Germany

Farewell To 'The Iron Fist': 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade Set to Leave Paderborn

'The Iron Fist', which once held 5,000 troops, has become an integral part of the city.

Paderborn has said goodbye to a long-standing feature of the German city, the British Army's 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade - known as 'the Iron Fist'.

The formation, the last of its kind to leave Germany, has been stationed in the country since 1951 and in Paderborn since 1992.

'The Iron Fist', which once held 5,000 troops, has become an integral part of the city.

To celebrate the relationship, an open-air church service in Paderborn took place.

Michael Dreyer, the Mayor of Paderborn, paid tributes to 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade: “They will leave Paderborn after 27 years. I'm thankful for the time we spent together.

"I'm very sad but we are very full of hope that we can keep up our good relationship in the future.”

The Cold War impasse with the Soviet Union dominated the early stages of the Brigade's term in Germany.

However, intervention in the Bosnian civil war during the 1990s quickly became their most active spell while hosted by Paderborn. 

The street parade welcomed military families to celebrate 27 years in Paderborn.

The following decade, 'the Iron Fist' travelled to Iraq three times, becoming the last British Brigade to operate in the country. 

More recent activity includes leading Task Force Helmand in Afghanistan.

Around 200 troops will remain in Paderborn for continued training organisation, including many Royal Engineers required for a German-British amphibious bridging unit.

Lance Corporal Tom Rees of the Queen's Royal Hussars was one of many to call the German city home: "It's tough leaving Germany this time. Obviously, I would love to stay here but whatever the future holds I'm looking forward to it.”

Local residents were sad to say goodbye to such an integral part of Paderborn's community. One woman said:

“It's already noticeable that the British community is starting to dwindle and I think it will leave a big hole.”

Meanwhile, 40 miles away, Germany waved goodbye to another Armed Forces institution as the British Moehnesee Sail Training Centre closed.

The coming weeks will see remaining soldiers of the 'Iron Fist' move to new bases in Wiltshire and Cyprus, ending the Army's large-scale presence in Germany from the Second World War.