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 Border War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Saturday 7 January 2012

ORBAT - 1980s British BG, Part 1 Armoured Divisions and Brigades

Armoured Brigades in the British Army consisted of a collection of infantry battalions and armoured regiments supported by an artillery regiment. The artillery regiment in the 1980's could be equipped with either Abbot, M109 or FH70 guns, engineer and logistic elements would be detached from the divisional engineer regiment and logistic units. All Germany based Brigades from 1981 were termed Armoured Brigades regardless of their composition.

From 1983 - 1993 The Divisional Composition was as follows:

1st Armoured Division, 7th Armoured Brigade (2 armoured regiments, 1 infantry battalion) , 12th Armoured Brigade (1  armoured regiment, 2 infantry battalions), 22nd Armoured Brigade (2 armoured regiments, 1 Infantry battalion). 2 M109 Regt,1 Abbot Regiment, 1 AAC Regiment, 1 AD Battery (Blowpipe), 1 Engineer Regiment

3rd Armoured Division, 4th Armoured Brigade (2 armoured regiments, 1 infantry battalion), 6th Armoured Brigade (1 armoured regiment, 2 infantry battalions) 33rd Armoured Brigade (1armoured regiment, 2 Infantry battalions). 1 M109 Regt,1 Abbot Regiment, 1 FH 70 Regt, 1 AAC Regiment, 1 AD Battery (Blowpipe), 1 Engineer Regiment.

Note: 33 Armoured Brigade swaped with 19th Infantry Brigade in 1986 and transfered to 4th Armoured Division March 1986, from 1983 - 1988 6th Armoured Brigade was configured as an Airmobile Brigade

4th Armoured Division, 11th Armoured Brigade (1 armoured regiment, 2 infantry battalions), 20th Armoured Brigade (2 armoured regiments, 1 infantry battalion), 19th infantry Brigade (3 infantry battalions), 2 M109 Regt,1 Abbot Regiment, 1 AAC Regiment, 1 AD Battery (Blowpipe), 1 Engineer Regiment.

2nd Infantry Division would deploy from UK with 24 Air Mobile Brigade (from 1988, 3 airmobile infantry battalions 1 aviation regiment), 15 Infantry Brigade (1 recce regiment (V), 5 light infantry battalions, 1 artillery regiment), 49 Infantry Brigade (1 recce regiment (V), 5 light infantry battalions, 1 artillery regiment)

So its not surprising everyone gets a bit confused about what is what in the British Army, I suppose it kept the opposition guessing as well.  In a sane world it would be described thus:
  • 1st  Armoured Division had 2 armoured and 1 mechanised Brigade.  
  • 3rd Mechanised Division had 1 armoured and 2 mechanised Brigades 
  • 4th Mechanised Division had 1 armoured 1 mechanised and 1 Infantry Brigade brigade. 
  • 2nd Infantry Division was named correctly, as it contained 1 Air Mobile and two Infantry Brigades.
Armoured Brigades (7th, 4th 22nd and 20th) contain two armoured regiments and 1 mechanised or armoured Infantry battalion. 
Mechanised Brigades (6th, 11th, 12th and 33rd) contain 1 Armoured Regiment and 2 Mechanised or armoured Infantry Battalions.
Infantry Brigades (19th, 15th and 49th) contained either light roll battalions in trucks or mechanised wheeled units in Saxon.
Air Mobile Brigades (24th) contained 3 Air Mobile Infantry battalions and an Aviation Regiment.  It's Airmobile designation occurred in 1988.

Throughout this period two types of armoured regiment and infantry battalions existed.

  • Type 57 Regiments had 4 squadrons and a Recce Troop of 8 Scorpion moving to Scimitar in the early 1990s. 
  • Type 43 Regiments had 3 Squadrons and a Recce Troop of 8 Scorpion moving to Scimitar in the early 1990s. 
As we move beyond 1991 these became Type 58 and 44 as an additional command tank was added to BHQ and with the introduction of Challenger 2 the intent was to move to Type 38 but this died in SDR and sits outside the period of interest.

The two flavours of Infantry Battalion are as follows:
  • Type A committed to BAOR had 3 Rifle Companies and a Support Company, comprising a mortar platoon 8 tubes, milan platoon (24 posts including 4 MCT), and a recce platoon of 8 Scimitar (Fox in Saxon mounted units).
  • Type B committed to home defence had significantly reduced support weapons holdings, milan platoon 6 posts, recce platoon 6 land rovers, mortar platoon 8 tubes.
Note: Air Mobile, Airborne and Commando units had different compositions

I have yet to establish if there was a relationship between the type of brigade and the type of Armoured Regiment, which would make sense. One source indicates that the type 43 regiments were those created as Challenger 1 was issued which seems very plausible.

Scratch Built Milan with Heavily converted crew from SHQ, Britannia and Liberation Miniatures



  1. thank you for finally making sense of the BAOR structure for me after 25 years in wargaming


  2. You have a great site here Andy. If you check harveyblackauthor.org you may find some interesting photos which you are welcomed to use. HB

  3. You have forgot divisional recce regiments

    1. I have never really seen them form battle groups with other units, if you have any information on this it would be useful, equally I have no information on how they task organised within the unit for missions and am currently looking for sources on that. If you know of any please let me know either in a comment or to my email address,

  4. I remember reading a history of one of the cavalry regiments that said it was the first in Germany to form a recce battle group and exercised in Canada, I can't remember weather this was post or pre Options for Change though. Many years later in 2000 the HCR formed a recce battle group with A Coy 1 QLR and the Sp Pls that was called the Lead Reconnaissance Task Force on Exercise Iron Hawk at BATUS.

    1. Chris thanks for that, I had forgotten that one which is kind of strange as I was the Company Commander of A Company 1 QLR from 1996 to 1999 :), missed out on that trip

    2. If I remember correctly, 16 Air Assault Brigade had been formed less than 12 months before this exercise took place and various Battle Groups were still being trialed. I was part of B Coy sigs det at the time and because they were to be part of the opfor I wasn't needed and instead went out as a driver for an LO with BGHQ, the LO was the 2IC of Sp Coy and in the back of the Landrover (who had a very bumpy ride) was a WO2 who went on to be RSM of 1 QLR. I spent a lot of time at the various HQs that were part of the Ex and learnt a lot about the make up of the forces deployed.

      For the first (live firing) phase HQ 16 Bde deployed with two battle groups under command. The first was the Lead Reconnaissance Task Force made up of RHQ and 2x Sqns from HCR equipped with CVR(T) and A Coy 1 QLR in the light role with Mortar, SF and ATK Pls. The second battle group was the Lead Aviation Task Force which was made up of RHQ and 2x Sqns from an AAC Regt equipped with Lynx and 1x Rifle Coy from 1 R IRISH in the light role again with Mortar, SF and ATK Pls. There were also some Paras cutting about in stripped down Landrovers which I think were from the Pathfinder Platoon. Bn HQ 1 QLR deployed aswell just to provide some extra radio chatter on the Bde net.

      The deployment for the second (TES) phase was originally going to be the same but was changed very late on. The two Rifle Coys were grouped together under 1 QLR and three small battle groups deployed. Combat support consisted of at least 1x Bty of AS90, 1x AD Bty with Starstreak and 1x Armd Engr Sqn.

      All of this is what I remember from an exercise nearly 15 years ago and I'm well aware who you are Andy ;)

  5. i served in 6 airmobile brigade in germany made up many of 1 gorden highlanders and 2bn light infantry occupying a rapid anti armour role 3 rifle coys in each bn made up of 2 rifle pltns and a milan pltn plus assault pioneers section also sp cpoy made up of recce, milan, mortar and sf pltn

    1. Updated the notes to reflect your comment thanks, I have a bunch of material prepped on the Airmobile Brigades which I might get round to doing at some stage, probably when I complete the mech wheeled stuff.

    2. 6 airmobile Brigades gunner support was supplied by op and Bc party's from 19 fld RA the highland gunners . We had no guns in direct support but could call on any guns in range. We also could call in FGA as we were Laser tgt marker trained .

  6. Redvers, thanks for the comment and a point worth noting the Airmobile Brigade, longest ever experiment which ran I believe from 1983 to 1988 and resulted in the establishment of 24 Airmobile Brigade as a permenant formation before it amalgamated with the Paras to become 16 Air Assault Brigade post Cold War, 1999/2000 rings a bell for that one. The start of a fairly long running airmobile capability.

  7. I was with 4th Armoured Brigade from 1984 onwards. You are spot on we moved to Challenger in 1985.
    However, if my memory serves me right, our Reece Troop had a mixture of Scorpion and Scimitar in the mid 80s. We always had 4 squadrons throughout the many years we were based in Munster.