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Canadian Forces Europe was the Canadian Forces military formation in Europe during the Cold War. The CF assisted other NATO allies in watching the military activities of Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union.

Canadian Forces Europe (CFE) consisted of two formations in West Germany, Canadian Forces Base Lahr, with the 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1957-1993), and No. 1 Air Division RCAF at Canadian Forces Base Baden-Soellingen, which later became 1 Canadian Air Group. Both formations closed in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War.

Canadian Army[]

Canada had maintained a presence in Europe as part of the NATO forces since 1951, when 27 Canadian Infantry Brigade was initially deployed to Hannover attached to British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). This formation, which was formed primarily with Militia units, eventually moved to a permanent base at Soest in 1953. To begin with, it was intended to rotate brigades to Germany - 27 CIB was replaced by 1 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in October 1953, which in turn was replaced by 2 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in 1955, and then 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in 1957. The arrival of 4 CIBG saw a significant reinforcement of the formation's capabilities; prior to this each brigade had only been equipped with a squadron of main battle tanks. The arrival of 4 CIBG saw a full armoured regiment equipped with Centurions and an independent brigade reconnaissance squadron with Ferrets. In 1959, when 4 CIBG's tour was due to end, a change was made in the reinformcement policy for Germany. Instead of whole brigades rotating every two years, the decision was made to keep 4 CIBG and its associated brigade units in place, instead rotating the major combat elements to Germany every three years.

The brigade was headquartered in Soest. Individual units were stationed both at Soest and other towns in North Rhine-Westphalia:

  • Soest - BHQ, 1 x infantry battalion, service units
  • Hemer - 1 x infantry battalion, artillery regiment
  • Werl - 1 x infantry battalion, engineer regiment, field ambulance
  • Iserlohn - armoured regiment

In 1962, the brigade was reinforced with the addition of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps helicopter recce troop, equipped with nine CH-112 Nomad helicopters. By the mid 1960s, 4 CIBG's manpower totalled 6,700 men; it featured three mechanised infantry battalions, a reconnaissance squadron equipped with both armoured vehicles and helicopters, artillery equipped with both fire support and tactical nuclear weapons, and an extensive logistic operation. The extent of the Canadian operation led to the British describing it as "a light division".[1]

The brigade was renamed 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in May 1968.

Royal Canadian Air Force[]

To meet NATO's air defence commitments during the Cold War, No. 1 Air Division RCAF was established in Europe in the early 1950s with four Royal Canadian Air Force bases in France and West Germany. These included RCAF Station Marville (No. 1 Wing) and RCAF Station Grostenquin (No. 2 Wing) in France and Royal Canadian Air Force Station Zweibrücken (No. 3 Wing) and Royal Canadian Air Force Station Baden-Soellingen (No. 4 Wing) in West Germany. These wings consisted of three fighter squadrons each.

RCAF Station Grostenquin was closed in 1964 and its units transferred to RCAF Station Marville. In 1967 Marville was closed after France's withdrawal from NATO's military command structure and the units transferred to new RCAF Station Lahr (later CFB Lahr, now Black Forest Airport). RCAF Station Zweibrücken was closed in 1969.


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