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

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Modeling - British Army Field Defences, Trenches

The next couple of scenarios we will be playing look at a Soviet attack on 1 (Br) Corps. The first will be a Brigade covering force action, the second an attack on a British defensive position this will either be an attack from the line of march or will look at the deployment and use of a flanking detachment.

Either way in both scenarios the British units will probably need to be dug in. With the increase in available indirect fire assets for the Soviet units that occurred between the late 70's to late 80's their were a number of fairly fundamental shifts in the design of the humble trench, The principal changes were as follows:

  • Move from two man to four man trenches, placing an NCO in every trench.
  • Introduction of split hairpin system for reveting and shelter bay construction. Shown below.
  • Introduction of Chatem arch for overhead protection of firing bay for Milan. Seen in the  second picture in.
  • Greater emphasis on overhead protection on the firing bay for 4 man trenches.

Whilst my force is late 80s so should ideally use 4 man trenches I have chosen to stick with a two man representation as this is roughly a platoon for our rules of choice, Rapid Fire, which uses a 1:15 figure scale.

 The British have a relatively low number of figures in Armoured and Mechanised tracked battle groups which generally only deployed  2 Company Groups each of 8 Infantry and a number of support weapons. This makes creating a set of permanently dug in infantry less painful than for other rule systems and periods.  For my companies I decided to create the following:
  • 3 "Platoon" 2 man trenches
  • 1 Coy HQ trench
  • 1 FOO OP trench
  • 2 Milan trench
  • 1 SF trench
In doing this I wanted to create a range of different trench types. Representing the options available to the British at the time, these would include specific types for the support weapons as well as a variety of types for the infantry.

The basic construction method uses the following raw materials:

  • Closed cell foam .5mm sold in multi packs at hobby outlets for children.
  • Pre cut MDF bases from East Riding Miniatures, 60mm x 30mm for Infantry and 60mm x 40mm for support weapons.
  • Evo stick impact adhesive, sticks the foam without melting it.
  • Quick set ready mix poly filler.
  • A pile of figures, in this case Elhiems Cold War British which are superb.
  • Corregated Plasticard.
  • Basing material, flock, tufts, stones etc. 

Infantry Trench

The basic two man trench has a base foam segment with a 25mm x 7 mm hole cut for the trench, and a top layer with a 30mm x 15 mm hole cut init which provides a representation of the parapet.

 To represent the options of splitting the shelter bay either side of the or having it to the left or right of the fire bay the hole is either made centrally or to the left or right.  For the two man trench with Overhead protection on the fire bay the dimensions are 35mm x 7 mm for the base and the top layer is 25mm x 11mm over the fire bay and 7mm x 5 mm at either end to represent the exit bays and or fire positions for AT weapons. The Bunker roof is constructed on pillars built up from foam, and is based on correlated plastic sheet.

Once the basic construction is completed, the whole trench is covered in quick dry poly filler over a couple of sessions allowing each to dry before proceeding. The polyfiller usually needs a little smoothing with a sand stick between layers and before the white glue and sand are added.

The trench covered in sand and white glue, taking care to avoid getting sand in the base of the trench as this makes attaching the figures difficult and spoils the illusion of depth.  

Support weapons Trench

The support weapons trench I have generally made 40mm long with the base layer hole being 40mm x 7mm off set to the rear of the center line. The top layer is 40mm x 15mm but with an additional 15mm x 10mm recess cut centrally to the front to allow the weapon to be mounted.

For Milan trenches which requiered a clear back blast area a wedge shape hole is made in the rear wall of the top layer opposite the weapon mount recess. For SF trenches and OPs this is not made and the rear walls of these trenches can also be built up as can  the front wall of all trenches using Polly filler or a mix of poly filler and foam.

For the Chatem arch a 60mm x 25 mm strip of correlated Plasticard was cut this was bent into an arch, covered in a strip of foam that was segmented to accommodate the curve. Wedging the arch between two fixed points before covering with poly filler that is then left to dry allows a solid arch to be constructed that maintains its shape.


As a general rule all equipment on a defensive position should be stowed in the trench, under cover, so would generally not be visible. This excluded items that would be needed that might be kept on the parapet of the trench. Equipment would also come out when the soldiers administered themselves feeding weapon cleaning, putting sleeping bags away etc. The following items can all be used to "Stow" the trench.

  • Backpacks
  • Water bottles, thermos flasks, ration items, ration boxes
  • Ready ammunition, additional 66mm launchers, ammo boxes, magazines.
  • Water Jerry cans,
  • Digging equipment, picks, shovels, 6 foot pickets, spare corrugated tin, pallets, dinner coils, barbed wire packs.
  • Note books, range cards, maps
  • Arc markers
  • Radios, radio batteries, antenae on ground spikes
  • Observation Equipmemt, Binos, weapon sights
  • C2 Sight poles on SF trenches

On these two I have added a Bergen, radio, field telephone, file for range card/orders, arc markers, ration box, sleeping bag.  So lots of scope, the game is not to go mad as most units in the British Army would be quite well disciplined but for various reasons, time surprise, progress of work, there would always be some stuff lying around.


In order to get the figures to fit I have generally just removed the legs below the webbing leaving the detail of the majority of the figure untouched. Getting support weopns to fit May requiered some adjustment and trimming to both the weapons and the figures and in some cases additional detail will need to be built up with green stuff following the triming.


I have generally painted figures and trenches separately and conducted final assembly before adding basing products. The base of the trench inside and out and the parapet and hard angles are painted in a black brown mix to give the illusion of depth a mid and light brown layer were then painted on the outside with the lighter tone to the top, the whole was dry brushed with a sand colour and a light buff colour was used around the lip of the trench, the whole was then washed using a brown shade and touched up as required.


A variety of basing products were used to acheive the effects, this included:
  • small amounts of static grass
  • Tufts of a variety of lengths and colours, cam and turf soon became brown, whilst fresher elements remained green.
  • Some flowers
  • Some rocks

Completed Trenches

All the figures used here are from Elhiem's Cold War British Range which are a superb range of figures that provide most of what you need for a Cold War British Army.  Stowage items are variously from Black Dog or Goffy.

Two man fire trench

Milan Trench

This will be the last post of 2013 thanks for reading the blog and have a happy new year.


  1. Some very nice stuff and very inspiring building tuts.
    I wish you a Happy new Year!

  2. Great idea, great execution.



  3. Excellent pieces and thanks for the walk-through. I still wonder how the Trench modifications would have borne out the attentions of the RAG, DAG and everything else the Soviets were preparing to lob their way.

    1. for the fragmentation bits not to bad anything else not to well, the one that always amused me were the blast effects of nukes which given the height of some of the fire bay options would have been interesting. Then again, Nukes would have been interesting any way you look at them :)

  4. Excellent work as always. Very inspiring.
    Happy new year mat :)


  5. thanks for the comments it's always great to receive feedback

  6. Your work is superb sir, and so well researched too. Love the pictures here.

    I'm looking at converting Battlegroup Panzergrenadier to cold war to replace my attempts at using Rapid Fire for my 20mm stuff. The ruleset emphasizes command and control, and is perfect for the scenarios in the old 'Fire Team' boardgame...which I've been trying to do in miniature for 20 odd years.

    again...love those pics