Past talks

Wednesday 19 January 2022: Germany, the Cold War and the Berlin Wall – Dr Simon Gregor

This talk was not recorded at the request of the speaker.

Most of us know about, and many of us lived through, the Cold War, and remember its highlights (or low points) and how they felt at the time.  But what was it like to live through this period in a divided country, like Germany; and a partitioned city, like Berlin?  Drawing on his experience as a Berlin tour guide, Simon will explore the background to the division of the country, and the increasing impact of the riven landscape once the Berlin wall went up.  Illustrated both with photographs, and with accounts from people who lived through this time, Simon will try to bring the Cold War in Germany to life.

Simon has worked for a number of years as a tour guide in the UK and in mainland Europe, including numerous tours to Berlin, where he is an accredited guide at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial.  He has a PhD in history from the University of Wolverhampton, and is an associate member of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides.  He is passionate about bringing history to life by relating it to the lives of ordinary people.

Wednesday 3 November 2021: Licence to Spy? BRIXMIS and the Search for the Robertson-Malinin Agreement – Major General Peter Williams

A recording of the talk is available here.

A little-known feature of the Cold War in Germany was the agreement between the occupying Four Powers to exchange bilateral military liaison missions. The Anglo-Soviet deal, known as the ‘Robertson-Malinin Agreement’, was finalised on 16 September 1946 and permitted the accreditation of 11 officers and 20 other ranks to the other party; the British Mission was always called ‘BRIXMIS’, and its Soviet counterpart was known as ‘SOXMIS’. In April 1947 the French and then the Americans signed similar, but not identical, bilateral agreements with the Soviet commander-in-chief in Germany: their missions were limited to only 18 and 14 members.

For reasons that remain unclear the location of the original, signed version of the ‘Robertson-Malinin Agreement’ has for many years been unknown. Ongoing searches in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, as well as in the Soviet archives in Moscow, have thus far failed to unearth an original, signed version. This talk will descibe what has come to light in The National Archives about the process that produced the Agreement. This research has, for instance, shown that the use of BRIXMIS as an intelligence collection asset was envisaged from the earliest stage of that process, whereas it had long been assumed that this non-traditional ‘liaison’ activity had emerged after the collapse of the era of Four Power collaboration. The talk will also look at how ‘liaison’ protocols and restrictions developed over the course of more than four decades.

Major General Peter Williams read history at Magdalene College, Cambridge before joining the Coldstream Guards and spending the next three decades or so serving in West Berlin, Northern Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, and the former Yugoslavia. In the early 1980s he studied Russian and went on to serve two 2-year tours in the British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (‘BRIXMIS’) as a liaison officer. His final posting was in Moscow, where he set up and led the NATO Military Liaison Mission to the Russian Federation from 2002 to 2005. He is Chairman of the BRIXMIS Association.