Soest in Germany was the place where I spent most of my time between November 1981 and May 1982 as a member of the BSD (Belgische Strijdkrachten in Duitsland or Belgian Armed Forces in Germany). Surprisingly I don’t remember all that much of the town itself. Or maybe not surprisingly, since the barracks were a few miles south of the town and during your free time it was just easier to frequent the army shop or one of the various pubs or restaurants closer to the barracks.

I tried looking up Soest in Wikipedia, but the English version appears to be a rather meagre copy of the German version – the latter, however, does make a short reference to the Belgian barracks as being converted into a campus. Still, there is very little in the wikipedia articles that triggered any personal memories.

I do remember, however, sitting in a pub not too far from the central square and the church with my fellow recruits – that was during our first months in Germany, when we were forced to be dressed in our “uitgangstenue” (not sure how that translates, but it was a fancy sort of uniform not normally used in day-to-day activities in the barracks), making us rather uncomfortably aware of being rather visible as fresh recruits. I also remember one person who fancied his command of German to be rather good saying to a local woman there that “Ich glaube das Sie ein bißchen satz sind”, which exposed him to a torrent of verbal abuse and some beer over his nice uniform too.

Anyhow, back to the town. Apart from the church and a set of market squares, and a perimeter walk which must in the past have been the walls of the medieval town, I can’t recollect much about it. Presumably that means we didn’t venture into the town that often, preferring to go to the pubs near the barracks who were accustomed to soldiers entering their premises. Some of them even did mussels in the Flemish rather than the German fashion, presumably to entice us into getting our grub there on the occasion that the food in the canteen bordered on the inedible (which was not an uncommon occurrence).

I managed to find the position of the barracks on Google maps, and on closer examination, even the building where we had our room and lockers. The line of buildings where the bars for soldiers and officers were appear to have gone, but then again, these were probably prefab buildings, whereas the actual barracks must have been made of something more substantial, so probably could be converted into dormitories.

Google map shot of Soest and surroundings. The barracks are the red dot south of the town.

Closer view of the barracks

Close-up of the barracks. The building where I stayed is marked with an arrow.

There doesn’t appear to be any StreetView available for the area, but that’s not too unusual for Germany where the coverage is mostly restricted to the big cities.

One last item: there also appears to a museum dedicated to the history of the FBA-BSD in Soest. If on any of my travels I pass near Soest, I might just pop in and have a look.

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