Elegy for an era

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The Independent Online

Yesterday's ceremony formally ending the Royal Air Force presence in Germany after 56 years is a sad moment for armchair strategists old enough to remember the Cold War. Once upon a time the RAF had 200 aircraft in Germany, ready to repel a Warsaw Pact invasion. There were those annual exercises at the Fulda Gap, where Tornados would swoop overhead firing imaginary rockets at imaginary enemy columns striking west for Frankfurt. One could wargame dogfights between our brave pilots and those sinister Soviet MiGs, with their Nato codenames of Flogger, Foxbat and Fulcrum.

Such fantasies, alas, are over. But all is not lost. The RAF may be pulling out of Germany, but the Army's First Armoured Division is staying ­ not to fight the Russians, of course, but to be at hand for more mundane tasks such as keeping the peace in the Balkans. So homesick Britons will still be able to savour the lovely cricket field at Army headquarters at Mönchengladbach, where they drink warm beer, not pils, and where every season the Deutscher Cricket Bund holds its championship game. In this changing world, a small corner of the Fatherland remains for ever England.