The RAF in West Berlin

During my undergraduate degree I (as part of a small team of students) had to create an event to do with the Cold War. As this project was in partnership with Cinema City, Norwich, we decided to put on a screening of 1984 and create a small Cold War exhibition to go alongside it. While doing some research for this exhibition and finding things to put in it, I got talking to a family friend who began telling me stories of his time based in West Berlin with the RAF not long after the end of the Second World War. The stories he was telling me were not only fascinating but also pretty funny and gave me a good idea about the fearmongering of the press (which hasn’t really changed that much…) and the interaction between the two opposing sides of the Cold War.

He told me that straying over into enemy airspace was quite a regular occurrence on both sides but there was a protocol in place for such events and their regularity didn’t prevent this from having to be followed: whenever they strayed, they had to touch down and both sides had to present any findings and have a little chat. Every so often, the press would get word of this and create crazy headlines saying that East Germans were coming to get us… When the pilots saw these kinds of headlines they joked ‘I wonder which time this was: last month, last week, yesterday…?’

The Cold War is something shrouded in mystery for those of us that didn’t live through it but also for many of those who did experience it because of the secretive nature of the war and if we don’t act quickly and record such memories they could soon be lost completely. These types of military experiences were unique to Cold War Berlin and would help to explain some of the feelings between those on both sides of the wall to each other and the RAF’s protocol at the time. It would be an interesting study and to be able to interview people on both sides of the wall would really help to understand the military mentality during the rather unique conflict that was the Cold War.


One Comment on “The RAF in West Berlin”

  1. Graham Smith says:

    A great idea for a project in an increasingly crowded area. It would be probably a good idea to narrow down to a group. Like former servicemen. And perhaps situate it against te emerging histories and indeed oral histories such as Robert Knight’s at Loughborough Uni. Don Ritchie’s piece on teaching the cold war through oral history is worth a look: There is even a Cold War Museum in the US…

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