Visits to Rheindahlen public relations headquarters
An example of what happened during my visits to the Rheindahlen public relations headquarters
A light event at BAOR HQ occurred at a cinema for HQ personnel where I spotted in the audience Mike Gay, a former journalist colleague and friend from North-East England. We enjoyed our surprise get-together recounting our national service experiences. He said his excellent shorthand skills had won him the job of personal secretary to the General who was BAOR’s Commander-in-Chief.
Mike subsequently worked for Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, and I never understood how such a genuinely nice guy would want to be with a tabloid I detested.
At the just-built Berlin Wall
Historically, my most significant PR trip was to West Berlin a couple of days after the Berlin Wall was built (in August 1961). I was sent there to be of help, if needed, to army public relations officers assisting British journalists.
I went there by train through East Germany, having my documents checked by East German train guards or soldiers (don’t remember). At the wall I stood on a vehicle peering through binoculars at East Germans peering back.
Interestingly, I travelled in an armed convoy taking a boy who lived with his family in a farmhouse in an enclave that was officially part of West Berlin, to and from school in West Berlin proper. Armed East German soldiers lined the route as we travelled.
Once most of the British journalists had departed, I had five days freedom to explore and was impressed:
Firstly, by the amount of first-class goods ostentatiously displayed at the renowned KaDeWe superstore (Kaufhhaus des Westens), as a sort of advertisement for western democratic capitalism.
Secondly by the lovely lakeside countryside that I discovered to my surprise lay inside West Berlin.
Because the building of the Wall was regarded in the West as a worsening of the Cold War, Britain’s national service was extended for an extra six months, with those of us affected receiving regular soldiers’ pay for that period. This was in addition to expenses I received for my public relations trips.