It was nicknamed the Baby Factory and delivered more than 50,000 babies born to British dads based in Germany over 44 years.
British Military Hospital Rinteln was the last BMH in what became BFG, providing medical and dental care for the military population from 1953 to 1997.
Many served at BMH Rinteln before it closed 20 years ago, a sound reason for former members of staff – comprising officers, soldiers and civilians – to return to the original site on the weekend of August 11-13 to celebrate the town’s history.
Some 33 people from across Europe and beyond came to share memories of their time at the BMH with comrades, and to enjoy the charming town of Rinteln.
Among the group were doctors, nursing officers, an ex-Quartermaster, civilian staff and the last serving Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the hospital, who was part of the closure team. The group came together through an Internet reunion site on Facebook.
Most members of the group, who arrived on the Friday, got the chance to enjoy the lively entertainment at the Altstadt music festival in the centre of Rinteln, where there was plenty of German beer on tap.
The next day the group was met at the former hospital by Michael von Müller from Lebenshilfe Rinteln eV – a charity that now runs the site and provides care, treatment and accommodation for disabled children and the elderly.
Michael provided a tour around the whole site of the old BMH, which most at the gathering had not seen since serving there – some for more than 40 years, bringing back many happy memories of the Officers’ Mess, Sergeants’ Mess and Junior Ranks Club.
The former BMH building has rooms left as they were 20 years ago, such as an operation theatre complete with specialist lighting. The old rooms are not open to the public as they are a health and safety risk.
During the tour the group was shown the many different areas that have been beautifully renovated and also got the chance to meet with patients and staff. The group was thrilled to see the site being used for such a deserving cause, and to see it providing such high-quality facilities for the patients.
Many members of the group took the opportunity to share their memories of serving at the hospital with BFBS TV reporter Rob Olver, who joined the group to film their poignant reunion.
Peter Sokolow, who served at BMH Rinteln from 1979-82 and from 1985-88, said: “There’s so many happy memories in Rinteln. It was probably the best time in my military career and I did 37 years.”
The youngest visitor, Neil Langholz, who lives in Paderborn, was born at the BMH in 1982. He said: “You hear about facilities going into disrepair, so the way the rooms are now being used [as a care home for people with special needs] is reassuring.”
Eileen and Ian Sketchley, from Eastbourne, met in Rintlen in the early 1970s and went on to marry in 1973. Former pay clerk Ian said: “I had to see all the single women when they arrived; the nurses.
“There were 20 single chaps and 60 single girls. It was wonderful.”
The tour concluded with a presentation of a water colour of the entrance to the old BMH to Michael and his organisation in thanks for their welcome and for all the outstanding work the organisation has provided over the years since the closure of the BMH.
The tour was a wonderful few hours for the group who were over the moon to be given TV airtime and also to be featured in the newspapers.
Following on from the tour it was on to the town and the festivities of the Altstadt musik festival, which was enjoyed by all into the late afternoon.
The evening was another highlight with a dinner in the Hotel Stadt Kassel restaurant in the centre of Rinteln, an evening of excellent food and wonderful entertainment.
On the Sunday morning it was decided that a great way to end a very fine weekend would be to trek up to the Klippenturm – a tower overlooking Rinteln, which is situated in the woods behind the hospital.
When serving at the hospital, this route was used as a PT run and for an annual pram race where serving staff would push selected individuals in prams as part of a race up to the tower.
Some tired members took the opportunity to enjoy a well-earned beer upon reaching the top – a 2.5km very steep climb – as there just happens to be a bar-restaurant situated there.
The views from the tower were truly spectacular and it was a very fitting way to end a fantastic weekend.
The reunion tour proved to be a real trip down memory lane and all were in agreement that it was a huge honour to have served at Rinteln, a hospital that is part of the medical services history and which provided medical care for the military community for 44 years.
Alan Legge, who was the last RSM at BMH Rinteln, and who helped to organise the reunion, said: “It was an honour to be asked to organise the tour part of the reunion. However, it would not have taken place without Dave Tulloch and Marion Schwier.
“Thanks go to Michael von Müller who gave an outstanding tour of the hospital which was informative and also very witty.
“Also thanks go to Rob Olver from Forces TV who showed great patience while dragging his gear around and filming all of us.”
The group has been invited to attend the 20th anniversary of Lebenshilfe Rinteln eV taking part in summer 2018. Alan Legge will be involved in the organisation, so the story of Rinteln continues.
RINTELN HOSPITAL – a brief history
The hospital buildings at Rinteln date back to the late 1930s and the site and complex was used as a German military barracks. However, after the outbreak of the Second World War construction work was halted due to a lack of manpower and material when Allied air raids were growing heavier in the summer of 1942.
Hitler then appointed his private surgeon Karl Brandt to be High Commissioner of Civilian Health Care; he was tasked with increasing the number of hospital beds available in Germany so all wounded air raid victims could receive treatment and medical care despite the destruction of urban hospitals.
He achieved this by cramming all long-term patients into a reduced number of institutions; erecting provisional hospitals – often just wooden huts – into rural areas, and producing a new plan of euthanasia.
In the course of action the incompleted buildings at the site of Rinteln were confiscated and the hospital was finally completed in late 1944.
The first air raid victims from Hannover were treated at Rinteln; however Brandt was required to hand over the site to the Wehrmacht (German army) who used it as a reserve hospital complex until the war ended.
In Rinteln, at the time, it was commonly known to the population by the nickname ‘Aktion Brandt’.
At the end of the war the RAF took over the site, becoming RAF Hospital Rinteln from 1945 to 1953.
The hospital was mainly staffed by RAF personnel; however, there were elements of the Royal Army Medical (RAMC) and Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) serving at Rinteln during this period.