A success story nears its end

After almost 50 years’ informing and entertaining the British Forces based in Germany, Sixth Sense will cease publishing at the end of 2017.

The bumper Christmas edition – out on December 14 – will be the last-ever issue of the newspaper, which was launched in 1970.

However, that leaves some 32 further editions of the Army’s only weekly tabloid still to come – so regular readers can expect the same top rate service right up to the end. 

The decision to close Sixth Sense was taken after the shrinking size of BFG made it impossible for the community paper to cover its substantial costs. 

Moreover, the digital revolution has had a knock-on effect on printed media in general as consumers increasingly access the news via websites and social networking. The Sixth Sense website, will also cease at the same time as the publication.

Sixth Sense Editor Phil Welsh said: “That Sixth Sense is to fold at the end of the year should come as no great surprise to folks in BFG in light of the closure of barracks and stations across Germany. 

“While it would have been great to celebrate the golden anniversary in November 2019, I doubt that the paper’s founders back in 1970 thought it would last almost five decades. That’s an incredible success story. 

“Sixth Sense has survived many scares; however, its longevity is down to an incredible team of dedicated professionals who strive every week to put out the best possible product.”

Indeed, Sixth Sense outlived its main competitor in BFG for many years, Forces Weekly Echo, which was taken over by comedian Jim Davidson in 2000 before it disappeared for good about six months later. 

In 1993 the paper came perilously close to being scrapped when advertising plummeted, but new staff with a fresh outlook saved the day. Two years later,  the weekly moved from a broadsheet format to the tabloid size it is today.

What many may not know is that Sixth Sense has been run as a business, raising €3.4 million for welfare between 2001 and 2010, its most profitable years. Over the paper’s lifetime, an estimated €10 million has gone to worthy causes in the local Forces’ community.

Mick Poland, Business Manager Sixth Sense newspaper, said: “Without doubt Sixth Sense is a British Forces Germany institution and it is very sad that we have to close down after nearly a half century supporting the Forces community, predominantly across Germany, but also wherever the British Army is on operations, training or resident across the globe.

“As we now prepare to close up shop we must reflect on our achievements and there is much to be proud of. 

“In addition to providing millions of euros to support welfare projects, sporting tours and events, and a number of high profile military expeditions, we have also provided the platform to raise valuable cash for a number of charities and fund-raising events.

“This would not have been possible without the support of the companies that advertise within the newspaper and latterly the BFG Welfare Fund. 

“Many advertisers have come and gone over the years and there are but a few who remain as the population reduces.

“We are very fortunate to have retained their confidence and custom, and want to thank them for their resilient support over many years as avid advertisers in the newspaper.”

Phil said: “It has been a challenge putting out a weekly paper to appeal to such a wide cross section of readers – soldiers, dependants and families, civil servants and DELs. We have tended to aim our product at the families of soldiers at the expense of the single soldier.

“If we had tried to make the paper laddish, we would have alienated our core audience.”

The paper has also had a fair number of expat, ex-Service and German subscribers, the later often having a keen interest in the British way of life or the military.

Phil added: I am proud of the stories about members of the BAOR/BFG community that we have published through the decades.”

Mick said: “Over the years, Sixth Sense staff have been tireless in sourcing a myriad of prizes for competitions to allow our intrepid readership to visit fun parks, museums, exhibitions and concerts for top acts in and around the BFG area – an indication from the Germany community of the value that it places on its guests in their towns and cities. 

“It has been one of our primary goals to keep the community within the public eye both here and back in the UK.”

Mick added: “As is always the case, there are personalities behind every story and we here at Sixth Sense have a small, dedicated, hardworking and skilled team who consistently work long hours to tight deadlines to ensure your newspaper is available every Thursday morning.”  

The paper was started in November 1970 by 6th Armoured Brigade, which was based around Soest. That’s where the name derives from. Some 10 years later, the brigade weekly was made available to all serving across Germany. 

Readers originally paid 30 cents per copy in the 1980s, and €1 in 2014, when through grants from the BFG Army Welfare Fund  the paper became a free publication.

The print run and distribution will remain the same on the day of the final publication as it is today.  Sixth Sense will be available every Thursday at all the usual outlets – in buildings and offices around BFG, in JB’s’ and messes, and in NAAFI shops.  So it is business as usual.

“To all of the organisations, clubs, UPOs and individuals out there who are doing interesting things, I say now’s the time to send your stories and images to the paper – use it before it’s gone,” said Phil.

“Sixth Sense has limited reporting capability, so we are more dependent than ever on the community being proactive and taking the time 

to get articles to us in a timely manner. We will always find space for them.

“Readers should also continue to make use of our classified section, where personal small ads are published for free – as they always have been.

“And folks should keep an eye out for free tickets to great events in Germany – mostly in the BFG area.” 

As part of the legacy of British Forces in Germany, Sixth Sense newspaper will publish a commemorative edition later this year. Readers are encouraged to contribute ideas and memories.

● Send all articles, pictures, ideas, etc. to: news@sixth-sense-newspaper.de

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