Major Geoffrey Cotterell with Sergeant Kamp from 33 Netherlands War Crimes Commission and Aps Tjeenk Willink

The European war ended on 8 May 1945. The conquest of Germany culminated in the division of the country into four Zones, governed by the Russians, the Americans, the French, and the British.

Hamburg was ostensibly the most important city of the British Zone, but much of the most important administrative work was done elsewhere, ‘in the mysterious towns of Bad Oeynhausen, Bünde and Herford, where the greatest decisions and most solemn decrees are enacted’.* These three towns were at the centre of a vast network of British organisations which dealt with the occupation of Germany, the programme for the military dead, and the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, the exposure of which so strongly emphasised that the British had fought a just war against a monstrous evil.

21 Army Group (soon to be reconstituted and renamed the British Army of the Rhine, the BAOR) was at the hub of this network.** It was based at the spa town of Bad Oeynhausen, in Westphalia, because that is where it had been located when the war ended. BAFO, the British Air Forces of Occupation, was stationed about 16 miles to the east at Bad Eilsen.

As the position in Germany was consolidated, a civilian organisation gradually began to take over many of the BAOR’s governing functions. Known somewhat long-windedly as the Control Commission for Germany and Austria (British Element), its name was usually abbreviated to CCG (BE). The Control Commission’s offices were based close to the BAOR, mainly at Lübbecke, Minden, Herford and Bünde. Its Search Bureau was closely involved in the search for missing British servicemen.

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* Geoffrey Cotterell, Randle in Springtime (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1949), p.86.

** 21 Army Group was known from 25 August 1945 as the British Army of the Rhine, the BAOR. The date of the name change is given in Field Marshall the Viscount Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic: the Personal Account of the Conquest of Germany (Hutchinson and Co, London, 1947), p.225.