Welcome to Cold War Gamer, a blog I am using to record my Cold War wargaming projects. These range from fictitious Cold War hot projects to historical conflicts that took place around the globe throughout the Cold War era, all modelled and gamed in 20mm. The blog includes links to various resources useful to the Cold War Gamer.

My current projects include: Central Front; British & Soviet. South African Bush War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Friday, 16 May 2014

Wargames Unit - British 1980's Tracked Rapier Battery

The concept for this years game pitched the British in defence and knowing the amount of Soviet air power that could be deployed against them I knew they needed to up their air defence game. The Rappier battery should be an HQ and 3 Troops but that seemed a little excessive given that I would only deploy two battle groups.

Rapier was an area air defence weapon and was deployed as part of the overall air defence plan rather than being attached to particular units. having said that units would end up under their umbrella so it seemed sensible to have some level of representation. The tracked Rapier battery is implemented at a vehicle scale of 1:3 which creates problems when representing troops that contained 4 launchers, I have gone for the following organisation:
  • Battery HQ of 1 Saxon
  • 2 Troops each of 1 Tracked Rapier and 1 M548

The M548s towed or carried the blind fire Radars along with immediate missile reloads for the launch vehicles. Given the cramped conditions on the launch vehicles I suspect the M548s carried a lot of other stuff.

The launch vehicles are from Cromwells range and the M548s are from S&S. All the stowage is locally produced using green stuff and bandage with white glue. Painting is in line with the model review posts on the vehicle and the crew commander is a Britania FV 432 commander.


Altogether I think the unit makes a nice little addition to my Brit forces and hope to get them into action latter in the year together with the Javalin detachments I am also engaged in building at the moment.

Related Posts of Interest:

Review - Model 1/76, Cromwell Tracked Rapier
Review - Model 1/72, S&S M548
ORBAT - 1980s British Air Defence

Friday, 2 May 2014

Modelling - Cold War Soviet vehicle markings and Decals

Sourcing decals for your army is one of the inevitable activities when you start collecting vehicles for a wargames forces. It's generally driven by the need for a variety of unique numbers on vehicles within a unit and a consistency of formation identification markings for the force both of which can be difficult to achieve using the decal sheets supplied with kits. Equally you will probably find yourself purchasing a number of resin and white metal models to fill the gaps in the orbat not covered by kit manufactures and these models tend to be supplied without decals.

Markings on Soviet vehicles tend to be limited and there is a dearth of documentation and imagery on the subject. Equally the policy for their use seems to have been inconsistently applied, not surprising given the size of the organisation.  I have yet to find a reference book, the best resource I have found to date is this Russian language site that formed the basis for this work.  It quotes the source as - Soviet Army Land Forces regulations (part 2 - battalion, company). A rough translation of this has also been posted on the Guild Wargames Forum and I have largely paraphrased the translation so that it is easier to digest, essentially the main elements of the Soviet marking system are:

Vehicle number, 3 or 4 figure number generally in white on turret or hull side and rear, the precise schema was largely determined by the regimental commander and could be meaningful or meaningless.  It is described in the regulations broadly as follows:

According to the reference, the vehicle number consists of three numerals, although I must admit I have seen a fair few pictures and decal sets with 4. The formation commander allocates sub units under his command a set of numbers (e.g. 200-299, or 800-999) for a period of time. 

The repetition of the same numbers on different types of vehicles was allowed. For example, the tank of the battalion commander and the his staff car can have the same number. The numbers issued to tanks in the tank companies of the Motor Rifle Regiment could also be the same as the numbers of the BMP's or BTR's in the Motor Rifle companies.

Numbers were generally painted on vehicles, space permitting, as follows:
  • On tanks - Turret sides and rear BMP's - Centrally on sides of hull and onthe upper part of the right rear door 
  • Self-Propelled Artillery mountings (I assume like 2S5, 2S7) - in the middle of both sides and rear of the crew compartment armor plates 
  • On self-propelled artillery cannons - on both sides of the turret and on the rear hatch 
  • BTR-60PB / BTR-70 on both sides of the hull towards the front lower than the level of the sights and boarding hand rails; in the areas free of the equipment-mounting clamps 
  • On other vehicles - in the centrally or towards the front of the hull sides

The Formation Symbol (see below) tended to be placed forward of the number.  Numbers were generally 20-40 cm high width being 1/6 (2/3 is stated but makes no sense, later in the translation 1/6 pops up out of context this would make more sense) of their height. The Formation Symbol would be equal to or smaller than the numbers the minimum size was stated as being 2/3 the size of the number. On Summer camouflage schemes these markings are white and for winter or Desert schemes black.  I have seen White on winter camouflaged vehicles :)

Various methods were used to assign numbers to vehicles a selection are outlined below:

  • 1-st numeral - the number of the battalion, 2-nd numeral - the number of the company, 3-rd numeral - the number of the vehicle in the company; Example: 239 - the 9-th vehicle of the 3-rd company of the 2-nd battalion. 
  • 1-st numeral - the number of the company in the regiment, 2-nd and 3-rd numerals - the number of the vehicle in the battalion; Example: 623 - the 6-th company (hence the 2-nd battalion), 23-rd vehicle in the battalion 
  • 1-st numeral - the number of the battalion, 2-nd and 3-rd numerals - the number of the vehicle in the regiment; Example 382 - the 3-rd batallion, 82-nd vehicle in the regiment 
  • There were several other methods including factory construction number,everything was dependent on the whim of the regiment's deputy commander for the armament management. 
The identifying markings were supposed to be applied for the duration of the exercise/operation after which they were supposed to be removed. In reality, this rule was not followed consistently, and these markings would usually remain on the vehicles for several years.

With the expansion of the helicopter force from 1970 the Identifying markings were applied on the turret tops of command vehicles in order to be clearly seen from above and behind. This was more common in central europe than elsewhere.

Honorifics or Arm of service symbols, typically seen on Guards, VDV and Naval Infantry units these markings tend to be more parade orientated than warfare but crews had a habit of leaving them on after the parade was long over.  Variously they appear on Hull, Turret sides and search light covers depending on vehicle type. 

Formation identification markings were applied at Regimental level, were set by the superior commander and changed periodically.  They were located on turret sides and hull sides usually in front of the number, I have also seen imagery where they are marked on top the intent was that all vehicles in the unit should be marked, in actual fact a degree of variation occurred dependent on vehicle type and unit. They consisted of geometric shapes  usually a circle, square or rectangle. Inside the shape additional lines, numbers, letters, dots were added and the marking could be partially over painted to increase the variety of symbols available. 

Air Identification Markings.  Which took the form of broad white lines on the vehicles upper surfaces. These could be longitudinal or Transverse or form a Cross.

Operational experience in Afganistan lead some units to remove all markings, though from images of both that theatre and the European theatre this practice was not consistently applied across all units.

A Growing Range of decal manufacturers have useful products that cover off elements or all of these components at sizes that work on 20mm 1/72 scale vehicles. One of the key points being that decals designed for scales from 15mm - 20mm are useful so 1/144 through to 1/72 primarily because the marking size relates to the vehicle size rather than the scale.

Decal Availability. The Products I have discovered to date are as follows:
  • TL Modelblau - 1/87, TL Modelblau has an extensive range of decals, of which two sets cover the Soviet Cold War Period the first focuses on Airborn and Naval Infantry markers, the other on GSFG.  TL Modelblaus products are quite expensive, and of the two I think the Airborne Naval infantry set is the more useful.  The bulk of the decals on the GSFG set having fairly limited use.

  • Mig Productions - 1/72 Mig productions have recently released two post war Soviet and Russian decal sets for this scale. I have yet to purchase a set so my observations are based on the images displayed rather than actual use of the product.  Effectivly the first of these will suite vehicles requiring smaller markings the second vehicles requiring larger markings.  Plenty of numbers and a reasonable range of formation markings.  The First of the sheets looks the better value.

  • Scotia - 6mm, The Scotia sheet number is RU 106, looking at their web site these would appear to be currently unavailable. Deacals are designed to be large WW2 Rusian vehicle numbers in white for 1/285 but they work equally well as smaller modern numbers on post war Soviet vehicles such as the sides of BMPs and on the T-72 stowage boxes.

  • QRF - 15mm, White Stenciled Numbers, This is an immensely useful set of decals, for Cold War Soviets, the numbers are single figures from 1-10 in a variety of sizes all of which are useable on 20mm vehicles. Except for the smallest of numbers this sheet has a set of numbers you could put on most vehicles. The flexibility afforded by the individual figure format is offset by the level of pain in putting them on. They are useful and relatively cheap and can be found on the QRF web site, occasionally this sheet goes OOP so worth having a few in stock.

  • Models Collect - 1/72  I have these but have yet to attempt to use them in anger.  You would need a good few sheets to consistently mark a regiment even at a 1:3 or 1:5 vehicle scale.  In addition things like the regimental markings and honorific look a little large for 1/72 against the imagery I have found to date although a variety of sizes for each decal on the sheet is provided and they seem consistent with the rules outlined above.  I have yet to make my mind up on the value of these, more of use to modellers  than war gamers I suspect, great range of formation symbols but limited numbers per sheet.  The Larger sheet has a good collection of numbers.

  • Pendinghause.  This decal set is primarily marketed at WW2 but like a number of WW2 sets for both 1/72, 1/87  and 1/100 has use out of period and across the scales although red stars and the more cyrillic scripts are less prevalent on modern equipments. 

If you know of any other references for Soviet markings or decal sets let me know and I'll update the post.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Review - Book, Janes Armour and Artillery systems 2002-2003

These books are exceptional and are also exceptionally expensive, the trick is to pick up an out of date second hand version which can be done for relatively sensible quantities of mony. I have two one from the 80s and one from 2002. The later ones tend to cover a lot of the earlier vehicles unless they are pretty much out of Service, each book covers:
  • Tanks
  • Reconaisance vehicles
  • IFVS of all flavours
  • artillery systems both self propelled and towed

Each platform is comprehensively covered usually with production history, vehicle description and all of the main in service varients described along with the users that bought the systems. A few pictures generally complete the description and selected vehicles get line drawings. The more widely used vehicles tend to be better described.  The post Cold War books have a lot more data on the Soviet systems so to some extent represent better value for money having said that they are generally more expensive.

Interestingly from the Soviet perspective platforms are covered by producing nation so all the different flavours of T-72s get covered amoungst others.  What they don't give you is a detailed history of the evolution of the vehicle and it's detailed deployment and use that you might get in an Osprey, but they do provide wall to wall coverage of the worlds armoured vehicles at a level of detail you can't really beat them.  The Russian Federation and Associated states in the 2002/3 book is covered in some 30 close typed pages covering Russian tanks from the T-54 to T-95 and Black Eagle.

Not being a rule writer I tend to get most benifit from the general descriptions, who operates the vehicles and the production history which can be invaluable when trying to unravel the mysteries of organisational change. They are not a cover to cover read and are very much a reference work I find them both fascinating for the breadth of vehicles covered and their utility when kicking off a new project, such as the work I have been doing on British Mechanised Units all the data I have derived on Saxon production came from here.

There are a few pitfalls to watch out for when your buying them:
  • Shop around, even on amazon check through the listings you'll find the same book under a number of similar descriptions and prices can vary
  • Don't end up with the armour and artillery upgrades which is also a Janes Year Book, easily done :)
  • The late 1990s early 2000 books have significantly better data than the 1980s books.
  • Buying consecutive volumes is probably a complete waste of money.
  • If your interested in the Cold War you have a lot of flexibility in which book to buy in terms of dates.
  • Second Hand and out of date is the only affordable option! :)
The books are a bargin if you're after general descriptive data on platforms and can source a 2000+ one for less than £50, at £100 you may want to look around a bit more or stick with Wikipedia.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Review - Web Resources, British Army Units Since 1945

This is a MOD operated web site and does what it says on the tin pretty much. It lists every unit that has been part of the British Army since 1945. These are accessed through selecting the Arm of Service, you can then select from a list of unit titles and access data on the units operational, organisational and geographic deployment history. So simply put between dates Unit X was part of Y Brigade and based in VWX it deployed between dates to A,B, C operations.

The format can make generating brigade orbats a bit laborious although Brigade Name and Unit Title will return hits from google. It also helps if you understand what units were active in your period of interest, so you are not having to look at them all, as given the number of amalgamations and title changes since the end of the War there are a lot of units listed. It took me about an hour to check the Cold War Infantry Battalions to generate a list of the units in 19 Brigade, from an Infantry perspective.

The data for RA units and RE units is less well defined against formations but home stations and operational deployments are quite well covered. To some extent the problem is more difficult here as single batteries , squadrons and regiments might have a variety of relationships with different formations having: 
  • administrative relationships 
  • current operational relationships
  • wartime roles.

As well as generating lists of what units were in what formations at what times it's also handy for checking data and in that respect it's easier to consume so if you believe that x unit was in y formation at date its relatively easy to check if the data is there. I have assumed that as it's published by the MOD it has a degree of accuracy that other resources may lack, the assumption being it's generated from their own records. As I have found their can be a level of ambiguity between planned and actual deployments so as ever the source data is important in this respect.

Whilst not that user friendly due to the structure of the data and the fact that you can only view it from one perspective it is never the less an extremely valuable web resource for any one interested in the post war history of the British Army and provides a time efficient route to validating and generating data compared to what was available previously. Equally once you know what units were where or serving in what formation it becomes a lot easier to track down what the unit and formations were up to through a variety of regimentaly focused resources:
  • Regimental Museums
  • Regimental Magazines
  • Regimental History Web sites
  • Regimental association web sites
  • Regimental facebook pages
all of which contain a remarkable amount of information although sometimes a degree of persistence is required to get to the bottom of a problem.


British Army Units Since 1945
The Coaster Company - Great for Cap Badge Immmages for the British Army
Staffords Regimental History
Staffords Regimental Museum
4/7 RTR Regimental History