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 History of Rhine Army Summer Show (RASS)

 

All images and the following text submitted by Herr Jürgen Balke.

 

The origin of the RASS has been an equestrian event. The first Horse Show and Hunter Trials took place 1947 in Sennelager. In Bad Lippspringe the first RASS took place in 1949. Important changes that took place were:

 

1960: first Anglo-German Horse-Show.

 

1971:  for the first time the event was called Rhine Army Summer Show.

 

1979: for the first time BFBS took part.

 

1981: first German Funfair.

 

1985: is said to be one of the greatest RASS ever-Red Arrows flew over thousands of  spectators.

                                     

1989: well known RASS-Logo appeared for the first time.

 

1997: Golden Jubilee of RASS (1947-1997).

 

2001: RASS was cancelled because of foot and mouth disease in England. This caused a loss of 175000€.

 

2002: Golden Jubilee RASS (1952-2002 ) 200 trade stands, more than 100000 visitors, great raffle-first prize was a

Rover 25.

 
 

RASS has developed over the years into the largest Anglo-German event that the British forces had organised. The show got better every year as the organisers had ever striven to find new and exciting attractions and entertainment. These attractions like trade stands, military bands and other special events dominated the show more and more. 1999 saw a new style RASS with the first Rock-Concert, Status Quo on stage. The RASS 2000 was called the ``biggest RASS of the Millenium``.Highlight of this RASS has been a concert with Joe Cocker on stage and Sunday night fireworks after the concert. The RASS has reached its climax of attraction. Thousands of visitors came from far away to be at the RASS. I have been there from 1991 until 2002 and the event took place every year in May or in June.

 
The Goat Major, Taffy and Herr Jürgen Balke.
 
 The show area was divided into Fair Ground, Horse Show or Polo-field, Main Arena, Trade Stands with Car Show, British Army Display and special tents from BFBS, NAAFI or Guinness. In many of these tents you could enjoy refreshments. I remember the beers and music of the NAAFI tent. This was one of the most interesting attractions.
 
 

For those who are interested in equestrian events could see up to 30 different classes , Jumping Championship and Pony Club events  included. Equestrian trophies were for example:

 

The Chairman’s Challenge Cup

 

Pym’s No. 1 Cup

 

The Bacardi Trophy

 

BAOR Show Jumping Challenge Cup

 

 

Other special events you could find in the Main Arena. I remember the outside of the Main Arena always looking like a castle. Some very interesting events in the Main arena have been:

 

The White Helmets Motorcycle Display Team

 

Joint Services Parachute Display Team

 

RAF Gymnastics Display Team

 

The Flying Gunners Motorcycle Display Team

 

Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry

 

Queens Colour Squadron RAF

 

Not to forget all these wonderful military bands. I want to mention only a few like:

 

1st Royal Tank Regiment

 

Queen’s Own Hussars

 

2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers

 

The Light Division Band

 

The Queen’s Dragoon Guards

 

The Queen’s Royal Lancers

 

The King’s Own Hussars

 

Light Dragoons

 

 
 
 

Massed bands were one of the most interesting events in the arena. 1999 brought the largest massed bands to ever perform at the Summer Show. Over 220 musicians were to be seen in the arena.

 

 
 
Other events were Helicopter Rides, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Safe Driving Competition, Village Green Red Arrows Flight Simulator, Tug of War and American Rodeo. Since 1979 no RASS took place without BFBS. On the stage and live on air were Dave Boyle, Glenn Mansell, Frank Mc Carthy, Dave Simon, Richard Hutch, Simon Guettier, Richard Hutchison Marc Tyley end James Watt. There was not only good music and entertainment you could as well buy rugby shirts, sweatshirts, watches, sport-bags pens and more. I am proud to have some of these things still today.
 

Not to forget all those many trade stands. There you could buy many interesting things like:

 

Waxed jackets

 

English Shirts

 

Pine Furniture

 

Riding Equipment

 

Pottery

 

Jewellery and more…

 

According to the RASS 2000 programme `´You can buy everything at RASS, from a house in Britain to a freshly caught Fairy in a Jar. I haven’t bought a house there but I have always enjoyed good old fish and chips together with a cool beer.

 

The era of the RASS has ended. Many servicemen and their dependents regret this together with many Germans who liked the RASS very much.

 I have mentioned many names, arena activities and events and I hope that my short article will bring memories back to the wonderful Rhine Army Summer Show. RASS should never be forgotten.

 
 Text and images courtesy of Herr Jürgen Balke

 

 

A Soldier's Perspective

The Rhine Army Summer Show (RASS) started life in 1949 as a horse show which eventually developed into a gigantic meeting point for every British soldier in Germany. Over the years evolution took its course with the event becoming essentially a fair. Military demonstrations would take place which included; The Red Arrows, Army Parachute Display Team and The Flying Gunners. Needless to say, these were only to name but a few.

German culture was embraced especially their cuisine and local brew. The natives were welcome to attend, as after all, the RASS was a great way of fostering community relations and proved how organised we actually are.

BFBS would act as Radio 1 and live music was a prominent feature. For those staying the duration a tent was essential, although I do remember seeing many folk being soundly asleep without any of life's little luxuries.  It had for many become a form of "Squaddie Glastonbury" which for the month running up to it was on everybody's lips. NAAFI breaks and evenings down the Squadron Bar would be filled with the ominous question; "you going to the RASS?". People would rather miss their mothers funeral than be on duty that weekend.

The beer tents were always brimming with people often with loud, excited music blaring away. On the 2001 RASS a Madness cover group decided to play the troublesome hit of 'One Step Beyond'. This really was one step beyond as those present in the tent decided to have beer and Pimm's fight. The entire place was swimming and I learnt a valuable lesson that day; if Pimm's comes in contact with your contact lenses, take them out. Unless of course you want to spend Sunday evening driving around Hannover looking for an eye specialist followed by two days of hiding in a dark room.

Another aspect of the RASS which proved sheer brilliance, especially for those of us who were generally attached rather than belonging to a regiment, was the fact that you bumped into your 'muckers' from old. As always, being a young soldier the questions of; 'where are you at', 'how are you getting on' and 'what have you been up to' would be asked. Often those being posed the question were the same lads that you had been through training with and their reply was a measure of where you yourself should be right now.
 
One of the funniest things about the RASS was the 'after effects' of this extraodinary event. One of these may be a hangover which would be enough to kill a small man. Another might be the latest SAAB soft top being delivered to your company lines three weeks later. It happened. People got drunk and when I say this I mean 'three sheets to the proverbial wind'. The unscrupulous car salesmen didn't give a fig what state you were in. Their conscience was cleared by the fact that you had three weeks to cancel - if you remember buying the damn thing!
 
As with all good things it had to come to an end and so it did in May 20012. Fortunately some of us had the chance of attending before that time came. A new show was venued at Rheindahlen - not exactly central to where the average Tom was based, but if a crown and two pips (bare minimum) should feature on your uniform, it was very central indeed. The new RASS type event was at a much lower budget and scale, and I'm not sure if I've ever met anyone who has been. So on that note, I can't slate it with conviction. If anything was gained by the cancellation of the Rhine Army Summer Show, it was that the security of Northern Germany certainly increased. As quoted from the Army's unofficial website, arrse, if the Red Menace were ever going to go for it, they would have chose the Sunday of RASS weekend as the entire complement of BAOR were either leathered or hung over from the Saturday, ergo it would have been a stroll over the German plain. Having been there they may well have had a point.
 

To many, the death of Concorde signalled the first time that mankind has actually taken a step backwards. Not since Van Gogh ensured his ear would never feature on another painting have people be en so dumbstruck by odd decision making. When the curtain drew on this memorable weekend in May 2002, a part of the Army died with it. One of the many things that makes us unique and more than just a large civilian firm was placed firmly to bed. What couldn't be seen was the PR and another recruiting sergeant lost. When young Tommy Atkins got a spell of leave, this type of event was a topic he could tell his mates of, over a pint of beer and brag about this great outfit he belongs to. It would also prove the topic of much conversation down the NAAFI bar for weeks to come. It did cost money and it did consume many, many, man hours, but it was fantastic. That was the Rhine Army Summer Show.