The Importance of the Mission
The 20 Soviet Divisions and their Air Army in East Germany were all what were known as 'First Line Divisions'; they were fully manned, equipped with the very latest missile systems, tanks, artillery, aircraft and command, control and communications systems.
They constantly carried out large scale manoeuvres to practise for their war role of an attack on the West. The British, American and French Missions were therefore in a unique position to observe the tactics, organisation and equipment of these Divisions and provide professional intelligence assessments on their effectiveness as well as give early warning on any hostile intent to mount an attack on the West.
The Intelligence Staffs of HQ BAOR, the MOD and our Allies relied heavily on the intelligence from these Missions. In particular, the Mission was able to provide often unique close-up photography of the latest Soviet equipment from which Allied intelligence analysts could assess, for instance, the size of gun needed on the next British tank to defeat the Soviet tank or make a detailed assessment of the latest Soviet aircraft and therefore the threat it presented to Allied Forces.
The Role of the Mission
The Mission was established for liaison duties with the Soviets but as the Cold War hardened in the 1950s and 60s the priority of its role changed to Intelligence Collection. It was then simply to collect intelligence on the organisation, tactics and equipment of the 20 Soviet Army first line Divisions and 6 East German Divisions and their Air Forces; to detect and give early warning of any hostile intent by the Soviets for an attack on the West or any move against the Allied access routes to West Berlin. BRIXMIS and the US and French Missions worked closely together to avoid duplication.
The Organisation of the Mission
BRIXMIS was headed by an Army Brigadier with an RAF Group Captain as his Deputy and the remainder of the staff were drawn from both Services. Except in the early days there was no Naval representation as the Soviets placed the whole East German coastline in a Permanently Restricted Area. The original Agreement provided for 11 officers and 20 NCOs to have Soviet Passes granting them freedom of travel throughout the Soviet Zone and this did not change during the years the Mission was in existence. However a much larger back-up staff was located in a secure Headquarters in the British Sector of West Berlin. This housed the Mission's Operations Rooms, photo processing laboratory, target records and computer database on the Soviet Forces.
Over 70 members of the Intelligence Corps served in the Mission during its existence, some for more than one posting.