Elwood 5566

Imphal Barracks, Osnabruck; Transit into History

Posted in Osnabruck 76-84?, Uncategorized by 노강호 on May 8, 2012

Imphal Barracks, Dodeshiede, Osnabruck. (L-R) RHQ, Band Block, Cookhouse

My most poignant memories of army life took place in Osnabruck and Imphal Barracks, where I was stationed from around 1976-1984.

Where I lived for 8 years

I remember the downy birch trees from which clouds of yellow pollen drifted, when the wind blew across the barracks, in spring. It greatly irritated Mick Henderson, our bandmaster, who suffered hay fever. The species of birch were specifically Betula pubescens around which the ‘fly agaric,’ toadstool (Amanita muscaria), with its distinct red cap and white spots, often grew. Downy birch and the ‘fly agaric’ have a symbiotic relationship. Occasional some quite poisonous toadstools grew around our band block, including the ‘death cap’ and ‘destroying angel.’ I remember the winters when borders of grey-black snow, hardened to ice, edged the regimental square and paths from December until April. And in summer, the grass between the various ‘blocks’ was parched a thirsty brown. I did most of my taekwon-do, from white belt to black, training under the canopy of birch trees by our band block and had an intimate relationship with the seasons from the dank smell of the lichen on the papery bark of the birch trees to the taste of the dust that my footwork kicked up in the summer. And of course, a myriad of faces traverse that landscape.

Probably 1978, with Dave Bott, on the patch of grass outside the band block which later became our volleyball court

April 1982, shortly after my black belt, with Georg Soupidis (then 3rd dan)

It was, in retrospect, quite a beautiful barracks, spacious and well-ordered with tended gardens and where buildings, with the exception of the gymnasium, were single floor buildings and hence blended into, rather than dominated the wooded background. In this sense it was the antithesis of austere barracks such as Imphal Bks, in York,  where there wasn’t a shred of grass, or functional, somewhat clinical type barracks such as Cambrai, in Catterick Garrison, from which we’d just arrived.

some of the old married quarters

A posting of eight years was a long one and it meant that you became acquainted with the small army of civilian staff that work in every barracks but whom you rarely got to know. Most of the small army of civilians were women and indeed, the only man I can remember was ‘Peter,’ the barber. Other civilians, some British, worked in the WRVS and the library both of which were opposite the Guardroom. the faces of some of the German women who worked in the cookhouse, I can still remember.

one of the ‘bungalow’ type barrack blogs which typified Imphal and Mercer barracks

There was also a small contingent of individuals who worked just outside the barrack entrance: Archi Konker and his family ran a highly successful ‘schnell imbiss’ wagon which stood by the Naafi every evening in the late 1980’s. Then there were the taxi drivers, one of whom was Richard Muller, who in the summer of 1981, drove me to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam when I missed my connecting train.

I visited Imphal Barracks in 1990 and considering I’d only been out of Germany for 4 years, Osnabruck was almost a ghost town and even by then Imphal Barracks had been fenced in and its environs, Am Limberg and the Naafi, were inaccessible.

the tank road (Am Limberg) which ran along the side of Imphal and Mercer barracks

At 1500 hrs on Thursday the 26th of March 2009, Imphal Barracks lowered the Union Flag which had flown over its domain for 64 years. They keys to the main gate were handed over to the Mayor of Osnabruck. So many people, both military and civilian had lived and worked here and yet trawling through the internet, so little remains as a testament to its existence. Of all the thousands of photos that must have been taken by soldiers and their families, only a handful of sources can be found.

the flag is lowered outside the guardroom and in front of what was RHQ

The barracks deserted, the gates are locked

However, Jim Blake’s, the schnell imbiss close to the barracks, is still going strong.

Jim Blake’s – still around and still getting good reviews

Creative Commons License
© 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Further References

Photos of the deserted barracks taken in 2010. (link)

Last Post, Osnabruck. (Royal British Legion)


24 Responses

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  1. Chips said, on October 2, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I too joined the Skins after training at Catterick where we were the training regiment. I was with the Skins from 1975 to leaving in 1982. Some of the best days of my life with those lads. With the exception of K.Bradley who made my life a misery……………………..L.H

  2. Samantha Roberts said, on March 28, 2014 at 7:34 am

    My dad, Norman Houston (nickname: Sam) was RSM in the Skins in Osnabruck til about 1983. He sadly passed away on Saturday 22nd March 2014. I have very fond memories as a kid.

    Sammi Roberts (nee Houston)

    • annemcnerney said, on November 30, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Did u live near us in Kastanien Strasse?

      • Russell Houston said, on November 30, 2014 at 2:41 pm

        Sammi is my sister, and yes, we did live on Kastanien Strasse.

      • sammikr said, on November 30, 2014 at 3:14 pm

        Yes I did. I lived at number 27? Do you remember me?

    • 努江虎 said, on November 30, 2014 at 11:57 pm

      I keep wondering if I knew your dad, do you have any photos of him from around 79-83? The name is so familiar and I given he was RSM around 83 I must know him. I’d really appreciate a photo. Thanks.

      • sammikr said, on December 1, 2014 at 7:13 am

        I do have pics yeah. Don’t know how to post them here. Are you on the Skins Facebook page? Or let me know your email address and I’ll send you a couple.

      • 努江虎 said, on December 1, 2014 at 8:30 am

        My email is nick.elwood@hotmail.com. I’ll only leave email her for a few days as it might be used for spamming. And thanks for you quick response.

  3. Phil Knowles said, on November 30, 2014 at 3:23 am

    My first posting on completion of basic training in 1979. I remember arriving in October and the regiment was out on FTX so the first few days were pretty slow. Myself and Paul Swift (we arrived together) somehow managed to find our way the local, “The Dab” I think and of course as the troops were out of town, there was just a handful of locals who thought it would be very amusing to introduce us to Schnapps, I am pleased to say we held our own, although it never was my favourite tipple, give me a nice smooth single malt any day. As the first of those schnapps slid down my throat, I was convinced it had leapt out, grabbed me by the throat and was shaking me like a rag doll. If memory server, “Jim Blakes” was just across the road and of course was the second expedition for the night where we got our first taste of local cuisine, got to say I was hooked on Schnitzels from that day forward, and chips with mayo, who would have thought? I recently saw some pictures from the barracks with the demolitions started and the work teams on site. Fond (and some not so fond) memories came flooding back, and a great sense of pride when I think back on the young naive soldier from the English Lakes who nervously arrived there all those years ago. Fortunate to have joined such a distinguished and proud regiment, of which to this day, I am fiercely defensive. Fare Thee Well

    • 努江虎 said, on November 30, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Phil, thanks for the visit, Id forgotten about schnapps.

  4. Lachlan Mac Neil said, on December 1, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    I was posted to Mercer Barracks October 1974 – 1978 with the Argylls. I had a married quarter in Schlesische Strasse. I am trying to remember the name of the bar, run by an ex Queens Own Highlander by the name of Shuggie. It might have been called the Lindberg or Limberg. Great days indeed.

    • 努江虎 said, on December 1, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      I arrived at Imphal Bks, next to Mercer, in 1976 or 77. I don’t remember the bar, unless it was the one close to Jim Blakes that also had a pizza restuarant. Out of your choices, Limberg or Am Limberg seems more likely because that was the name of the tank road that ran alongside both our barracks. But that’s just a guess. Where exactly, was the bar?

      • Andy (Lofty) Myers said, on March 27, 2016 at 12:38 pm

        Was the Limburg and the Pizza place was called Gramophone’s with Jim blakes across the road, I was there from 93-2003 with QRL was a good place and fond memories of it.

      • 노강호 said, on April 20, 2016 at 2:34 pm

        Jim Blake’s…… aaahhhhh

  5. Tom Beckwith said, on January 13, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Sammi, did you live in Gorlitzer Strasse? I took over this Quarter when 4 RTR took over Imphall Barracks in 1983 and it was reported to belong to the outgoing RSM. Beautiful garden which looked as if it had a woman’s touch. So sorry to hear of your Dad passing and if your Mum is still with you thank her for handing over a first class quarter. What a small world, if this is the case.

  6. garside38 said, on April 16, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    I was with the 3rd Dragoons at Imphal in the late 50’s. Anyone else out there from then.

    • 노강호 said, on April 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Sorry, I don’t recall anyone from the 3rd Dragoons.

  7. M said, on April 25, 2016 at 5:26 am


  8. Melanie macdonald said, on April 25, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Hi my dad Malcolm Gary MacDonald . ( gary is the name he has used all his life ) he was based in Osnabruck we moved here when I was 10days old in June 1979. My dad don’t talk much of the army an I’m trying to get some info on a kidnap of a 2 yr old taken by two German girls from the army park the two year old was found 7hrs later striped an left in bushes . even tho MPs done full scale search an German police all the squadys on training went on search. . I think I was found by an elderly german women . but a couple months later in another army camp not that far away a child same age as me ,same dark brown curly hairv, my twin almost . she was taken from nafi in the November an has never returned. What I want to know is why both cases seem to have never happened , there’s no history that I’m allowed to view. Is any1 can remember this plz comment

  9. Nick Bryant said, on May 26, 2016 at 6:35 am

    I was posted/attached to the 5th Skins straight out of training from St Omer barracks (ACC) in Aldershot from 1980 until 1982, some great memories for an 18yr old with my two years with you guys at Imphal barracks Osnabruk, a shame i can’t remember any names 😦

    • Mark Thomas said, on June 29, 2016 at 6:03 am

      Was with the LAD attached to the Skins 81-83 only name i can remember was CPL Stu McMillian

      • garside38 said, on October 19, 2016 at 11:19 am

        I left Osnabruck at Christmas 1958.

  10. Sharon Jones said, on November 8, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    Have enjoyed reading your post and seeing photos from my childhood. My father was stationed there at Imphel Barracks, unfortunately no longer with us. I’m just trying to find photos of the barracks, the army quarters, school. I can remember moving to Osnabrück from Catterick. Think I preferred army life. We left in 79 I believe dad was with the 5th DG known as Fergie. Therefore I was known as little Fergie.X

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