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, 1 November 2014

ORBAT - 1980s British BG, NATO Reinforcement Part3, Type A Mech (Wh) and Light

This post looks at the organisational structure of the Saxon equipped battalions and how that changed from their introduction through to the end of the Cold War. My primary interest is 19 Brigade which was a core component of 4 Armoured Division in the later part of the Cold War period. 19 Brigade originally under command 3 Division shifted to 4 Division in April 1986 where it routinely deployed into the Bockenem area south of Hildershiem and west of the Sibbesa gap in Lower Saxony.

In the closing years of the Cold War the Brigade included the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment, The Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders and the 3rd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment.  Other Infantry Units in 19 Brigade over the period were:
  • 1 STAFFs 1983-1986
  • 1 RANGLIAN 1983 - 1987
  • KOSB 1983-1887
  • 1A&SH 1986-1989
  • KORBR 1987 - 1992
  • 3 RGJ 1987-1989
  • 3 RANGLIAN 1989 -1991
  • 1 GLOUCESTERSHIRE 1990-1994
The Type A Infantry Battalion was the basic organisational structure for the infantry units in the BAOR reinforcement role  whether these were Mechanised or light it was similar in structure to the Armoured and Mechanised Infantry units based permanently in Germany.  From a gaming perspective once you have the figures for one type of unit variations in the vehicle fleet let you play quite a wide range of British capability.

AT105 Saxon equipped units were known as Mechanised Wheeled Battalions all the Mech (Wh) units were UK based and due to the incremental nature of the Saxon procurement their structure changed a number of times. The original intent of the procurement was to provide protected mobility for deployment to Germany and only regular battalions were equipped with the vehicle. The TA Battalions of 2nd Infantry Division and 1 Infantry Brigade remained truck borne although they had originally been considered for an equipment upgrade.

Over the period of the Saxon production run from 1983 - 1989 two distinct orbats were supported for the Mech (Wh) Battalions the first used 43 Saxons and the second 64 Saxons I have referred to these units as follows:
  • Mech (Wh) Bn Type A (43)
  • Mech (Wh) Bn Type A (64)
Following the end of the Cold War the Saxon Battalions were subject to further restructuring, so quite a confusing picture of their organisation is presented.

Throughout these changes the unit remained based on the Type A Infantry Battalion it was  comprised of:
  • HQ Company, covering Battle Group HQ, Logistic, Medical and Administrative functions
  • 3 Rifle Companies each of 3 Platoons and an HQ
  • 1 Support company including Milan, Mortars, Recce and GPMG SF.

Prior to the introduction of Saxon the Type A Battalions were Light role battalions which would have moved the rifle companies in 4 ton trucks but otherwise were organisationally similar to the Mech (Wh) battalions that were to replace them.

The initial scale of issue of Saxon vehicles was 43 to each Battalion, the Mech (Wh) Bn Type A (43). In this configuration only the 3 Rifle companies were equipped with Saxon each had 13 APCs and 1 Repair and Recovery variant making for a total of 14 Saxon.  Additionaly the rifle companies were scaled for 2 3/4 ton Land Rovers, a 3/4 ton ambulance and 1 4t Truck. The rifle Company composition was:
  • Company HQ, Company Commander, Company 2IC, Company Seargent Major and a detachment from the Signals platoon providing communications experts. 1 Saxon and 1 3/4 ton Land Rover.
  • Rifle Platoons.  Each of the 3 Rifle Platoons consisted of 3 sections of 8 and a platoon HQ, each section would deploy a Carl Gustarv AT Weapon, a number of 66mm AT Rockets, 7 SLR and 1 GPMG, they converted in the late 80's to 2 LSW, 6 SA80 and a number of 94mm LAW. Throughout the period the Pl HQ would deploy a 51mm Mortar in addition to thier personal weapons. The platoon was equipped with 4 Saxon.
  • Company Aid Post, 3/4 Ton Landrover ambulance with Driver and Medic.
  • CQMS Detachment, normally a Land Rover and 4 Ton Truck which provided Resupply together with elements of the battalions A1 Echelon. The CQMS was supported by a small staff of store men and drivers.
  • REME Repair and Recovery Detachment.  A Single Saxon crewed by REME personel who provided the immidiate repair capability for tasks that could not be handled by the crews.
 The Battalion CO was also provided with a Saxon allthough the rest of BG HQ remained in Soft skin vehicles.

The remainder of the Battalion initially remained in soft skin vehicles, together with the majority of any supporting arms. The primary vehicles used included 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton and 1 ton Land Rovers together with either Bedford Mk 4s or the leyland DAFs that replaced them in the early 1990's.

Both Milan and Mortars used the 1 ton Landrover as their primary means of transport.  

The Milan Platoon consisted of: 

  • Milan Platoon HQ
  • Milan Sections, each of the 4 Milan sections deployed 5 Milan firing posts, 1 with the section commander and the remainder in 2 Detachments each of 2 firing posts. 1 3/4 Ton Landrover, 2 1 ton Landrover and Trailer.
  • Milan Mobile section, the Milan Mobile Section fielded 4 Firing posts. 4 3/4 Ton Landrover

The 1 Ton Land Rover was modified for the Milan Platoon to provide stowage for 15 Milan Missiles in a rack immediately to the rear of the Cab, this could be accessed by rolling up the tilt or dropping the sides on the left hand side of the vehicle. With 2 two man crews and two firing posts this left little room for the detachments personal equipment, rations, spare gas bottles and other essentials  as such these vehicles would routinely deploy with trailers.  In good weather tilt sides might be rolled up but seldom completely removed as the roof of the vehicle provided a stowage position for the camouflage nets. 

Whilst racking was provided for missiles and firing posts in the 3/4 ton Landrovers of the Section Commanders and the Milan Mobile Section the weapon could not be mounted and fired from the vehicle. The 110 land rover started replacing the series 3 from 1983.  

With the increase in scale of Saxon the Milan platoon received 14 Saxons, 2 in the Platoon HQ and 3 per section with the section commander having one vehicle and each of the detachments also having one.  Milan mobile remained in 3/4 ton Land Rovers.

The Mortar Sections also deployed in 1 Ton Landrovers with the MFCs and section commanders in 1/2 ton land rovers.  When the battalion was upscaled the 3 MFCs all recieved a Saxon each whilst the remainder of the Mortar platoon retained its soft skin vehicles.

The remaining Saxons provided in the 21 vehicle upgrade, of which their were 4 went to Battalion HQ. Based on the production analysis model outlined in the Reinforcement Brigade post it seems likely that the Milan and Morter platoons could be equipped with Saxon from 1987 although units with all support elements in soft skin vehicles could be fielded through to 1988.

As originaly configured it would appear that the SF Guns were grouped with the Companys the orbat for the later part of the period shows an SF GPMG platoon constituted as part of support company. This include an HQ in a 1/2 ton land rover and 3 Sections of 3 GPMG SF mounted in 2 3/4 ton land rovers with trailers. I suspect how this was used varied considerably between units.  If SF were grouped with either the rifle Company or Milan it would be reasonable to shift them in the Rifle Platoon or Milan Section Command Saxons.

The Recce Platoon deployed 8 Recce vehicles generally in 4 sections each of 2 cars. In the light role units in the early 80s these were in Landrovers. The Saxon battalions were intially equiped with the Fox Armoured cars these were initially replaced by Scimetar around 1990 and these in turn were replaced by Sabre but this probably occurred after 1994.

The Mechanised Wheeled Battalion could be task organised with or supported by a range of organisations although these would vary depending on whether a unit from 24 Brigade, 19 Brigade or 1 Brigade was being represented. The following options are covered in detail in the brigade post but represent a credible group for use with a 19 Bde mechanised wheeled battalion or light role battalion:
  • Cheiftain Tank Squadron The Brigade included a Type 43 Tank Regiment which could have elements grouped with the infantry units or have infantry sub units grouped with it.
  • A Recce Squadron, from the Divisional Recce Regiment. QDG are shown as being part of 19 Bde but I suspect this was administrative,  this grouping was more likely in the deployment phase rather than any other.
  • Army Air Corps HELARM task group from 657 Squadron also shown as a component of 19 Brigade in some sources.
  • Army Air Corps Air Observation Post also from 657 Squadron.
  • Artillery Tac party from FH 70 Regiment. The Tac party I assume would deploy in Saxon, whilst the FH70s would be towed by Foden 6x6 tractor/limbers.  The Artillery Regiment supporting 90 Brigade was originally 40 field but they were replaced by 45 Field Regiment.
  • Regular or TA Javalin Troop. Regular javalin in Scimeter, TA in Landrover.
  • Tracked or Towed Rapier Troop, this would either as part of the divisional Air defence plan  or as part of the Corps rear areaAir defence plan in both cases Rapier would provide area cover than be a specific attachment to the unit
  • Engineer Section/ Troop or Engineer plant, 3 Ton truck and a range of engineer plant usually diggers of 1 type or another.

As with Mechanised Tracked battalions the Companies would form company groups which would include, Milan SF and supporting arms including tank troops and Squadrons, Engineers, Artillery Tac Parties, and under certain circumstances Air Defence assets.

Once deployed to the Bokenham area the brigade used the villages and woods that dotted the land scape to enable a matrix of dug in Infantry and Milan positions around which the attached armour could manoeuvre.

Killing areas would be selected into which the enemy would be channeled and the exists from which would be enhanced with obstacles to slow their exit.

The Anti Armour assets provided by the Armoured Corps, Army Air Corps, Royal Artillery and the Infantry could all then be coordinated to achieve the maximum destructive effect on the enemies armour.  It would be reasonable to involve any or all of these assets in a structured scenario

So what might all this look like from a wargaming perspective, for our Rapid Fire modern games we tend to use a vehicle scale of 1:3 with the traditional under representation of Infantry transport .  For the Mech (Wh) Type A (43) Battalion I will be using the following:
  • BG HQ 
    • 1 Saxon, 4 Figures, 1 Command, 2 SLR, 1 Sniper, 1 3/4 ton Land Rover
  • Rifle Companies x 3 
    • 1 Saxon, 8 Figures,  1 Command, 1 GPMG 4 SLR, 1 66mm, 1Carl Gustarv.
  • Milan Platoon 
    • 4 Milan sections of 1 x 1 Ton Landrover & trailer, 2 Milan Firing Post 4 Figures.
    • 1 Milan Mobile section of1 3/4 ton Landrover, 1 Milan Firing Post, 2 Figures.
  • Morter Platoon 
    • 2  Mortar Sections of 1x 1 Ton Landrover, 1 x 81mm Mortar, 3 Figures,
    • 1 MFC 1 Land Rover 3/4 ton, 1 OP, 2 Figures
  • SF Platoon 
    • 3 sections each 1 3/4 Ton Landrover and trailer, 1 GPMG SF, 2 Figures
  • Recce Platoon
    • 2 Sections each 1 Fox Armoured Car
  • A1 Echelon
    •  4 Ton Truck, 1 UBRE
    • 1 Foden wrecker, 1 Landrover 3/4 ton Ambulance
  • Infantry companies may be  SA80 equipped, 1 Command, 2 LAW 80, 2 LSW, 3 SA80
  • For  Mech (Wh) Type A (64); Milan Sections, BGHQ and MFCs may replace Land Rovers for Saxon
  • For Type A Light Role; BG HQ and Rifle Companies become 1 Land Rover 3/4 Ton, 1 Truck 4 Ton.
  • SF Platoon may drop their transport and travel as part of Milan Sections or Rifle Companies.

I would like to thank Andy (AT) of the Guild who supplied much of the information around the Milan Platoon and their vehicles.   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:


  1. Hi,

    Just to be clear, IS a company represented by a single Saxon and 8 men?


    1. Hi Mark ,Yes that is how I represent them for use with our modern addaptions of Rapid Fire. The only point to note is a company would be unlikely to fight with out additional bits being grouped with it and those assets would come with their transport. So a Company is 1 Saxon and 8 Figure but the Company Group could be more.

      A Company group might include an MFC or FOO in a Saxon or landrover and a Milan Section in another or a 1 ton LR with its firing posts for example. Details of their transport options changed as the Orbat changed from Type 43 to Type 64.

      Hope that helps