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BRIXMIS

THE BRITISH MILITARY LIAISON MISSION

 

HISTORY

The British Military Mission (BRIXMIS) was established in 1946 following the Robinson-Malinin agreement between Britain and the Soviet Union to exchange military liaison missions in their zones of occupation in East Germany. Each mission was to comprise 11 officers with up to 20 technical support personnel, and the official purpose was “to maintain liaison between the staff of the two commanders-in-chief and their military governments in the zones”. BRIXMIS was based in West Berlin with a mission house in Potsdam, and its Soviet counterpart, known as SOXMIS, at Bünde in West Germany. Under the terms of the original agreement BRIXMIS missions had the right to travel freely through East Germany and this was used to gather intelligence on the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) and East German forces including force movements and deployments, and equipment. BRIXMIS, SOXMIS and the similar French and American military missions were officially disbanded in October 1990.

OPERATIONS

BRIXMIS crews (composed purely of military personnel; SOXMIS crews included KGB agents) They would only enter a PRA or TRA by accident nor would they deviate from agreed routes ( TRA Temporary Restricted Area PRA Permanently Restricted Area ) in order to gather the required intelligence.  PRAs included the five kilometre-wide exclusion zone along the entire Inner-German Border and all the major training areas in East Germany. Access to PRAs was permanently restricted to the three allied missions; TRAs would be declared for the period of major exercises and the same restrictions applied.

 

 

 

 

The role of BRIXMIS was crucial to monitoring tactical and technical developments within GSFG – the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany- as it was believed that any future Warsaw Pact offensive into Western Europe would be focussed through East Germany and possibly begin under the guise of routine autumn exercises. GSFG was formed in late 1945 from the Soviet Occupation Forces in East Germany, and was renamed to Western Group of Forces in 1989. The Soviet Union maintained forces numbering 400,000 men in GSFG, organised into the following units:

GSFG Headquarters (Zossen)

1 Guards Tank Army (HQ at Dresden)

2 Guards Tank Army (HQ at Fürstenberg)

3 Shock Army (HQ at Magdeburg)

8 Guards Army (HQ at Weimar)

20 Guards Army (HQ at Eberswalde)

16 Air Army (HQ at Zossen-Wünsdorf)

 

Typical BRIXMIS tasks included:

- photographing deployed radar and air-defence systems, missiles, attack helicopters, new armoured vehicles, aircraft taking off and landing, and trains transporting military equipment;

- covert observation of tactical exercises;

- covert observation of military installation to photograph and on occasions to acquire discarded items and equipment;   

- moving into training areas and searching disused slit trenches, rubbish dumps and even field latrines for documents and anything of intelligence value;

- photographing and where possible accessing unaccompanied vehicles;

- photographic reconnaissance flights.

BRIXMIS successes were many and included the recovery of the radar and jet engines from a Soviet YAK-28 interceptor fighter which crashed in the River Havel in Berlin in 1966, and in 1981 the use of copies of turret-hatch keys to access T-64 tanks in a storage facility and photograph the inside of the vehicles.

Teams would infiltrate training areas or other military area where possible and then move well away to sleep in perhaps a wooded area and live there for as long as was needed. However if discovered they could be arrested and detained. Operations could be dangerous, with mission vehicles being rammed by Soviet trucks and detained crews subjected to violence.

By the end of the Cold War BRIXMIS had made a significant contribution to British military intelligence operations and their findings complemented other information-gathering methods such as communications intercept.

 

VEHICLES

The very first BRIXMIS vehicles (from 1946-1950) were Humber staff cars and occasionally Jeeps which were replaced in the 1950s by Opel Kapitan saloon cars which were reliable and had a reasonable cross-country performance. They were painted black in an attempt to deceive Soviet sentries that they were in fact their own staff cars, however they showed up too easily in woods and were repainted in olive drab.

In the 1970s the Kapitan was replaced by the new Opel Admiral and these cars were fitted with a British 4 x 4 system and an anti-lock braking system which greatly enhanced their cross-county performance and road-holding in difficult conditions. They were also equipped with a winch, armoured belly plates and long-range fuel tanks. They would be used by BRIXMIS for 60,000 kilometres, after which they required complete renovation due to the handling which they had received before being re-issued to units in Berlin as staff cars. Production of the Admiral ceased in the late 1970s and it was succeeded by the three-litre Opel Senator. This needed some modifications to meet requirements and this work was carried out by REME and later at the Opel works.

Land Rovers were sometimes used, mainly by RAF BRIXMIS missions to access observation points near airfields. Following the successful evaluation of a Range Rover in 1975 some of these were acquired for missions. In 1979 trials were conducted with the Mercedes G-Wagen and these were found to be more suitable than the Range Rover; in 1986 the G- Wagen replaced all other vehicles in the BRIXMIS vehicle fleet.


All vehicles displayed a yellow plate front and rear with a number, the union flag and the word ‘BRIXMIS’. Two Chipmunk aircraft, based at RAF Gatow, were also available for photographic reconnaissance flights as BRIXMIS had permission to fly within a designated airspace of a radius of 12 miles from the Berlin Air Safety Centre.
 

UNIFORM, KIT AND EQUIPMENT
As the role of BRIXMIS was officially liaison, camouflage clothing was not worn by tour crews. Instead they wore beret, shirt OG, trousers lightweight, jersey HD, parka and boots. In winter extra thermal clothing was worn. Besides personal kit and rations the crew were equipped with night-vision goggles (to enable them to drive at night fast and without lights to shake off any Stasi vehicles attempting to tail the tour car), four cameras of various types with up to 40 rolls of film, a camcorder, two small tape-recorders, binoculars, maps, writing materials and a copy of the 1946 Robinson-Malinin agreement. Radio sets were not carried; instead the BRIXMIS mission house at Potsdam had a HF radio link to HQ BAOR at Rheindahlen, a VHF link to mission HQ in West Berlin and a West German landline telephone link from Potsdam.
 

Each BRIXMIS tour car carried the following:
Spare Wheel 2
Ground anchor plate (8 hole) 1
Ground anchor spikes 9 wrapped in hessian
10 lb Sledgehammer 1
Tirfor Hand Winch complete 1
Steel rope (8ft) 2 eyes 1
Wooden bottle jack stand 1
10 ton Bottle jack complete 1
5ltr water Containers full 4
Camping gaz stove 1 + 3 gaz containers
Petrol stove 1 + 1ltr can of petrol
Tool roll 1, comprising one set of ring and one set of OE spanners, two sets of Mole Grips, various sized screw drivers, and anything individual drivers included.
Wheel nut Spider 1
Washing up bowl 1
Camping Cook set 1
Sleeping Bags 3 (during the winter this could go up to 5)
Personal bivvy gear 2 (driver slept in the car, for security reasons)
Self Heating Soup 6 - discontinued when Army stocks ran out about 1981
Any other personal gear the tour crew could get in.
 

BRIXMIS OPEL SENATOR TOUR CAR

 

 

ORIGINAL BRIXMIS PHOTOGRAPHS

 

 

T-64 MAIN BATTLE TANK

 

 T-80 MAIN BATTLE TANKS WITH REACTIVE ARMOUR

 

 TRAIN CARRYING 2S1 “GVOZDIKA” 122MM SELF-PROPELLED GUNS

 

 TACTICAL MISSILE TRANSPORTER VEHICLE MOVING INTO POSITION

 

MOBILE AIR-DEFENCE RADAR DEPLOYED

 SA-3 ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILE LAUNCHER

 

MI-24 HIND ATTACK HELICOPTERS

 

 MiG-29 FULCRUM FIGHTER OF THE EAST GERMAN AIR FORCE ON LANDING APPROACH

 This is a SU-24 FENCER ‘C’ GROUND ATTACK AIRCRAFT ON LANDING APPROACH

 

 EAST GERMAN AIR FORCE L-39 ALBATROSS TRAINING AIRCRAFT

All original brixmis photos are copyright to their respective holders

 

 

SOVIET OFFICER’S MAP CASE CONTAINING MAP FOR A CPX

 

The map is a copy of a NATO map of the Brunswick area (West Germany) with the original place names replaced by fictitious Russian names. Using maps such during command post exercises (CPX) enabled plans to attack actual locations to be rehearsed. Note the tactical symbols drawn on the map and the notes in Russian.

 

 

Article copyright Callsign Alpha

 


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Call Sign Alpha was last updated 07/28/16