There since 1919 - but not for fateful few

THE British Army of the Rhine was set up in 1919 as a means of controlling Germany following the First World War. Its purpose was to ensure Germany met the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles and did not build up its military again.

It was withdrawn in 1929, the year of the Wall Street crash, and could not prevent Hitler remilitarising in the 1930s.

The second British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) was set up under Field-Marshal Bernard Montgomery in August 1945 as part of the Allied occupation of Germany after it was defeated in the Second World War. The British zone included much of western Germany and part of West Berlin.

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However, a new purpose for the BAOR quickly emerged with the start of the Cold War and the division of Europe between the Nato allies and the Warsaw bloc.

After the Cold War ended in 1989, there were moves to reduce rapidly the number of troops stationed in Germany. In 1994, the BAOR was renamed British Forces Germany and its numbers went down from 54,000 to 24,000. Currently, there are about 18,000 troops stationed in barracks in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

Since the 1990s, the British presence has centred around the 1st Armoured Division, its three brigades and supporting elements. The divisional HQ is located at Herford, near Bielefeld, with garrisons at Gtersloh, Hohne and Paderborn. A further garrison at Osnabrck was closed in 2009. Additionally, the Rhine Garrison area contains Rheindahlen Military Complex and, until August 2010, HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.

Last October, the coalition government, as part of its strategic defence and security review, said it would halve the number of troops in Germany by 2015 and completely withdraw them by 2020, despite the German state governments wanting them to remain.

A review of basing arrangements is ongoing to decide where the army will be relocated, although there is speculation that much of it will be disbanded.

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