Search for German and British soldiers' stories for theatre research

Dr John Goodyear at The Globe, in Oldenburg

A University of Birmingham academic is searching for British and German soldiers stationed in Oldenburg after the Second World War to help unlock the mysteries of the last remaining Forces’ theatre in Germany.

Volunteers in Germany have raised 275,000 euros to buy The Globe – an abandoned military theatre and cinema. They plan to transform the building, built at the Donnerschwee barracks in 1954, into a regional cultural venue.

Now Dr John Goodyear is now searching for individuals who served in Oldenburg between 1945 and 1958, as he writes a cultural history of the historic building which will also help to form a blueprint for future use of the theatre.

As well as tracing ex-soldiers from the British Army, Dr Goodyear wants to talk to former members of the German Services Organisation – military personnel, who, after the war worked with British Forces to provide logistics support. He is also trying to track down Canadian and Danish troops stationed in Oldenburg between 1945 and 1948.

Dr Goodyear, a German Teaching Fellow, said: “There were once 66 such British military theatres in Germany alone and, as the last of its kind in the country, The Globe is a building of outstanding historical importance.

“However, it is the human dimension which will breathe new life into the theatre and help to create a vibrant cultural hub. By talking to service personnel – both German and British –who experienced The Globe in its heyday, we can reflect the building’s past in its future.”

Former military personnel who served in Oldenburg and would like to help Dr Goodyear with his research can contact him. Following completion of the research project, Dr Goodyear plans to publish a book, in German and English, on the history of The Globe.

GLOBE Theatre and Cinema Trust (Kulturgenossenschaft GLOBE) aims to preserve the building as a historical monument and create a cultural venue for cinema, theatre, festivals and more.

Artist and Senior Trust member Michael Olsen said: “Given today’s political situation in Europe and the wider world, remembrance of the Allied liberation armies’ contribution to free Germany of fascism must be maintained and deepened. We have to be immensely grateful to the British Army for their honourable service. The Allied victory forms the basis of peace and prosperity enjoyed by Germans today and, in Oldenburg, the British contribution stands out.

“As we see today’s rise of the far-right and their increasing electoral support, history has to be reflected upon, absorbed and even lived; if not, there is the danger of repeating mistakes of the past. And this danger is becoming real. Increasing numbers of young people are unaware of the reason why these liberating armies were stationed in Germany.

“That is why the GLOBE in Oldenburg is a kind of vehicle that will transport facts from the past into the future via the present. The Globe is most suitable for this purpose. And that is the historical obligation I see for the Globe to be renovated: in respect and remembrance of the service of the British army and the British nation."

Buying, refurbishing and restoring the building in line with historical building regulations will cost some 1.5 million euros. The Trust is seeking funding from grants, sponsors, donations and crowdfunding.

The British Army built and operated cinemas for its troops stationed in Germany, but nearly all of these facilities built between 1947 and 1957, are either derelict or have been demolished. 

The origins of these theatres lie in the First World War and the creation of the first Globe at Gobowen, Shropshire, in 1916. 

Spearheaded by Basil Dean CBE, a leading light in the British Government’s Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), the Shropshire theatre began the spread of similar facilities around the world. Globe theatres around the world hosted many of Britain’s best loved performers entertaining troops, including comedians Arthur Askey and Spike Milligan, singer Gracie Fields and actor Laurence Olivier.

The Globe in Oldenburg has an auditorium seating 400 people and facilities to operate as a theatre or cinema. The German Army took over the barracks in the late 1950s but abandoned the site in 1991, since when it remained deserted until redevelopment began in 2015. 

Following re-development of the Donnerschwee site to a residential quarter, there are now 850 apartments in the former barrack buildings, most of which have listed building status. 

ENDS

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