Berlin, The Cold War Years Part 5. A Hot War in reality.

At the end of World War 2, what remained of pre-war Germany was divided into four zones of occupation. Each of the Allied powers; the United Kingdom, United States, France and Russia, controlled one of them.

The capital of Germany, Berlin, was also divided into four Sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Zone of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world.

An Iconic picture of the face-off between the West and the East.  The Cold War starts – October 1961

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Another iconic picture of a GDR Border Guard fleeing across the barbed wire to  West-Berlin, 1961

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With these controls in place, special routes were established for the three Allied Powers, Great Britain, the United Staes and France, to move from West Berlin to the Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany. Three autobahn routes, one for each sector and three rail routes.

On the Autobahn route special parking zones were allocated for the three Allied powers. This is a sign on the West Berlin to Helmstedt route. Civilians from the GDR were not allowed to use these allocated parking zones. – GDR 1982

 

The British Military Train ran every day, except Christmas Day.  – West Berlin 1984

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And for the Stamp Collectors amongst you, a Commemorative Cover. First day issue. Not for sale. 🙂

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There were also air corridors the Allies could use to fly from West Berlin to West Germany. Soviet Hip F. East Berlin 1984

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 Control to and from West Berlin was controlled by the Berlin Air Safety Centre, consisting of representatives from the four Allied Powers. I was told that the Soviets were unhappy about their flag being last on the plaque. So, the names were placed in a hat and guess what? True story or not, I don’t know.

 

Berlin Air Safety Centre Icon – West Berlin 1984

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I covered the Reichstag in Part 4. But, I have some more photos i would like to share with you.

This turret on the Reichstag is the well known spot where the Soviet Flag was planted on taking Berlin in 1945.  Berlin – February 2012

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The raising of the flag over the Reichstag – Berlin, May 1945

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I found the design of the new dome in the Reichstag fascinating, so I have added a couple of more photos.

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Inside the Reichstag Dome, Berlin – February 2012

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Looking down from higher up in the Dome itself. Reichstag – Berlin, February 2012

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The badly damaged Reichstag. Berlin 1945

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The Reichstag, showing the Berlin Wall in situ behind it. – West Berlin 1981.

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Bullet strikes still visible, Museum Island – Berlin February 2012

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Another visit to the Treptow Russian Memorial in Berlin.  February 2012

 

The main entrance to Treptow Park Soviet Memorial – Berlin 2012

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Treptow Park,  The Soviet Navy wasn’t forgotten. Berlin 2012

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One of the many representations of the Soviet Army during WW2 at the Treptow Park Memorial – Berlin 2012

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Outside the entrance to the Tiergarten Soviet Memorial. Berlin 2012

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The Tiergarten Soviet Memorial – Berlin 2012

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Tiergarten Soviet Memorial. They were as interested in us as we were in them. The one on the right with the fancy leg kick, I think is a full Colonel  or above. West Berlin 1983

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T-34 outside the Karlshorst Museum Berlin – 2012

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Karlshorst Museum. Where we used to meet with our Soviet friend….. Berlin 2012

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In a previous Post, you saw a picture of my shadow. This was his replacement. KGB, GRU or Spetsnaz?  He was far more subtle in his recruitment attempts though. East Berlin 1985

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One advantage of being in Army Intelligence, was you got to go to Berchtesgaden every year to the annual conference where we shared intelligence, and vice versa, with the US – Germany 1986.

There were lots of special events and this was one of them. Cocktail dresses and Gin and Tonic. West Berlin 1982

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The Queens Birthday and other events were celebrated with style.

The Berlin Tatto was an amzing event. The parade in front of the Deutschlandhalle prior to the final dress rehearsal. West Berlin 1983.

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The Fernsehturm in Berlin – February 2012

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 The Fernsehturm in Berlin – February 2012

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The Fernsehturm. Sitting in the revolving restaurant seeing the full 360 degree view of Berlin was amazing. When the sun shone on the tower it reflected as a cross and was known as ‘The Popes Revenge’.  – East Berlin 1983

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The one on the far right is Moby Dick – West Berlin 1982

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A quick break from Berlin. I did three tours in Northern Ireland, but don’t propose to do a Post for it separately. It’s too close to home…. But I will share a few photos with you.

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I currently have a book, my watch and my iPad next to my bed. Then, I had a 9mm Browning. You would take the rounds out  so as to take the pressure off the magazine springs.  Oh, and I liked Ultravox. – Belfast 1980’s

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Murals of this type were very common.  – Belfast 1980’s

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Belfast- 1980’s

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Belfast- 1980’s

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Targeting an Army Pig (Humber) – Belfast 1980’s

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I used to play Cowboys and Indians as a child. Belfast 1980’s

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Those were very scary times. Belfast 1980’s

 Now back to work….

Well, at least once we’ve dug our vehicle out…. East Berlin, 1983

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Then time for a rest. We often slept out, Sometimes we took sleeping bags as we couldn’t run the engines as we needed to preserve our fuel. Our favourite drink was a flask of black coffee with a good dose of Grand Marnier. – East Berlin 1982

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Back to work. 2S1 Self Propelled Artillery (122mm) – East Berlin, 1984

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Until interrupted. East Berlin, East Berlin 1983.

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ACRV’s, Armoured Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle. The chassis was far too long for this vehicle, making it difficult to manoeuvre. – East Berlin 1984

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Ural 375 – East Berlin 1984

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Rm-70 Rocket Launcher (122mm) – East Berlin 1984.

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One key event that occurred every year, was the military parade to celebrate the formation of the GDR. This was naturally a key concern for the western allies. A country we didn’t officially recognise, holding a military parade on our doorstep. It was also an opportunity to disguise the movement of troops for a potential attack.

SA-3 Resupply on a Ural 375 chassis. –  East Berlin – 1984

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ZSU 23-4 (Shilka) (Anti-Aircraft) – East Berlin 1984

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2S3 (152mm Self propelled artillery) – East Berlin – 1984

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2S3. East Berlin 1984

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SA-6 resupply. East Berlin 1984

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2S3 (122mm self propelled artillery) – East Berlin 1984

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Parade ready to start, SA-4 resupply on Ural 375 transporter. East Berlin 1984.

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BMP – 1 with Sagger missile East Berlin 1984.

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FROG 7, resupply. Range of 68km. Can carry a Nuclear (200- 450kt warhead), HE, Chemical and submunitions. – East Berlin 1984

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The closer we could get to the equipment the better. It gave our analysts an inclination of any changes to equipment. We were constantly designing new equipment and defence measures that cost billions of pounds. In order for us to make the right decisions we needed to know what we were up against. We would always use black and white film, in stereo if possible, and not the colour ones you see now. Catching tanks, etc, stationery and unmanned, on exercise, or on flat cars in rail sidings gave us the best opportunities but held the greater risk. The guards were always armed.

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T-12 Anti-Tank Gun. East berlin 1984

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Silk Worm. Surface to Ship TEL. East berlin 1984

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BMP -2. –  East berlin 1984

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BMP – 2. – East berlin 1984

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I will finish off with a bit of fun. I can’t remember where this was in Berlin, but it is known as the ‘Sex Museum’.

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Berlin Sex Museum. -Berlin 2012

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Berlin Sex Museum. Berlin 2012

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and experiences with you.  This is the last of my Berlin, The Cold War series. But, there will be a new ‘Cold War’ series, supporting the writing of my new ‘Cold War’ series of novels, covering the hypothetical invasion of West germany by the Warsaw Pact in the 80’s. ‘The Red Effect’. so keep your eyes peeled.

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HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

Photographs are copyrighted to Harvey Black

Berlin, the Cold War Years – Part 4. A Hot War in reality.

At the end of World War 2, what remained of pre-war Germany was divided into four zones of occupation. Each of the Allied powers; the United Kingdom, United States, France and Russia, controlled one of them.

The capital of Germany, Berlin, was also divided into four Sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Zone of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world.

Remnants of the infamous Berlin Wall – February 2012

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Remnants of the infamous Berlin Wall – February 2012

Having free, unhindered access to East Berlin and Museum Island was a real treat for me. Below is the Der Deutschen Kunst Museum, the House of Art Museum.

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Deutschen Kunst Museum – Berlin – February 2012 

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Deutschen Kunst Museum, Berlin. Joseph Goebbels visiting – 1937

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H02648,_München,_Goebbels_im_Haus_der_Deutschen_Kunst.jpg

Also on the Island, the Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral. In the 1940’s, it suffered considerable damage from bomb blast waves and incendiaries. Over the years it has been slowly restored.

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Berliner Dom – February 2012

With my passion for military history, I naturally wanted to see this building below, Wilhelmstrasse 81-85. Luftwaffe Historians would know that in 1933, the newly formed Reich Aviation Ministry, headed by Hermann Goering, occupied it. The complex was demolished  in 1935 and was re-built.  The building you see today, with over 2,000 rooms.

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Wilhelmstrasse 81-85, Berlin – February 2012

The Bebelplatz is known as the site of the infamous Nazi book burning ceremony held on the evening of the 10th May, 1933. Today, a memorial by Micha Ullman, consisting of a glass plate set into the cobblestones, shows empty book cases below.

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Bebelplatz, Berlin – February 2012

At the end of the day the GDR, and East Berlin, were occupied by the Soviet Union and their military were ever present.

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Russian T-62 driving passed a Kindergarten – East Berlin 1983

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There were ‘Restricted Areas’ where the Soviets preferred us not to go. We naturally ignored them. I got this one to take home as a souvenir.

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Russian helicopter taking an interest in us. Hip (Mi-8) – East Berlin 1983

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This one is a deadly Hind-D (Mi-24). The worlds first Attack Helicopter. East Berlin – 1983

Below are some photographs of the Treptow Soviet Memorial. Although the GDR was part of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviets were still very much an occupying power. The memorial below, to the Soviet soldiers killed in WW2,  is of a significant size.

Main entrance. The people give you an indication of its size. East Berlin – February 2012

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View from the main entrance. Note the vertical slabs either side – East Berlin, February 2012

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Each slab was carved with a scene depicting elements of WW2 – February 2012

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Treptow Park Memorial – East Berlin, February 2012

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The view looking back towards the entrance. East Berlin, February 2012.

For an interlude, I will share a few shots of my very first parachute jump. I did my jumps between my first tour in Northern Ireland and coming to Berlin. I completed my jumps with the Dutch Commandos, my first one landing on my feet, arse and head. Not quite the perfect roll I had anticipated.

Gulp, I’m ready. 1981

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Yes that is me. My chute did open.

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Yes you do have to carry your own chute back!

One key event that occurred every year, was the military parade to celebrate the formation of the GDR. This was naturally a key concern for the western allies. A country we didn’t officially recognise, holding a military parade on our doorstep. It was also an opportunity to disguise the movement of troops for a potential attack.

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Troops start to flood in on the outskirts of East Berlin – 1984

First one is a FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground) 7 resupply, the second a FROG  7 TEL (Transporter, Erector, Launcher). FROG 7’s played a key part in the missile attacks on Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

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Ural 375 – East Berlin 1984

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Troops also arrived by rail – East Berlin – 1984

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BRDM at the front and two ACRV’s, Armoured Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle. East Berlin 1984

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Many of the troops were camped out at various parks and car parks on the outskirts. East Berlin 1984

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Night time operations were a regular part of our life, often staying out for days at a time. East Berlin 1984

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Posing shot…  – East Berlin 1984

Then the fun and games begin….

Can you spot him? East Berlin 1983

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See him now?

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And another.

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The VOPO were never far away. East Berlin 1984

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The more troops and equipment that arrived, the more reinforcements to make life difficult for us. East Berlin 1984

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Underside photographs were a key goal.  This one showing a mine plough attachment. Weld thickness would also help in determining the thickness of a tanks armour. East Berlin 1984.

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This is of a BMP-2, moving at the time. East Berlin 1984.

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The tensions steadily got worse. Don’t forget, we didn’t recognise the GDR government, let a alone the Police. West Berlin police had no authority over us either, as we were also an occupying power in West Berlin. East Berlin 1984.

The glasses were fashionable at the time!

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BMP-2, the latest MICV, Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle, in the GDR and Soviet arsenal. An AT-5, Spandrel anti-tank missile sits on top of the turret. East Berlin 1984.

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BMP 1. A close up of the AT-3, Sagger, anti-tank missile. The wire guided missile devastated

the Israeli tanks during the Yom Kippur War  – East Berlin 1984

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SA-13  Gopher, Surface to Air Missil carrier. – East Berlin  1984

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SA 8 Gecko, Surface to Air Missile carrier – East Berlin 1984

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T-72 tank, the latest in the GDR  Army, the NVA, National Volksarmee. East Berlin 1984.

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During the parade preparations they didn’t like us being around. A bit difficult when one of your team is six foot eight

and built like a brick wall. – East Berlin 1984

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SA 9 Gaskin, Surface to Air Missile, mounted on a BRDM 2. East Berlin 1984

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SA 4 Ganef. Surface to Air Missile, resupply vehicle.  Big! Flew at Mach 4 and could reach a height of 20 miles.

Now I know why I didn’t join the RAF (Best air force in the world). East Berlin 1984

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FROG 7 TEL,  East Berlin 1984.

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The German Navy was always in attendance. East Berlin 1984.

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Tatra 813 towing and M1974 artillery piece. East Berlin 1984.

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T-72 East Berlin 1984

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BMP -1, MICV with troops. One draw back was thin armour and fuel tanks in the back doors. East Berlin 1984

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Silkworm TEL, Surface to Ship Missile. East Berlin 1984.

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Silkworm missile resupply. East Berlin 1984.

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T-72. East Berlin 1984.

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T-72.  East Berlin 1984

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The military were pretty high tech, not so the cars. The famous Trabant.

One Trabant hit us and didn’t leave a mark, but the cars front end fell off. Berlin 2012.

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The VOPO, Volkspolitzei’s main mode of transport in the 80’s. Berlin February 2012.

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I shall finish off with an old photo of the ICC, the International Congress Centre. West Berlin 1982.

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HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and experiences with you. 

Photographs are copyrighted to Harvey Black

Berlin, the Cold War Years – Part 3. A Hot War in Reality

At the end of World War 2, what remained of pre-war Germany was divided into four sectors of occupation. Each of the Allied powers; the United Kingdom, United States, France and Russia, controlled one of them.

The capital of Germany, Berlin, was also divided into four sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Sector of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. In 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world..

Remnants of the infamous Berlin Wall – February 2012

A checkpoint used by the West Berlin population to cross into East Berlin – 1982

Passage was severely restricted. The British, US and French Governments refused to recognise the East German Democratic Republic, GDR, as a consequence all our dealings were with our ally, the Soviet Union. One of the three routes out of Berlin by train, was from Charlottenburg station in West Berlin to Braunschweig in West Germany. It ran every day, except for Christmas Day. Below you can see the procedure that we had to go through, presenting our documents to the Russian authorities going out and on our return.

Berlin Military Train – 1982

There were also three Autobahn routes, one for each of the western allies. Ours ran from Berlin to Helmstedt in West Germany. At each end, one of the car’s occupants would have to hand over their documents, including the one below, through a small hatch where it was inspected (You were photographed , but never saw the occupants). You then had to march to an armed Soviet sentry, salute, wait while he checked your documents, salute again and return to your car. The document had to match your credentials perfectly. They would check your identification letter by letter, and if there was an error, you would not be allowed to pass.

The documentation had to be exact – May 1984

The Soviet Army had a significant presence in East Berlin. The troops below, were returning to Karlshorst Camp, in East Berlin, after completing an exercise.

Soviet Motor Rifle Infantry – East Berlin 1983

 

Taken from a film found on one of our rummaging exploits – 1983

As I previously stated in Parts 1 & 2, I had an Intelligence gathering role while serving in Berlin. We were in a ‘Cold War’ and it was imperative that we tracked the movement of Soviet and GDR forces at that time. The rail ring-road that circuited Berlin was a major rail junction and we kept a close watch on all movement.

Below we had spotted a military train, usually pulled by a black steam locomotive, and wanted to know its destination. Only one way to find out.

 

T-12, Anti-Tank Guns – East Berlin – 1984

Let’s see where they’re going, and hope to god the transport police weren’t close by. They had very big, vicious, Alsatian guard dogs and boy they could run fast. Although the Soviets were very secretive about the movement of equipment, the East German railways, Deutches Reichsbahn, were very efficient and always had a note showing the destination attached to the flat-car. Very convenient.

T-12, Anti-Tank Guns – East Berlin – 1984

Bat-M, Soviet Military Engineer Tractor . Great for digging trenches for the Soviet Infantry- East Berlin – 1984

Soviet 2S1, 122mm self propelled artillery on the East Berlin rail ring – 1983

Troops on the move on the East Berlin rail-ring -1984

The Soviets, like the GDR, also liked to make life difficult for us. On one occasion we managed to get away from an aggressive ‘Box In’, by literally driving on top of a refuse tip and effectively surfing down the other side.

This time boxed in by Soviet Military Police as well as the GDR VOPO – East Berlin 1985.

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But, I did have one Soviet friend… GRU, KGB, Spetsnaz…..? His recruitment attempts were far from subtle. 🙂

Once, we chased a train at night, down narrow lanes, wanting to see the load and where it was going. Doing over a hundred kilometres an hour, no lights, the driver missed the turning and went straight over a T-junction with a drop on the other side. Pushed the bonnet of the Range Rover right back as we hit the ground below. All shaken but alive, we had to be lifted and towed back.

The Soviet Military Police were never far away. 1985

 Getting caught came with consequences. It happened very quickly. A white car skidded across the back of our vehicle blocking our escape. The intention was to reverse into it and push it through the fence, but the Soviets were on us too fast. We couldn’t call for assistance, so my partner did a runner, as we agreed, to call for assistance and guide our backup into the maze of streets  we were in. No mobile phones in those days. In the meantime they had got into the Range Rover, dragged me out and basically went to town on me, the rest is history. It created a political issue, understandably, and elements of the Soviet regime were banned from the Queens Birthday Parade that year. I had myriad of bruises and a lovely black eye. 🙂 For me, the scariest bit was the unknown. The fear that I would be spirited away, but fortunately our back up was close by. That was unusual, as we generally operated as a single unit. Someone was watching over me that day.

Soviets dispersing after their attack on me. The white car that pulled across to block us off, giving them access to my car, was probably MFS.

The nearest soldier is a Lieutenant

This officer is a Senior Lieutenant from the local Tank Regiment.

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My backup was also boxed in.

Once assistance had arrived, my partner had escaped and called for backup, they boxed that vehicle in with a Gaz 66. The closest soldier is a Warrant Officer and you can see that they had bayonets fixed to their rifles. Magazines were also attached to their AK 47’s.  Soviet senior officers eventually arrived, along with officers from the British Military Government and an Interpreter. We were eventually released and I was taken to the BMH for treatment.

During my recent visit I also climbed to the top of the Berlin Victory Column, designed by a Heinrich Strack after 1864, to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War.

The Berlin Victory Column, inaugurated in September 1873 – Berlin February 2012

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The Berlin Victory Column, inaugurated in September 1873 – Berlin February 2012

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The view towards East Berlin from the Victory Column – February 2012

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Altes Museum, on Berlin’s ‘Museum Island.’ – February 2012

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Having an interest in military history, particularly WW2, this was one place i wanted to visit. The above museum was often used by Hitler for some of his public parades and speeches. See below.

Adolf Hitler leaving the Altes Museum after giving one of his infamous speeches.

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Enough for now I think, although there will be a Part 4. Part 4 will definitely be the last and I will have new topics, so don’t go away! Seeing as we  in an Olympic year in the UK not so long ago, I thought I would share a picture of the Olympic Stadium, Berlin. The British Military Government was situated not very far away, as was the British Military Hospital that was used to treat Hess when he became ill. I lived opposite the entrance to the Hospital.

Olympic Stadium, made famous by Jesse Owen – East Berlin 1984

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Some of these photographs were taken from a helicopter. Helicopters were not part of the original agreement between the four powers, so although they could fly within West Berlin airspace, they had to be shipped through the GDR on low loaders…..

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HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and experiences with you. 

Photographs are copyrighted to Harvey Black

Berlin, the Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. – Part 2.

At the end of World War 2, what remained of pre-war Germany was divided into four sectors of occupation. Each of the Allied powers; the United Kingdom, United States, France and Russia, controlled one of them.

The capital of Germany, Berlin, was also divided into four sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Sector of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between the City of Berlin and the West. The main access point for the three Western Allies was the famous ‘Checkpoint Charlie’. I transited through that point on numerous occasions at all hours of the day and Night. Now it no longer exists and is merely a tourist site.

Checkpoint Charlie – 1983

Checkpoint Charlie – February 2102

As I previously stated in Part 1, I had an Intelligence gathering role while serving in Berlin. On my recent visit, I landed at Schonefeld Airport, which up until reunification was in East Berlin. Below was my previous visit to the Airport, trapped in the runway lights by the VOPO, Volkspolitzei. There was no ‘Virgin’ airhostess coming to my rescue.

 

Caught napping again, this time by the Volkspolitzei amongst Schonefeld runway lights – 1983

I particularly enjoyed my visit to the Reichstag, on this occasion able to see it from the inside. During reconstruction, it was practically gutted, being redesigned by the British architect, Sir Norman Foster. The new glass dome is truly impressive, erected on the roof as a gesture to the original 1894, cupola.

Reichstag – February 2012

Supporting structure for the glass dome, the German Parliament sits directly below – February 2012

Parliament seats directly below

Not all of the original internal walls were demolished, and a few, covered in graffiti scrawled by victorious Russian soldiers once the Reichstag had fallen, still remain.

One section of many, showing graffiti left by Russian troops on capturing the Reichstag – Feb 2012

The Reichstag. Note the “Berlin Wall’ in the background – 1983

The fourth member of the ‘Allied Powers’ was naturally the Soviet Union. Below is one of the Soviet memorials close to the Reichstag.

Soviet War Memorial, Tiergarten. – February 2012

There was very much a sinister side to the Soviet Union at that time. Army-General Mikhail Zaitsev, commander of the Group of Soviet Forces Germany, GSFG, seen attending a Ceremony at the Soviet Memorial, Tiergarten, the big man in the middle, was in command of one of their key forces. GSFG would be assigned to any likely attack on the NATO Alliance and the potential invasion of West Germany. Consisting of some 20 Divisions made up of over 4,000 tanks and 8,000 armoured vehicles, it was a phenomenal force. But, behind that were well over 140 other Soviet tank and Infantry divisions, albeit of a lower quality.

Being a part of the Warsaw Pact Alliance, they could also call upon significant forces from Poland, East Germany, Romania, Hungary and more. When I cut my teeth in the army serving with an Armoured Brigade in northern Germany, it wasn’t a question of if they were coming across the Inner German Border, but when.

Commander of the GFSG, at the Soviet War Memorial Tiergarten – 1982

Part of my role in Berlin in the early 80’s, was to track the movement of Russian and East German forces.

 

East German FROG 7, missile carrier, being moved by rail – 1982

Soviet Infantry on exercise – 1981

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RM-70, the East German equivalent of the Russian BM-21 – 1983

On completion of my tour, one of my team wrote a song for me, to the tune of  ‘Country Roads’. It was a privilege to serve with such a specialist unit.

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The majority of us are aware of the atrocities carried out by the Nazis during WW2, so I particularly wanted to see the Memorial to the Jewish dead.  It wasn’t built without controversy.

Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe – Berlin February 2012

 Some felt the memorial should have looked very different, others were concerned it was very close to where Hitler’s bunker had been and their was controversy concerning the manufacturers involved in the project and potential links with the Nazis regime during WW2.

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HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and experiences with you. 

Photographs are copyrighted to Harvey Black