Whilst carrying out research for a scholarly article I recently wrote about TCK songwriters, I stumbled upon many musicians who grew up as military brats in Germany. A couple of weeks ago I submitted the article but since then my list of artists who, as the offspring of British Armed Forces personnel, were raised in Germany still seems to be growing. Some of the musicians, for example, are James Blunt, Pete Doherty and Colin Greenwood (Radiohead). Incidentally, Tanita Tikaram was born in Muenster, where I am currently living. When my family and I first moved to Muenster in 2003, the presence of the families of the British Armed Forces conferred this otherwise very provincial town, an aura of internationality.
Originally, the units of the British 21st Army Group arrived in Muenster in April 1945. Soon after this, when Germany was divided into zones of occupation, the British Army was assigned the north-western part of the country and more specifically the key cities of Cologne, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Hamburg, Bremen, Kiel, Hannover, the Ruhr valley and the North Sea coast. Furthermore, the 21st Army Group was renamed “British Army of the Rhine”. The group then consisted of 80,000 soldiers. In 1955 the allied military occupation of West Germany formally ended and at the end of the sixties, 55,000 British Army soldiers were stationed in Germany. With the official unification of former East and West Germany and the signing of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, the British Government announced a framework for “Options for Change”, involving substantial cuts in the British Army of the Rhine. It was also announced that the group of units would be renamed to British Forces Germany (BFG). Finally, in 2011 the MoD make public the pull-out of the 20,000 remaining troops in Germany, which is to be accomplished by 2020.
At the end of 2012, Muenster witnessed the closing of the BFG barracks and the withdrawal from the town of 600 troops and their families. Looking back, it appears that they not only handed down barracks, housing accommodation and bi-cultural liaisons to the town of Muenster, but thinking of TCK artists such as Tanita Tikaram, it seems that some of the individuals who were linked to the BFG left their artistry behind to a wider audience.
Shelley Jones cunningly looks into the connection between creativity and nomadic childhoods. She interviews TCKs who chose creative careers in adulthood. These TCKS confirm that they began engaging in creativity in order to express their displacement.
Lance Bangs, a TCK filmmaker (an American military brat), reveals that in childhood, amidst the frequent travelling, he felt like he was going to disappear so he turned to filming as a form of keeping an anchored journal. Donna Musil, also an American military brat filmmaker, reports to Shelley Jones that creativity gives military kids a voice: “Many of these kids don’t have a voice when they’re growing up,” she says. “It’s always what the military needs, what the foreign service needs, what the missionaries need. So I guess that makes a lot of artists, because you want to express yourself.”
Thus, as Donna Musil points out, whilst growing up, many TCKs did not have a voice because they had to follow the etiquette of their parents’ employers and represent their parents’ nations in an honorable way abroad. Creativity gave a voice to many military brats, such as Ian McEwan, Tanita Tikaram and the designer Nicholas Kirkwood, who all spent part of their childhood in Germany. Now, after 70 years, the British Army troops are preparing to leave Germany permanently. Not only are the troops involved in this withdrawal but their families too. The military cuts and withdrawals evidently mean that less British Army troops and their families will be sent abroad and fewer children will be raised as British military brats. So does this step also represent the end of a generation of British military brat artists and the fascinating artistic outcome of their transient childhoods? Luckily there are many other subcategories of TCKs. Brian Molko of the rock band Placebo, for example, is a business brat, whereas the designer Tom Dixon is an EdKid (see Zilber for this term). It is therefore reassuring that there are currently still many other groups of TCKs on the move and I am looking forward to their future expressions of creativity.
by Jessica Sanfilippo Schulz
Jones, Shelley. “Does a Nomadic Childhood Lead to a More Creative Life? Uprooted Kids.” Huck Magazine. 22 July 2015. http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/uprooted-kids/
Zilber, Ettie. Third Culture Kids: The Children of Educators in International Schools. Melton, Woodbridge: John Catt, 2009.