FIELD OF DREAMS IN WESTPHALIA
CH-112 Hiller from the 4th CIBG Recce Sqn Helicopter flying at a typical low level cross country altitude near Soest 1962.
It may be difficult to find a connection between a popular movie about strange happenings in a midwestern cornfield and the flying operations of an army helicopter unit but here is a story of an unusual task that was flown by the recce troop in Germany in 1963.
This tale is based on an appreciation and understanding of the social interface between the residents of rural Germany and the soldiers stationed there as part of the NATO forces. The fact that 6,500 Canadian military and over 10,000 dependants lived in the purpose built barracks and PMQ’s located in the towns of Soest, Werl and Iserlohn in the province of Westphalia from 1953 to 1970 made for interesting interrelationships. This left thousands of Canadians with lasting and wonderful memories of the time they spent in Germany but one wonders what the local residents thought about the Canadians living among them.
A minor example of the feelings of the general public towards the military was displayed when a CBC reporter was covering town fair in Soest which included a Canadian band and a company of soldiers. The reporter asked a group of German teenagers what they thought about having these foreign troops in the streets of their town and the answer was, “ I don’t really think about them at all, I’m only seventeen and they have always been here”.
Another possible illustration of how an individual felt about dealing with this military presence in his country was when the para-military civilian gate guard at the Canadian barracks located in the farmland a few miles from the town of Soest and which included the heliport for the Brigade’s helicopter troop, appeared at the door of the Troop office with a young German gentlemen who wanted to speak to a helicopter pilot.
He explained that he was a member of the Soest model airplane club and had been flying a large radio controlled model when he lost its radio link and he wanted to know if we could help him find it. He went on to say that once the engine cut off the model probably landed nose down in one of the the large cornfields at the edge of town but, since the corn was 9 ft high, he would never be able to find it until the corn was harvested in the fall.
This was a quiet time for the troop. When the Brigade was not deployed to the training areas or committed to a major exercise we just flew the occasional liasion mission or our own training flights. In this case, and being in a total army aviation environment where you had your own serviceable airplane sitting outside the door, your observer was folding maps in the next room, you had self authorization privileges, you didn’t have to check with the weather office, talk to a control tower or file a flight plan and since it would give a purpose to a dull day it was a simple decision to go flying. All it required was a nod to your observer, pick up your helmet and walk across the road and start the engine.
Once airborne and heading towards the town and after waving to our modeller friend on his moped we pulled up to a height of 150 feet over the biggest corn field in the area and soon spotted the tip of the models rudder sticking out of the corn tassels. We then hovered over the spot until the owner could find his large and expensive toy airplane.
It was back to the helipad to log 15mins flight time as a “local search” and although we never heard anything more about this little incident one expects that it was a subject of discussion at the next meeting of the club. It was also interesting to consider the thought processes and expectations of this individual who would approach the security barrier of a foreign military establishment to ask for a helicopter to help in locating his expensive model. It was nice to think that a local civilian had such a friendly feeling towards the Canadians living among them that would allow him to make such a request. It certainly worked in this case and this was just another example of why we all enjoyed our postings to Germany.
A general view of the converted parking lot in Fort Chambly which was used as a heliport for the troop 1962.