The Offshore Sailing Centre for the British Forces in Germany
The Early Days of the Club
Colonel W G Fryer (who later became a Maj Gen) was, in 1945, the Deputy Chief Engineer of 8 Corps. He later recalled how he had started the club. He said, “I found the Olympia Haven full of yachts and the Kieler Yacht Club locked up and empty. So I told the Chief Engineer and the Assistant Quarter Master General (AQMG) of 8 Corps that I was going to requisition some yachts from the harbour and form a yacht club. They both nodded, so I went ahead.”
The yachts were requisitioned, the clubhouse of the Kieler Yacht Club opened and, with six other interested officers, the first meeting was held. The British Kiel Yacht Club came into existence on 11th June 1945. Its burgee was designed by Col Fryer, but later in June he was posted to Washington and thus took no further part in the organisation of the Club.
The club house had been damaged during the bombing of Kiel. However, by the date of the first General Meeting, much work had been done by the Royal Engineers towards restoring the premises and making them habitable. The Club eventually opened socially after having been used as a saluting craft. During the final days of the conflict in 1945 Royal Artillery reconnaissance aircraft and Royal Engineers’ ground parties scoured the surrounds of Kiel looking for yachts. The Club flagship, ‘Jacunda’, was found by Lt Col McDonald and Bruno Splieth tucked away in a backwater of the Eider River where she had been hidden by her German owner. Her spars and sails were in a nearby barn.
The craft selected for retention in the Club ranged from ‘Stars’, ‘6 metres’, the ‘50’, ‘100’ and ‘150 square metres’ and a number of one-off cruising boats. Two lists of yachts are shown at Annex C – one having been compiled from the recollections of some of the earliest German employees of the Club, whilst the other is taken from a copy of the Club Bye-Laws of 1948.
During the winter all these craft were slipped and laid up under cover in the hangars of the former German Naval Air Station, Holtenau. During the war, Stickenhörn and the barracks at Holtenau had been part of a seaplane base. Although the hangars were damaged, their existence, and that of the jetty and slipway, made it an ideal site for the winter storage and maintenance of yachts -work which was done almost entirely by German staff. In the early days the slip could only take the smaller yachts – the bigger ones had to be lifted out by crane. There was only one cradle and no turntable, so it was a long job to get the whole fleet out of the water.
The importance of an annual regatta corresponding to the internationally known and attended ‘Kieler Woche’ of the pre-war days was recognised by the Sailing committee and the first post-war Kiel Week was organised and held from 31st August to 4th September 1945. A successful programme included both class and handicap racing. The Week concluded with an impressive firework display from three Landing Craft moored in the harbour facing the club. The performance was made doubly spectacular by the accidental ignition of the complete stock on one of the Landing Craft. However the BKYC’s racing programme had started earlier than August. The first edition of the Kiel Journal, published on 7th July 1945, recorded that in the Club’s first race, which took place in pouring rain and very little wind", six ‘Star’ class yachts crossed the Start Line. The race was won by Maj Harvey-Jamieson of 312 Detachment. He went on to win the next Club race, this time for ‘6 metre’ yachts, from Flensburg to Kiel – the Vice Commodore, Lt Col McDonald, coming second by only a boat’s length after 10 hours racing!
In 1946 the first Club ‘cruising race’ was held when a handicap race to Eckernförde was arranged. In 1946 was also memorable for its Kiel Week which was held over the August Bank Holiday. A team from the Royal Copenhagen Yacht Club, together with Dutch and Norwegian sailing guests took part. The monthly magazine of HMS Royal Harold, BUZZ, recorded class racing for ‘6 metre’, ‘Star’, ‘50 square metres’ and handicap racing for the large cruisers. By then Maj Harvey-Jamieson appears to have been posed away, but the Vice Commodore was still doing well, sailing ‘Jacunda’ in the large cruiser handicap class.
Kiel week in 1947 took place at the end of July and was notable for an almost complete absence of wind. During this season the Eckernförde cruising race was repeated and the Club was well represented in the Travemünde and Flensburg regattas. As an experiment, an End-of-Season regatta was introduced and it proved to be successful.
The Club was formally registered by the Sailing Committee in the Lloyd’s register of Yacht Clubs at the beginning of 1946. The General Committee and the members were conscious of the responsibility that they had assumed in taking over the assets of the Kieler Yacht Club which under that and its earlier title of “Kaiserliche Yacht Club”, had been the premiere yacht club in Germany. They faced a hard struggle to keep the requisitioned yachts in good condition and it was only through the efforts of individual members and the dedication of the German staff that this was achieved. The success of their efforts was recognised by the German owners of the requisitioned yachts who not unnaturally, took a keen interest in them and were content that their craft were being looked after very much better than they could in those austere post-war days. Some of the yachts came to the club with paid hands who remained with their respective yachts.
During 1945 two very successful Club cruised-in-company to Denmark were arranged by the Royal Navy in conjunction with the Royal Danish Navy. The ports visited were Faaborg, Svendborg and Marstal. Maj Harvey-Jamieson also conduced two cruises in danish waters with Army crews aboard “Egir”, “Victoria” and “Theodoric” in June and in “Jacunda” in August. In 1946 weekend cruises to Denmark became a regular feature and Club members began to realise the possibilities of spending long leave periods afloat, though this was not exploited until 1947 when three cruises were made to Sweden along with numerous trips to and around the Danish islands. Maj J R Blomfield, at that time on the CRE’s staff, made the first post-war cruise to Sweden at the end of June in the 100 square metre yacht “Königin”. He and his crew had hoped to reach Stockholm but were plagued by light winds and they had to turn back when they reached Oskarshamn on the mainland opposite the northern end of Oland. In 1948 the Blomfield’s took “Asgard” to Oslo and arrived there in time to help celebrate the Norwegian King’s Birthday, in company with HMS Devonshire.
From the beginning, the Royal Engineer Yacht Club (Germany) made its base at Kiel and shared all the facilities of the BKYC. At the end of the 1946 season the British Air Forces of Occupation also laid up their cruisers under the Club’s care.
Until the end of the 1950 season the BKYC was an officer’s club – following the traditions which had prevailed in the Services before the War. The Victory Sailing Club was formed in Kiel in July 1945 to provide sailing for all ranks although, as there was a separate officers-only club in the BKYC, other ranks had some degree of preferential treatment. However BUZZ, records that Lt Cdr Taylor sailed for the VSC in an inter-club “Star” class race in 1946. The VSC was based on a Wehrmacht swimming pier directly opposite the present Officer’s Mess, off the Hindenburgufer.
The BKYC began to come under increasing financial pressure as it had to operate as a conventional yacht club, dependant upon its members for its income. It had no formal governmental support. One can therefore imagine that the committee greeted with some relief the decision to move the Club to stickenhorn at the end of the 1951 season and to return the club house of the Kieler Yacht Club to its former owners. At the same time, all the privately owned yachts that had been requisitioned in the post-war period were returned to their owners, in very good condition and with a full inventory. The owners were each paid a charter fee for the period that their boats had been requisitioned.