SSVC Retail stalwart Robin Joll long suspected he would be the one to clear out and lock up for good the charity’s warehouse in Germany.
The 55-year-old, who works near Catterick Barracks in Bielefeld, can look back on an exciting career with the outfit spanning some 34 years.
When he and Head of Retail Mike Ellery leave their posts at the end of February, it will bring to an end an era that has seen SSVC Retail steadfastly serving the BFG community since the early 1970s.
“There’s life after SSVC and I’m going to enjoy it,” said Robin, who plans to stay in Germany to run a pets boarding business he has set up near Paderborn.
“Some customers have said to me it’s really sad that we are leaving, and that they will miss us.”
Due to the military drawdown from BFG, SSVC Retail closed its last two shops, located in Gütersloh and Sennelager, in January, having closed the Bielefeld store last year.
Now it’s just tidying up for Warehouse and Transport Manager Robin. He said: “We were providing a unique service of supplying UK goods to UK citizens living in Germany, who could then take them back to the UK without technical issues.”
Robin is well-known throughout BFG as being a hardcore Dr Who collector with impressive props including three life-size Daleks and a TARDIS, which he has displayed at many community events.
He is also famous for putting on Rockin’ Robin discos at military wives’ functions when their husbands were away on operations.
Robin joined SSVC in 1982, when it was formed from the merger of Service Kinemar Corporation (SKC) and BFBS. The charity started a number of retail outlets that sold home entertainment equipment, in particular, television sets, video recorders, radios and hi-fi systems and offered an extended range of electrical goods and household white goods at competitive prices.
In the early 1980s SSVC’s Germany HQ was in Minden and was the film distribution centre for the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).
“In the 1980s Service families would hire TV sets and video players, along with an aerial, by signing a contract in one of the shops,” said Robin, who when he’s not attending science fiction conventions, is an avid motorcyclist.
“An SSVC audio visual van would show up at a married quarter to install everything – there was a fleet of them covering all of Germany.
“We had large Mercedes trucks going out from Minden three times a day to cinemas and shops all around Germany, delivering and picking up 16mm and 35mm films for screenings, as well as film videos for the foyers. The seven-and-a-half tonne trucks also transported Army training films.
“There were 36 shops at the time and 130 people alone working at the head office. The BAOR map was huge and included bases in Lippstadt, Soest, Werl, Dortmund, Menden, Berlin, Hildesheim, to name a few.”
Robin has held many jobs at SSVC, including delivery driver, service mechanic assistant, duty driver, handyman and relief aerial installer.
In the mid-90s SSVC’s head office moved to Paderborn, and then, as BAOR became BFG and continued to downsize, finally to Bielefeld in late 2013, where the warehouse, on Jadgweg, was located in the same complex as the main NAAFI.
Robin twice escaped seeing his job being made redundant at the last minute, once in 1994 shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, and again a few years later.
“The last time I was facing the axe, in 1998, I survived because someone took voluntary redundancy and I was made Warehouse and Transport Manager,” said Robin, whose father served in the Army.
“There have been many highlights over the years but one was driving the BFBS outside broadcast vehicle to Berlin for the city’s 750th anniversary in 1987.
“Also, I will never forget the first time I saw the famous Möhnesee Dam. I was a passenger in a Mercedes truck and was able to pop my head through the sky roof as we were going down the hill towards the lake. What a sight!”
He added: “I’ve many past colleagues as friends with whom I still keep in contact. Some have died over the many years, which is to be expected.
“I’ve had a good time and met some great people. In Minden we had a social club with regular events – it was like a big family. We had discos, barbecues, a boat trip up the Weser, and we even had our own rally cross team. We were in Kingsley Barracks and had our own entrance. On Rosenmontag I once manned the gates dressed as a gorilla!”
Robin, whose son is studying to become a special needs teacher, says he will miss the regular contact he has had with Army personnel and their families.
“For me personally, it’s the end of an era of being connected to the Forces. That’s 55 years in all, starting as an Army brat and then working closely with the military based in Germany,” he said.
“A new chapter in my life is starting as I become fully self-employed at my Pets Holiday Home business. Other SSVC colleagues have moved on and done okay, so I am optimistic.”
Robin added: “It was said in jest many years ago by my colleagues that I would be the last one to lock up here and ‘throw away the key’, and so it is.”
‘The Services Sound and Vision Corporation continues to serve the BFG community with:
Up to 14 TV channels on BFBS TV, available via the BFBS set top box, on cable systems or online with the BFBS Player app. Visit: www.bfbs.com/tv/ for more information.
BFBS Radio and BFBS Radio 2, with shows broadcast from the new studios in Sennelager. Contact email@example.com and connect @BFBSGermany and facebook.com/forcesstation.
SSVC Forces Cinemas; The Kaleidoscope Cinema in Paderborn and The Royal Theatre in Gütersloh. See www.ssvc.com for details and connect on twitter: @SSVCCinemas and facebook.com/SSVC ForcesCinemas.
BFBS Set Top Box support
BFBS TV set top boxes (STBs) will still be issued and returned locally as follows:
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: 9am–12.30pm, Bielefeld (Thrift Shop)
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9am–12.30pm, Princess Royal Barracks (NAAFI Max)
At all other times, STBs can be collected/returned at the BFBS studio offices in Sennelager.SSVC would like to reiterate that goods purchased from SSVC will still be covered under the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty. Customers requiring service would need to contact the manufacturer directly.