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

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Review - Book, The Race to The Swift, R Simpkin 1985

The Race to the Swift by Brigadier R Simpkin recieved rave reviews across a range of professional military journals in America and Britain, for good reason, its an excellent treatise on manouvre warfare, focusing more on the operational rather than the tactical it articulated how to do manoeuvre warfare as tought by its three major exponents the Germans, Russians and Israelis.  

His previous explorations of military theory include Red Armour and Deep Battle, the brainchild of Marshal Tukachevski these are both on the wish list and both out of print and commanding high prices this book pulls together a lot of his thinking on Manouver warfare and is generally more accesibly priced having been through a number of reprints.

Part 1 looks at the development of both Blitzkrieg by the Germans and Deep battle by the Soviets with the chapter on the Deep Battle presenting an illuminating view of Soviet Operational theory and its evolution in the post nuclear aeromechanised world.  It also alludes to the limiting factors of the Soviet Army to deliver against the genius of the vision. Read in the context of a world that has seen the exposition of some of these visions in elements of the operations of the second Gulf War it underlines the writers gift for understanding where the world was going 15 years before it got there.

Part 2 really gets into the detail and theory of manouver warfare and the concepts that underpin it, central to all this are a number of key elements of the Soviet Deep Battle theory.  The author does this through examination of the physics and mathematics of war and explains the detail of how the deep battle would be fought gettng under the skin of the impact of heliborne assault and the fundamental differences between airmobile and parachute delivered forces together with an exposition of why the Soviets identified the need for and delivered a highly mechanised airborne force which fundamentally set about to address the key mathmatical limitations of airborne warfare so often borne out in History.

He looks at the impact of manoeuvre theory and the effect that it had on force levels that explains the Soviets love affair with deep operations and the encounter battle, theorising on the effectiveness of different types of forces in different roles and the effectiveness of lighter more manouverable elements if their force can be brought to bear via flanking manouvers and envelopment, the concepts that underpined Soviet mobile groups and the later development and evolution of the Operational Manouvre Group.  He provides good explanations of complex Soviet military concepts such as simultainaity and the interchangeabiity of firestrikes with physical strikes brought about by the increasing destructiveness of modern indirect fire technologies such as precision guidance and ICMs and the impact of this and developments in communications on future operations.

The Book contains a large number of complex ideas and is not a free ride for the reader with a number of the the concepts requiering a deal of thought by the reader to set them in the context of a particular force or even develop a decent understanding of what is being discused.  Their are many books that explain the broad tennants of the Soviet way of doing battle to many describe an overly simplistic view of the tactical with no real appreciation for what goes on at the operational level, which is frankly where the Soviets excel.  This book focuses exactly on that spot and, in my mind at  least, articulates a significant number of ideas that I would love to play out on the table top. How to do that in 20mm in an opperational context is something that could keep me ammused for years.

The purpose of the book is to look at the evolution of future force structures and capability, however in doing this it provides an excellent discusion of both manouver warfare and the Soviet doctrines and force compositions that would be used to deliver there version of it which was probably the best developed theory of manouver warfare when the book was written in 1985 at the backend of the Cold War.  This is definately a book thats worth reading and Brigadier Simpkins conversational style conveys some very dry topics in a very consumable way, but the reader still has to work hard to extract the full value and meaning from some complex theoretical military concepts, frankly I think this is one of the must haves and  a brilliant book, but perhaps not to everyones taste.

Other Book Reviews:


  1. It's an excellent book. I was very lucky to get a copy. It's been some years since I read it - but I still remember his "toblerone of force" simile vividly.

  2. Sounds heavy duty but worthwhile- makes a change to the pulpy WW3 novels. I'll look to add it to my library.



    1. Just remember to consume the Elephant in chunks :) hope you enjoy it