The Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry
6 October 1959 - 10 July 1968
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On the 7th September 2007 along with my sons Barry (born in Gibraltar) and Steve (born in Gravesend) we took a trip down memory lane, a weekend in Berlin, something I always said I must do.
The flight from Bristol airport to Schoneberg Airport was very pleasant. We were booked in at the Holiday Inn at the airports 4 star hotel and very comfortable. Arriving at the hotel at 22.30 Friday night we decided to have a meal and a few beers ready to “Hit the Town” early Saturday morning.
An early rise and a cooked breakfast on Saturday morning was the order of he day, after breakfast we got a taxi for the 10 miles to the Kurfurstendamm churches, that as anyone remembers that was on a driving cadre was our city driving terminus.
On arrival we had to wait for the city tour bus which left there at 10.00 so we had enough time for a couple of beers before embarking on a 3 ½ hour tour of the city, that was brilliant. We stopped at “Check Point Charlie”, and entered the museum which is full of peoples escape bids, it still is unbelievable some of the vehicles and ways and means of crossing this outrageous, barbaric wall. My sons were in disbelief at the photographs and exhibits. Back on the coach to resume the tour after a photo shoot at Check Point Charlie to the Brandenberg Gate, this was a great thrill when the coach stopped here for 15 minutes I was able, for the first time in my life able to walk through this iconic structure it was a wonderful experience, back on the coach to continue the tour up 17Juni Strasse, Bismarck Strasse, and around Charlottenburg.
When you are told (narration in English through headphones) that in 2 days enough bombs were dropped on Berlin to cover every square yard it is incredible that the city has recovered and is booming. Not one soldier of any nation in evidence just proved the success of our efforts and all the forces prior and since we left, the city is free and relaxed and you can feel the vibrant mood as apposed the dark and dismal situation we left.
After the tour we had lunch and time to reflect on this memorable trip Barry and Steve were in awe, obviously I had told them things, but to get it first hand was astonishing. After lunch and a few more beers we walked around the shopping area and generally got the feel of the place. We headed back to the hotel where Barry left his camera in the taxi which was hailed by us in the city so we did not know the company, telephone number or any thing we discovered the missing camera after we were dropped off, a camera worth a lot of money, put a bit of a cloud over this magnificent day, we consoled ourselves with a few beers., after about an hour and a half Barry thought he saw the same taxi drive past the bar window, and low and behold this taxi driver had discovered the camera and drove all the back from the city centre to the airport, I just wondered would that have happened in England? What a star that driver was, we immediately booked him for our Sunday trip to Spandau.
On Sunday morning after breakfast, we packing our cases and put them into reception, and waited for our very honest taxi driver to take us to Spandau. This was a worry for me, I knew of course that Spandau prison had been removed (thank goodness) but would Brooke Barracks and our married quarters still be standing, was I wasting our precious time for a visit that I didn’t know what the outcome might be. I recognized nothing on the way to Spandau, I asked the driver to take us to where Spandau prison once stood, as we approached I saw the Barracks, which way were we approaching, was this maybe Waverley Barracks?
No it was Brooke Barracks, standing very serene in the morning sunlight, the gates were open, could we in fact go in? pausing at the gates for photographs and looking across the street to where the prison once stood, I was ecstatic to discover the barracks is now a industrial estate and we were free to walk around inside the camp. I was so moved by the excitement, thinking of all sorts of incidents and peoples faces, Vic Worster, Freddie Weston Roy Collings, Yorkie Hewitt Bill Featherstone, John Pover, it was like yesterday.
The roads were overgrown, the MT garages had been replaced by new ones, and we were unable to get to A B and C Coy accommodation blocks. The orderly room, Bn HQ Officers mess HQ coy block, Sgts Mess all stood as if they had stories to tell. My married quarters were still intact, wonderful we walked around and took photos off 6 32b Smidt Knobelsdorff Strasse.
All my memories flooded back to when I was a young man with my late wife Sheila and young son and twin daughters Jackie and Julie, below our flat was Mike Sawyers flat then John White , opposite Barry Dewfall above him was Derek Smith ,then opposite Bob Croucher. we walked around for an hour, then tried to find the Hopfenblute and the Wind Eck pubs all long since gone, since the army pulled out, Spandau became a quiet little hamlet. We stopped in a bar, had a few beers and the landlord produced 4 glasses of corn which we duly dispatched, had time for a few more beers and corn, then back to the centre where we had lunch, and the departed to our hotel for our flight back to Bristol.
A truly memorable and exiting visit. I asked my sons if they enjoyed themselves and they replied “ just to see your face Dad was worth the visit”. We had a wonderful time.
I can recommend a visit.