Prince William, yesterday, represented Her Majesty’s Government in Dusseldorf at a number of events honouring the role of British Forces in Germany and also the seventieth anniversary of the formation of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on the 23rd August, 1946. The region was formed by the British Military Government after World War II by amalgamating Westphalia with the North Rhine area of Rhineland.
There was a large contingent of British troops present then, and British Forces Germany has continued through the years with both countries commitment to NATO. As part of the day’s events, Prince William witnessed Hannelore Kraft, President Minister of NRW presenting the Fahnenband, the Federal States highest military honour to the 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade. This was the second time the award has been presented to a British Unit, and was given for their service and contribution to the defence of Germany during the Cold War, for good causes, being good neighbours and encouraging cultural links within the NRW.
After the presentation, the Prince met members of British Forces Germany and their families in the NRW Forum. Those present at both events were treated to musical entertainment from the Band of the Grenadier Guards, under their Musical Director, Major Stredwick.
Tuesday evening, Prince William attended a Gala evening to celebrate the seventieth anniversary in the Tonhalle. Also present was Hannelore Kraft and Chancellor Angela Merkel, together with other local and regional dignitaries. The Prince addressed the Gala evening and made reference to historical ties between the areas: –
70 years ago the British Military Administration created North Rhine-Westphalia through a merger of various territories, in a mission it called “Operation Marriage”. It was not the first ‘marriage’ brokered between England and North Rhein Westphalia to make history. Five hundred years ago here, in Düsseldorf, Anne of Cleves was born. Her portrait appealed to the English King, Henry VIII and so, in 1540, she moved to England and became his Queen. As many of you will know, the marriage ended just six months later and Anne lived out the rest of her life in England as the King’s ‘beloved sister’.
The Gala evening continued with musical performances and short films celebrating the history of the NRW state.
There have long been ties between present day Germany and Great Britain, from the Angles and Saxons who came to our shores about one thousand years ago, through to the Hanseatic League in the twelfth century which formed maritime and trade links. These trade links continue to this day; Britain is the second largest importer into Germany with the trade worth 22.7 billion euros in 2015. Some 1.400 British companies in Germany including Vodaphone, BP and Dyson, in addition ao the online retailer of household appliances has just received the NRW.INVEST AWARD 2016.
It is not one-way traffic, in 2014 Germany was the second most important European source of Foreign Direct Investment into the UK. The total German FDI is worth 50.9 billion euros with companies such as BASF, Lidl, Bosch and Siemens amongst the companies. The Prince also made reference to Brexit within his speech indicating that although Britain was leaving the European Community, he did not see this would impact on the close links between the two countries.
In short, what began 70 years ago as a relationship of necessity between an occupying power and a region in ruin, is today a partnership of genuine friendship and of massive mutual benefit. This partnership will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union. The depth of our friendship with Germany and with North Rhine-Westphalia will not change. Bilaterally and internationally we will continue together to lead efforts to promote prosperity, security and stability in the world.