Friday, July 23, 2010

Former Canadian Military Base in Lahr, Germany (Part 2)

Kaserne and Outlying Areas

The Kaserne was a German Army garrison during WW11.  During the war many of its buildings were damaged by Allied bombing.  After the war ended, the French Occupying Military Forces took over the Kaserne and directed that the damaged buildings be rebuilt to original plans.

Below left, the renovated CYC at the entrance to the Kaserne.  This was the Canadian Youth Centre where the young people got together.  The German owner had gone there as a teen himself and wanted to preserve the building, which he did.  Below, right, the entrance way (on the right side) with K1 building under renovation.  This was the Brigade headquarters.  The gate and the military guard house that was an ID check point are gone. 

Below left, the Fliegerhof and the only remaining building on that side, facing the entrance to the former Kaserne.  This is where air crew stayed for their rest stops before returning to Canada (crew from the transport planes that flew back and forth between Trenton, Ontario and Lahr.)

When the Canadian Forces moved to Lahr, they took over the Kaserne and many outlying buildings from the French; those buildings included the permanent married quarters (PMQs). Those were renovated, after which the Canadian military families made them their home.  Many thousands passed through the Kaserne and in and out of PMQs over the next 27 years.  I lived in one of those PMQ buildings for two years in the 1970s as did many of our friends.

Below left, Area 3 PMQ, across from Link VW (my PMQ in the 1970s).  Below right, the group of Area 13 PMQs behind Area 3.

Below, Link VW as it is today and the beautiful building that remains as it was, on the right side of the PMQ road into Area 13.

The Army and Air Force lived side
by side.  It was our first experience with the Army way of life and for many of the Army people, it was their first experience with the RCAF way of life.  (It was around 1968 when both services lost their long-time names and became simply Canadian Armed Forces.  Most military people, though, continued using their old names.)

I remember many a weekend night with parties going on in our building and in those behind us.  One minute a group would sing one of their Army songs out the window of their PMQ and the next, the Air Force would retaliate with one of theirs--each time a little more loudly than the last, all of it a friendly rivalry.

Unlike most Canadian military bases, the facilities were divided into two areas here in Lahr:  the airfield or base as most of us called it, was situated at the far west side of Lahr; the Kaserne, at the far east side.  As Lahr is not a large city, it took only about 15 minutes to drive between the two.  The PMQs were also located at various parts of the city and in other nearby towns, side by side with civilian housing, also unlike any other base that I know.

Soon, the Kaserne will no longer be as we remembered, as a huge construction project is ongoing.  Most of the buildings have been torn down, so it is difficult to recognize anything other than a particular location of a building one once knew well.  A few of the buildings will remain--renovated from the inside out--and they will be turned into apartments.  The rest of that area will consist of single homes, duplexes and garden homes.

Canadian Forces Europe Headquarters was located at the Kaserne.  The picture on the left shows the front entrance and the one on the right, the back of K4.  I don't know whether it is to be torn down, but I think it is likely.

The Kaserne is also where Canex main offices (K5), and many of the schools were located.  On the left is K5; on the right, one of the schools still standing.

Other facilities found at the Kaserne were the arena, curling club, gymnasium with bowling alleys, the main Canex store (mini department store) and a coffee shop and restaurant.  All of these buildings have been torn down.  At the airfield we had similar facilities, some still standing, some gone.

The picture at right is the road going through the Kaserne from the back gate to the front with buildings being constructed along it. 

Below left, the area where the former Community Centre was located.  On the right of that now empty space is an insurance company built after the Canadians left.  The picture on the right shows part of the area where the C.C. once was with apartment buildings along the road.

Our Community Centre, in downtown Lahr, included a movie theatre.  It was also a tourist centre for Canadian military and civilian personnel offering tours all over Europe.  We had our own buses with tours available to many countries, but also day tours to closer destinations.  For more distant places, other bus companies were also used.  Over the years, thousands of people, including many family visitors from Canada, took advantage of all the various tours offered.  Three that I took included a ten-day trip to Greece, a long-weekend in Burgundy with wine tastings and wonderful dinners and a day trip to Gruyere, Switzerland, where cheese fondue or Raclette was a lunch choice.

Two other important community services were the Canadian Forces Network (CFN) and Der Kanadier newspaper.  The building on the left was the former CFN, now the German Red Cross.  On the right, the Der Kanadier building where Canada Haus is presently located.  The building is owned by a company that operates a day care centre for the elderly on the bottom floor.

 The picture below is of the church at the end of the street where CFN and Der Kanadier were located.

CFN for many years was a radio station only.  We received many CBC programs over the years along with live programs produced at CFN in Lahr.  In later years we also received televised programs from the CBC and also some produced in Lahr.  Shortly before the close-down, radio and TV programs were received from the American Forces Network (AFN).

Der Kanadier was a weekly newspaper that was free for all Canadian military and civilians working for the Canadian Forces.  It brought everyone up to date on all the happenings and upcoming events, including all the community club news.  It was a fountain of knowledge for new Canadians arriving in Germany, with many articles written about the surrounding area and its history.

Below left, covered front entrance to the hospital (Medical Record Dept windows to the right of the door).
On the right, the front entrance with raised garden area.

Two Canadian facilities were the Black Forest Officers' Mess and Canadian Forces Hospital Europe.  Both were and still are just outside the former Kaserne back gate.  The latter was built by the Canadian government and opened in 1991.  Shortly after we learned that CFB Lahr would be closing, the decision was made to go ahead with the opening of CFHE as the hospital was almost completed.  I and my staff readied our Medical Records Dept for the big move, just as we were to do two years later when it officially closed.

On the left, the sign at the front of the hospital.  On the right, the emergency entrance.

The hospital is now a Heart Clinic, performing many heart operations a year.
The Black Forest Officers' Mess became a technical college and was renovated extensively inside, with the outside remaining much the same.  I am not sure if the college is still the occupant or not.

Three views below.

The following are a few pictures of some of the PMQs in Lahr and surrounding area.  I didn't get pictures from all areas.

Below, the former Package Store and Bank of Montreal area with PMQs above.  The Package Store is now a Turkish grocery store.

Area 31

One of the towers under renovation on the left

Two other PMQ areas were in Langenwinkel and Kippenheimweiler. 

A picture of Landgasthof Sonne on the corner

The traffic circle entering Langenwinkel on the left.  One of the streets into Langenwinkel on the right.

Below, former PMQs in Kippenheimweiler, one under renovation

Although the Kaserne is not easily recognizable today, the airfield is still much the same, except for the road leading from the back gate towards the marguerite.  Many huge transport and logistic companies and small businesses are now lining it with hundreds of trucks going in and out daily. 

Many former Canadian residents who lived in Lahr and the surrounding towns and villages with German landlords have returned to enjoy the good German food, wine, beer and Gemütlichkeit.  Germans today still tell us they miss the Canadians, many of whom they had befriended.  Quite a few Germans have also visited their friends in Canada.  Although things have changed, those years will not be forgotten.  The Canadian military years in Germany will remain in the memory and hearts of both the German people and those of us who had the opportunity to live and work here and experience that life.

Note:  To view the pictures in a larger format, just click on them.  To get back to the blog and other pictures, click on the arrow at the top left corner of the screen.

I shall be in Nova Scotia, Canada for the rest of the summer, writing my blog from there.  In the fall, on my return to Germany, it will be back to my regular blogs about the wine, food, beer and events here.

I wish you all a great summer!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Former Canadian Military Base in Lahr, Germany (Part 1)

This post and my next will be about the former Canadian military facilities here in Lahr.  I shall then be spending the next couple of months in Nova Scotia, Canada.  My blogs from there will showcase some of the food, events and picturesque towns in that part of the world.  In October, I shall be back in Germany writing once again about the food, wine, beer and culture here.

The Flugplatz (Airfield)

Below, two views of the present main entrance to the airfield

The Royal Canadian Air Force's No. 1 Fighter Wing in Marville, France moved to Lahr, Germany in 1967.  That included 439 and 441 Squadrons.  France had opted out of NATO and required all NATO bases in that country to close.  Later, a squadron from #3 Wing, Zweibrucken, Germany, moved to Lahr.  In about 1971, those squadrons moved to the RCAF's No. 4 Fighter Wing in Baden-Söllingen, Germany, about 45 minutes north of Lahr.

That left only 5 Air Movements Unit using the Lahr airfield regularly, moving military members, families, civilian personnel and equipment between Canada and Germany in Boeing 707 and Hercules aircraft.  Later, a small detachment from 412 Transport Squadron in Canada arrived at 5 AMU.  The two pilots flew smaller planes--the Cosmo and then the Dash 7 and 8--regularly between Germany and London, England.

Below, the 5 AMU as it is today; on the right, the door in front facing the main road.

Below, the former Canadian Forces Base Lahr Headquarters building on the airfield.

In 1970, the Canadian Army and Brigade moved to Lahr from several bases in northern Germany.  The Brigade included 122eR, RCR, 4 Service Battalion and 1RCHA.  The 444 Helicopter Squadron also was part of the Army Brigade in Lahr.  The PPCLI were based in Baden-Söllingen.

 Following are some of the buildings still remaining beyond the airfield

Both the Air Force and the Army had a large medical corps, with the Field Ambulance coming down from the north with the Army.  Canadians over the next years had their own hospital with family physicians and specialists, a pharmacy, military postal unit, bank, supermarket, base exchange (Canex), library, schools, a teen centre, swimming pool and gymnasium and various other units and clubs.

The following are pictures of buildings still remaining on the base and pictures of where some of them used to be.

On the left, the picture shows approximately where the "old"  hospital was located (a new one was built near the Kaserne, opening in 1991).  In its place is a huge furniture store, one that was previously in Schuttern.  The picture on the right is a restaurant across the street from where the hospital was located.

Below, the Euro Inn, a hotel with reasonable rates on the same side of the street as the former hospital.  It had been newly built by the Canadian military as a barracks for single service men and women.

Below, a group of restaurants where the Junior Ranks Mess Hall was located. A restaurant 
is part of the old Mess Hall still today.

The following are buildings that remain and are still being used.

Below, the former military Roman Catholic church; on the right, Canex and snack bar building

Below left, renovated barracks; below right, the building just past the AMU, where Legion #4 has their meeting place.

Below left, a bldg just past the AMU; it houses a flying school.  Below right, bldg # 22.

 Two views of the old firehall.


Life as we knew it for Canadians in Lahr ended in 1994 when Canadian Forces Base Lahr closed officially.  Canadian Forces Europe Headquarters and Canadian Forces Hospital Europe closed officially in summer 1993, with the Brigade returning to Canada that same year.  Many changes have taken place at the former Canadian and NATO airfield and base, though much from that past era is still evident.

Those intervening 27 years--1967 to 1994--were enjoyed and appreciated and are still remembered by nearly all Canadians who served here and by the many families who visited.  I took these pictures on 10 July 2010.  The temperature was 35.5C, a very hot day!  It reminded me of those earlier sweltering days when a stand-down was called.  The base was then closed for the day except for those services that could not be spared.  Many of the hospital personnel and those at other units were deemed necessary, as any military base must be on watch at all times.

Quite a number of buildings on the Flugplatz (airfield) have been torn down, including the following:  arena, curling rink, gas station, the hospital and the yellow tunnel.  In some instances, grassy areas are the result.  In others, new buildings have emerged.   Although several of the old barracks have been torn down, others have been renovated and are occupied by small businesses.  A new building is being constructed near the  Centennial Club. The former Rod and Gun Club is still in operation, under new owners or tenants, as a private hunting club.  The Senior NCO Mess and the buildings in that area have been sealed off for many years.  They remain standing at this time. 

Below left, new construction is going on with what I think is part of what was the Centennial Club in the background.  At right, a new building near the entrance to the former base.


 Below left, the gymnasium with pool facilities (no longer used).  Below right, the abandoned tennis courts. 

Below, the site where the gas pumps were located

The 5 AMU building and its airfield became a private terminal and airport.  Although one plane was on the tarmac on 10 July, the airfield is used very little.  It was for a time quite active.  A flying school is situated there.

Below centre, a lonely aircraft on the tarmac.  Below left, a picture of the airfield today.  On the right, the stairway to the top floor offices of the 5 AMU building are still standing.   At the very bottom, centre, one of the last major construction projects by the Canadian military.  It is located facing the main road to the base and it is now up for sale.

My next blog will have pictures of the  Kaserne, the "new" Canadian Forces Hospital Europe and some of the PMQs in the city of Lahr.  To see any of the above pictures in a larger format, just click on them.  To return to the blog, click on the arrow at the top left corner of the screen.