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The BBC's George Eykyn
"It'll be the end of an era"
 real 56k

Friday, 15 June, 2001, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
RAF ends 56 years in Germany
The closing ceremony at RAF Bruggen
The final ceremony at RAF Bruggen marked the end of an era
The Royal Air Force has pulled out of Germany, ending a military presence which has continued since the end of World War Two.

A ceremony formally ending its 56-year presence was held on Friday at RAF Bruggen, near Dusseldorf, the last remaining base.

Minister for the Armed Forces, Adam Ingram, said the RAF's position in Germany, had made a valuable contribution to the "peace and stability" of Europe.

He said: "I am confident that, as the British Army assumes responsibility for Bruggen from the RAF, British service personnel will continue to benefit from the close relations with the local community which we have enjoyed to date."

Carrying the squadron standard of 37 Sqn RAF Regiment at RAF Bruggen
Final exit: RAF presence is no longer required
The end of RAF Bruggen marks the final withdrawal following a restructuring of British forces after the end of the Cold War.

It is the last part of a series of moves to return all RAF aircraft in Germany to the UK.

There were once 18,000 people and 200 aircraft stationed at a dozen bases in Germany.

The last of the 24 Tornados left will fly home in a few weeks, though some ground staff are staying until October.

While the Cold War hostilities are now over, the Iraq and Kosovo bombing campaigns have meant RAF Bruggen's Tornados have seldom been busier.

Defence review

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says the end of the RAF presence in Germany is part of the Strategic Defence Review which followed the end of the Cold War.

An MoD spokesman said: "This is considered the best move.

"We can cover any requirement to send out aircraft much more effectively from the UK."

The RAF will maintain a presence in Germany until spring 2002, but the ceremony has been planned to coincide with the return of the last two Tornado GR1/4 squadrons to the UK later this summer.

The airfield at RAF Bruggen will close in October when units of the British Army will move in.

The British Army's First Armoured Division is still stationed in Germany and there are no plans for it to withdraw.

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