Bradbury Barracks Krefeld
Bradbury Barracks, as they would later become known, were originally called the Adolf-von-Nassau-Kaserne, or the Adolf from Nassau Barracks. As the name would suggest, they were built by the Germans, not by the eventual occupying Brits. It was the Nazis, in actual fact, which commissioned their construction. Built between 1936 and 1938, they were part of the Third Reich’s rearmament plan, which saw a period of vast militarisation prior to the outbreak of World War Two.
With national pride in mind, the Adolf from Nassau barracks were built to be imposing and severe. The buildings were built using the Nazis preferred Clinker brick, with the living quarter buildings standing four storeys tall. Below the main drill square was a large underground garage complex, designed to house Panzer tanks and keep them hidden and secret. Upon completion in 1938, the 6th Panzeraufklärungsregiment – a tank division of the German Wehrmacht – moved in, along with their undisclosed tanks. In total, there were 800 men stationed at the barracks.
A year after the barracks opened and the 6th Panzer Division moved in, war broke out. In 1940, the regiment stationed at the barracks were drafted to take part in the Battle of France. Passing through Belgium, they made their way to the English Channel. Here they waited for further orders. Would there be an invasion of Britain? No, was the eventual answer. Instead, the 6th Panzer division were removed from the Western Front and sent across to East Prussia to prepare for fighting on the Eastern Front.
From 1941 onwards, the 6th Panzer Division were involved in fighting on the Eastern Front. First it was the Battle of Moscow, where they suffered heavy losses. Indeed, most of their tanks were lost. They were resupplied with tanks stolen from France, and were then involved in fighting in parts of Russia south of Moscow and in Ukraine. Eventually, in May of 1945, the 6th Panzer division surrendered to US forces in Czechoslovakia, after having retreated through Ukraine following defeat there. Their tanks were handed over to the Soviet authorities, and exported to Moscow as war reparations.
Following the Second World War and the dissolution of the 6th Panzer Division, the Adolf from Nassau Barracks found themselves empty. Based outside of Krefeld, a town just 20 kilometres west of the Ruhr, the barracks were in the British Zone of occupation. Therefore, a year after the end of the war, British Army troops moved in. From this point onwards, they were known as Bradbury Barracks. First, the Coldstream Guards moved in, followed in 1955 by the Royal Artillery and in 1965 by the Royal Signal.
The barracks contained a small Naafi and theatre, but did not have the vast infrastructure that some of the other, larger military sites had. Therefore, it was necessary for the troops stationed at Bradbury Barracks to become better integrated within the German, civilian community Quickly, close relationships were created between the serving British troops and the local German civilians. In 1969 Krefeld was twinned with the British city of Leicester. In the same year, the Leicester Trophy was created, an inter-troop sports competition. It took part bi-annually, and its purpose was to strengthen the ties between the British troops based in Germany, and the German troops and citizens there.
In 1972, after a decade based at Bradbury Barracks, the 16th Signal Regiment received the honour, ‘Freedom of the City of Krefeld’. This was the first time that such an honour had been granted to a British Regiment in Western Germany.
The British Army remained based at Bradbury Barracks until as late as 2002, when – due to defence cuts – they left and handed the barracks over to the German authorities. A private buyer was quickly found and the whole site sold on. Buildings to the rear of the site – which were at one point garages for military vehicles – were converted to small commercial units, and a small industrial park was formed. Now occupied and home to numerous small to medium sized companies, the venture has been successful. The rest of the Barracks, though, remain empty. The entire site is under, 'denkmalschutz’, which means it cannot be demolished or significantly altered. A purpose for the living quarters, the parade ground, sports hall, garages, theatre and two churches will, somehow, have to be found. But for now, they remain empty.