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German Medal for British naval officer’s dedication to our two navies

11 July 2023
Only around 53,000 people hold the medal Royal Navy officer Lieutenant Edmund Read proudly wears on his uniform… and most of those are German.

He enjoys the relatively rare distinction for a non-German of wearing the Ehrenkreuz – Cross of Honour – in bronze, presented by Berlin to military personnel who have served the Bundeswehr with distinction.

In Edmund’s case, he was singled out for a four-year spell at the spiritual home of the German Navy’s Officer School – counterpart of the Royal Navy’s Britannia Royal Naval College – encouraging future leaders of the Deutsche Marine, but also fostering Anglo-German relations.

He served as the RN exchange officer at the Marineschule Mürwik – an imposing red brick building which sits on a hill overlooking a bay and trains hundreds of young men and women annually in the art of naval leadership.

Located in Mürwik on the outskirts of Flensburg right on the German-Danish border, the academy mirrors the Royal Navy’s Dartmouth college – both were built around the same time, in a similar style (inside and out), with the goal of training officers for one of the world’s premier navies.

It falls upon the British exchange officer to coach and mentor a division of new-entry officer cadets through their challenging year long course from civilian to junior officer.

It’s a course which is physically and academically rigorous where days are long but the weeks fly by.

Throughout – apart from the obligatory English lessons (it’s the standard NATO language) – Edmund has to deliver his lessons and lectures, not just to his division, but numerous other cadets, spanning issues as varied as leadership, navigation and warfare in his host’s native tongue.

And he’s also expected to teach one lesson for each of the 14 new-entry divisions - as well as officers promoted from the ranks – passing through the school each year, normally focussed on the similarities (of which there are many) and differences (of which there are few) between the two navies.

The role also calls upon whoever holds the post to represent their navy/nation at public events and ceremonies – given significant freedom to do so by the naval attaché in Berlin (currently Colonel Jonathan Sear). 

Having parents of your cadets thank you for your training and support after they pass out at the end of a year, having both watched their children’s development closely, was truly an honour

Lt Edmund Read

“In terms of job fulfilment, I’m not sure the navy has anything better to offer,” Edmund says. “As a representative of the Royal Navy and the UK, you are a liaison between the two navies in which ties are extremely deep, and are called upon to represent the RN across northern Germany.”

His stint at Mürwik has been extended twice – not least thanks to Covid, which posed as many difficulties to training German sailors as did Brits (“ripping up the rule book of training”). In addition, much of the exchange took place against the turbulent backdrop of Brexit proceedings.

Never one to allow such trifles to get in the way, Edmund has championed closer co-operation between Mürwik and Dartmouth. British cadets now regularly use the Germans’ superb navigation facilities before they go off to sea.

And in return, German cadets now train alongside their British comrades undergoing a leadership exercise on Dartmouth with the Royal Marines.

And Edmund’s exploited the presence of Royal Navy P2000 patrol boats when they venture into the Baltic, integrating them into a revamped leadership exercise for cadets, including land, sea and amphibious phases.

One area the Germans have found fascinating is mess culture – dinners are now much more common at Mürwik, while Trafalgar Night is a ‘sell out’ with senior officers jostling with cadets for seats at the mainstay of RN officer life. And in return German navy cadets took part in the Falklands 40th anniversary memorial dinner at Dartmouth.

This has been Edmund’s second spell at Mürwik. Back in 2010 he was on exchange at the school – extended by the dust cloud from the Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajökull – and met his future wife Dana, now a former German naval officer. The couple live in Cologne with their two young children.

They were invited to the German Embassy in London for the presentation of the medal – roughly equivalent to a CBE in the UK honours system – by Defence Attaché Brigadier General Michael Oberneyer.

“In many ways, I feel like I should be the one giving the Germans a medal of honour, and not receiving one instead,” Edmund said.

“The interaction with the future of the German Navy and their officer cadets was the most rewarding part of the entire four years.

“Having parents of your cadets thank you for your training and support after they pass out at the end of a year, having both watched their children’s development closely, was truly an honour.”

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