BRITISH BORDER OPERATIONS IN GERMANY
(U) In June 1945 British troops in Germany were deployed along German international borders next to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark in order to stop the flow of refugees and to control smuggling. The British evacuated the civilian population in this area to a depth of three kilometers and created a Prohibited Frontier Zone. The land in this zone was not cultivated, and civilians wishing to enter this area had to obtain a frontier pass. This situation lasted until 1946, when large-scale demobilizations of British troops led to the formation of a British civilian frontier force known as the Frontier Control Service. Thereafter, the organization underwent several reorganizations and name changes: Frontier Control Service, 1946-49; Frontier Inspection Service, 1949-55; and British Frontier Service, 1955 to the present. (From this point on -- following British example -- the organization will be referred to simply as the Frontier Service, regardless of the era.) British occupational responsibilities were first vested in the British Army commander in Germany, then the United Kingdom High Commissioner, and, with the coming of German sovereignty in 1955, the British Ambassador at Bonn. The Frontier Service was supervised by each of these authorities successively.
(U) When organized in 1946, the Frontier Service was formed as part of the British "Control Commission of Germany." By this time, the responsibility envisioned for the new service was control of all the border of the British Zone of Occupation, although the emphasis was still on the western and northern boundaries. Its first director was a Royal Navy captain, which resulted in many of its early members being recruited from the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy (especially those that patrolled the northern German coastal areas, plus some rivers). Subsequently, however, a significant number of soldiers were recruited from the British Army, which provided the Frontier Service with invaluable tactical experience for patrolling along the border. Initially, there were approximately 300 personnel in the Frontier Service. With a Royal Navy captain at the helm, a naval-type uniform with silver rank badges was developed. Basically, the Frontier Services uniform of 1983 was the same.
(U) The first headquarters was established at Oldenburg, but it was subsequently moved to the German naval dockyards at Cuxhaven. One of its first acts was to commandeer all serviceable naval vessels for use as revenue cutters and minesweepers, partially manning them with German ex-naval personnel. It would have liked to man the frontier control posts with former German customs personnel, but the majority of them had been called up for service in the German Army at the end of the war, and many were either dead or in prisoner-of-war camps.
However, the Frontier Service found several former senior German customs officials and, with their aid, began locating remaining personnel from the German customs service. Once released from the POW camps, they were deployed along the international borders. Although they were not provided uniforms initially, they were provided with white arm bands that said "ZGS" (Zollgrenzschutz), and they were issued British Army rifles when they patrolled the border. Although the Frontier Service personnel had initially controlled the border by themselves, when they secured a significant number of former German customs service personnel, they turned over large portions of the normal day-to-day border control duties to the Germans. The Frontier Service concentrated on illegal activities such as smuggling and illegal border crossings. Like the American forces Constabulary, however, the Frontier Service continued to process and control members of the British forces and their families when they crossed the border. By the latter part of 1947, enough German customs personnel had been returned to duty that the British had regained effective control of the western borders. During this same period, the royal Navy assumed control of the coastal waters, thus relieving the Frontier Service of that difficult task.
(U) Prior to the tensions caused by the Berlin Blockade in 194849 and the now clear intent of the Soviets to be uncooperative in the joint economic administration of Germany, the eastern zonal boundary of the British occupation zone had been virtually unguarded. But as large amounts of unauthorized imports began to flood in from the east during 1949, eight members of the Frontier Service and several thousand German customs officials under their command were deployed along the eastern boundary. As there was little contact with the Soviet authorities by this time, the Frontier Service essentially defined the demarcation line where it and the Germans thought it ran. The British area of responsibility along the eastern interzonal boundary ran from Luebeck on the Baltic south to Goettingen, approximately 660 kilometers or 410 miles.
(U) When the Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Guard) was formed in 1951, it meshed- its activities with those of the Frontier Service and the Zollgrenzdienst (Federal Customs Service). In 1954 the Frontier Service's headquarters was moved to Wahneheide, which subsequently became the Bonn airport. With the advent of German sovereignty in 1955, the Frontier Service was reduced from approximately 300 personnel to 38 members. Apart from a limited number that worked on the eastern boundary, the majority worked at various transit points and served as liaison with the German border agencies for the benefit of
members of the British forces and their dependents. The eastern boundary mission was accomplished from a Deputy Director's office, located at Hannover, and two subheadquarters located at Uelzen and Goslar. Subsequently, posts were established at Luebeck and Helmstedt.
(U) With the supplementation of the Status of Forces Agreement in 1959, the Frontier Service significantly decreased its activities in the customs area and worked more in the liaison area. In addition, it had a continuing responsibility for the "Inner German Border" -- their diplomatic way of referring to the former interzonal boundary between the Soviet and Western occupation zones.
(U) When the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic signed their Treaty on the Basis of Relations in late 1972, according to British interpretation the two Germanys had established relations, and the United Kingdom was no longer responsible for the Inner German Border. Accordingly, the Frontier Service and the British Ambassador ceased their involvement in border incidents. This led to a review of the role of the Frontier Service, with some thought given to eliminating the agency altogether. However, it was decided that it would continue to have a very limited border role and would conduct liaison with the German border agencies. The Frontier Service was reduced to 16 members, with the sole remaining British Frontier Post at Helmstedt being manned by 4 personnel. The Frontier Service personnel at Helmstedt acted as liaison for the British forces in the border area and served as guides to insure the units did not commit border violations when operating next to the border. In addition to the Helmstedt office, the Frontier Service still had liaison offices at Hannover (overall headquarters), Duesseldorf, and Berlin. These offices were engaged primarily in conducting liaison between German customs officials and the British forces personnel and their dependents.l
British military forces in Germany had patrolled along the eastern boundary since 1949, but only on a very limited basis. In 1950 the British Army was required to conduct patrols that would insure "All important villages in the British Zone within three kilometers of the (interzonal) boundary will be visited at least once a fortnight" (once every two weeks). By 1964 the British Army was patrolling along the border once a week in the southern portion of the former British-Soviet interzonal boundary, its major area of operations; however, it did not conduct any patrols at all in Schleswig-Holstein, where there were no British units. Basically, the British considered border patrolling the responsibility of the Germans, and what
patrolling the Army did conduct was of a symbolic nature or for the purpose of training. By 1970 the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) had further reduced its operations and was conducting mere token patrols, which consisted of each BAOR division covering a sector of the border once a month. They rarely used helicopters, had no permanent observation posts, and normally did not use ground surveillance radar. In addition, neither the BAOR patrols nor the frontier Service personnel conducted intelligence gathering activities in the border area, leaving that function to their national intelligence agencies.2
(U) In 1974 the British Ambassador informed the Federal Republic that the United Kingdom was relinquishing any remaining border responsibilities it might have, but would retain the "right" to patrol in its former area of responsibility. In 1983 the British conducted limited border operations from Luebeck to Schmidekoph, approximately 650 kilometers or 404 miles. (It is interesting to note that there were variations in the various documents as to how long the British area of responsibility was. The last variation was most likely the result of the expansion of the border patrol area of responsibility of the American units to the south of the British area.) The British area was divided into two sectors: the northern sector, which stretched from Luebeck to the vicinity of Lauenburg for approximately 100 kilometers; and the southern sector, which ran from Lauenburg to Schmidekoph, a distance of approximately 550 kilometers. The BAOR units, utilizing Frontier Service personnel as guides, patrolled along the southern sector once a week. Although the BAOR units did not patrol in the northern sector, Frontier Service personnel infrequently conducted "visits" in that area. The BAOR divided the southern sector into four divisional areas, with each division conducting 2-day patrols along its sector each week. Patrols varied in size from 9 to 31 soldiers and employed 2 to 5 vehicles. Although patrol members carried weapons, they were not issued ammunition. Even though the frequency of the BAOR patrols had been increased from that of the early 1970s, it was obvious that the primary mission of the BAOR patrols remained symbol, c, with the primary advantage for the British Army being in training.3
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