General Sir Martin Farndale KCB

Commander Northern Army Group

Commander British Army on the Rhine

Rheindalen, West Germany

1985 to 1987












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General Sir Martin Farndale KCB



From 1985 General Sir Martin Farndale KCB assumed the dual role of Commander of the British Army on the Rhine (“BAOR”) and Commander Northern Army Group (“NORTHAG”).

BAOR comprised all British servicemen in Germany during the Cold War, when that is where the bulk of British armed forces were based. This included the main fighting unit of the British Army, 1st British Corps.

NORTHAG was the NATO fighting force which covered the entire north flank of NATO during the Cold War. To its south was the Central Army Group (“CENTRAG”), which covered southern Europe. To its north, the Allied Forces Northern Europe protected the Scandinavian arctic.

NORTHAG reported to Allied Forces Central Europe (“AFCENT”), which in turn reported to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (“SHAPE”).

NORTHAG had five Corps under its command including the British Corps:


·         I Dutch Corps (Dutch 1st, 4th and 5th Mechanized Divisions and the 101st Infantry Brigade. From July 1985 the German 3rd Panzer Division was added.)

·         I German Corps (1st Panzer Division, 7th Panzer Division, 11th Panzer grenadier Division, and 27th Airborne Brigade.)

·         I British Corps (1st Armoured Division3rd and 4th Armoured, and 2nd Infantry Division)

·         I Belgian Corps (1st Infantry and 16th Armoured Division)

·         III French Corps as reserve corps (2nd Armoured Division, and 10th Armoured, and 8th Infantry Division (France))


It also had III (US) Corps was assigned as reserve corps. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Armoured Division was forward deployed at Garlstedt. The rest of 2nd Armoured Division, along with 1st Cavalry Division, 5th Infantry Division (Mech), 212th Field Artillery Brigade and 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment would join NORTHAG through OPERATION REFORGER within days after an outbreak of hostilities. They would draw their equipment from POMCUS depots in the Netherlands, Belgium and North Rhine-Westphalia.


Air Support was provided by the Second Allied Tactical Air Force (“ATAC”)


So during the late 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, Martin Farndale had a potent military force at his disposal, and a significant responsibility for the defence of Europe. In terms of firepower it is probably the most potent military force ever, since after 1990, NATO powers started to reduce their armed forces very significantly. He conducted exercises during his time in command, including Exercise Certain Strike in 1987, which was the largest military operation since D Day and has unlikely been surpassed since then.


Martin was a passionate believer in the importance of deterrence and peacekeeping. He was driven by the vital importance to stop another major war occurring in Europe and to avoid real clashes of arms, especially in Europe. This comes across in many of the interviews on the video and audio page, particular towards the end of the 1983 interview on assuming command of 1 (BR) Corps) in which he passionately speaks of the importance of maintaining the peace and avoiding the unnecessary misery of war in Europe by the maintenance of a sufficiently strong deterrent.



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NATO corps sectors in the Central Region












Exercise Certain Strike (including the Operation Reforger Deployment of the US Corps) 1987


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Martin Farndale briefing on the exercise                                                                           Lt Gen Crosbie (“Butch”) Saint 




Recce                                                                                                                               Grenadier Guards                                                                                                          Gren Gds



Recce                                                                                                                              German Leopard II                                                                                                             US Abrams MBT



Crossing the River Aller                                                                                                     UK Rapier                                                                                                                            US Blackhawk



US Bradley                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     German Corps



German artillery piece                                                                                                                 German 155mm gun                                                                                                               German artilery command post



German 155mm gun                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Grenadier Guards Milan




US Scout                                                                                                                                    US Gun Tow                                                                                                                           US Artillery Comand Post




                                                                                                                                US Humvee                                                                                                                                     US Transport                  



US Armour                                                                                                                         US Stinger AD                                              US First Cavalry



US First Cavalry                                                                                                                                                                                                           Grenadier Guards armed with SA80




US Bridgelayer                                                                                                                 Belgian APC                                                                                                                 Belgian Striker




Belgian Striker                                                                                                               Dutch TOW                                                                                                                   Belgian infantry


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(Nottingham Evening Post, 31 Oct 1987, Sat · Page 3)