Welcome to DECODED, a blog site for those interested in the period of history between the end of the Second World War and the final reunification of Berlin, Germany. This site is maintained by a Cold War history enthusiast, for other Cold War history enthusiasts and will be a source of information from both sides of the Cold War for history enthusiasts, political science fans, researchers, military history collectors and military veterans alike. Please visit the site regularly for updates. This site by no means is to represent or endorse any political agenda or ideology, information contained within is strictly used for the purpose of education and preservation of history for future generations. Thank you for visiting my blog, and welcome to the brink...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Maple Leaf & The Sword: Canadian Forces Europe

Canada was an unlikely contributor of military forces to West Germany during the Cold War, however it nonetheless provided forces for the percieved war against the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. Initial Canadian forces to arrive in West Germany originated in 1951, when the 27 Canadian Infantry Brigade was deployed to Hanover, West Germany as a part of the British Army of the Rhine. These initial units would soon be relocated two years later in 1953, when they were garrisoned at Soest. From here, Canadian military forces would rotate Army units with the 27 being replaced by 1 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in October 1953, followed by 2 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in 1955 and 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in 1957. Up until 1957 with the arrival of 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group, each brigade had only been equipped with a single squadron of main battle tanks, however 4 CIB was equipped with a full armored regiment equipped with Centurion tanks and an independent brigade reconnaissance squadron equipped with Ferret armored cars. As 1959, approached and it became time for 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group to rotate back to Canada, the policy was changed with 4 CIB and its associated brigades remaining in Germany instead of different units rotating in and out every two years. Under this policy, major combat elements under 4 CIB were rotated out of West Germany every three years.

The Brigade was headquartered in Soest with additional units positioned in Soest and other towns across North Rhine-Westphalia.

  • Soest - Brigade Headquarters complete with 1 Infantry battalion and service units
  • Hemer - 1 Infantry battalion and an artillery regiment
  • Werl - 1 Infantry battalion, an engineer regiment and a field ambulance unit
  • Iserlohn - 1 Armored regiment

In 1962, 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group was reinforced with a helicopter recce troop operating nine CH-112 Nomad helicopters. The CH-112 was Canada's variant of the American Hiller OH-23 Raven observation helicopter. Into the 1960s, the Brigade strength was around 6,700 men organized into three mechanized infantry battalions, a reconnaissance squadron, an artillery detachment and a logistical operations detachment. It was subsequently called a 'light division' by Canada's British counterparts. On 1 May 1968, 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group was redesignated as 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in response to Canada's armed forces being unified to become the single Canadian Forces. After a review of Canadian policy, the Canadian government reduced defense spending and reduced the force in Europe by half.

It was also decided that instead of being an attachment as an active part of the British Army of the Rhine, the 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group would be given a new role and status as a reserve unit attached to the American US VII Corps or II German Corps. With its new status and designation, the unit was relocated to the town of Lahr in southern West Germany where it stood up at Canadian Forces Base or CFB Lahr. Now in a reserve status, 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group's nuclear capability was thus withdrawn although, the unit would continue serving as a deterrent against Soviet aggression in Europe.

Canadian Infantry Brigade Group/Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group units included:

  • The Royal Canadian Dragoons - 1957-1959, 1970-1987
  • Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) - 1966-1970
  • 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's) - 1960-1964, 1988-1993
  • The Fort Garry Horse - 1962-1966

  • 1st Battalion, Canadian Guards - 1959-1962
  • 2nd Battalion, Canadian Guards - 1957-1959
  • 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment - 1962-1965
  • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment - 1965-1969
  • 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment - 1977-1984, 1988-1993
  • 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry - 1964-1967
  • 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry - 1966-1970, 1984-1988
  • 1er Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment - 1967-1993
  • 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment - 1965-1969
  • 1st Battalion, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada - 1960-1964
  • 2nd Battalion, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada - 1957-1959
  • 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada - 1962-1965
  • 3rd Mechanized Commando, The Canadian Airborne Regiment - 1970-1977

  • 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery - 1957-1960, 1967-1993
  • 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery - 1964-1967
  • 3rd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery - 1960-1964

Units assigned to CFB Lahr would include:

CFB Lahr
  • 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron
  • one armoured regiment
  • 1970–1987 - The Royal Canadian Dragoons
  • 1987–1993 - 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's)
  • 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery
  • 4th Air Defence Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
  • 4 Combat Engineer Regiment
  • 4 Service Battalion
  • 4 Field Ambulance
  • 4 Military Police Platoon
  • 1er Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment
  • 444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron
  • 5 AMU (Air Movement Unit)

Initially equipped with Centurion tanks and Ferret armored cars, Canadian military capabilities were enhanced with the replacement of the Centurion by the Leopard 1 main battle tank and the employment of the M113 armored personnel carrier.

The Royal Canadian Air Force also committed a detachment No.1 Air Division RCAF at Canadian Forces Base Baden-Soellingen. With the need for greater NATO air defense commitments, No.1 Air Division RCAF was officially established in the 1950s initially at four bases in France and West Germany. These bases respectively were RCAF Station Marville home to No.1 Wing and RCAF Grostenquin home to No.2 Wing positioned in France and RCAF Station Zweibrücken home to No. 3 Wing and RCAF Station Baden-Soellingen home to No.4 Wing located in West Germany. Each wing had three fighter squadrons assigned to them each. Eight air division squadrons were replaced with strike aircraft complete with nuclear capability an issue which would prove quite controversial in Canada.

In 1963, the French government announced that all nuclear weapons positioned on French soil would fall under French control, an announcement that the Canadians and other NATO forces strongly disagreed with. As a result of this, all Canadian nuclear strike forces were relocated to RCAF Station Zweibrücken and  RCAF Station Baden-Soellingen. In 1964, RCAF Station Grostenquin was closed with its assets transferred to RCAF Marville. RCAF Marville would later be subsequently closed when France withdrew from NATO's military command structure and ordered all foreign military forces to vacate French soil or thus fall under French military authority. The units from RCAF Marville were then transfered to RCAF Station Lahr. In 1966, the Canadians took over Base Aérienne 139 Lahr which was operated by the French Armée de l'Air. French forces were vacating the base in compliance with the French withdrawal from NATO. The first RCAF personnel would arrive in March 1967 when it was renamed RCAF Station Lahr.

With the consolidation of Canadian military forces, RCAF Station Lahr was renamed Canadian Forces Base Lahr which was shortened to CFB Lahr. RCAF Station Zweibrücken would also be closed followed Canadian defense reviews in 1969 as part of an effort to remove duplication of force projection and cut the defense budget. Soon only RCAF Station Lahr and RCAF Station Baden-Soellingen remained. Along with the fighter units maintained at CFB Baden-Soellingen, there was a mechanized infantry battalion assigned there as well. Mechanized Infantry Battalions at CFB Baden Soellingen included:

  • 1970-1977: 3rd Mechanized Commando, The Canadian Airborne Regiment
  • 1977-1984: 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment
  • 1984-1988: 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
  • 1988-1993: 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment

In addition to these units there was a communication squadron as well as an air defense battery and a multi-force airfield repair unit. Under the reorganization of Canadian defense forces, No.1 Air Division RCAF became 1 Canadian Air Group. Following a period of intense renewed Cold War tensions, CFB Baden-Soellingen received improved infrastructure and services as well as upgrades and improvements to the base to accommodate the arrival of new CF-18 Hornet multirole fighters to replace the CF-104 Starfighters.

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