We were stuck in Germany and we had to make the best of the situation. To be perfectly honest about it, it was the best posting you could wish for. It was both socially and culturally enriching. There’s been plenty of times I’d walked down the cobbled streets of Osnabruck’s inner wall, amongst the kneipes (pubs) and cafe bars, three sheets to the wind in broad daylight on a Saturday morning. I’d slip over and land in my Satin White Suit night club gear. (Back in the early 90s, I had this white suite I’d nicked from the Officers’ Mess – it was cheap and in the trash anyhow). I looked like Crockett out of Miami Vice. On that overcast, Saturday morning in broad view of the early morning shoppers I picked myself up from the wet floor, attempted to wipe the grime from my white trousers and only managed to rub it in. I laughed and bowed to an aged couple who muttered something in German and walked on. How different would it have been if we’d lost the war? Would there be German soldiers doing this in a British city?
Depending where you were in the 63 year history of Osnabrueck’s occupation, you’d have a different snap shot of the pubs over that period.
The Winkel (Just outside the camp). This was ran by a couple of germans and it was frequented by the locals and us squaddies. There was a challenge they had here: it was called the Captain Morgan’s challenge. If you could drink three of these drinks and still stand then you’d won it. I think I’d only ever done another type of challenge in the past. I was stood there at the end of the bar, nearest the corner exit and adamantly wanted to go for it. I liked a challenge and I think it was a lad called Dave Ede who was with me. I managed the first one, it was like drinking mentholated spirits – the air seemed to be sucked out of me and my chest felt like it was on fire. I waited for something to happen, but it seemed my 20 year old body was doing its stuff and putting the alcohol away. I tried the second shot, and noticed the barman wink at Dave, it was a knowing wink. He must have seen this happen a lot of times. When the barman poured the third, I went to grab it, but accidentally tipped the shot glass to the floor with the back of my hand. My mind was a frame or 10 away from my actual movements. My mind was desperately trying to catch up to me. The barman began to laugh hysterically and shouted something in German as I was helped out of the bar by Dave.
I cannot count on both hands, or feet the amount of times me, Dave and Benny (Matt Benson) went out on a weekend and got pissed up during the day. Dave was the sort of bloke who’d walk in to a bar of complete strangers, who couldn’t speak a word of English, and we’d all be laughing and joking within 15 minutes. He had that magic about him. On countless occasions we’d end up either in a Card game or a dice game (shock) and we’d be playing for ‘Korn’. I fucking hated ‘Korn’, it was methylated spirits and tasted like… like meths. Every fucking time we went in to a bar.
The magic about our friendship was that we’d be spontaneous in what we did. One Friday evening, we jumped on a train from Osnabrueck, completely oblivious to where it was going and rolled a single dice. The result was how many stops we’d waited before getting off. We got off in some quiet hamlet on the outskirts of Osnabrueck and cursed our luck. Nevertheless, I marched off for a light. There’s always a light on somewhere and we saw one. It was nestled in a grove of houses, it looked like a house party, but upon getting closer realised it was a bar. We walked in there and the place went quiet. From our clothing we were something else, but they didn’t know what. Soon it became evident that we were soldiers when Dave introduce us and said we were. They were happy with that and we were soon given shots of Korn and Schnapps. We were there till about 4 in the morning. And that was what we got up to. Needless to say, Dave spoilt is by inviting his Guard shift and there was a fight the following week. Hey ho.
Linders. This little bar had a nasty juke box full of 1980s retro BRAAVO tunes on it that just fucked with your mind after a while. The guy who ran this place was someone I got on with and we’d get free shots and we’d buy a round as well. You’d get your locals turn up and sit at one end and the odd frau. There was a pool table in the back where you could get undressed and play naked pool. There was an incident when one of the Batteries went in here and someone declared ‘Naked Bar’, might have been 3/29 Corunna – fucking lunatics.
Queens. I’d been in this pub a few times in 1990, but it soon became a restaurant or a crappy cafe soon after. From what I remember of it, it was a popular place in the 1980s for the lads. I think the bar was situated in the centre and you’d site around the bar so that they were surrounded. This was on the way to the City centre on Bramsche Strasse.
On sunny days, the three of us would walk down Bramsche Strasse and stop at every bar. We’d get to the inner city and cause mayhem.
Myers. This place, like Queens, didn’t last long while I was there. In fact it was knocked down or renovated. It was near a pub called the Rampendahl, commonly known as the ‘Copper Kettle’ due to its brewery tanks being on display.
There were periods when I’d get kicked out for eating the flowers. I remember punching a toilet mirror in a restaurant called the ‘Walhalla’ (Pronounced Valhalla) and walking past a barman and leaving sharpish, before any Polizei turned up.
Within the Osnabruck ‘Alt Stadt’ (Old Town), we had plenty of places to choose from…
Steifel (Boots), Zweibel (Onion), Dreamers
Breakfast Bar (Near Broadways)
Eros Centre – this was a whore house, and it wasn’t the only one. The Winkel would soon be turned in to a whore house under new management, and whilst I was away on an Operational tour someone was shot in the head on the door step. Possibly a rival company.
Zur Tranke – this place had big wooden doors and would get crammed full of people who would make the exodus onto the Steifel aftwerward. I think you could play ‘nails’ in there as well.
Olle Uese – probably the smallest bar in Osnabrueck.
Pupasch – Buy 10 drinks and get a pair of boxer shorts.
Miami Vice – This place was the druggy nightclub where you’d rave till 6 in the morning, when the sun came up. You’d walk out of there in sweat drenched jeans. Those drinking water were likely to have been on amphetamines. People would be wearing illuminous clothing, cycling shorts, blowing whistles and rubbing Vicks on the backs of their necks.
We’d often see plain clothed SIB policemen walk in and straight in to the toilets to catch those trafficking drugs. Plain clothed RMPs were spotted a mile off as they didn’t have a clue how to blend in.
I got a visit by the RMPs in camp and it was due to the fact that a DJ who worked in there was called DJ Duggy. Naturally the RMPs followed every possible lead and eliminated me from their enquiries after the visit.
Grammaphones (in Dodesheide)
Kleine Mann (in Dodesheide)
Broadways – I could write a book on the shit that happened here. Countless fights, riots, brawls, stabbings… hundreds. The fights in Broadways would roll on through the dancefloor and peter out near your feet as the assailants picked themselves up. One evening I could sense a group of lads looking at me, one of them was being told something. Probably a new lad and I think he was being initiated. He took a swing, but I managed to duck and back away. I felt my hair move as his fist went over my head. Too fucking slow. Some fights would occur on the stairs and people would be thrown down them. Some happened outside, there was a stabbing back in 1991 and a police dog was killed in one riot.
Litres of beer, blood and glass were spilled on the dancefloor… as well as a dancing coke can. Ah, yes.. the coke can. One of my army colleagues was slightly tipsy and decided to try out a penalty shoot out. Not a particularly good idea when we had a broad cross section of the Army community in there and they were just itching for a fight.
A guy walks in to the middle of the dance floor and places a coke can on the dance floor. He motions to people to give this can some space to dance. It begins to move from side to side and there’s a look of genuine pleasure in this den of inequity at 2 o’clock on a Saturday morning. That soon changes as Tribey looks on. The alcohol in his brain flips some switches and sets an algorithmic message to his brain, he simply cannot ignore. He must follow it. The dancing can is set up like it’s on a football pitch. Tribey puts down his glass of beer and asks a girl to look after it for him. He turns and focuses on the can. It’s there… it’s perfect… the penalty shot. There’s the look of pure joy on the fucktard’s face (this is the likely thought running through Tribey’s mind). He lines it up… takes a run up, ‘football styley’, and boots the can with his trainers. The can disintegrates into a shower of metallic shards and Tribey is jumping up and down like he’s just scored a fucking goal. He returns back to his drink with no caution in his stride, he just confidently walks back, takes his beer, winks at the girl and drinks his beer. The look of pure joy turns into horror and dismay, and perhaps this is how the order of things must be in Broadways, horror, dismay, adrenalin and ecstasy – but not pure joy. The young soldier, (the fucktard!!! – this thought is still raging in Tribey’s head) gets on his knees and cradles the remains of the coke can like it’s a shot buddy. He then begins to pick up the pieces, he scowers the place for the missing pieces and meticulously begins to piece them together. Tribey surmises that this fucktard must be REME or an Engineer.
This is some of the shit you saw on a regular basis in Broadways. It was a dive, a den, but in the early stages of the 90s, I’d be there most times of the week. I could do it back then. I could leave that place at 4 in the morning and be on PT for 6.30am.
Downstairs there was a kebab/ food place where you’d queue up. You’d go through the door, pass the bouncer on your right and stairs to Broadways on your left and enter another bar. This was the railway bar, it was smaller and you could actually talk to people without shouting.
From about 3am to 6am you’d stagger, look at the sunrise over the train station and look for the Mercedes Taxis. You’d get refused because you’d got a demolished Kebab in your hand so you’d fling it, put the girl in the taxi and you’d stumble in after her. “Roberts Kasserne buddy.” He knows where to go, because he’s been shuttling all your drunken colleagues back to camp and married quarters. He reminds you not to make a mess and before you know it, you’re outside the guard room. The car does its little U-Turn and parks up on the side. You get out and notice with horror that you’ve no money in your wallet. The driver looks pissed off. The german girl is sorting her hair out in the glass information board near the pedestrian gate.
“Hey. Who’s guard commander?”
“Oh, fuck.” That guy is a lunatic.
“What’s up?” the guy on the gate asks. He approaches, SA80 rifle in one hand and mug of coffee in the other. One half of the vehicle gate is closed and he stands at the open half entrance.
“Got no cash.”
The guard tutts. “Fucking ‘ell,” he says and walks off to the goldfish bowl of the guard room, “Fucking numpty,” he mutters to himself.
You give the driver the palm of your hand to signal ‘5 minutes’.
The guard commander, does not look pleased. He’s just been woken up. It’s half five and the new shift is about to come on. “How much?” Burny asks.
Burny fumbles for cash from the box he’s got on his table. “Someone. Get me a brew,” he demands. No answer. “ONE RP!!!” He screams. “Fuck it. Let’s get this place cleared up.”
“Sign here,” Burny pushes a form your way and you scribble your name, rank, number and signature in the tiny boxes.
A tall, lanky string of piss stands behind Burny. He’s rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Burny hands him his empty cup without looking at him. “Brew,” he says.
“Anyone else want one?” The young lad offers and there’s a chorus of approvals from the lads in the back.
You pay the Taxi driver who then speeds off. As you walk past the guard room there’s a cheer from the lads and Burny gives her a whistle of approval.
And so, it goes on, the cycle of sex, violence and alcohol. And why should Britain tremble when we have these warriors guarding our borders?