having either masculine or feminine endings (look up your grammar for this,) enabled you to say whether the callsign being called was either a person or a station.One notable system was what we called the “Berlin Ring”. This was a ring of stations encircling Berlin, which we happily intercepted at Langy. Hope this helps you out.




I SERVED WITH THE 3RD SHOCK ARMY WATCHING THE BRITISH

I am Konstantin Viktorovich Semyonov, born in Novosibirsk in 1966.

I passed out Novosibirsk Officers’ School in 1987.

I served in GSFG from 1987 to 1992.

In 1992 I was transferred to the Siberian Military District and left the Army.

In 1993 I attended the International Management Academy.

I worked in local companies and for international firms.

At the current time I am involved in building materials.

My interests are history, mountain walking.

My service in GSFG (WGF) 1987-1992.

3 “Order of the Red Banner” Combined Arms (Shock) Army (Magdeburg)

10 “ Ural-L’vov, Order of the October Revolution, Orders of Suvorov and Kutuzov, Red Banner volunteer, named after Marshal of the Soviet Union R.A. Malinovsky” Guards Tank Division (Altengrabow).

61 “Sverdlovsk-L’vov, Red Banner, Orders of Suvorov, Kutuzov, and B. Khmel’nitsky” Guards Tank Regiment (Altengrabow)

112 Independent Reconnaissance Battalion (Halberstadt).

3 Combined Arms Army (Magdeburg), from 1992 20 Guards Combined Arms Red Banner Army (Eberswalde)

47 “Lower Dnepr, Red Banner, Order of B. Khmel’nikov” Guards Tank Division (Hillersleben).

197 “Vapnyarsko-Warsaw, Order of Lenin, Red Banner, Orders of Suvorov and Kutuzov” Tank Regiment (Halberstadt)

I remember with the affection those who I served with. I would especially like to find my comrades from the 112 IRB, the Coy. 2IC Sen.-Lt. Roman Abolinsh, the German interpreter Snr. Lt. Arkadiy Gritskeevich, the commander of the Signals Coy, 197 TR, Capt. Kiyevskiy, the Pl. Cmdrs. Snr. Lt. Ivanov, WO Fomenko, the Signals Coy. Sgt.-Major, the commander of the “Palytch” radio station.

2 Germanys(part 1)

This story as compared to the above in that it combines more archive documentation rather than literary-artistic form, the story uses many sources, including personal.

Not so long ago I stood in the ranks together with my comrades at the passing-out parade at the military academy and we received our commissions. That very day I had received my posting to the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG). The posting order told me to present myself at the transit post in the town of Frankfurt an der Oder. This was not my first trip abroad, I had gone on holiday with my parents in 1981 to Czechoslovakia.
Having arrived at the transit post I handed in my posting order to the duty officer and on the next day I was told that they were sending me to HQ 3 Shock Army in Magdeburg (in the western part of East Germany). The 3rd Army was considered the best-trained and most effective army in GSFG, and despite being titled a “combined arms” army, all it’s divisions were, in fact, tank divisions. Our group consisted of five officers, of which two were women. They were sent to Army HQ, to the Intelligence Department as interpreters, and for this reason, a minibus was sent to fetch us from Army HQ.

We drove along the autobahn, not one pot-hole, the surface was smooth, like a mirror. Large multicoloured lorries sped past, like in a picture. It felt as if we had landed in another world. About another three hours to Magdeburg. Army HQ at last.
I report to a member of the military council, Maj.-Gen. Stolyarov to receive further instructions regarding my posting. Entering his office I announce “Comrade Major-General, Lieutenant Semyonov reporting for duty”.
- Take a seat, Lieutenant, I welcome you. You will be serving with the 1st Motor-Rifle Company of the 61st Tank Regiment, I also started off there as an officer.”

From the other officers I knew that Altengrabow was about 70 kilometres from Magdeburg and was on a training area. You think, that’s life and you can’t do anything about it. I got on to a train which looked like a two-car tram and travel to Altengrabow. Altengrabow is a small village with a terminal station. The garrison is not far from the station, I called into the unit and presented myself to the Company Commander: “Comrade Captain, Lieutenant Semyonov, new arrival, reporting for duty as Company Second-in-Command.” The eyes of the officers in the office showed pleasure. At last another officer in the company. Good! Of the three platoon officers there were only two, the other was counted on the strength, but in fact was serving on attachment at Group HQ.

In my motor-rifle company there were around 110 soldiers, not more than ten of them were Russian, the rest represented Central Asia and rarely the Caucasus. Some of them couldn’t even speak Russian at the start of their service. The Company Commander had been in Afghanistan, and had experience of fighting in Kandahar, such men were valued in the Group. Additionally, there were two Warrant Officers in the company, the Sergeant-Major and the QM Tech. The Regimental Commander was Lt.-Col. Ashurov, now a famous General, who took part in operations in Chechnya.Military life was fairly hard, got on the nerves. On the ranges, on duty, drilling, preparations for a visit by the Minister of Defence. Our unit was used for demonstrations, the training area was next door and that’s why they all came to us to see beauty, order and military skills. But I wanted to learn about the intellectual side of military service and see Germany. In this unit the majority of officers during their time did not look outside their service. I decided not to join with their outlook. In winter I had my first leave, and fetched my family, they had allocated me two rooms of a three-room flat, under the proviso that I renovate it, together with the other Lieutenant. My neighbour called Sergey enthusiastically set about the decoration of the flat, which had been left to us for two families by the signals centre. So we arrived from duty and straight to the construction of the century, there was neither sanitation nor doors, everything was decaying. I arrive with my wife Natalya and son Vitalik. Natasha was glad that here everything for the child was obtainable, whereas in Russia you couldn’t get anything.

In 1988 I had already served a year in the GDR on the Altengrabow Training Area and I was offered a transfer to 112 Independent Reconnaissance Battalion. Without much hesitation I agreed. There were several reasons why I wanted to transfer to Halberstadt: - firstly, the reconnaissance units are elite units, where the best soldiers and officers serve. Here, it is not unusual to extend the knowledge and study of foreign languages. For the knowledge of a language there was a monthly extra payment, it is true, you didn’t always manage to enjoy this, as the examination necessary for this was held once a year at HQ GSFG by a special commission of the General Staff. -secondly, this battalion was stationed in the town of Halberstadt, from where I returned to Russiain 1992. In Altengrabow a huge number of Soviet troops was stationed, while Altengrabow itself was a large village. In Halberstadt there were only two units – the reconnaissance battalion and 197 Tank Regiment of 47 Tank Division, in which I finished my service. Later, after German re-unification, the battalion was no longer required at it’s location and returned to Altengrabow, closer to Div HQ, but I didn’t want to leave that lovely town. Halberstadt is a large-ish town according to German conceptions. It stands in a picturesque location in the foreland of the Harz mountains. The town celebrated 1000 years in 1989. After arriving there and after my first walk through the town I fell in love with the place. During the 2nd World War the town was captured by the US Army, and after 18 May 1945 was occupied by the British, which is why the inhabitants never saw Soviet troops during the war, only after Germany had been divided into zones of occupation. Then our troops arrived in this area, crossing to the other bank of the Elbe and moving westwards. Basically, along the border between the two Germanys(FRG and GDR) were deployed mainly reconnaissance units and a small amount of first echelon troops covering the border. The task of the former was to carry out reconnaissance in time of peace and war against the troops of the 1st Corps of the British Army of the Rhine. The latter was to carry out military operations in a war situation. Their mission was to hold up the probable enemy for a defined length of time to allow for the mobilisation of the remaining Regiments, Divisions and Armies, which were located at the greatest distance from the border. Halberstadt is 40 kilometres from the former border, and much less, as the crow flies.

I enjoyed serving in this unit, as after service in the infantry this was a new experience. It was a small unit, around 60 Officers and Warrant Officers and around 200 men, of which most were Russian, around 30% had passed the first or second course at the military institute. I was given a flat in the garrison, in an old German house, in which Luftwaffe officers had lived during the war. For me this was very unusual, as I had hitherto not lived in such old German housing. The flat was in the mansard roof of the house, which was heated by a stove burning brown coal briquets. After a while I moved my family here from Altengrabow. Natasha found work after a short time in the Café Roland-Eck (one of the best cafes in the town). The Security Service was suspicious and watched officers’ wives who worked for German organisations. Next to my house was stationed 20 “Martin Hoop” Border Guard Regiment, HQ and three battalions.
1 battalion stationed in Hessen
2 bns in Ilsenburg, not more that 5 km from the border.

Across the road from the garrison was stationed the 7 “Martin Hoop” Border Guard Training Regiment. Both regiments were subordinate to the Border Command “North” with HQ in Stendal.

The years 1989-1990 were an unusual time, as against the background of democratic reforms there remained a great obstacle in the attitude of officials and military commanders, who did not want to be deprived of what they saw as the benefits of socialism, and therefore our standing as allies of the GDR gradually began to be seen as a situation within a state belonging to NATO. In the army the rules became more strict, as did the shadowing of the enemy both on the border and inside Germany.

At the time of demonstrations around the Berlin Wall, our forces were on full alert. General Snetkov (then C-in-C WGF) was prepared to lend “friendly assistance” to the regime, as he expressed it in a conversation with Egon Krenz. However, Gorbachev told him not to interfere in internal affairs taking place at that time in the GDR, not wanting to repeat the events of 1953, when GSFG took part in putting down the uprising caused by the raising of workers’ norms in State industries. After these events the USSR, under pressure from Great Britain, was obliged in 1955 to sign an agreement on non-interference in the internal affairs of the GDR. At the beginning of 1989 our unit had taken over military duties on the border between Schöningen (FRG) and Hötensleben (GDR) with the aim of observing the movement of US and British troops and equipment in the area of the border and also to listen in to communications. After the end of World War II the former allies quickly became our enemies.

Our battalion consisted of HQ and two recce companies, assault-recce company, a radio and radar reconnaissance company, a visual surveillance platoon, and logistical support platoons. The assault-recce company and the radio and radar reconnaissance company are worthy of special attention, as every motor-rifle and tank company has a recce company, but there is only one assault-recce company per division and it’s tasks in war include long-range recce and disruption in the enemy’s rear areas. We often went with this company to the assault-recce sub-units’ concentration, with all the other companies from the Divisions in the Army and the Army’s own Special Forces Company (Spetsnaz). At that time such sub-units were individual and not talked about.
As far as the radio and radar reconnaissance companies go, these were also unique sub-units in their own way within the division, consisting of three radio-reconnaissance platoons, carrying out intercept of the enemy’s wireless spectrum, and a radar intercept platoon. In this sub-unit there were around 20 highly-qualified officers and Warrant Officers. The sections were commanded by Warrant Officers. Their equipment included the “Rama” intercept complex, later this was replaced by the more modern “Taran”. A basic knowledge of English was the minimum requirement for the military specialists.

In the radio and radar reconnaissance company there were even civilian radio officers who spoke English and German. At this time British and US intelligence carried out surveillance inside the GDR, widely using the Foreign Liaison Missions. These liaison officers, enjoyed diplomatic immunity in permitted areas. However, often they entered prohibited areas to photograph our troop movements and equipments which had recently entered service. As a rule, they appeared suddenly in their jeeps and just as suddenly disappeared, so that to detain them in a prohibited area was practically impossible. The Group of Soviet Forces, Germany (later Western Group of Forces) was the largest and most powerful formation maintained by the USSR in the countries of the Socialist Bloc. In line with Soviet military doctrine, the Western Group of Forces, stationed on the territory of the central European strategic region of the Western military-strategic bridgehead had to control this area along six lines of advance:

First – The coastal region of the Netherlands and Germany.

Second – The Netherlands and Belgium.

Тhird – Luxemburg and part of Belgium.

Fourth - Bavaria.

Fifth – The Alps.

Sixth – Jutland (Denmark and northern Germany).

The Western Group of Forces was the first echelon of the Western Front.

We owe a debt of thanks to John Richardson for translating this. Ed.

 

End of chapter 10

Last updated 29 April 2008

 

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