As is the case with all matters most secret, an affair of the utmost seriousness was blessed with a code name hardly in keeping with its importance. Hence our highly selected crew to represent the Regiment in Berlin first saw the light under the name of “Fishforce.” When the matter was merely a whisper, a certain sergeant-major was heard to say, “What is this Fishforce? A new type of cake in the N.A.A.F.I. or the code name of a scheme for transferring pigeon-toed Lance Corporals to the Royal Military Police?”

However, we were not long to remain in ignorance. It soon transpired that it had fallen to the 3rd Hussars to have the honour of providing the first tanks and crews for Berlin. Now to many, Berlin may be just a name, but to many others, it represents a town which is well-nigh second to none in news value, a town second to none in bargaining power with erstwhile friends.

For reasons which are happily outside the scope of these notes, ” Fishforce” was to be a small affair. below a squadron in strength and we know that the Colonel had no easy time in selecting the Berlin Detachment. Finally, and so that all honours should be spread, Colonel Peel selected a troop from each of “B” and “C” Squadrons and a small central administrative staff from H.Q. Squadron. Yes! And what is more, they would proudly carry the “A” Squadron tactical signs on all their vehicles! That beat even the Quartermaster, but not for long.

On 25th October this force was welded together and, for simplicity’s sake was housed by “C” Squadron. Fresh Comet tanks were delivered to the Regiment and painted with alacrity. Other vehicles were selected by the Technical Adjutant and bludgeoned into shape. The refurbishing of officers. men and materials were carried out by departments with speed and purpose.

Our date of departure was settled as 15th November, with an advance party under Lt Schwerdt and Sgt Oliver leaving a mere matter of some forty-eight hours earlier. Those in the know about such matters nodded their heads and expressed concern; those less in the know took wagers that the force would not get there at all, some are now poorer but infinitely wiser!

On 13th November, our preparations were finally completed, we sighed with relief and finished our final personal packing. All vehicles were loaded at the Munster goods yard on 14th November on flats that were a trifle narrow, but sturdy. And so at 0530 hrs on the 15th this great train, with all our vehicles and our main body, grunted its way east. The term “grunted” is no understatement since this train also carried the families’ baggage, though not the families themselves. They were to follow some days later and had an uneventful journey.

All went well until we reached Helmstedt. which is on the British side of the British and Russian Zones.

All went swimmingly since we had then received no instructions from anyone higher than our Regiment.

At Helmstedt, however, orders were awaiting us-yes, indeed, and boiled down these would read. “If you don’t get through the Russian Zone then let us know.” Having signed for these orders, to show that he understood them, Capt Fisher then gave out orders for the journey based on very sound advice by the Railway Transport Officer at Helmstedt.

The passenger coaches were split, and the guard, and all officers and sergeants, were armed with sten guns. Our next stop was at Marienborn, which is the Russian check post inside the Russian Zone. Two friendly young Russians with machine guns approached the train and requested the Officer Commanding Train to parley with their officer. The Russian Officer, a lieutenant of artillery, eventually turned up and Capt Fisher, with an armed bodyguard, met him alongside the train, when the following conversation took place in German:

Russian Officer: You have tanks aboard?
Capt Fisher: Well, we have military vehicles.
Russian Officer: I see from your papers (believed held upside down) that you come from Munster.
Capt Fisher: That’s right.
Russian Officer: From Munster. Westfalia?
Capt Fisher: Right again!
Russian Officer: Is that In England?
Answer: H’m!
Finale: In that case, no further clearance is required.

The Russian Officer was very smart and courteous, quite prepared to be chatty, but nonetheless, his prospects of becoming a captain of artillery must be considered as possibly blighted. It was interesting to us all to note that a more searching and truculent attitude was adopted by the East Zone German Police (Volkspolizei). However, after a further brief delay, we resumed our journey behind the Iron Curtain.

The journey itself was uneventful but very cold. Our scheduled time of arrival in Berlin was 0300 hrs, which is not, in the normal way, a lively hour. In the event, we arrived at the Grunewald station of Berlin fully an hour early and were met by a representative of the staff of H.Q. British Troops, Berlin.

Preparations for unloading got underway, although we were only to move after first light. The column rumbled along the streets of Berlin and reached Mackenzie King Barracks amid considerable enthusiasm and much Press activity. The relief of the Royal Horse Guards was completed by midday on the 16th, and we were then left to our own devices.

Our seven weeks in Berlin up to the time of writing have been one pronounced rush of varying activities.

The Detachment staged two longish marches through the main streets of the British Sector of Berlin amid great excitement and friendliness from the crowd. The tank crews appeared in no way abashed by the thoroughness of the movie cameraman who accompanied these impressive convoys.

The country around Berlin is severely restricted, but we have been able to include several minor tactical outings in the Grunewald despite the very icy conditions in force. A most interesting day on the ranges helped to sort out many of the evils brought about by peace restrictions on firing.

We have had a few minor mechanical troubles, but these are fast sorting themselves out, in a very large measure due to the very helpful attitude of everyone in Berlin, and to the energy of the crews themselves under the advice of our two fitters, Tprs Carter and Glaister.

Berlin, like many other towns. has “flat spots” for wireless, but these are now known to us and in some cases entered thanks to the hard work of Sgt Oliver and his operators, who have gained us an excellent reputation for the establishment of communications both during exercises and normal work.

Without further labouring the point, we can say that professionally, we look forward to the coming year with confidence in our ability to maintain the good name of the Regiment we do our best to represent.

Our Christmas activities are worthy of note and we were indeed fortunate in having a highly efficient Christmas Connlittee composed of 2Lt Lloyd, and Sgt Johnson. M.M. LCpls. Gee and McLean, and Tpr Mannion. All troops in Berlin were granted a holiday from lunchtime. 22nd December, until first
Parade on 28th December. There were many public activities in Berlin which were well attended by members of the Detachment. Our domestic activities included a football match against the local German club which earned us a resounding victory of 9-4.

The fancy dress match between officers and sergeants versus corporals and troopers produced an unusually promising set of ju-jitsu possibles, and it was agreed by all that as a female player, Sgt Johnson could have been more tender!

Christmas Day started well with countless telephone messages of good cheer from the Regiment. All these messages, even the most incoherent, helped us all to remember how very close and well-knit is the 3rd Hussars family. We attended a church service before filing in for dinner, which was observed traditionally. Here we must pay a fitting tribute to “A” Company. 1st Black Watch, who were sharing the barracks with us at the time and who did everything possible to help us run our Christmas with the highest degree of smoothness and good cheer.

On Christmas night we had a most successful all ranks dance which we again shared with the Black Watch. This dance was very well attended and will be remembered for a long time by ourselves and our Christmas guests, both British and Allied.

So we resumed work on 28th December with a genuine feeling of “no regrets”‘ and leaving behind us a Christmas that all members of the Detachment
voted as the “best.” Amusingly enough, working our way through official papers on that first morning, we were confronted with a signal placing all football fields out of bounds for the Christmas period owing to thick ice!

In keeping with the G.O.C’s. policy, we, too, ran a party for about 110 German children, and as compensation for our hard. work we had the thrill of seeing the happy expressions and genuine appetites of our little German guests, many of whom came from homes where want is a stark reality. If any gratitude were required it was more than amply given by the children in singing “Stille Nacht” for us.

We saw 1951 according to our tastes and what was left in our pockets and, to judge from rumours, many a man has prophesied an excellent year indeed, but is still wondering why it had to start so harshly: New Year’s Day being a Monday.

The New Year found us in a professional frame of mind. On 2nd January we went to the local range and we had a successful day’s firing, returning in time for a late midday meal. Then off again, in some cases, for a more or less impromptu ice hockey match against our friends the Black Watch. The match should have been filmed for sheer entertainment value. Undoubtedly we were saved many a time by our goalkeeper, Cpl Wallace, who was towed onto the ice!

We were afterwards entertained by Lt Col B. E. Fergusson, D.S.O., O.B.E., and Mrs. Fergusson, in their charming house on the shores of the Havel.

During our short stay in Berlin, the Detachment has been privileged to be inspected or visited by, among others, the following distinguished officers: Major General G. K. Bourne, C. B., C. B. E., G.O.C., Berlin, Major-General W. H. E. Poole. C.B ., C.B.E., D.S.O., head of the South African Military Mission, Brigadier D. R. Morgan. D.S.O., M.C., Commander, Area Troops, Lt Col G. Frampton, D.S.O., The Manchester Regiment, in his capacity as Acting Commander, Area Troops, Lt Col N. St. L. Moore. G.S.O.l, H.Q., British Troops, Berlin, Lt Col L. H. Lush. A.A. and Q.M.G., H.Q .. British Troops, Berlin.

We look forward to many more visits in the future, particularly from officers and men of our Regiment.

Needless to say, we look ahead with pleasant anticipation to the visit very soon of our new Colonel, Lt Col R. W. Hobson. O.B.E., upon his assuming command of the 3rd Hussars.

In fairness to all ranks of the Detachment must be mentioned the fact that although Berlin is a delightful station with unparalleled opportunities in the field of sport our duties are onerous, too. We feel that a heavy, though pleasant, burden is being borne by this small nucleus of 3rd Hussars, who are, one and all, striving to maintain the good name of their Regiment.

Related topics

  1. A Short History of The 3rd Hussars