Berlin, the days before August 13, 1961
by Bryan Morrison
18 years old and 9 months out of training camp and I'm in Berlin. I arrived in this city just
before a bitterly cold Christmas 1960, it is now August and
already I love this dangerous divided city.
Screaming through the dark streets with top secret messages from our base in the Olympia
Stadium to the USA, French & British army bases in the middle of
the night, what more could any young 18 year old want. And on our
day's off, a visit to the East. Dark, forbidding, dangerous but so
exciting, passing through the checkpoint at the Brandenburg Gate,
(with a little help from a couple of Playboy magazines) and then the
chase was on.
Always vigilant, always there, the VOPOS in their little cars, ready to tail us.
It was a game, we knew it and they knew it. We were looking for cameras &
watches and the exchange rate was 5 east marks to 1 west mark, too good a bargain to pass
The chase was always the same, high
speed through the unlit East Berlin streets untill we lost them,only
to find them parked outside the very shop that we wanted to visit. No
contact was ever made but somehow we felt a kind of comradeship with
It's still August, the 12th, my mates are out on the town. I'm not, got picked as duty
driver, hope I get a couple of runs round the town to pass the time.
Must be near midnight, the Duty Officer, a very young 2nd Lieutenant just out from the UK seeming to be in a complete panic is screaming for the duty
driver, Me! now what have I done?
I wander in to the guardroom and check with the duty sergeant. Nothing to worry about he
says, and hands me a sterling sub machine gun and a handfull of ammunition.
Go pick up the CO at his house he say's, and make it quick, don't bother with speed
limits, good luck, hope I see you later. Magic, a high speed trip through downtown Berlin at
midnight. Arrived at the CO's house and was met by his tearful wife in her dressing
gown, she handed me a couple of thermos flasks and a sandwich box,
seconds later our CO appeared, struggling to strap on his pistol.
Oh Boy, this was great, where to I said. The Brandenburgh Gate he said, and make like a madman.
Arrived at the Gate just after midnight, kinda spooky, two staff cars in front of me and at the gate a RMP
jeep. Looks like armed soldiers and a tank are blocking the entrance to the East.
Pulled up behind the staff cars and my CO walks over to the other cars. 5,10,15 minutes
pass, what the hell is happening, are we going to go through? Another 10 minutes and I knew the answer,
we backed off and let a generation of East Germans endure the misery of communist rule.
Text © 2006 by Bryan Morrison