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3 Regiment Army Air Corps
 
Brief history

During the 1960s the role of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) was to defend, with other NATO countries, the Inner German Border against a possible attack from the Soviet States of the Warsaw Pact. BAOR was particularly armour heavy in order to provide the necessary mobile fire-power in defence. However, a tactic of the Warsaw Pact armies, which outnumbered NATO by a considerable amount, was to probe for a weak spot in the defence, break through, then keep going Westward to prevent the NATO armies from establishing a fresh line of defence. Various ideas were tried to counter this tactic, including the introduction of lighter and faster armoured vehicles. This proved ineffective and it was decided to arm helicopters with anti-tank missiles. They could be held until a possible Soviet breakthrough and then used in numbers to move quickly to the battle area and block the leading Soviet elements temporarily, to give the NATO units time to withdraw to the next line of defence. The Scout was chosen and adapted as the Anti-Tank helicopter using the SS11 wire guided missile.
Both the Scout and Sioux provided excellent service and this new role changed the AAC from a Supporting Arm to a Teeth Arm. However, both aircraft were aging and during the 1970s and early 1980s, were replaced, the Sioux Light Observation Helicopter by the Gazelle and the Scout Anti-Tank helicopter by the Lynx with TOW. The Lynx/TOW was armed with twice as many missiles and those missiles had an extra thousand metres range.
3 Regiment Army Air Corps was formed on 24 October 1969 as 3 Division Aviation Regiment, comprising of 653, 664, 665 and 666 Aviation Squadrons (based at Netheravon, Perham Down, Farnborough, Colchester, Plymouth), as well as 2 Aviation Flight (based at Perham Down also). In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Regiment as it is established today was formed in Germany, the Squadrons being re-numbered 653, 662 and 663 Squadrons Army Air Corps. The Regiment occupied 2 sites on the outskirts of Soest, the bottom site being Salamanca Barracks. This is where the soldiers were accommodated, as well as the QM Depts, NAAFI etc. Other units based at Salamanca Barracks were 5 Armd Wksp REME, 11 Armd Wksp REME, 206 Sigs Sqn, Royal Corps Of Signals and an RAOC and RE Det. This barracks is no longer occupied by the British Army and is now an industrial enterprise park for local businesses.
The other site (top site), was the airfield where the majority of the Regt worked, and is known today as ‘Flugplatz Soest Bad-Sassendorf’. During my tour in Soest the Regt was equipped with Gazelle AH Mk1, and Lynx AHV Mk7 helicopters. Each Sqn was equipped with 6 of each, totalling 36 helicopters in all. The airfield is still used today by a local flying club and the hangar by Warsteiner Brewery (Wobbly) as a storage depot. 3 Regiment Army Air Corps continued to support 3 (UK) Armoured Division in BAOR until the end of 1992. At the beginning of 1993 the Regiment moved back to the UK and into the recently vacated RAF Station at Wattisham, which is its current home.
Memories
During my tour in Soest 89-93, I remember very fondly the Cpl’s Mess though it was not uncommon to find AirTroopers, SNCOs and the occasional Officer in there. The great melting pot however was the parties between the blocks during the summer months which were open to all ranks.
Our favourite drinking den outside the wire was ‘Klabautermann’ a local disco nr Erwitte, approx 8km from barracks. This was also known as ‘Stickies’, probably due to your feet sticking to the beer on the floor! I had fond memories of playing ‘Shock’ a German dice game for beer and shots, and the tray of beers we used to order each (10 litres).
Another favourite haunt was the ‘Big Ben’ bar in Soest, which has since been demolished. Monday night was 1 mark beer night and usually ‘fight night’ with the Belgian soldiers who were based in town. After this we would head to the ‘Old Germany’ bar which was open till 5am. The bar has since been renamed.
Other memories include ‘Active Edge’ or ‘Crash Out’, where you would deploy into the field at short notice (4 hours I think). Our Regt would normally occupy a farm complex with the aircraft in ‘hides’. This was not the actual site where we would have deployed if the Russians had invaded, but one very similar. I also remember chasing ‘Soxmis’ cars down the autobahn in my Vauxhall Astra, which was also great fun, due to no speed limits.
Smudger
3 Regt AAC Gazelle AH Mk1 helicopter on the dispersal at the airfield in Soest. 662 Sqn MT shed is in the background (c1990).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
3 Regt AAC Lynx AH Mk7 on the dispersal at the airfield, Soest (c1990).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
Another view of the dispersal, main aircraft hangar and control tower (c1990).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
A Chieftan recovery vehicle of 11 Armd Wksp REME ready to be shipped to the Middle East, prior to the Gulf War in 91 (c1990).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
 
View of main Guardroom and Sanger Salamanca Barracks, Soest (c1998). 
 Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
Sangar at Airfield, Soest, with Defence Fire Service building to rear(c1998).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
Main gate to the airfield, Soest (c1998). 
 Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
View of main aircraft hangar to right of main gate to airfield, Soest (c1998).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
 
View to the left of main gate of 5 & 11 Armd Wksp garages (c1998).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
View of 662 Sqn MT shed and main hangar from edge of dispersal, Soest (c1998).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
653 Sqn AAC lines, airfield, Soest (c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
ML Handler/GSE shed, airfield Soest(c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
A view of Salamanca Barracks, Soest main gate (can you see the tumbleweed)? (c1998).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993

Offices, airfield Soest (c2004).

Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 

 
One of the 2 churches opposite the main gate, Salamanca Barracks, Soest (c1998).
 Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
 
Airfield guardroom, airfield Soest (c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
Browse and Bite, airfield Soest (c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993 
662 Sqn MT shed, airfield Soest (c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
 
Control Tower, airfield Soest (c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
Flugplatz Soest Bad-Sassendorf (c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993
Hangar - now Warsteiner Brewery storage shed, airfield Soest (c2004).
Courtesy of Smudger, 3 Regt AAC, Soest, 1989-1993