Main article: Military Liaison Missions

The British Commanders'-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (BRIXMIS) was a military liaison mission to East Germany following the establishment of the four allied zones of control in Germany after the Second World War. The reciprocal agreement establishing the first of these, between the British and Soviet zones was established on 16 September 1946 under the Robertson-Malinin Agreement between the respective chiefs of staff. Subsequent agreements in 1947 led to the establishment of liaison missions with the zones controlled by French and US forces.

The agreements established a framework for the exchange of liaison missions to foster good working relations between the military occupation authorities in the two zones. While the purpose of the missions were Quasi-Diplomatic the establishment of the liaisons presented an opportunity for the collection of human intelligence through overt reconnaissance and surveillance.

The establishment of the British and Soviet liaison missions, BRIXMIS and SOXMIS, put in place procedural and administrative mechanisms that would be replicated by the respective French/ Soviet and US/ Soviet activities, although the initial British/ Soviet arrangement was significantly larger than the others, with 31 individuals allowed passes.

The British Mission comprised members of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force who conducted uniformed liaison activities in marked cars and two Chipmunk light aircraft, ostensibly to allow aircrew to maintain crew currency while posted to the mission.

Liaison agreements remained in place until 2 October 1990 when all three missions deactivated on the eve of Germany's reunification.

Reconnaissance Activities[edit | edit source]

The liaison agreement allowed staff to travel throughout the respective zones of control with limited restrictions on movement. Some areas remained restricted on either a permanent or temporary basis, with processes established to notify respective missions of any restrictions.

This freedom of movement throughout Eat Germany allowed the collection of intelligence on all Warsaw Pact forces including force disposition and movement, orders of battle, equipment and professional standards. The British mission was entirely overt, in that all personnel operated in uniform and in marked vehicles. The reciprocal Soviet mission to the British zone did, however, act as an Agent Handling capability operating in a more covert manner.

The configuration of liaison teams was established in the initial agreement and remained in place throughout the life of the programme. Liaison teams of three conducted tours in cars conducting reconnaissance on an either ad-hoc basis or as directed by Defence Intelligence in London. The team was made up of a tour officer, tour NCO and driver, all of whom received similar training. Tours could take a number of days with the teams being entirely self sufficient.

BRIXMIS also exercised the British legal right under the Potsdam Agreement to use the airspace over both West and East Berlin, as well as the air corridors to and from West Germany to the city. Two De Havilland Chipmunk T10s were based at RAF Gatow and RAF aircrew posted to BRIXMIS had access to these for the conduct of photographic reconnaissance flights within the designated airspace; a radius of 12 nautical miles within the Berlin Control Zone (BCZ) from the Berlin Air Safety Centre (BASC) located in West Berlin.

Vehicles[edit | edit source]

The BRIXMIS contingent used Opel Kapitän cars in the 1950s, followed by Opel Admiral cars and their later replacement, the Opel Senator, converted to four-wheel drive in UK. However, the operational need for a vehicle with a higher degree of cross-country performance than the mainly on-road Opel Senator led them to acquire a number of extensively modified Range-Rover vehicles. These proved to be fragile and expensive to run and maintain in Germany. With this in mind, they acquired a single Mercedes-Benz G-Class for trials purposes in 1980/81. After extensive evaluation, they adopted the G-Wagen as the general tour vehicle, and in various models, it lasted in service until they ceased operations in 1990. An ex-BRIXMIS G-Wagen is on display at the Military Intelligence Museum at Chicksands, England.

File:DHC-1 Chipmunk St-Rambert 01.jpg

A De Havilland Chipmunk T10 - a type used for photo-reconnaissance missions by BRIXMIS

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Chipmunk reconnaissance flights soon ceased and the two Chipmunks were flown to RAF Laarbruch, in Western Germany to await disposal action. Chipmunk WB466 was flown back to Berlin and was donated to the Allied Museum in Berlin, where it remains on display today. WG486 is still in RAF service with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Intelligence successes[edit | edit source]

BRIXMIS was also noted for many technical intelligence coups (Geraghty, 1996), including:

  • Secretly bringing a Yak-28 Firebar's Skip Spin radar and jet engines back to Farnborough for inspection after it crashed into the embankment of lake "Stössensee" on the river Havel enlargements [Berlin]
  • Measuring the calibre of the gun of the then brand-new BMP-2 Armoured personnel carrier
  • Stealing "reactive armour" from a Russian tank, for analysis

Thus, BRIXMIS was ideally placed to "test the temperature" of Soviet intentions from its privileged position behind the Iron Curtain. However, and perhaps more importantly, it offered a channel for communication between West and East via its secondary but significant role of liaison - the initial reason for its establishment.

References[edit | edit source]

  • British Garrison Berlin 1945 -1994, "No where to go", W. Durie ISBN 978-3-86408-068-5
  • Fahey, John A. Licensed to Spy. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-294-3. 
  • Geraghty, Tony. Brixmis: The Untold Exploits of Britain's Most Daring Cold War Spy Mission. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-638673-3. 
  • Gibson, Steve. Live and Let Spy: Brixmis the Last Cold War Mission. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-6580-7. 
  • Gibson, Steve. The Last Mission: Behind the Iron Curtain. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-1408-4. 
  • Holbrook, James R. Potsdam Mission: Memoir of a US Army Intelligence Officer in Communist East Germany. Cork Hill Press. ISBN 1-59408-534-X. 
  • Jan, Yves. Keep the Cold War cold. Artline films. 
  • Marsden, Roy., 1998, "Operation 'Schooner/Nylon': RAF Flying in the Berlin Control Zone", Intelligence and National Security, 13, 4, pp. 178–193.
  • Vodopyanov, Anya. Honors Research Thesis: USMLM. Stanford University.  Parts 1 and 2.
  • Williams, Peter. (2007), "BRIXMIS in the 1980s: The Cold War's 'Great Game'", Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (PHP) .
  • Young, Ian. (2006), "Behind The Lines", Military Machines International (November): 32–37 .

External links[edit | edit source]

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