Cold War

Former British Military Chief 'Had No Idea' Berlin Wall Would Fall In 1989

Former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Lord David Richards has commanded operations in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, amongst others around the world.

However, his service in Cold War Germany is perhaps one of the least well-known deployments of his career.

"When I was a young troop commander I knew exactly what I was going to do all day," General Lord Richards told Forces News.

"Chances are I was in a reconnaissance team right on the German border with 1st Royal Tank Regiment, running a striker troop."

This Saturday marks 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down.

"We were very good professionally and tactically, and we were prepared to fight a group of Soviet forces in Germany that we had great professional respect for, mainly because they had numbers," Gen Lord Richards added.

What he and the rest of the troops stationed in West Germany during the Cold War were not prepared for was seeing the Wall come down in November 1989 - more than 28 years after its construction started.

A segment of the Berlin Wall is removed
The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989 (Picture: PA).

"Intelligence was a key part of my life," said General Lord Richards about his time in Berlin.

"We had almost an exclusive opportunity to go and look at Russian and East German kit... I would go over to the Soviet sector - East Berlin.

"I would be picked up by a Stasi or Russian tail and I'd be followed the whole way. It was a game one played."

General Lord Richards was in Berlin in 1989, just months before the Wall came down.

Shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, General Lord Richards said, he had to brief a new brigade commander.

"We had no idea," he said.

"I would like to say we missed the signs, and there will be clever people who would say that... but they are not telling the truth," he said.

"These were police states that were rigidly run by the political elite.. we hoped one day [the Berlin Wall] was going to fall, but there were no signs.

"Life was going on as ever."

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