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

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Cold War Proxy Conflicts - The South African Border War

Throughout the Cold War a number of hot conflicts ocurred that served as places for both sides to engage each other with out direct conflict, effictivly wars by proxy, these generally came in a couple of varieties.

  • Where one side was engaged directly, the other side supported the opposition such as Afganistan and Vietnam. 
  • If neither side were involved then each side might sponser one of the protagonists the Arab Israeli Wars are a good example and the South African Border War/Angolan Civil War another.

I have long been interested in the South African Border War but have never really posted on it.  The conflict developed around German South West Africa which the South Africans administered on a Leauge of Nations mandate after Germany lost its overseas territories at the end of the First World War.

The territory formed South Africas Northern border with Angolo and the disintegration of the Portuguese colonial prescence  in Angolo in the mid to late 70's and the subsequent Cuban/Soviet support for the FAPLA faction in Angola, set the scene for a complex and interwoven set of conflicts that collectivly became known as the Border War and included:
  • The Angolan Civil War between FAPLA, UNITA and the FNLA
  • The SWAPO led insurgency against South African occupation of Namibia
  • The ANC insurgency against aparthied in South Africa
  • The clashes between the SADF and the Cubans supporting the various factions in the Angolan Civil War.
  • Various other post colonial conflicts such as the Rhodesian Bush War.

The war was prolonged running from 1966 - 1989 and was seen by many as one of the significant Cold War engagements between Communist and Western ideologies or at least thats how it evolved, complicated by the inability of the West to be seen to directly support the South African regime because of aparthied.

The conflict itself had strong flavours of insugency, counter insurgency, civil war and more conventional war fighting operations  and is of interest to me for a number of reasons.

  • The range of different types engagements that occurred across a broad spectrum of conflict.
  • The evolving South African doctrine for both counter insurgency and more conventional war fighting. Which increasingly leveraged concepts from the Boer Commando heritage.
  • The employment of Airborne and Air Assault troops as components of highly mobile operations.
  • The impact of space and lower population densities which produced a very different style of conflict to that seen on the central front.
  • The development of a range of rather unique indiginously produced military equipment by Armscor for South Africa in the face of a global arms embargo.
  • The range of Soviet military equipment deployed which enables re-use of a significant component of my Soviet Cold War Central Front collection together with elements of my Soviet WW2 collection.

I started collecting the books, models and terrain a few years back, but at the time there were a number of significant gaps, in particular no one made a cost effective Buffle and a number of the better books had been out of print and were becoming prohibitavly expensive.

Recently a number of these books have been re released notably, Steenkamps Borderstrike and the Border War, together with Ospreys Modern African Wars 3 - all pretty much essential reading. On top of this more material is becoming available on the web and there are some superb Web Sites and Facebook pages such as the War in Angola and the South African Border War Site this coupled with an increasing range of books being released as old soldiers write their memoirs is providing a rich set of information.

On the gaming front we have numerous rule sets that might fit from Rapid Fire to Force on Force, the various evolutions of Battle Group and TFLs B'maso.   Recent model/Figure releases from  S&S, Bax models, Aerografix, Underfire Miniatures and Enfilaid Miniatures  have started to fill the voids in the 20mm ranges that enable the war to be gamed without the need to scratch build significant elements of the South African force. Some are more affordable than others.

These ranges include figures and vehicles suitable for the Portugese colonial Wars in Angola, The Rhodesian Bush War and the South African Border War. Whilst the number of figure manufactures covering the period have increased there is a need for more particularly focused on the South African force elements as there are few specific figures.

All up though this makes an interesting Cold War conflict much more accessible to the 20mm gameing community and worth looking at.


The SADF Border War 1966-1989, L Scholtz
Borderstrike,W Steenkamp
South Africa's Border War 1966 - 1989 H Helmoed-Romer

War in Angola
Rhodesian War Games
Topological Maps of the Operational Area
The Angolan Liberation War 1966-74


  1. An excellent introduction to the subject. I have a friend who was in the SADF and fought in what is now Namibia in the late 70's and early 80's - his experiences were rather hair raising. I have also driven from Cape Town to Windhoek, back in 2007, most of the roadway from the SA border to Windhoek was then still the military metalled road that was laid by the SADF. The terrain across most of that area is scrubby vegetation and there is a tendency to feel pretty exposed, like a fly on an upturned dinner plate, especially driving along main road. The vegetation changes near Windhoek with more trees and plenty of wild life, but the terrain is also pretty rugged. In fact, there are some real contrasts as there are the massive coastal sand dunes along the Skeleton Coast, the Etosha Pan further north and then the southern fringe of the Equatorial rainforest along the border with Angola and the Caprivi Strip.

    All in all a really interesting period to game and some great scenery if you get a chance to visit. Thanks for the resource links.

    Cheers, Andy

  2. Great read, Im also interested in this period, sad that it isn't covered much as a major part of history.
    I recommend the book "19 with a bullet" by Granger Korff good read about a SADF para. The DVDs GRENSOORLOG and Buried behind the wall. I own both and are fantastic.
    Good source: http://www.warbooks.co.za/


  3. Thanks for the comments recomendations and information hopefully this will be the first of a few posts on the subject.

  4. Very cool gaming ideas. I'll be watching with interest.

    As an aside, does Anyone know of an available kit or conversion to make a SA "Cheetah" jet in 1-72 or 1-48 scale?

  5. Very good Info. I'll look into these miniature companies and the books. Thank you for this Info. Keep up the Good blog! Take care Greyson in USA