Think You Know About The BAOR? Think Again...

A look at the varied history of British Army of the Rhine.


The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) were occupation forces set up in Germany following the two World Wars.

The predecessor to British Forces Germany, the BAOR was active from 1919-1929, and then 1945-1994.

Back in the 1950s, a posting in Germany was being actively encouraged as a vast British Army presence continued to expand.

The BAOR have a long and varied history, and here are some facts you may not know about them...

Location, location, location

The BAOR served across 129 different locations during its existance, and that is not including the countless further bases used by the RAF, Royal Navy and Royal Marines during the period.

British Liberation Army

The origins of the second coming of the BAOR can be found in the British Liberation Army (BLA).

The BLA was the term used to describe British Forces fighting on the Western Front during World War Two.

After the end of the conflict, the BLA was redesignated to become the BAOR, in charge of the British Zone of Occupation.

A collection of German vehicles handed over to the Allied nations, in Cologne, in 1919.
A collection of German vehicles handed over to the Allied nations, in Cologne, in 1919.


During nearly six decades of service across the two formations, the BAOR had 27 different commanders-in-chief.

The first was Field Marshal Lord Plumer who took over after the First World War, with the last, General Sir Charles Guthrie, ending his command with the disbandment of the BAOR.

NATO role

Upon the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington D.C. in 1949, and the formation of NATO, the BAOR was designated as Britain's first land force contribution to the alliance.

As a result, several reformations and recreations took place, including 1st (BR) Corps, based at Bielefeld.

British Zone of Occupation in Germany, post-WW2
Following World War Two, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, and occupied by four allied nations who defeated Nazi Germany: the UK, the US, France and the Soviet Union.

Canadian Contribution

Immediately after the Second World War, Canada provided troops to the British Zone of Occupation.

The Canadian 3rd Division was renamed the Canadian Army Occupation Force, comprised of three brigades.

These were reduced in size however, as soldiers were drafted back to their homeland, at the wishes of the Canadian government.

However, Canadian troops would return for 20 years in 1951, as part of their contribution to NATO forces in Germany.

Cold War Defences

Soon after the end of World War Two, the British role changed to being ready for the Cold War, and conflict with the Soviet Union.

Therefore, every Germany-based unit was required to have 85% of personnel on station and ready at all times.

At this time, Russia had as many as 60 divisions based in East Germany.

Major General Patrick Cordingley, former Command, 7th Armoured Brigade, told Forces News in 2014:

"These were huge armies that we were going to have to take on, and we were inevitably going to be overwhelmed by numbers.

"Therefore it was an amount of damage that we could do...to limit their advance, before nuclear release, before we actually used tactical nuclear weapons.

"They did a thumping good job in the Cold War, actually stopping a real threat which would have been much greater than anything that comes out of Iraq and Afghanistan."

The remaining British Army units based in Germany are scheduled to return to the UK in 2019.