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, 29 August 2014

Review - Book, The Iron Division, The History of the 3rd Division 1809-1989

Iron Division is an excellent little reference book on the 3rd Divisions History from 1809-1989 the first edition was published in 1978 and written by Robin McNish.  This review focuses on the revised edition, published in 1989.  In 1986 the division approached Charles Messenger who was both a historian and a watch keeper on the Divisions staff to update the text to cover the Divisions activities in the period 1978 - 1989 which produced some very focused writing on the late Cold War period .

From my perspective all the post war content is relevant and illuminating charting as it does change in the British Army through the eyes of the Divison up until 1989 however the most useful chapters are 11 and 12 which deal respectively with:
  • The 1970's; 3 Division Role as the UKMF which was a NATO rolled reinforcement division deployable to either flank.
  • The 1980's; which covers the restructuring to and from field forces, the evolving doctrinal concepts around forward defence and a very detailed look at the life of the Division which is particularly revealing in the context of the exercises it participated in.
The remainder of the Book covers the History of the division through the following conflicts:
  • Napolionic Wars
  • Crimean War
  • Boar War
  • 1st World War
  • 2nd World War
The bulk of the book covers post 1944 operations and about 1/3 is dedicated to post 1950s operations the final two chapters total around 140 pages and are focused fairly exclusively on activities in the later stages of the Cold War.  It is very much a "unit" history and with extensive coverage of peace time life there is a fair bit of content on Royal visits and D Day commemorations.  That aside their are some real gems in the last two chapters which benefited from being published post Cold War and written by an historian who was a Divisional watch keeper so had significant knowledge of the wider operational context.

I picked up my copy second hand, if you can source it for under £5 its definitely worth a look. Just make sure you get the right version as the 1978 publication probably has limited Cold War coverage.

Iron Division - History of 3rd Division: 1809-1989 @ amazon

Other Book Reviews:

Sunday, 24 August 2014

ORBAT - 1980s British BG, NATO Reinforcement Part 2, The Infantry Brigades

In the late 1980's the British Army purchased the AT105 Saxon APC and converted a number of light role infantry battalions to the Mechanised Wheeled role.  These units were part of 3 Infantry Brigades with reinforcement roles onto the continent in time of war. The purpose of this post is to look at the organisation of these brigades how they changed over the period and the range of units and subunits that could be task organised as battle groups with the Mech (Wh) battalions.

The 3 Regular Army infantry Brigades converted were:
  • 19 Brigade a component of 3rd Armoured Division which was the Corps Reserve,  in 1986 the brigade became part of 4th Armoured Division.
  • 24 Brigade in 2nd Infantry Division provided rear area security, in 1988 the Brigade converted to the Airmobile role.
  • 1 Brigade this brigade formed the core component of the United kingdom Mobile Force (UKMF) and deployed to LANDJUT as part of the AFNORTH force to defend Denmark.
In addition there were a variety of Armoured Corps, Artillery, AAC, and Engineer units with direct reinforcement roles who deployed with these brigades.

There is a degree of conflicting evidence both for the organisation of the Brigades and the battalions. This I believe has to do with a number of factors:
  • The production rate and the rate of introduction of the Saxon between 1984 - 1989.
  • The two Orbats that were produced for Mech (Wh) Battalions, which may well have been a function of the production rate. 
  • The re rolling of 24 Bde as an Airmobile Brigade in 1988.
  • The variance between the formation deployment environments:
    • The 1 Brigade UKMF deployment had no parent British division.
    • The 24 Bde deployment with 2nd Infantry Division which was a TA division with a distinctive  Orbat that included 2 Yeomanry Recce Regiments and TA Air Defence assets.  Although A Rapier Regiment was allocated to defence of the Line of communication area.
    • The 19 Bde 4 Division deployment which was in the context of a regular Division.
  • The lack of a Mechanised Division HQ which lead to units being allocated under command of particular Brigades for peace time administration, deployment to theatre and operations.
  • Equipment change such as the withdrawal  of Fox and replacement initially by Scimitar then by Sabre.

Saxon Unit Conversion

The production rate of Saxon governed the conversion rate of the brigades.  I have no data in which order units converted but have hypothesised a scenario which illustrates the issues.  An examination of the purchasing production and reorganisation cycle can provide if not the answer then a level of understanding of what may have been going on:

  • Saxon was first produced in 1975 and was purchased by the British Army in 1983. 
  • The Initial order for 47 Vehicles saw first deliveries arrive with Kings Own Royal Border Regiment in 1984. 
  • This was followed by a second order for 247 vehicles that was further extended in 1985 by further 200. 
  • Production was complete in 1989. 

A total of 447 vehicles were produced in 5 Years, assuming the production rate was fixed then GKN were producing 89 per year. The  total order of 494 vehicles allowed 6 Battalions to be equipped with 64 vehicles with 110 left over for war maintenance Reserve.  This would enable three Brigades to consist of two Mech (Wh) battalions and 1 light role battalion which is one of the Orbats stated for these Brigades. RA Air Defence Battery Command variants were subject to a separate order completed in 1987 as were 100 Saxon Patrol purchased in 1991 for internal security.

A roll out plan to convert 3 Brigades to 2 Mech (Wh) Bns and 1 Light Bn with units initially converting to the 43 vehicle orbat then to the 64 vehicle orbat given a production rate of 89 vehicles a year could look like this:
  • 1983 Initial Production and delivery 47 Vehicles
  • 1984 
    • 1 Bn converted KORBR 24 Bde.
    •  Bde Orbats 24 Bde 1 Mech Bn, 2 Lt Bn. 19 and 1 Bde 3 Light Bn.
  • 1985 
    • 2 Bn converted (86 vehicles), I assume 19 Bde, (1 STAFFORDS records converting in 1985).
    •  Bde Orbats 24 Bde 1 Mech Bn(43), 2 Lt Bn. 19 Bde, 2 Mech Bn(43), 1 Light Bn and 1 Bde 3 Light Bn.
  • 1986 
    • 2 Bn converted (86 vehicles), I assume 1 Bn 24 Bde, 1 Bn 1 Bde, 
    • Bde Orbats 24 Bde 2 Mech Bn(43), 1 Lt Bn. 19 Bde, 2 Mech Bn(43), 1 Light Bn and 1 Bde 1 Mech Bn(43) 2 Light Bn.
  • 1987 
    • 1 Bn converted 2 upgrade to full fleet (85 vehicles), I assume 1 Bn 1 Bde and 2Bn upgrade 64 vehicles. 19 Bde.
    • Bde Orbats 24 Bde 2 Mech Bn(43), 1 Lt Bn. 19 Bde, 2 Mech Bn(64), 1 Light Bn and 1 Bde 2 Mech Bn(43) 1 Light Bn.
  • 1988 
    • 4 Bn upgrade to full fleet (84 vehicles), 1 Bde and 24 Bde, 
    • Bde Orbats 24 Bde 2 Mech Bn(64), 1 Lt Bn. 19 Bde, 2 Mech Bn(64), 1 Light Bn and 1 Bde 2 Mech Bn(64) 1 Light Bn.
  • 1989
    • War Maintenance Reserve and complete production. 
    • 24 Bde convert to airmobile and pass on a Bn of Saxons to 19 Bde, (1 Bn in 24 Brigade remained Mechanised when they initially converted).
    • Bde Orbats 24 Bde 1 Mech Bn(64), 2 Airmobile Bn. 19 Bde, 3 Mech Bn(64), and 1 Bde 2 Mech Bn(64) 1 Light Bn.

Once all the 24 Brigade units converted to Airmobile or when the brigade adopted its 2 Infantry Bn, 2 Aviation regiment structure in 1994 then 1 and 19 Brigade could each consist of 3 Mech (Wh) Battalions each. Whilst the order of conversion is not clear the impact of the production rate on Brigade and unit Orbats can be appreciated, different policies for issuing vehicles would produce different patterns.

against this hypothetical deployment model the following brigade orbats are supported:
  • A 2 Mech Bn 1 Light Bn Bde can be Fielded from 1985
  • A 1 Mech Bn, 2 Light Bn Bde could be fielded from 1984 until 1986.
  • Type A(43) Mech Bns (an invented term) can be fielded from 1984 until 1988
  • Type A(64) Mech Bns (an invented term) can be fielded from 1987
  • A 3 Mech Bn Bde can be fielded from 1989

In addition to the infantry units that were part of the Infantry Brigade a range of other units would also be included in the Brigades Orbat.  The detail of these is outlined below.

Armoured Corps

  • The Wimbish Recce Regiment which provided the Formation Recce Regiment for 3rd Armoured Division and later for 4th Armoured Division is shown in a number of sources as under Command 19 Bde (QDG and then 17/21L).
  • The Tidworth Recce Regiment is shown under command UKMF, 1 Bde  less 1Sqn which deployed to AMF(L),  (13/18 Hussars).
  • The Tidworth Armoured Regiment (4RTR then Royal Hussars) shown under command UKMF but allocated routinely to both 1 and 19 Brigade. (HQ + 3 Sqn to 19 Brigade as Type 43, 1 Sqn UKMF to 1 Brigade). Their is  evidence from Exercises that this could be varied (See Below).


  • 3 Engineer Regiments supplied at least a Squadron to each of the brigades whilst their main roles lay else where, these were:
    • 22 Engineer Regiment Tidworth shown under command UKMF, (1Bde)
    • 38 Regiment RE Ripon, 51 Fd Sqn (AM) to 24 Bde, 
    • 39 Regiment RE


  • a Low Level AD Battery, Rapier from 16 AD Regt is shown under command UKMF, which provided area air defence for UK Forces in LANDJUT, I have assumed this was not required by other Brigades as they would come under there parent Division. 
  • 40/45 Regt RA, 26 Regt and 47 Regt variously supported the 3 Bdes all equipped with FH70 155mm towed howitzers. I am assuming that some stage the TAC parties for these regiments received Saxon but have no evidence, other than a general policy of conformance with the supported units vehicle type.
  • An AD Battery, 21 Battery RA shown as under command 24 Brigade, but I believe this probably provided a Troop to each brigade. I am also assuming they were Spartan mounted.

  • 2 AAC Sqns 657 Sqn allocated to (19 Bde) and 656 Sqn (1Bde). with 1 Brigades role as UKMF it seems clear that 656 Squadron would support throughout, whilst 657 Squadrons relationship with 19 Brigade is less clear.
A Mechanised Brigade Orbit

If we ignore the Wimbish regiment as it was clearly allocated to divisional Recce and assume that the Tidworth regiment whilst organised with 3 Recce squadrons and a GW squadron might on War have deployed 4 balanced squadrons. Then a Standard Mech Brigade with the infantry component outlined above could be accommodated that would additionally contain:
  • Up to 1 TA Light Role Battalion
  • Up to 3 Armoured Squadron Chieftain and Recce Troop Scorpion, 
  • Up to 2 Armoured Recce Squadrons, usually 1, for 24 Brigade this could potentialy be Yeomanry or Regular.
  • 1 FH 70 Regiment
  • 1 Engineer Field Squadron
  • Up to 1 AAC squadron
  • 1 AD Troop Javelin
  • Up to 1 Rapier Battery
Equally there was enough stuff for a mechanised Division though I suspect no sensible place to send it hence the 3 Independent Brigades.

Exercise Task Organisation

Groupings for exercises can also illuminate the issue:
  • A History of the Royal Hussars indicates that "The Regiment as a whole came under command of HQ United Kingdom Mobile Force and in August 1989 and February 1990, took part in two major exercises, Crimson Rambler I and II, on Salisbury Plain”
  • Lionheart 1984
    • 4RTR at the time was the Tidworth Regiment deployed 2 Squadrons and Recce troop on the exercise having deployed with 19 Bde they were then grouped and regrouped through out the exercise:
      • A Sqn to 19 Bde a B Squadron to 24 Bde
      • Battlegroup to 19 Bde,
      • Battlegroup to 20 Armd brigade
    • 24 Bde was reinforced with a TA Bn and detached from 2. Div which received the Bundeswehr's 53 HS Brigade.
This demonstrates the flexibility in Brigade and Divisional task organisation, which would be driven by the higher level scenario.

Many of the photos shown here are from the excellent Military Database site which contains a large number of photographs of NATO exercises in the Cold War and is an excellent resource.

Other Posts of interest:

Cold War Gamer, a Post War Gaming Facebook information stream.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Cold War Gamer Hobby News - Spring/Summer 2014

This post is a little late for Spring and a little early for the Summer, when I first looked at writing a Spring News post the news was definitely looking thin having delayed the post by a couple of months things have picked up a little.  To tell the truth it was not just about a lack of material, motivation came into play as well.  I tend to do less in the summer generally and spend the time reading and sitting in the sun rather than gaming and there has been a fair bit of sun this Summer. I will hopefully be getting back into the blog swing again as we move in to Autumn so with any luck you can look forward to one or two more posts this month.

Model Collect

Model collect have rapidly become one of my favourite suppliers having produced a good range of T-72 variants early in the year they have now started to roll out the T-64 series of vehicles which are significantly under represented in model form and have really limited the opportunity to represent elements of GSFG that would have come into contact with BAOR so great news.  In addition they have now created their own distribution capability in the UK reducing time to deliver. So good news all-round.

The releases include the T-64 Mod 1972, mod 1975 and mod 1981 both now available to order from their web site for £11 a shot.  These are currently shown under the T-64 section of the web site rather than the unassembled models.

The have also increased the scope of the T-72 range the T-72B with ERA is now released. A T-72BA mod 1990 with the second generation Kontact 5 ERA has been added to the T-72B1 with ERA on the pre order list.

In the pipeline are a T-64 BV (The one I am after) and a BMP3 which is a little late for the period but deployable if you want an early 90s Bear Resurgent Scenario.  Also in the pipeline are ranges for the T-80, T-62 and T-54, very exciting.  If your interested in how the kits build and the detail of the kit try these links.


S&S Have slowed some what on the production of Cold War vehicles although they have added a couple of new models to the shop catalogue these include the British Warrior Recovery variant, the US M60A3, a remastered US M939a and a WW2 vintage Weasel which is very useful if you game French Indo China in 20mm.

Warrior Recovery




The Warrior from the photos looks like one of their best kits yet and its good to see another Weasel on the Market.  Hopefully we'll see a bunch more releases from Shaun over the winter.


nothing new released by ace but news that they have a BTR-70 in the pipeline, which has popped up on the projects part of their web site.  Their models have been improving as well the re released BMP2 being a significant improvement on earlier kits, so lets hope this follows the trend.


Fabri who manufacture pre built kits for a variety of armour magazines have popped out a couple of gems recently in the form of a 2S7 , now depending on how you collect and game these may not be that useful to you.  For me I like to represent off board artillery and I like to represent the array of assets that might be available to bring fire to bear on an objective and in the counter battery game.  So for me these Army and Front level assets are useful :)


Eagle Moss have produced a very useful BM 27 Uragan, I have bought two already and very nice they are, less useful but lovely to look at is their MAZ 535A, just not sure what to do with it.  Any suggestions put on the face book page :)

BM27 Uragan

MAZ 535 A

Siberia Models

A large range of Diecasts can now be sourced through Siberia models using Pay pal, I have not used them myself yet but the range of models stocked looks tempting and less hit and miss than trying to source through eBay.  I must admit the last time I thought of using them I didn't because PayPal was not supported so will be giving them a go in the near future.


Brian at the Hobby den has recently released a BTR 70 and very nice it looks too.  I have on my to do list a BTR based unit and this now means that the BTR 60, 70 and 80 are all readily accessible for the project.


Matt at Elhiem figures has also continued his prolific rate of production although many of his more recent offers are more suited to Dragon Rising Bear Resurgent Scenarios he has included some very useful US in NBC suits primarily focused at Gulf War 1 but good for Cold War and is extending the Cold War British and Soviet Ranges.  Of Note are the Armed Police/RUC good for Winter of '79 and Northern Ireland.

Soviet ZPU Gun Crew

Skirmishing British Cold War


US in MOPP Suits with Respirators

In addition to this lot Matt has also knocked out a fairly wide range of civilians covering Africa,  Afghanistan and Europe, aimed at a variety of gaming genres from Pulp to Zombie, most are suitable for a variety of Cold War conflicts from the Soviet Engagement in Afghanistan through the South African and Rhodesian Bush Wars to terrorist actions in Western Europe characteristic of the period.  A little too much to cover for this post so I will probably cover them in a separate review.


Eureka Miniatures have produced some excellent figure ranges in 28mm, not a scale I normally cover but having purchased the Two Fat Lardies, Chain of Command rules, one I am becoming more interested in primarily for platoon level actions.  The figures released by Eureka include a very useful Bush War range and some excellent Cold War Russians.


Cold War Soviet

The painted figures are by Ash from the Lead Adventure Forum.  They have also released an Allouette 3 K Car so rapidly creating all you need to cover a Rhodesian Fire Force.

Allouette 3 K Car


In 20mm Underfire miniatures have also been pumping out a range of Rhodesian Bush wars figures covering both Greys Scouts, the Rhodesian African Rifles and the Rhodesian Light Infantry.

Of interest Underfire are talking about the expansion of these ranges and the addition of a BAOR Cold War range, hopefully these will be slightly later than the existing ranges with PLCE, SA80 and Mk 4 Helmets, that would be exciting.


Bizarrely I now have more followers on face book than I have on the Blog, but if you want to pick up on stuff as its found and or published across a range of Cold War and Modern Wargaming topics it continues to provide a useful and focused feed of information.

The Autumn Magazine

A lot of projects were stalled over the Spring and Summer period by the excellent weather, work and life in general.  The Autumn will I hope see me progress the Mechanised Wheeled elements of my British force and some minor vehicle additions to the existing collection that will let me deploy an armoured battle group for this years Modern Game which is currently scheduled for December.  Other than that I need to get on with a number of Soviet Artillery and Air components and complete my third Motor Rifle Battalion.  As ever I am hit by the war gamers dilemma, more projects than time.