We stood on the roof of the Astenturm
and the years just fell away. The shape of the
aerials had changed, the white fencing now was made of plastic but
remained as breathtaking as ever.
The journey to Winterberg had been quite long. First a flight from
Amsterdam then meeting up with other members of the party at Schipol
followed by a long coach journey across Holland and into Germany.
The first view of Winterberg confirmed that here was a place transformed
rural village we knew forty years ago into an almost Disneyland
like ‘model’ German
town. The town square, now empty of traffic and cows was still familiar
many of the buildings had been extended or rebuilt. There were flower
beds, trees and
model animals for children to climb on.
We stayed at the Hotel Hessenhof right on the town square where we
got together the
first night for a dinner where we all got to know each other and
to meet John Welsh,
his wife Mia and son Philip who live two villages away at Olsberg.
Later in the cellar
bar of the hotel quite a lot of beer was consumed and old times
The visit to the tower had been arranged by John in conjunction with
weather service who now occupy our former rooms at the top. These
rooms are now
unrecognisable having been transformed into a cosy work space with
small kitchen and even a television to help the on duty weatherman
to pass the time.
Climbing the metal staircase to the top however had changed little,
it even had the
same slightly damp smell. Partners, wives and friends who made the
trip with us were
impressed by the setting of the tower and considering the hardships
many of our
generation suffered in the name of National Service, thought we
must have had a very
We had a small meal in the Astenturm hotel beneath the tower and
surrounding heath land including the Lenne Quelle, the source of
one of the main
tributaries to the Ruhr and then the Rhine.
W also enjoyed a trip to the domestic site, courtesy of the German
Army who use it
now as a training school. Some of the large dormitories we knew
have been broken
down into smaller rooms but enough remained to be familiar. The
actual room I
occupied for over a year, is now a linen store.
We had a good meal in the canteen the layout of which was as it was
but changed in
detail. The bar had now become a classroom. For me, the place suddenly
of ghosts and I found it very hard not to feel sad about what
had been and what had
gone. I also remembered those people we knew who have now passed
I had been back to Wintereberg twice before but never had access
to the Tower or the
Domestic Site. I had not been as moved on those two occasions as
I was on this one.
As a break from Winterberg we also made a trip to the Mohnesee. This
was a chance
to see and remember the vast area of tree covered hills surrounding
stopped off at the Ruhrquelle, source of the river Ruhr, and enjoyed
cake and coffee
in a small village in a converted water mill.
One of the highlights of the whole trip was a visit on the second
evening to the
Schutzenfest. here we had our own table and the beer arrived in
crates. We even
merited a mention on the loudspeaker system and applause from the
Schutzenfest seemed however a little less wild than forty years
ago or maybe we were
just seeing it through older eyes.
John had given us a printed sheet explaining the origins of the festival
purpose of the rather long tedious process of shooting at a wooden
eagle until it was
destroyed. Interesting that it took over forty years to work out
what the Schutzenfest
was all about.
While in Winterberg, we met up with Rex Demster who now lives in
who served in the camp from 1960 until 1962. He is now a time keeper
at the Bob
Run and he showed us over the run including all the technical aspects.
the run are often televised on the satellite station Eurosport and
I will watch some of
these transmissions next winter with extra interest especially as
they use some of the
cameras permanently fixed along the track.
On our last evening we enjoyed a meal together in the Hessenhof and
took leave of
John and Mia Welsh after presenting them with two bushes for their
house as a
momento of the visit. The following day we made the long drive back
and went our one ways back home.
A group of us in the South will be meeting up in a month or so time
to go through
photographs we have taken and I hope that we will have a reunion
can attend somewhere in the UK in the year 2000.
For myself, I have to say that the trip was well worth the effort
and special thanks
must go to John Welsh and his wife Mia, Jim Hooper and Rex Demster
made the whole trip work so well.
Those making the trip were
Ted and Kate Gittins
Terry and Joan Henson
Jim and Barbara Hooper
Peter and Elaine Hoyes
John and Sheila Loder
Keith Mason and Faruk Valera
Johnny and Sandra Walker
John and Mia Welsh
Edward and Angela Wilks
Plus our driver ‘Ton’