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

Friday, 14 March 2014

Review - Book, Rats Tales & Royal Scots in The Gulf

Both these books have a broadly similar approach to telling the story of the first Gulf War from the perspective of two of the Armoured Infantry Battalions the Royal Scots and The Staffords. the First Gulf war followed on from Iraqs invasion of Kuwait, which from Saddam Husseins point of view was one of the most badly timed moves in history, coinciding as it did with the end of the Cold War and releasing one of the largest and most well trained armoured forces of all time to do something else.

So why are these books of interest to the Cold War Gamer? The war they describe in some detail at battle group level was fought by men who were organised, trained and equipped to fight on the Central Front against a Soviet equipped and trained force. Arguably they swapped the plains of Northern Europe for the deserts of Iraq and Kuwait and cracked on. As such the Tactics Techniques and Procedures that fall off the pages in the many interviews that were conducted to bring these books together were those that would have been used in Europe if the Cold War had gone Hot in the late 1980's.

The equipment disparity between the Soviet Army and the Iraqi army was considerable and undoubtedly gave us an easier run. Likewise our ability to concentrate equipment and combat power together with the rapid introduction into service of a number of modifications gave us an arguably more capable force than we could have deployed in Europe. Although some aspects of that are worthy of study in terms of what can be achieved in short order once you know you are going to fight a real war.  As ever it remains difficult to second guess what would have happened given a scenario that would have lead to a war in Europe, periods of heightened tension would have lead to changes. Undisputedly the terrain was different, bizarrely in both the Falklands War and the 1st Gulf War the terrain was not disimilar to our main training areas which were themselves unrepresentative of Northern Europes heavily urbanised and wooded terrain. Ultimately the principals are the same it is the detail of the solution that changes.

Both books have similar value really, giving real examples of Task organisation and Tactical deployment and Manouver that directly translate to the central front. They structures and procedures discussed are those that I recognise both from my time as a platoon commander from 1985-1987 and saw played out at BATUS from 1991-1993.

Structurally the books are not disimilar discussing the pre deployment activities, the in theatre Training and the operations. Both provide some useful detail in the later part of the book with interesting insights coming from both the training and the attacks. Equally there are some interesting pictures in both books. the books themselves are not great literary works and are written with significant inserts from the soldiers themselves which strains the narrative at times.

If you can get a .01p deal on amazon they are undoubtedly exceptional value for money @ £10 you probably need to think a bit and may even only buy one as there value to the gamer is intrinsically similar.

Other Book Reviews:


  1. I can see that as species of tactical and operational manuals, these books would be of considerable value to a war gamer. However, it has to be more than a one-sided deal as even in the 1st Gulf War, Iraqi resistance (after having shortly before endured 10 years of war with Iran, mark you) must have been pretty piecemeal.

    As for Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Kuwait, he had reason to suppose that he had the the tacit approval of the United States, having made tentative inquiries, and got no clear response in the negative. I believe that Saddam Hussein possibly mistimed his decision that he was not after all an employee of the CIA ('He's a son-of-a-bitch; but he's our son-of-a-bitch'), but his own man.

    Having got that off my chest, I suggest as glimpse into the kind of military problems the British Army has had to deal with over the last decade or so, Col Tim Collins's autobiography, "Rules Of Engagement: A Life in Conflict." A very interesting read.

  2. I agree I think the Iraqi force would have been far less capable both in scale and equipment than the Soviets. Equally we were in a position where we could stack the odds. My intent was to highlight that despite these facts the British units largely fought the war they had been trained to fight. I suppose the main disparity is the fact that this was an offensive operation from the Allied perspective.

    On the second point I think your point is well made. My observation is primarily that prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union it would have been extremely difficult for us to respond with the Force levels we did and indeed the positioning of the Soviet Union might have been different, so I suppose regardless of whether he was expecting us to respond or not our ability to do so would have been far more limited.

    I have not read the Tim Collins book but will dig it out, It sounds like an excellent read and one that must span the period quite well I assume.

  3. I would second any endorsement of Tim Collins book. Great stuff.

  4. Hi Andy, I have both of these books which I enjoyed reading when first published (though not since). Although I agree that these armoured infantry units initially deployed and fought according to doctrine, I think it is very interesting that commanders soon acknowledged the enemy they were actually fighting, avoiding unnecessary risks and making much use of the technological dominance of the TOGS equipped MBTs. You are, as usual, spot on with regards to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait co-inciding with BAOR/BFG and US VII Corps being the best equipped and trained peacetime army ever put into the field. Contrast that with the current geo-political situation when we have drawn down beyond the point of having any credible conventional deterent. Aye, Rusty

    1. My read was most objectives were cleared, but that by the time the infantry arrived there was not a lot left. Not dissimilar to the Soviet Nuclear bomb theory, best way to clear an objective is to knock most things out before you put boots on the ground.

      Interesting view on the technological disparity, which without checking in detail I assume would not be their to the same extent with the Soviets in Europe. The Defensive exploitation of it would be more difficult without giving ground and going backward is always harder. The main area of interest for me was the task organisations in both books but more so in Rats Tails, where the concept of the 3:0 armour battle Group reinforcing Recce is discussed. Which defensively translates to the covering force role. I keep meaning to go back to check what was in reserve, but have yet to do so.

      Thanks for the comments and observations always good to get some discussion and a range of views. Makes you think :)