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UK troop withdrawal shocks communities

The Local · 20 Oct 2010, 13:40

Published: 20 Oct 2010 13:40 GMT+02:00

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Cameron on Tuesday said London intended to remove the last British troops from German soil by 2020 – fifteen years earlier than many in northern Germany had expected.

The decision comes as the British government grapples with a huge budget deficit amid a restructuring of the country’s armed forces, which have had a presence in Germany since the end of World War II.

“We all knew this was coming, we just didn’t have the exact details until yesterday,” Helga Heine, a spokeswoman for British forces in Germany, told The Local.

With Britain already planning to pull its troops from Germany by 2035, Heine said UK defence officials would now determine how best to implement the accelerated redeployment. However, details were unlikely before mid-2011.

“We will work very closely with the German authorities,” said Heine, adding she had already been contacted by some concerned officials. “Naturally they hoped the British would stay longer, so that came as surprise. But we have a very good relationship with them.”

Bracing for the economic blow

British forces contribute an estimated €1.3 billion to the German economy each year. Some 20,000 soldiers and 23,300 dependants and UK civilian employees are joined by 4,650 locals working at 12 bases in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

Rainer Prokop, the mayor of the town of Bergen near the Bergen-Hohne training area, admitted his community of 16,000 would be devastated by the British pullout.

“This is the most severe upheaval for us since the Second World War,” Prokop told The Local on Wednesday. “The British live among us, they are a part of everything here.”

He estimated the town’s population would drop by a third once the UK troops left and between 20 and 40 percent of local business could go under.

“We face a dramatic adjustment,” Prokop said, explaining that British officials had told him back in 2007 that Bergen-Hohne, along with Paderborn and Gütersloh, would remain important locations for years to come.

He said British soldiers and their families had yet to move into brand new apartments built in the centre of town and that the UK government had already signed 15-year rental agreements for them.

Paderborn’s Mayor Heinz Paus told The Local on Wednesday that Cameron’s announcement came as a shock.

“When 10,000 residents leave that’s really tough,” Paus said. “Over the decades we have developed very close friendships, there is a great cooperation, and that means we’ll be deeply affected by this.”

English on the streets

He said one often hears English spoken on the city’s streets, and there have been many marriages between British soldiers and Germans, with large numbers of families living on the local economy rather than on the military base.

“We’re looking at a loss of a several hundred million euros, which is a grave situation for the city,” Paus told The Local, adding that many German jobs connected to the British military would be lost.

While there had been widespread speculation the new British government would make such a decision to bring troops home, there had also been signals to the city even just a few months ago that pointed towards further growth of the community, according to the mayor.

“We were told there would be new investment in building at the different sites, and the British have invested quite a bit here in recent years with new engineering, apartments and so forth,” he said.

Once the city of 150,000 receives official notice of the troop withdrawal, Paderborn’s leaders plan to meet with their counterparts in the nearby community of Detmold, where British troops left some 15 years ago. According to Paus, the city struggled to find ways to re-purpose former British military locations.

Deep British ties

He also stressed Germans would not be the only ones suffering from the changes, considering how well-integrated British families are in the local community.

“They really seem to like Paderborn and I imagine they will also be hit hard by this announcement,” he said.

Gütersloh Mayor Maria Unger also said the upheaval went beyond the economic impact of the troop withdrawal, citing the numerous shared educational, religious and athletic programmes with the British forces.

Story continues below…

“There were no concrete plans on how to handle the withdrawal at a later date, but now city officials plan to meet in the coming weeks to discuss what this means for the region,” she said.

Bielefeld acting Mayor Tim Kähler said the British troops had brought a stimulating international flavour to his community.

“They are our neighbours and they’ve made the society of Bielefeld richer,” he said.

Phil Welsh, editor of the Sixth Sense, a newspaper for British military personnel, said many communities were likely to be shocked by the speed of the withdrawal.

''It’s a setback for the local communities,'' he said. ''The British Forces are seen as a major employer with soldiers spending a lot of money in the local shops. They will feel the pinch.

“There are a lot of German civilians – whether it’s gardeners, building repairers, vehicle mechanics, who work permanently for the British Forces Germany and they are obviously going to be worried about their jobs.''

The Local/mry/ka/dw (news@thelocal.de)

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:54 October 20, 2010 by moistvelvet
...as I'm sure Phil Welsh will be worried about his job at Sixth Sense, but I guess he won't have the concern about making local employed civlians redundant since he only employs dependants of servicemen.
15:02 October 20, 2010 by bestman
Its all about money now and Britain can't afford to keep folks sitting around germany when they're needed in the middle east among other places. The continent will have to struggle along with less support from the US and UK now that all their money is heading to asia.
15:08 October 20, 2010 by moistvelvet
You are right it is all about money and they can't afford to keep them in Germany fullstop. But the rest you are talking rubbish, if you did some research lad then you'd know that both Hohne and Paderborn Brigades are due to deploy to Afghan next year so they are hardly sitting around with their thumbs up their backsides waiting for Vladamir to twitch. What do you think they've been doing in Germany for over 50 years?
15:30 October 20, 2010 by Dogs_Gonads
Well looks like I have to start looking for a real job now.

We were due to close in 2019.

A few figures for you:

It costs the Army 6 times more to keep a soldier in Germany than in the UK.

There is nowhere to station any new Brigades in the UK. The Army is also going to lose a brigade. Probably from Hohne or Paderboun when everyone returns to the UK.

There are nowhere near enough ex-RAF bases to house these brigades.

Us Civvies are a bit worried, but we knew this was coming.Just don't like to see it happen.
17:04 October 20, 2010 by Major B
Yep to last paragraph of jmjdk's response above
17:51 October 20, 2010 by Dogs_Gonads
One of the reasons NATO troops are stationed here is 'Rent'.

The German government get's million in rent from station troops. Barracks, married quarters ,training areas, etc.

Anywhere the Army is or even travels is charged for. From military convoys to troop movements.

That's just one reason, but it all comes down to money.
20:33 October 20, 2010 by wxman
Yes, it's always the money. Here's an extreme example from my early years. 40 years ago while stationed in Okinawa, frequently the Okinawan military installation employees would go on strike. Not necessarily for more money, but to demand that ALL Americans leave the island - - but that they keep their jobs and pay!!
05:18 October 21, 2010 by bernie1927
I agree, it's time for the Brits to go home and for our troops as well. They've got a cushy job with nothing to do but get fat and lazy. Never mind the German businesses that would be suffering for a while but, I think, the main reason why they are there is that there are no jobs for them when they do get home.. Just look at the fate of the poor vets who end up on the street. So instead, we muddle through, paying our soldiers with money borrowed from the Chinese and eventually turn this mess over to the next administration. Wasn't it always done that way?
08:00 October 21, 2010 by ebermannstadt
I don't suppose anyones reading this who can do anything about it but just a thought: If those effected communities would convert the empty bases into retirement estates, particularly targeted at retired british and retired british military. I'm sure they're loads of retired military personell in the UK who can no longer afford a property there, and have fond memories of being stationed in the UK. I'm sure there are loads of Brits who'd love to retire to Germany (Safer, less yobs, better health care etc) but are put off by the language barrier. These effected communities have something unique to offer - they are bi-lingual and the existance of a British population means Brits moving in will feel at home. It might be worth trying. Millions of Brits retire to Spain, surely Germany could attract a few thousand, after all not everyone loves the hot Spanish climate. I for sure would, and do, prefer Germany.

10:20 October 21, 2010 by delvek
1. Its offensive to read people who arent even living here talk about how people are sitting around with nothing to do getting fat. You sound ignorant, most are working hard long hours at the job they do, not even mentioning deployments.

2. With a brand new Army Hospital breaking ground and the amount of money invested coupled with the need for the US foreign policy to have a foothold on this side of the world, there may be some cyclic trimming down but the US is here to stay, you can bank on that.

If you think the debt crisis we are in is because of forward stationed troops then you have no clue.
10:30 October 21, 2010 by ErickDDiaz
Hey Conquistador don't mentioned COLA and BAQ the tax payers back in the U.S will get angry about that. Time for tea party.
10:50 October 21, 2010 by beckyhead
COLA - Cost of living allowance simply becuase things in Germany are far more expensive than they would be if a solider was stationed back in the states. It is adjusted based upon the exchange rate, locations, etc.

BAQ. The cost are high on this one simply becuase the Germans charge the Americans far more than what they would charge the locals.

Do a little research before you stick your foot in your mouth.
16:49 October 21, 2010 by bernie1927

"Forward stationed troops"?? What kind of mentality is that? The kind of war we may have to fight these days is not the conventional type. Why did the Russians move out of Germany and not the Allies, who are still an occupying force in a country that does not even have a peace treaty?
22:24 October 21, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, human life is all about making adjustments.

Those communities have 10 years to create new industries to replace the one that's about to end. If a person, or government doesn't adjsut to change, then surely they will encounter problems. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to understand this.

With problems comes new opportunites. Where is the champange?

Let's celebtrate!
23:43 October 22, 2010 by Hunt2871
Germany and the rest of Western Europe had better quit worrying about their retirement age being lengthened by two years and start working out a plan to maintain the peace that the US has imposed on the regon since the end of the War. When Germany and France have to actually foot the bill for their own national defense and have to cut out Vacation time for unemployed folks they are going to have their hands full. The US is not going to be able to foot the bil forever.....
23:09 October 23, 2010 by zanb
Bernie 1927,

You are talking complete and utter rubbish, The British and American troops stationed here in Germany are welcomed by the locals and are an important part of the economy, as to getting fat and lazy hardly, Germany has got some of the best training areas and ranges in the world, ideal for our use, and the the other foreign troops who train here, We spend about 1/8th of our time not training, the rest is training or being deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, fighting for your right of freedom.
20:07 October 26, 2010 by fred85
Hey ZANB, whos freedom are you fighting for? Not for Germany's!!! HUNT 2871 are you retarded??? Germany is the only country keeping Europe together right now. WHO"S paying for all these bailouts,,,,,, not ENGLAND! GERMANY IS!!!
00:32 October 27, 2010 by davidjc1
Right on fred85..THE ONLY REASON that American and Brit troops are still stationed in Germany is because they are part of a bloated military budget that their lawmakers refuse to take on and reduce. Military folks, particularly officers and commanders, view their pay and status as entitlements, a lot like welfare, actually. Interesting, huh? I have this to say to American servicemen kicking down the doors of innocent homeowners in Iraq and Afghan: you are not fighting for my freedom..you are committing bestial, cowardly acts in the name of your commanding officers. Don't get it twisted. The day that all US and Brit troops leave Germany, the better off Germany will be. It is inevitable.
22:24 October 28, 2010 by Major B
Well this article is about the British Army pulling out of Germany and it somehow transiitoned into the U.S. military presence in Germany. The British Army is smaller than the U.S. marine corp already, a regret for the many of us who admire the historical brilliance and high performance of that fine institution. Now the Bundeswehr will "transform" itself to be leaner and more efficient by reducing itself into a size which could scarcely defend Berlin, or its southern border from the Austrians. Which is the point. The threat of a military conflict "within" or between "Western" European nations is smaller than perhaps it has ever been. The same is the case with the nations east of Germany', to include Russia. Unless a serious supranationlist, a Putin gone wild, comes comes to power and coerces Russia's fragile institutions, it just isn't on the horizon and Who knows what's over the horizon? Forward basing is a mainstay of U.S. defense policy but forward bases don't have to stay in Germany so don't take it for granted that the U.S. won't drastically reduce that presence in the future. Yes, the U.S. pays for the use of its facilities in Germany and elsewhere. In my day tha\ey called infrastructure and facilities that were to be turned back over the host government "sunk costs".
19:39 October 29, 2010 by mixxim
If Germany wants British forces here the obvious answer is that Germany should pay... Meanwhile the crocodile tears of those german traders who will need to seek someone else to rip off, fail to inpress.
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