Germany

Inside The British Forces Germany Base Closed To The Public For Decades

A former British base in Gütersloh had been closed to the public for more than 80 years but now its gates have reopened.

There has been a rare chance for people in Germany to go behind the wire of a former RAF and British Army base in Gütersloh.

The British handed the site to the German authorities in 2016 but it remained a restricted area until June last year when local people were allowed in for the first time after 80 years.

Since then the base has become a popular attraction according to those now running the site.

"I was born in Gütersloh and I've always seen it from the outside but I never knew what was here inside and it's now very interesting for me to see this place," one local told Forces News.

Airfield Museum
There are limited spaces on the tours which only happen nine times a year, offering the chance for locals to see inside a site that many have never visited.

Daniela Toman, Gütersloh airfield tour guide, said: "Once the phone lines open group bookings sell out within 30 minutes – visits are always on a Saturday and individual tickets are usually gone in four hours.

"At first it was a huge surprise for those of us involved. We didn’t know what to expect. We had a feeling there would be interest but weren’t sure."

The base started life as a Luftwaffe base in the 1930s, with evidence of its past still standing.

A huge ground-level compass contraption which pilots would have used to set their own compasses remains - believed to be one of the only two surviving examples.

There is also an airfield museum with aircraft that once flew from Gütersloh on display.

Airfield Musuem at Gutersloh base.
The collection largely reflects Britain’s 70-year presence in Gütersloh.

However, the museum is still looking for a permanent site with chosen exhibits currently being stored in the former base’s Hangar Six.

A Hawker Hunter is now parked in the very same spot it occupied in the 1960s.

Hannu Peters from Gütersloh Airfield Museum said: "We got a lot of help of the British community, the British military community.

"It's a bit like doing a Sherlock Holmes thing to find it!"

From our archives: RAF Gütersloh closes down (6 April 1993)

All the aircraft are in need of a refurbishment, including the RAF's first single-engine jet fighter – the Vampire.

The only plane on display not to have flown from here is a Soviet-era Sukhoi 22 fast jet.

For now, where the museum will move to is undecided but base coach tours are likely to continue on the base.