•21/01/2013 • 1 Comment
Camouflage on armoured vehicles has been used since their first dawn on the Somme in WW1. In urban environments like Berlin, camouflage was more challenging and most vehicles were painted in their own country’s version of green or olive drab. The British Army of the Rhine who supplied units in the British Sector in Berlin by the 1980s adopted a unique system which they called ‘Berlin Camo‘. It consisted of blocks of pastel colours, colours commonly seen on Berlin buildings and structures, to help break up the outline of the vehicle in the urban jungle that was Cold War Berlin.
This image is tucked away in one of the Flickr Berlin groups and shows a Chieftain tank of the Royal Tank Regiment near their headquarters at Ruhleben. The owner of the photo states that it was taken in October 1988 and shows one of his friends talking to the tank crew. The style and pattern of the camouflage is clear on this image, a pattern no longer in use anywhere in the world but examples of vehicles painted in it are in private collections or museums.
•13/01/2013 • Leave a Comment
It has been a while since I posted on Military Berlin but I shall be back in the city again soon and have been collecting images over the past year or so, and am aiming to put a few more posts up in 2013.
This image, from the fanastic Flickr archive posted by deckarudo, shows a Pantherturm which is said to be located between Möllendorffstraße and Frankfurter Allee. In 1945 a number of these were placed in the streets of Berlin to bolster up the defences; they had proved effective in Italy and Russia and in the streets would offer quite some barrier to any armour attempting to advance. However, this one has been knocked out; a round has pieced the gun mounting and by the look of it, likely to be from a T34/85; large numbers of these entered Berlin in the final battle.
•04/12/2011 • 1 Comment
When Europe went to war in 1914 the streets of every Capitol city were alive with patriotic crowds and smartly dressed soldiers marching to the front. Indeed one British journalist in Berlin in 1914 noted,
“For two days I waited and watched. Up and down the wide road of Unter den Linden crowds paced incessantly by day and night, singing the German war songs : “Was blasen die Trompeten?” which is the finest; “Deutschland, Deutschland ueber Alles,” which comes next, and “Die Wacht am Rhein,” which was the most popular. As I walked to and fro among the patriot crowd, I came to know many of the circling and returning faces by sight, and I still have clearly in mind the face of one young working woman who, with mouth that opened like a cavern, and with the rapt devotion of an ecstatic saint, was continuously chanting:
“Lieb Vaterland kann ruhig sein! (bis)
Fest steht und treu die Wacht,
Die Wacht am Rhein!”
So the interminable crowds went past, a-tiptoe for war, because they had never known it. Sometimes a company of infantry, sometimes a squadron of horse went down the road westward, wearing the new grey uniforms in place of the familiar “Prussian blue” They passed to probable death amid cheering, handshaking, gifts of flowers and of food.”
This image was taken a couple of months into the war and shows a Prussian artillery unit passing in front of the Schloss, with the Berlin Cathedral in the background. A wounded German officer saluted the men. Traditional uniforms are seen here; Prussian blue and Picklehaube. As yet no feldgrau and Stahlhelms. One wonders how many faces in this image survived to the end of the war?
•27/11/2011 • 1 Comment
This image from the collection of the Desert Rat who was in Berlin in the summer of 1945 shows a scene in front of the Lustgarten at the far end of the Unter Den Linden. Visible are two MkIV or MkV First World War British Tanks. A book on WW2 published a few years ago carried another image of one of the tanks and suggested that the Volksturm in Berlin was so desperate it was utilising tanks from WW1!
The truth is a little less complicated. After 1940 the Lustgarten area appears to have developed quite a Great War connection as the Armistice Carriage in which the November 1918 Armistice that humiliated Germany and the French surrender in 1940 had been signed. Other WW1 related items seem to have been displayed here, among them the tanks. Where the tanks came from is another thing. Some sources suggested they were captured in Russia; Britain supplied such tanks to the White Russians during the Russian Civil War. However, there were a number of such tanks placed on war memorials in France, and it is possible they were retained by the Nazis as war booty, and that these might be examples of that. A serial number is visible on one of the tanks and some work on that is on-going.
What happened to the tanks after the war also remains a mystery. They may have been cut up for scrap, or taken to the Soviet Union (examples of such tanks are known to exist in Russia). They do not appear to have ended up in any military museum in Germany. If any reader of the blog can help, please get in touch.
•26/11/2011 • 2 Comments
Continuing with the series of fascinating images taken by a Royal Engineer of the 7th Armoured Division – the Desert Rats – this time we follow him down the Unter Den Linden – the main street in central Berlin. It would appear he either walked down the street or drove down it in the summer of 1945, photographing all the main buildings. We start the Brandenberg Gate (above). The damage to the gate and the Quadriga on top is clearly visible and some of the original road signs on what was then the join of the British-Soviet sector can be seen.
Turning round, the soldier then had the view below looking straight down the Unter Den Linden. The Soviets had already began to ‘dress up’ their sector with patriotic slogans, banners and memorials. This one depicts Soviet Leader Josef Stalin.
He then walked down the Unter Den Linden to the Neue Wache which we have featured before on Military Berlin. This had been the Tomb of Germany’s Unknown Soldier and again the 1945 battle damage is clearly visible.
He then took a second shot of the building from another angle which shows the Zeughaus behind, which is now the German History Museum.
Just beyond the Neue Wach was the Kronprinzenpalais. This former residence of the Hohenzollern Royal Family had been almost ruined in the 1945 fighting.
From here he stopped at the Schloss. Although less damaged than most buildings, it was eventually torn down by the Soviets. He took two photographs here.
He ended at the Berliner Dom, the Berlin Cathedral. Again it showed the typical state these magnificent buildings were in and it brings this fascinating journey to an end.
•21/11/2011 • 1 Comment
The Battle for the Reichstag in May 1945 became a symbolic period of the final phase of the Battle of Berlin. Russian troops assaulted it and raised flags from the roof, and during the fighting the building was badly damaged. When the British moved into Berlin in July 1945 the Reichstag was in their sector, although the rear of the building pressed up against the Russian sector and part of the Berlin Wall would eventually run here.
This image was taken in July 1945 by the same soldier of the Desert Rats who took the photographs in recent posts. It clearly shows the massive damage to the superstructure of the building and the wasteland of battlefield detritus that surrounded it. It is amazing the building survived at all when you consider it pretty much stayed in this state for decades to come, and it is useful to compare this image to the one I took of the Reichstag in February 2011.