The paper focuses on policing strategies in transnational urban spaces within the area of the “British Army of the Rhine” from the end of the occupation of Germany until the end of the Cold War. On the average, around 60,000 British soldiers and twice as much civilians (UK-based civilian employees ... (Show more)
The paper focuses on policing strategies in transnational urban spaces within the area of the “British Army of the Rhine” from the end of the occupation of Germany until the end of the Cold War. On the average, around 60,000 British soldiers and twice as much civilians (UK-based civilian employees and family members) were stationed in the north-western part of Germany. The members of the armed forces, who were usually posted to other places every two or three years, lived within the German garrison towns in residential areas with a “British” infrastructure provided by the military. Importantly, these areas were not fenced off and partly integrated into the local infrastructure, which allowed different forms of interaction with the town population. As many garrison towns were quite small, the British military community made up a considerable percentage of the population.
This leads to the question, how the cohabitation of the British transient military and the local civilian sedentary population was organised, which conceptions of “public order and safety” existed and in which way both police forces cooperated with each other. The Royal Military Police was responsible for both soldiers and the civilian component of the forces, and the German civil police for everybody else. Many problems arose from the question who could take legal action in cases involving both British soldiers and German civilians.
On the public level, dealing with drunken, especially rioting young British soldiers, was one of the major issues which concerned “public order and safety”. These incidents, often perceived as an expression of asymmetrical power relations, were frequently discussed by the German public and both German and British authorities as well as the media. The paper discusses, in which way transnational networks of German mayors, British Services liaison officers and both police forces dealt with the problem, negotiated concepts of “public order”, and tried to pacify the public and to prevent similar cases.
Another important aspect concerned road safety, especially during exercises. During the Cold War the British forces – as part of NATO forces – conceptualised the region of the 1st British Corps as a potential theatre of war, as they would have been responsible for the defence of this area in case of war against the Warsaw Pact forces. Consequently, many exercises took place there each year – small manoeuvres of individual units as well as huge NATO exercises. During the exercises, villages and small towns became virtual battlefields, while the German civilian population carried on everyday life. The simultaneity of war and peace activities was difficult to manage. Especially many traffic accidents occurred, often with tanks, some of them fatal. German police and Royal Military Police closely cooperated with each other in order to ensure “public order” on the street, which also involved dealing with the growing peace movement which fundamentally questioned the military scenario and the predominance of the military.
The paper will equally discuss German and British perceptions and is based on archival sources, media reports, private material, and interviews with German and British police officers. (Show less)