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State Secretary Manke, General Nicholas Welch, Federal and State Members of Parliament, Generals and Officers, Soldiers, Spectators, Citizens,
I would like to welcome you all to the Farewell Parade for the British units, which are still stationed in Bergen.
We have already experienced numerous wonderful parades, but this one today is a very special one. I would like to pay special thanks to all those on parade. In the next few days and weeks, suitcases and boxes will be packed and then the majority of you will return to Great Britain and new shores.
However, on this weekend we want to celebrate together once more, celebrate the past, celebrate us and our friendship. Today, the parade, tomorrow British Family Day at Heisterkamp and in the evening a party on the Friedensplatz nearby. Finally on Sunday there will the last joint service in St Lamberti’s church.
I believe that we come together on this weekend: tinged with both happiness and sadness at the fact that this large festival is a farewell festival.. Families, soldiers, officials, British, Germans and everybody who is part of our community. Happiness at our time together here in Bergen, for most of you temporary but still a significant time in your personal life or even an exciting highlight in your professional career.
For the citizens of Bergen the British soldiers and their families belong to Bergen just as much as the Town Hall, the Schützenfest or the Heisterkamp.
The connection between the British and Bergen began at the end of the horrific war, with the liberation of the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen on 15th April 1945 and the occupation of the region by the British army.
The presence of the British army and its dependants now comes to an end after 70 years, during which reconciliation, trust and last but not least a close friendship between the people of Bergen and their British determined life together. In the 1960’s, members of the Bundeswehr were posted to Castlemartin in Pembroke/Wales. After initial concern about their arrival, three decades later there was great sadness at their departure and Bergen retains to date a partnership with the town of Pembroke.
Therefore this is the right moment for me personally, but also on behalf of the whole of Bergen, to say thank you: Thank you for the hand of reconciliation, which we were allowed to accept, thank you for trust placed in us, which we were able to justify and thank you for all your friendship and the good neighbourly relations, which we experienced and which we were also pleased to reciprocate.
I am firmly convinced that we have all profited from the last 70 years and not only economically: Getting to know one another promotes mutual understanding and generates mutual tolerance.
These days in which we bid farewell are also the days on which memories surface, as State Secretary Herr Manke has already mentioned in his speech. And there are many events and occurrences.
For me personally they are the meetings with members of the Royal Family
My attendance at the military church service in St Margaret’s Westminster last year and my adventurous visits to the British army in Bosnia- Herzogovina and Basra in Iraq.
It is just these personal encounters, which stay in one’s memory. And while we are saddened by the farewell, which is why we should be feel happy about all those things we experienced together.
And is it really farewell for ever? For the stationing of troops it is most definitely farewell, but to you I am only going to say a sincere goodbye.
For all of you on parade, we from Stadt Bergen would like to present you with a pin to commemorate this farewell occasion and I would like to present the first pin to General Welch as your senior representative.
And on the theme of goodbye I found the following English lines, which we should call our own:
Goodbyes are not forever
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I’ll miss you
Until we meet again!
However, until it comes to that, may I wish you, British soldiers and your families all the very best and God’s blessing.
Rainer Prokop, Mayor
Frau Christine Dodds, Tel. 05051 /479-28