BRIXMIS carried out its intelligence gathering activities by mounting 'Car Tours' throughout the Soviet Zone. Each Tour normally consisted of an officer, an NCO and a driver. Tours could be for five days duration but were normally for two or three and the Mission normally mounted about six tours a week. To fulfil its role of detecting any impending hostile move on the part of the Soviets against NATO and give early warning there was a BRIXMIS Tour somewhere in East Germany, monitoring the Soviet and East German Forces, 24 hours a day virtually every day of the year from 1946 until the Mission was disbanded on the reunification of Germany in 1990.
The Cars were fitted with long range fuel tanks, armoured belly plates and winches as tours frequently moved across country to avoid detection in getting to positions where they could observe military activity. Tours were equipped with cameras, video cameras and tape recorders. Night Vision goggles were used to enable them to move across country at night without lights. Tour crews always camped in the woods to avoid detection and were well equipped with arctic sleeping bags and cooking equipment.
The Tour Crews wore uniform at all times in East Germany and their Cars were distinctively marked with Russian number plates. Sightings of the tour were always reported to the Soviet and East German Intelligence Services by the military, the police, Communist Party members, garage attendants, railway crossing keepers and the German populace so that attempts could be made to harass or detain the Tours in order to stop them gathering intelligence.
Over the 44 years that BRIXMIS existed, members of the Mission reported a large number of 'first sightings' of new Soviet equipment. These included aircraft, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery, missiles, radars, anti-aircraft systems, jamming equipment, command and control systems. They also recovered many documents, shells and other pieces of equipment which proved invaluable to Allied intelligence analysts in making their assessments.
As a measure of its effectiveness, in its closing years the Mission produced annually some 200 special reports on Soviet ground equipment and 50 on air equipment, each of these representing an intelligence coup. In 1984 the number of photographic prints taken by Tours was over 300,000.
Although we were still officially Allies in 1946, from the very start the Soviets made life difficult for BRIXMIS. As the fear of an attack on NATO by the Soviets grew the priority for BRIXMIS' role changed from liaison to Intelligence Collection. The Soviets then stepped up their restrictions on the Mission as it went about its legal duties by imposing Restricted Areas into which Mission members were not allowed to travel and by subjecting them to all manner of harassment by means of covert and overt surveillance, highly aggressive detentions, ramming their Tour Cars and occasional shooting incidents.