Where In Berlin Was British Military Hq During Cold War – 52°28′28″N 13°08′17″E / 52.47444°N 13.13806°E / 52.47444; 13.13806Coordinates: 52°28′28″N 13°08′17″E / 52.47444°N 13.13806°E / 52.47444; 13.13806
Royal Air Force Gatow, or more commonly RAF Gatow, was a British Royal Air Force station (military air base) in the Gatow district of southwest Berlin, west of the River Havel in the Spandau district. It was home to the only known operational use of seaplanes in central Europe, and was later used for photographic reconnaissance missions by de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunks over East Germany. Part of the former airport is now called the Geral Steinhoff-Kaserne and houses the Luftwaffmuseum der Bundeswehr, the German Air Force Museum.
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Where In Berlin Was British Military Hq During Cold War
Also on the site of the former Royal Air Force station, but not part of Geral Steinhoff-Kaserne, is a school, the Hans-Carossa-Gymnasium, as well as houses for government employees of the Federal Republic of Germany. This part of the former airport has been part of the Berlin-Kladow district since 2003.
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The airfield was originally built in 1934 and 1935 by the Luftwaffe as a staff and technical college, Luftkriegsschule 2 Berlin-Gatow, in imitation of the Royal Air Force College at RAF Cranwell. The initial personnel came in part from the Mürwik Naval Academy. Inaugurated on 1 April 1936, the aviation college was renamed Luftkriegsschule 2 on 15 January 1940. Its satellite airports were Güterfelde and Reinsdorf. Airborne flight training took place in October 1944, due to fuel shortages. From 5 March 1945, aircrew officer cadets were retrained as paratroopers, for land operations which had very high casualties.
Evidence of the airfield’s original use survives in the barracks block living quarters, each block of which is named after a famous WW1 German aviator, with the airman’s bust above the trance door. The architect was Ernst Sagebiel, an architect who worked full-time for the Luftwaffe and also designed Tempelhof Airport. Other features that survived during the airfield’s period of use as RAF Gatow (1945–1994) included light bulbs in the main hangars, many of which dated from the 1930s.
At the end of April 1945, towards the end of World War II in Europe, the airfield was occupied by the advancing Red Army. Following the division of Berlin into four sectors, Soviet forces gave part of the airfield and access roads, the so-called Seeburger Zipfel, to the British after the Potsdam Conference in exchange for West-Staak on 30 August 1945. Previously , 25 June 1945, 284 Field Squadron, RAF Regimt, arrived at Gatow overland via Magdeburg. Their reception by Soviet troops was extremely hostile, the Soviets attempting to confine 284 Field Squadron behind barbed wire barriers, as the squadron was said to have arrived “too early”. This set the pattern for relations, with Soviet checkpoints being set up next to the airport manned by fully armed, no-nonsense troops. RAF regime officers occasionally inspected Soviet positions by air from Avro Ansons, and the RAF regime detachments’ tour of duty at Gatow was limited to six months, due to the constant activity caused by the Soviet presence and the airlift of Berlin.
US Army Gerals Dwight D. Eishower and Lucius D. Clay at RAF Gatow during the Potsdam Conference in 1945
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The first Royal Air Force aircraft landing was by Avro Anson serial number PW698 on 2 July 1945 at 11:55 am. Initially, Gatow was called Intermediate Landing Place No. 19, but on 19 August 1945 it was called Royal Air Force Gatow, or RAF Gatow for short. The station has been given the Latin motto Pons Heri Pons Hodie, which can be translated as A bridge yesterday, a bridge today.
Among the crew that flew to RAF Gatow was RAF Navigator Errol Barrow. During his illustrious RAF career, Barrow was attached to the personal flight of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Occupation Zone in Germany, Sir Sholto Douglas, as his navigator. Douglas and Barrow became friends, and Douglas made Barrow godfather to his only child. Barrow was to be instrumental in achieving independence for Barbados and served as the first and third Prime Minister of Barbados.
RAF Gatow was also used as a civilian airfield for a limited time. In 1946, British European Airways (BEA) inaugurated a scheduled RAF Northolt – Hamburg – Gatow service with a frequency of six flights a week, using Douglas DC-3s (“Pionair” in BEA terminology) and Vickers VC.1 Viking pistons airplane.
The station was modernized with a 2,000 yards (1,800 m) long concrete runway, using 794 German workers, in March 1947. Along with the American Tempelhof airfield and the French Tegel airfield, RAF Gatow played a key role in the Berlin Airlift of 1948. Initially, approximately 150 Douglas Dakotas and 40 Avro Yorks were used to carry supplies to Gatow. By 18 July 1948, the RAF was carrying 995 tons of supplies per day into the airfield.
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Alongside the Royal Air Force and several British civil aviation companies, the United States Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and South African Air Force Force all supplies flown into RAF Gatow during the airlift.
On 20 June 1980, the Royal Australian Air Force loaned a Douglas Dakota to RAF Gatow in commemoration of his role. Her crew included Air Marshal David Evans, an Australian aviation veteran. As only British, French and American aircraft were permitted under international law to fly within Allied air corridors, the Dakota received the RAF serial number ZD215. The Dakota is still at Gatow, inside the German Air Force barracks.
In November 1948, the last RAF transport aircraft, Handley Page Hastings was added to the squadrons flying RAF Gatow and some crews and aircraft were redeployed to train replacement aircrew. Many of these were based at RAF Schleswigland, near Jagel, currently used by the German Air Force and Marineflieger. A Hastings aircraft, which served on the airlift and was later the ‘gate keeper’ of RAF Gatow until the station closed, is now held in the Alliiert Museum. By mid-December, the RAF had landed 100,000 tons of supplies. In April 1949, the commercial airlines involved in the airlift were formed into a Civil Aviation Division (coordinated by British European Airways) to operate under RAF control. As well as the BEA itself, these also included a number of Britain’s fledgling independent airlines, such as the late Sir Freddie Laker’s Air Charter, Eagle Aviation and Harold Bamberg’s Skyways.
By mid-April, the All Nations Combined Operations Airlift managed 1,398 flights in 24 hours, carrying 12,940 tons (13,160 t) of cargo, coal and machinery, breaking the record of 8,246 (8,385 t) set just a few days before.
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RAF Gatow has the unique and unlikely distinction of being the base for the only known operational use of seaplanes in Central Europe, during the Berlin Blockade, on nearby Wannsee, a lake in the River Havel. On 6 July 1948, the RAF began operating 10 Short Sunderland and 2 Short Hythe flying boats, flying from Finkwerder on the Elbe near Hamburg to Berlin. These were supplemented by the seaplane operations of Aquila Airways, an independent early post-war British airline which became an operating division of British Aviation Services. Seaplanes’ specialty was the transport of bulk salt, which would have been very corrosive to other aircraft, but was not to seaplanes due to their anodized skins.
Hammond Innes’ novel Air Bridge is partially set in RAF Gatow at the time of the Berlin Airlift, and is notable for its accurate descriptions of the station, including the corridors and rooms within it. Some of the descriptions were still accurate some 40 years after the book was published.
After the Berlin Blockade, RAF Gatow served as an airfield for the British Army’s Berlin Infantry Brigade and was ready to return to its role as a supply base, should another Berlin Airlift to Berlin ever become necessary West.
BEA moved to Tempelhof Airport in 1951, where the majority of West Berlin’s commercial air transport operations were contracted from then on.
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Non-military use of Gatow after 1950 included several official visits by Que Elizabeth and other members of the British royal family, which have taken place frequently over the years. The airport also handled troop flights operated by British independent airlines such as British United Airways,
The RAF Gatow Station flight used two de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk T.10s, one of which is now owned by the Alliiertmuseum, to maintain and exercise the British legal right under the Potsdam Agreement to use the airspace over West Berlin and East Berlin, as well as air corridors to and from West Germany to the city.
In the 1950s the base was also a major intelligence gathering center for Royal Air Force linguists who monitored 24/7 Soviet air traffic broadcasts from its bases across Eastern Europe .
These aircraft were also used for reconnaissance missions in conjunction with the British Commander-in-Chief’s mission to the Soviet occupying forces in Germany, commonly known as BRIXMIS. Known since 1956 as
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