Plenty in reserve

The only British Army Reserve unit in Germany is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Based near Minden on the banks of the River Weser, 412 Amphibious Engineer Troop consists of a dedicated team of volunteers who drive, pilot and command the British Army’s M3 amphibious vehicles used to ferry military personnel and equipment across rivers, and which are also used to
create temporary bridges.

In celebration of the unit’s 20th anniversary, the Reservists gathered at their base near Minden where they got the chance to reminisce with former members, giving them a chance to take a closer look at the unit’s latest military equipment, including the impressive M3 Amphibious Rig vehicles.

Speaking during the event, former crewman/pilot of the troop, Spr Paul Edwards, said: “It’s a chance to get back into uniform after such a long break.

“I live alone in a town as a Brit, so it’s great to come back and have a laugh and a joke.”

Reminiscing about the early days was the troop’s founder, Capt Phil Hogan (Retd), whose initial recruitment campaign involved him sending out letters to ex-Service personnel who had set up home in Germany.

He said: “I formed the troop by sending letters to people I didn’t know and invited them to come along. I recruited up to 75 individuals at one stage.”

You would not readily associate a small compound on the banks of the fast-flowing River Weser near Minden with the British Army.

Yet it is here that you can find a very specialist niche of the Army and the only Reserve unit stationed permanently in Germany.

412 Amphibious Engineer Troop was formed 20 years ago and has always been associated with the River Weser. Initially, the unit was part of 28 Amphibious Engineer Regiment and based for many years in Hameln until the closure of the station. 

Other Reserve units, 410 Plant Tp RE in Osnabrück, 408 Sqn in Berlin had previously been disbanded under Options for Change in the mid-1990s.

The troop rebased to Minden to be co-located with 23 Amphibious Engineer Troop and the German 130 Pionierbattalion, operating the M3 bridging amphibious vehicles. Both British troops are now part of 75 Engr Regt based in the UK.

Sgt Michael Taylor has served with 412 Tp since its formation. He took a short break after serving as a regular soldier and, like most of his colleagues, lives and works in Germany.

Michael witnessed the transition to the M3 Rigs, which can either be used as single ferries or joined together to bridge a wide water gap.

“After M3 training, the first big thing we did was to take part in the Ulan Eagle series of exercises held in Poland,” said Sgt Taylor. “Since then we have done lots of major exercises and the troop was mobilised in 2003 for Op Telic in Iraq.

“We had a couple of guys go out with the squadron on Op Herrick and have done a few MACC tasks (Military Aid to the Civilian Community) as well.

“We remain exceptionally busy and the amphibious capability is completely booked out.”

Their expertise is very much in demand and together with their British and German colleagues supported Exercise Anakonda in Poland last year. This year they have been heavily involved in supporting NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic States.

The expertise of the Amphibious Engineers has been recognised at the highest level as Commander Field Army, Lt Gen Patrick Sanders and his German counterpart, Lt Gen Carsten Jacobsen both visited Minden earlier in the week and was visibly impressed with the joint capability.

“The M3 capability really underlines the cooperation and the importance of staying close together,” said General Sanders. “The M3 Rigs are awesome and to see the skills those soldiers have is incredible.

“To think they do that at night, and to do it in a way that is safe to get tanks and armoured vehicles across is a pretty amazing skill and an amazing piece of kit.”

The Bundeswehr has also been using the M3 bridging capability for some time and has no regrets about the joint working relationship and interoperability.

“The Engineer Batallion 130 is a single asset that we have in NATO forces. It combines the M3 capabilities of Great Britain and Germany and we are using this garrison to train them, prepare them to deploy all over Europe on a huge number of exercises.

“To bring General Sanders here to Minden and to show him the joint capabilities is an important message for both armies.”

And this is replicated at the working level.

“We have close cooperation and have operated mixed crews,” said Sgt Taylor, who believes that both M3 usage and experience will continue to develop further.

“There are no language barriers; they are professional, we are professional and we get on like a house on fire.”

Are you interested in joining the 412 Amphibious Engineer Troop of the RE Reserves? Please email: recruiting75engr412tp@gmail.com for further information.

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