The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith and his German equivalent, Generalleutnant Alfons Mais (Inspekteur des Heeres), were the principal guests of honour at a joint German-British parade marking the formal establishment of the German-British Amphibious Engineer Battalion 130.
Supported by the British Army Band Catterick and the Heeresmusikkorps (German Army Staff Band), 600 soldiers marched over two M3 Rig bridges and formed up to be officially re-designated.
[German-British Amphibious Engineer Battalion 130] set the benchmark for integration and interoperability The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith
This included troops from 23 Amphibious Engineer Squadron RE, formally based in Sennelager but with equipment co-located at Minden.
“This joint Battalion and its combined capabilities are unique. It is the only unit in the British Army with such capabilities,” said CGS. “I congratulate and thank you for your hard work for joint ambition. You can be proud of your achievements to date. In my opinion, you set the benchmark for integration and interoperability.”
The new Battalion is primarily amphibious-focussed although it has other engineering capabilities. Both nations operate the M3 rig which is used individually as a ferry or joined together to create a bridge for military vehicles to cross, including Main Battle Tanks and other heavy equipment.
The UK and Germany are the only nations within NATO to have the bridging capability.
Crossing a body of water remains a particularly challenging and complex undertaking that must be practised regularly. British and German amphibious engineers impressively succeeded in this in 2016 as part of Exercise ANAKONDA. In just 34 minutes, amphibious engineers built a 350 metre-long bridge over the River Wechsel near the Polish town of Chelmo, which until today remains a world record!
Forward Holding Base Sennelager is the nexus through which the UK brings together Armoured Warfighting capability, world-class strategic planning and logistics enabling persistent engagement across Europe The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith
“We are literally building bridges where they are needed,” said Lt Gen Mais. “At the tactical level during high-intensity combat operations, but also at the political level by symbolising our deepening cooperation. I am therefore extremely pleased today that we have made such rapid progress with the formation of this joint bi-national amphibious engineer battalion.”
Minden is symbolic of British-German cooperation and friendship going far back in history. On 1 August 1759, during the Seven Years War, German and British soldiers successfully fought side by side in a battle against France. And even today this Battalion is part of the British military tradition known as Minden Day, which from now on the German-British Battalion will commemorate together.
“The changes in our Integrated and Security Review mean that the British Army will be designed to operate globally on a permanent basis and forming Land Regional Hubs. These hubs will enable the Army to be more actively and persistently engaged across the globe including in Europe, where we continue to be a leading role in European defence and security,” explained CGS.
“Forward Holding Base Sennelager is the nexus through which the UK brings together Armoured Warfighting capability, world-class strategic planning and logistics enabling persistent engagement across Europe. In practice, this will mean deploying more of our troops more often, for longer periods, both with NATO and alongside our wider networks of allies and partners, building credible deterrence across the Alliance.”