Soldiers from 1st Military Working Dog Regiment (1 MWD Regt) and their four-legged colleagues bade an official farewell to the city of Paderborn on May 12 – their home for more than 70 years.
Representing the regiment’s 327 military personnel and 200 military dogs, some 120 soldiers and two dogs proudly paraded for the final time at Chiron Lines, Normandy Barracks, Sennelager, in front of families and a host of special guests ahead of their move back to the UK this summer.
Supported by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, the troops stood firm in the pouring rain as they received one of Germany’s highest military awards – the Fahnenband (ribbon of honour) – in acknowledgement of the regiment’s achievements for peace and security in the Federal Republic.
The prestigious award was presented to the regiment by Brigadegeneral Peter Gorgels, Bundeswehr Commander, North Rhine-Westphalia on behalf of the German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen.
It was a sad day too for the German hosts who will be losing another unit from Paderborn as part of the Army’s re-basing programme to relocate all Germany-based troops to the UK by 2020.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Paderborn, Michael Dreier, said: “You were accepted, respected, highly regarded neighbours – you, our friends. We will miss you.”
He added: “You have made our city more interesting and I look forward to a reunion in Paderborn, the UK or wherever in the world you may be.”
1 MWD Regt is the only operational unit in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC), one of the smallest Corps in the British Army. The first RAVC dog unit moved to Sennelager in November 1945 and a key role was the provision of support to dog handlers of the German Mixed Service Organisation (MSO).
This was initially set up to employ ex-prisoners of war from Yugoslavia, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and other Baltic/Slavic states, who for political, ethnic or religious reasons could not return to their own countries. A uniformed force, the MSO was run along similar lines to the British Army and provided four trades, of which one was a dog handler.
These dog handlers were employed by the RAVC’s No 1 War Dog Training Unit in Sennelager and were employed throughout the time of the British of the Rhine, providing essential security support. So successful was the collaboration between the RAVC and the organisation, that dog handlers became the last remaining branch of the MSO, finally devolved on March 31, 1994.
Despite numerous name changes over the years, the current 1st Military Working Dog Regiment was formed in 2010 and more recently has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Deploying hundreds of soldiers and dogs to Afghanistan on the NATO mission between 2004-2004, RAVC handlers saved countless civilian and NATO soldiers’ lives.
The regiment, comprising of 327 military personnel and around 200 dogs, will re-locate to North Luffenham in the summer.