Review by Stuart Forth.
In the spring of 1952, near the village of Elmpt on the German/Dutch border, work began to clear the forest to make way for what was to become RAF Brüggen. Over the next year much hard toil, by RAF airfield construction crews and local German civilians, transformed this patch of woodland into a fully functioning flying station. The RAF Regiment arrived in January 1953 to set up airfield defence, followed by the first flying squadron, 112, with its Vampire FB.5s in July.
In Seek and Strike, Nigel Walpole takes the reader from these early beginnings until the station was handed over to the British Army in March 2002. The author skillfully weaves a tale about life on the station, from the lowest airman to the station commander, using first-hand accounts and his own personal experiences (serving at Brüggen flying the SEPECAT Jaguar).
The history of Brüggen is very much a history of the late twentieth century, so important were the operational squadrons based there. Being the tip of the proverbial spear, the tensions of the Cold War come across in the text with the myriad NATO evaluations keeping everyone on their toes and at maximum readiness if the unthinkable happened. When the Berlin Wall came down the uncertainties of the station’s future in the new world order were suddenly put on the backburner when Iraq invaded Kuwait and all of Brüggen’s efforts were directed toward the Gulf. The operations of the Brüggen Wing in the Gulf are fully explored along with the changing tactics required to maintain survival against Iraq’s air defences.
This book is not just about the operations and the aircraft. It is very much a story of the people who served at Brüggen, their families and the local population, and how their lives were entwined with the station. At times the text can get bogged down with what seems to be a list of charitable events and who did what for which charity. This is, however, my only criticism of a book filled with exciting, funny and sometimes tragic events. There are black and white photos throughout, helping to illustrate what life was like on the frontline of RAF Germany.
Seek and Strike – RAF Brüggen in War and Peace will appeal to those with an interest in Cold War and modern military history. Those who served in Germany, and at RAF Brüggen in particular, will find this book evokes many memories.