Police raid


Early morning police raid

Oct 1977

A suprise.

We had successfully entered Germany after lunch on the 24th October 1977. As far as I recall they did not require us to dip our fuel tanks.  Quickly onto the autobahn network and we were making good progress towards Cologne. We turned off the A44 onto the A61 in a southbound direction. We were well and truly on our way. The first day in Europe was coming to an end and we took the opportunity to park up for the night at a service area. Raststätte Bedburger Land West or Service Area Bedburger Land West, on the A61 not far from the town of Bedburg. We had noticed that there were rest areas, which had little or no amenities as well as the full service areas. A good idea to have frequent stopping points, to my mind. This one was the full variety so we had somewhere to wash and go the loo, and somewhere to eat if we wanted to. I suspect we made our own meal. Time for bed.

 Up early in the morning so that we could be on our way. Just making breakfast when I noticed police cars coming into the service area from the entrance and exit. Something is amiss I thought. Little did I know that it was us. They stopped a little distance from us, on both sides. We were kind of surrounded. The police quickly exited their cars and approached us with their machine guns at the ready. This was serious. Not a no overnight parking allowed. Some of the police boarded the coach, others waited outside, clearly anticipating that something might go awry. The police that boarded were not heavy handed or impolite despite whatever it was they thought we were. Papers checked and and explanation of who we were and what we were doing and all was well. Also, we all had English accents. Tea and coffee offered. A short chat, and they were on their way, happy that we were not part of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, a terrorist organisation of the time.

Excitement over for the day. We settled down again, but with something special to talk about, finished our breakfast, and set off towards Nuremberg. 

Info on German Autobahns

Whilst I acknowledge that I can't always remember everything, and some areas may become muddled, I do try to check on factual elements and verify as much as I can. We know from Chris's records that we entered Germany on the 24th October 1977 after lunch in Liege. We stopped for the night on the autobahn, at a restaurant, between Aachen and Cologne. The following day we stopped again on the autobahn, between Wartzburg and Nuremberg. So, using these fixed points and feeding them into Bing and Google Maps there are a number of routes shown as options but none going Northwest on the A44 towards Cologne instead of the more direct route of the A4. Perhaps the A4 was no built or completed 40 years ago.

Time to research the development of the autobahn network. As with all digging for obscure information on the internet, it takes a while, but eventually I found a really useful site. Autobahn Online. A treasure trove of information. It does state that not all the information is complete. So perhaps work in progress or source information is not available. Looking at the information, how can I usefully turn this into the answer as to why we went an apparently strange route. I do have fragments of an old paper map, but not for the area concerned. I could go to a series of second hand bookshops to seek out an atlas of the time, or I could use the information to create a timeline map of the development of the German Autobahn.

A map of the development of the German Autobahn, 1935 to 1939 and 1960's to 1990's


If you expand the map to full page, you will be able to see the years or decades as layers. Switching the layers on and of shows the progression of the development of the German Autobahn network.

Well, that was going to be something of a task, an interesting one though.

I also created a spreadsheet database of the information. 

It is amazing that Germany, presumably in preparation for the WWII, created 3035 km of Autobahn, that is by year of completion and opening to traffic, between 1935 and 1939. Peaking at opening 934km in 1938. Hitler came to power in 1933, and the first of the autobahns started to open in 1935. In terms of planning and construction time, that is a phenomenal feat. Construction time alone in the UK is two to three years normally, with planning perhaps taking ten years before that.

The building programme then appears to have taken a break until 1963 with 159km of autobahn opened to the public.

I was going to quickly run out of available layers in Google Maps if I continued to use one layer for each year, so had to change to one decade per layer.

1975 was ranked fourth in terms of openings with 530 km, the highest post war figure. (within the dataset)

Back to the map. It appears that whilst some of the A4, a 15 km stretch between Eschweiler and Düren, was completed in 1939, the remainder of the route between Aachen and Cologne was not completed until after 1980. However, the information is incomplete. Hence test the suspected route. That also appears to be inconplete.

The investigation was therefore inconclusive.

Looking back to before the road numbering system changed in 1974, the same website indicates a route A203 from Venlo to Erftstadt, which is now the A61. The probability is that the route did exist in 1977 and that the rest area near Bedburg, called Bedburger Land was in opperation. The conclution is that we stayed at Raststätte Bedburger Land West, or Service Area Bedburger Land West.



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