Wolfgang The Bratty Man: A Legend Of The Cold War

To British troops based in north Germany in the last two decades of the Cold War, he was a legend.

During exercises on huge training areas he had the knack of finding soldiers - however well hidden.

But this was no commando or member of the special forces.

Wolfgang Bratty Man

Wolfgang Meier may not be a household name to everyone, but he certainly is to former soldiers like David Taylor who served in Fallingbostel from 1976 to 1980:

 “The stories of Wolfgang. The modern-day soldiers don’t know anything about him really. Not a great deal anyway. It’s only the old soldiers.”

Wolfgang Meier began selling fast food to British troops in the early 1970s.

His van could appear at any time of day- even in the middle of live military training exercises, and on more than one occasion he admits that grenades narrowly missed him.

Stephen Fisher, who served in Germany in 1971, also remembers Wolfgang:

“In them days everybody knew Wolfgang and everybody spoke to him, whether they were buying something off him or not, it didn’t matter.

Wolfgang Bratty Man

“They’d all say good morning or good afternoon and they loved him.”

Wolfgang’s uncanny ability to find customers in normally inaccessible parts of a military training area was particularly impressive, as John Hinson, who served throughout the 60s and 70s, recalls:

“It didn’t matter where you were In a little wood – out miles in the hulu, coming down the drive you’d hear beep beep and everybody would drop everything because you had to be first in the queue at his stall to get his butties and whatever else he had in his van.”

Kev Greenhalgh who works at the museum has his own memories of Wolfgang:

“We always thought he was a spy for the Russians-but don’t tell him that!

“There was all sorts of rumours back then that he had his own radio, he had his own maps and all the rest of it and people used to wonder how the hell he managed it because literally tank tracks where Chieftain tanks ploughed into a wood and ruts and he was driving across there in a Mercedes van.

“It was quite amazing.”

Wolfgang Bratty Man

The man himself has a much simpler explanation:

“I always had packs of beer with me– ten bottles in each.

“If I wasn’t sure where a unit was I would stop a tank crew and offer them beers. They’d give me directions.

“Then I would know exactly where to go.”

Wolfgang Meier’s fast food van completed its last mission in 1994 and with the money he made he says paid for a camp site which his daughter now manages.

“He was a morale booster to the British forces when we were over here in the seventies and eighties and I’m speaking for a lot of people.

"Wolfgang was a part of our Cold War really.”