Willich, is in the county of Viersen in Germany, near Dusseldorf. The county was home to a number of bases for the British Army immediately after WW2 up until the end of the cold war. Now the area has much to offer business and tourists alike. Find out more about the area here.
From 1952 to 1992 the former Becker Steel Works in Willich was home to 40 Advanced Engineer Stores Regiment RE. For four decades the sappers stationed there enjoyed friendly relations with the local people and supported the Haus Broich childrens home, building and supplying equipment for playgrounds. You can see more about the regiments history here.
Gravesend Sapper Out and About
The Gravesend Sapper was out and about in Willich between 7th and 10th July to attend a reunion, remembrance parade and weekend of celebrations commemorating 25 years since the disbandment of 40 Army Engineer Support Group.
In 1973 the Regiment, was granted “Freedom of the City” on behalf of the Royal Engineers.
A large part of the Regiment was withdrawn in 1977 and it was finally disbanded in 1992. The premises were subsequently converted into an industrial park, however various areas used by the RE can still be recognised, while some are in a poor state of repair typical of many former british army bases, waiting to be re-used.
A Sentimental Journey
Gravesend Sapper Ray Ellis served there from 1986 to 1989 and Travelled to Willich with his wife Angela for the reunion organised by the Willich Branch of the Royal Engineers Association. It started with a “meet and greet” held in Gaststatte Krucken (a local pub) on the Friday evening.
Many old friends not seen for 28 years or more made this evening unforgettable.
In the morning all of the ex-military and civilians who worked together gathered for a group photograph by the town bandstand.
Then it was back to Gastsatte Krucken for a party on the evening. One of the highlights of the party was an address by the Mayor of Willich who said how much the local community had missed the British Army.
On the Sunday a remembrance service was held at the war cemetery where wreaths were laid at the memorial to those who had fallen in two world wars.
Sunday afternoon consisted of the traditional Flower parade.
The Junior Leaders Standard, carried by Ray, paraded alongside the union flag, and the Standard of the REA Willich branch. About 40 veterans and serving soldiers from 35 Engineer Regiment participated in the main parade
with about 500 members of various shooting clubs, youth groups and bands. We were marching directly behind the Town, or Stadt Willich, flag which was a great honour.
With flags flying and bands playing, the parade marched around Willich to the church square in front of the new Schutzen Konig. (The winner of all the local shooting and hunting competitions that year. – ed).
The day ended with a Freedom Parade where the soldiers and veterans were joined by the Cross Keys Pipe Band. After a few short speeches we marched off, to the German band behind us playing “Colonel Bogey” which caused quite a titter amongst the British contingent.
On the Monday morning breakfast was taken in the Schutzenfest Tent (Shooting Festival – an annual event in all towns in Germany). And we were treated to a traditional German music show.
A combination of Comradeship\Kameradschaft, Shutzenfest, Remembrance and Military Re-union made this a truly great Anglo German Weekend.
If you are a Sapper living in Gravesham, why not join us for the next one? (Ed).
Ray and Angie Ellis.
Photographs by Angela Ellis & Sabrina Dethloff