Tuesday, 28 June 2011

"Heaven help us if there is a war!"

The British Armed Forces in 1979 were the product of the cumulated effect of two major post colonial defence reviews.

The Healy Reviews of 1965 and 67-68 under the Labour Government reflected the financial crisis of the time which included a major devaluation in Sterling. Consequently the government looked to reduce defence spending which was running at 7% GNP.

Decisions were taken to reduce the UK’s global footprint and concentrate the deployment of military forces within Europe, with a commitment  “not undertake major operations of war except in co-operation with allies”. This led to the withdrawal from Aden and accelerated withdrawal from Singapore, Malaysia and the Persian Gulf. There were reductions in British presence in Cyprus and Malta, but there would also be reductions in BAOR, whilst the Territorial Army was due to be cut by half.

Under the Conservative government of 1970-74, little changed except a reversal in the decision to reduce the Territorial Army. Labour returned to power in 1974 and immediately instigated a further review of Britain's defence expenditure, then running at 5% GNP. The resulting Mason Review saw a virtual elimination of Britain’s military capability outwith home waters.
“a new balance between commitments and capabilities and between manpower and equipment expenditure will be achieved to meet the Government’s strategic priorities”.
We've heard that before and quite recently too. Four major commitments were identified. These were Britain's contribution to NATO front-line forces in Germany, anti-submarine forces in the eastern Atlantic, home defence and the UK’s nuclear deterrent. The review committed to withdrawing all British forces in the Mediterranean region, with the exception of Cyprus, including all maritime forces assigned to NATO in the Med and from a number of remaining theatres in the far east and West Indies.

With the tag line of "cutting the tail without cutting the teeth" the army's structure was changed to the Field Force and Battle group concept whihc saw it's first major test during exercises of 1976. Independent pundits saw it as the government trying to break down the regimental system - making future cuts less emotionally charged.

 The RAF’s transport fleet was cut by half and amphibious capability reduced. Airborne assault capability was largely removed also significantly reduced.Training budgets were slashed, weapons and rearmament programs cancelled or reduced in scale.

In 1977 the Joint Intelligence Committee presented Prime Minister Jim Callagham with a damning report about Britain's capability to defend itself against a conventional Soviet strike. Callaghan, often slated as a Soviet mole, showed his true metal and ordered an urgent review of Britain's defences. He was so shocked by the findings that he wrote on the document "Heaven help us if there is a war!".

The findings of the review demonstrated that Britain only had the capacity to put up a token defence and would in all probability be knocked out of a European war by a Soviet airborne strike as a prelude to the Warsaw Pact forces crossing the Inner German Border. Rather than an 'unsinkable aircraft carrier', the United kingdom was at that point was more akin to the Atlantic Conveyor.

As a result, in 1978 there was a turn around on defence spending with the sustainability fo Britain's home defence at the centre of the agenda. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 ensured that defence spending needed to be reassessed and this led to the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher ratifying Labour's NATO-centric focus with conventional forces acting as part of the NATO alliance in Europe backed by Britain's independent nuclear deterrent.

Consequently, with Polaris to fund, the Nott Review of 1981, "The Way Forward", proposed that 57% of the defence cuts should fall on the Navy, stripping it's out of theatre capability including the scrapping of naval airpower and the Antarctic patrol vessel Endurance. Nott only just stopped short of disbanding the Royal Marines.

The Falklands War in 1982 demonstrated the fallacious nature of the UK's defence and foreign policy and that the defence budget was simply not aligned to meet it. If we can leave the victory aside, the conflict demonstrated the shortfalls in the armed forces capability at that time to actually wage war, especially outwith the BAOR battlefield.

In our Winter of '79 scenario we have an armed forces, that is (contentiously), a paper tiger. The most recent rounds of defence cuts under Labour have left an army in transition, with reduced logistical and support formations, limited realistic training and only a few days of ammunition stocks. Whilst a reorganisation of home defence is underway, how much of it has been undertaken? What can be relied upon in a civil emergency? Sort of levels the playing field and makes everything up for grabs.


Monday, 27 June 2011

S&S Models Lightweight Land Rover

Ha Ha! My recent order from S&S Models dropped through the post this morning, including a Lightweight Land Rover.

Very nice model indeed. Resin body with metal windscreen, wheels and spare for the bonnet. A bit of scrim and it'll look nice and warry. I think at least one more is in order, maybe two - can't have enough Land Rovers. Maff's thinking of two for his Free Taff flying column - armed with a pintle GPMG and a couple of 'gun bunnies' in the back. Looking forward to getting to work on cracking little model.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Free Taff Recce

The Free Taff Army get some improvised armour!

Maff couldn't resist this Minimi Miniatures Dingo Scout Car for his Free Taff motorpool. A couple of simple figure conversions make up the crew  - done!


Not Mentioned in Despatches

In my day job I'm paid to challenge the status quo. So you can imagine that Not Mentioned in Despatches by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon would be right up my street. It is a forthright read that challenges the accepted mythology that has built up around the battle of Goose Green in 1982.

Or is it. Challenge it certainly does and there is a lot that needs to be said and exposed for critical re-evaluation. For us as historians and thinking wargamers, it's a worthwhile tome even if it just forces us to remember that we can't believe everything we read. Simply because something is in print, doesn't make it a tablet of stone.

But you know, the same is true of revisionist history. Rather than a new eye-opening account of the battle from a fresh perspective, I found a book that was far from objective, and miles away from Hugh Bicheno's very even handed, critical account of the Falklands in Razor's Edge The Unofficial History of the Falklands War.

Funnily, Not Mentioned in Despatches encouraged me to rethink Goose Green, but not in the way you might imagine. Rather than think in strictly military terms, I put my professional project management hat on and looked at the pressures, challenges, assumptions, planning, command and control of the battle all in the guise of a government project. The results were really interesting and made me more understanding about the initial planning and handling of the battle from Colonel Jones's perspective (taking the personality out of the equation). I might only have to face verbal and email bullets but at it's very basic level it's still about how to get a job done to your seniors expectations, facing known and unknown challenges, using the people and resources at your disposal.

It's easy to take Goose Green out of perspective, throw our hands in the air and wail at the fact it wasn't the boys own victory we all secretly cherish. I am both equally amused and dismayed at the popular line of thinking in recent years that a relatively cheap victory, form whatever historical period is somehow sour and tarnished. Regardless of whether you see Goose Green as a battle lost by the Argentinians rather than won by the British, it was a victory nevertheless and an important one. It demonstrated lessons that would be applied in the hill battles that brought the war to an end.

Not Mentioned in Despatches, certainly a worthwhile read and fresh analytical approach but don't allow it to blind you into throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


Friday, 24 June 2011

Force on Force Factors for Winter of '79

Unlike Cold War Commander, Force on Force by Ambush Alley Games is more scenario and situation focused from the start. As an experienced wargamer I can easily do the same with CWC but it's not as instantly intuitive as FoF.

Whilst a huge asset it's not perhaps quite so pick up and play as CWC for someone wishing to play Winter of '79 from a cold start. So let's take a look at creating some off the shelf suggested Troop Quality, Morale and Confidence Rating for the Force on Force gamer. Once again can I remind you that we are looking at the Factors within a sandbox created by Winter of '79 and making internal comparisons rather than trying to measure Royal Marines vs USMC or similar.

 The majority are likely to be TQ D6, Variable Morale, Low Confidence but a string of riots which create No Go Zones or see demonstratable success against the authorities may improve Confidence levels. A few 'agitators', trade union 'praetorians' or politically motivated trained insurgents may even have a TQ of D8 and High Confidence.

The average 1979 bobby on the beat linking arms on a picket line or being subjected to petrol bombs, bricks and bats TQ D6, Average Morale D8, Confident

Riot Police/ Armed Police / SPG/ Para-militaries etc:
TQ D6, Good Morale D10, High Confidence. In an urban disturbance game, maybe rising to TQ D8.

Armed Civilians/ Militia/ Local Volunteers etc:
TQ D6, Variable Morale, Low Confidence

TQ D6, Variable Morale, units with front-line roles more likely to be Average D8 to Good Morale D10. Support units D6-D8 Of course as the conflict wears on, it's more likely that they will gain the same experience as Regular formations. Variable Confidence depending upon the situation.

TQ D8 for frontline formatons such as Infantry, armour and artillery. Treat support corps as Territorials because whilst many served in Northern Ireland on foot patrol, and in Winter of '79 would end up on the streets of Birmingham and Glasgow, they would lack the focus and training of say a dedicated infantryman.
Morael Average D8 to Good D10.Variable Confidence depending upon the situation.

Royal Marines and Paras including Territorials/Reserves:
TQ D8, High Morale D12, High Confidence. 

SAS, SBS etc
TQ D10-D12: Personal choice. D12 is suitable for certain situations eg hostage rescue. High Morale D12, High Confidence

TQ D6-D8, Variable Morale, Variable Confidence

Now I realise that these broad classifications will set the fur flying because "2 Bumshires were every bit as good as 3 Para", etc etc  I know that my own unit was easily TQ D10, High Morale D12, and High Confidence and nobody is going to tell me otherwise - LOL! Seriously, these are just rough guidelines and probably more exclusive than inclusive. If you want to fluff a particular named unit, it's your game. Make the most of the factors to promote the uncertainty and personal confusion within a civil war.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

CWC Factors for Winter of '79

This is my 'Starter for 10' looking at Cold War Commander factors for Winter of '79. I've established a few more Infantry Unit types to cover a civil war in the UK and changed upgrades so that they increase the Attack Factor of the recipient rather than having weapon based Attack Factor.

Assigning Tactical Doctrine other than Guerrilla is a little problematical. British doctrine of the period, if indeed there was any, had changed little since WW2, and was NOT as flexible as is often portrayed and far closer to Rigid than we'd like to think. I would suggest that with the exception of Mob/Rioters, Police, Riot Police and Rebels - all other units operate as Fixed Formations and HQs can only issue commands to units in their own formations. At best, Tactical Doctrine should be Normal. You may want to give some units (especially Rebels) Flexible Doctrine according to scenario.

Morale is handled very simply in Cold War Commander and I would assign this by scenario. I will be giving  irregular forces, expecially Mob/rioters individual morale grades for each unit rather than as a whole for the force. With Mob/Rioters this will give the subtle variation neeed to turn some 'units' into more hardened political activists or insurgent group 'auxiliaries'.

Anyhoo, here are the factors as a starting point (excluding Patrols/Recce and Special Forces):

Infantry Unit - Mob/Rioters: Attack 1/5, Move 20, Hits 2, guerrilla tactical doctrine

Infantry Unit - Police Attack 2/1. Move 15, Hits 3

Infantry Unit - Riot Police, 2/5 Move 10, Hits 4

Infantry Unit - Para-Military, 2/20 Move 10, Hits 3

Infantry Unit - Militia/Volunteers, 2/20 Move 15, Hits 3

Infantry Unit - Rebels, 2 or 3/30, Move 15, Hits 4, guerrilla tactical doctrine

Infantry Unit - Territorial/Reservists, 2/30 Move 10, Hits 4

Infantry Unit - Regular, 3/30 Move 10, Hits 5

Infantry Unit - Para/Marine, 4/30 Move 10, Hits 5


Infantry Upgrade - GPMG/LMG: Attack +1 (or+2?)

(to give the unit additional GPMG/LMG per section)

Infantry Upgrade - 66mm LAW: Attack +1

Infantry Upgrade -  84mm Carl Gustav (MAW) +1

(Only 1 per platoon in non mechanised forces)

Infantry Upgrade - M16 Armalites/Ak47 etc: Attack +1/20

Infantry Upgrade - SMG: Attack +1/10 or +2 in close combat


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Alma Terrace in Flying Squad Swoop


The city's rundown Crimea Viaduct area was the scene of violent arrests yesterday following the shooting of several suspects. Several Police Officers involved in the arrest also fell victim in the hail of gunfire.

Bianca Doherty, barmaid in the Station Hotel said, "It all happened so fast, these three men charged in just as I was serving Mrs Perks her babycham. They ran upstairs and I heard shouting then a gun and then a lot of shooting; though I did hear someone shout "You're nicked Croydon!" then two came back down. One went to the front door and shouted to someone, "they got Terry" while the other asked me for a large whisky and a pack of Players".

Meanwhile, on Alma Terrace, a fierce gun battle had erupted between DC 'Bungle' Goodhope and a pair of gunmen hiding out in The Arches Garage. One uniformed officer was wounded while Goodhope held off the villains - being wounded himself  whilst shooting one dead. With the arrival of the local SPG, armed uniformed officers moved up to the cover of the Railway Cafe. At this point DCI Hacker called on the surviving gunman to "give it up it's not worth it you toerag".

Once again, after a mornings violence Felpersham counts the cost, one dead detective, Terry Tomlinson 32, two dead civilians- both members of Felpersham branch of BMGU, two wounded policeman and three arrested gunmen.

DCI Hacker was forthright "These trots and blaggers have to be stopped. Me and my lads will do all we can to bring them in and stop this armed liberal anarcho nonsense".

The spokesman for Felpersham against fascism", Sid Grundy decried the  "brutal murderous bully boy tactics of the fascist goons, this is a government clampdown..... you got to decide,whose side are you on, next time the whistle blows!"

This was a short, sharp, riot of a game using GEEZERS: SHUT IT! played via Skype. Took 30 minutes to play but generated an hour of excited chat afterwards. Minis were mostly Platoon 20 for the detectives and slags with ex-Hotpsur armed police for the SPG.


Thoughts on Cold War Commander


The decision to use Cold War Commander for Winter of '79 has proved to be a good one. It has removed several of the blockers in my thinking that were preventing me from realising the open warfare elements of the full blown civil war phase of the Winter of '79 scenario.

Plus it brings with it a quick win in the ability to use Mark R Davies' British Orbats for the 1980's (including notes for 1976 onward) as is, and they are available as a pdf download from the Fire and Fury dot com forums. These include regular and TA, infantry, armour, Paras and Marines. Sorted.

Mark is one of the few 'names' on TMP that I trust if not respect for researched, informed, balanced and objective comment. Despite the good work done by Mark I would urge against treating this information as tablets of stone, but it remains the best single, coherent source I've come across.

Looking at the factors for the infantry in Cold War Commander we need to make some changes to reflect the variation in training, discipline and quality of forces in a civil war. Forget factors assigned to other nations troops - we are not comparing like with like, but looking instead within a sandbox created by Winter of '79 where the factors need to be comparative between a range British regular, reserve, para-military and irregular internal foes.

The easiest thing would be to simply trot out a series of different Attack Factors - but I feel we need to go beyond this and use the full gamut that Cold War Commander has to offer. I'm expecting a bit of experimentation during play, but hey, all armies need to shake down and absorb the lessons of the first battles in a shooting war - Goose Green being a prime example.

I'll share my draft ideas with you in a day or so.


Monday, 20 June 2011

The Family Motor

David, my father in law, came round yesterday. So I took the opportunity to show him the new RL from S&S Models and he loved it!

David recognised it immediately and was very complimentary about the detailing of the cleats (rigging as I like to call it). So I know what he's getting for his birthday now!

Of course, the RL unleashed a stream of stories about Libya. Many of which I've heard before but always glad to hear again. And every so often something new pops up. David also worked alongside several ex-LRDG veterans, who once again, had found a post war role in the desert, Only this time hunting oil rather than the Afrika Korps. They used a heavily sandbagged RL to lead the convoys, often along the same old tracks they had used during the war.

Libya; Family Snap

He also tells a story of being tasked with building an airstrip at Bizerte for Chevron (?). First they have to clear the land mines and as you know, millions were laid by both sides during the desert campaign. Well, he has a crew of guys made up of dispossessed Czechs, Poles, Hungarians all ex-wartime Sappers who've found a market for their trade in peacetime. They're led by a German engineer. Anyhoo, David and the German are sitting sharing a beer, whilst the mine clearing crew are at work.

The German fella says "Nein, Nein, they won't find them over there, they need to go to the left". 

David says "What makes you so sure?"

Laconically the German says, "I laid them!"


Saturday, 18 June 2011

S&S Models Bedford RL 4x4 GS Lorry

A dull wet day in the 'Shire today was lightened by the postie bringing an order from S&S Models that included Shaun's new Bedford RL 4x4 GS Lorry at £10 including p&p (UK).

 S&S Models Bedford RL 4x4 GS

Here it is straight out of the pack. A good solid one-piece body and cab with well defined detail such as the rigging that holds the tarp down. The kit also comes with four separate metal cast wheels and spare with the rear wheels having the mud guards mould on. I find the quality of the wheels and tyre tread detail on S&S Models particularly good and the RL is no exception.

I found the RL's dimensions to be spot on when placed against 1:76 plans in The Modern British Army by Terry Gander (1980 edition). The whole kit fits together very easily to produce a sturdy wargame model that looks the part.

Quality wise this is a fine wargames model. There are a few small bubble holes but these are mitigated by only a thin cast seam round the bottom of the model that a quick run over with wet and dry will remove.

Assembled as above, you can feel the misery of  30 cold squaddies in the back on the way up to the Beacons with the rain whipping up under the tailgate. Or 80 boozy squaddies in T-shirts and Jeans crammed in and holding onto the tarp rails for dear life after a trip to the local Bierkellar!

The RL GS saw action with British forces in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Congo, Operation Banner amongst others. It also served with Commonwealth & UN forces in the 1950's-70's throughout the world. I've included a family snap above of an RL GS in the Libyian Desert around 1965. I'm thinking that a diorama of an RL and MK2 Land Rover will make a perfect personalised gift for my father-in-law's 80 blah blah birthday.

Despite being 'officially' superseded by the Bedord MK, the RL would continue to serve in the British Army until the late 80's - often in a variety of support guises such as signals wagons, REME workshops etc.

Overall, a fine model and recommended for your Winter of '79 vehicle park. Perfect transport for my Bootnecks!


Friday, 17 June 2011

RH Models Saxon APC

After writing about the AT104/105 SAXON a week or so back I asked Rolf about his BAFV6; SAXON APC at £6.99. "Trust me" he said, "You'll like it". So, throwing caution to the wind.... I ordered two.   

Liberation Miniatures: BAF6 SAXON APC
WEA18B GPMG on AFV Mount

These are cracking models and scream WINTER of '79. The Liberation Miniatures web page boldly claims that their resin models are "PROFESSIONALLY VACUUM CAST AND ARE QUALITY CONTROLLED . THEY ARE NOT RIDDLED WITH AIR BUBBLES OR WITH MISSING SURFACE DETAIL" .

Bold as it is, that claim is spot on. These are the first resin vehicles I've bought from Rolf and I am seriously very, very impressed. There are a few, and I do mean just one or two, pinholes, but no breaks, bubbles, seams, webbing or flash. Just crisp detail which needs the bare minimum of preparation.

The SAXON is essentially a one piece armoured box and the kit naturally reflects this. The 'roofrack' is filled with moulded 'bergans' and four metal wheels complete the kit. In order to break up the boxy outline I ordered pack WEA18B 2x GPMG on AFV Mount (illustrated).

What can I say. I have absolutely no hesitation when it comes to ordering any more resin vehicle kits from Rolf at Liberation Miniatures. So I'll round out the platoon/troop with a 3rd wagon next month. The SAXON itself - RECOMMENDED!


Thursday, 16 June 2011

What About The Smaller Picture: Gaming in 1/300 & Below

Just after we started Winter of '79, Maff and I looked at whether there was any mileage in doing it, even duplicating in part in smaller scales such as 1/300 or even 1/600th. In particular, because we both liked the look of the Oddzial Osmy range of vehicles - more so once they introduce the Saracen APC and Saladin APC.

1/600th had the advantages of being cheap, easy to paint, perfect for including air power, plenty of room for manoeuvre and lose the edge of the world gaming syndrome. Plus it's perfect for gaming ontop of Ordnance Survey maps. The disadvantages being that the scale lacked the character we required. Especially in the realms of infantry. In fact as we wouldn't be using FV432's in any numbers, we'd end up using a base of Land Rovers to represent infantry units. And without any large number of MBTs in the country, we'd be reduced to actions fought between troops of Scorpions, Scimitars, Saladins, Foxes and Ferrets with the occasional inferred infantry presence. And in this case, 'infantry' represents a whole plethora of militias and rebels and everything in between, as well as para-military, part-time and regular troops. Not ideal.

But maybe as a one off, maybe this is how we play the 'thunder run' into Wales with Saladins proxying for Saxons etc Bear in the back of your mind that we are not trying to play Kursk on Salisbury Plain or Stalingrad in Salford.

Let's turn now to 6mm or 1/285-1/300th scale. This scale is popular and boasts a wide range of manufacturers of infantry, vehicles, air power and terrain. It has many of the advantages of 1/600th but in addition starts to bring in recognisable detail in the figures. I have to admit that Heroics pack M4 Modern British Infantry remain some of my favourites as they are clearly 1970/80's Brits in scrimmed helmets carrying SLRs, GPMGs and Carl Gustavs. Pack M5 is British Infantry Support and M14 are Royal Marines - with the biggest 6mm scale bergans anywhere!

 Irregular Miniatures Riot Squad

 A wider range of vehicles exist as well including the Saxon and FV432+Fox turret (Skytrex). Irregular also have police, rioters, civilians, guerrillas and generic infantry that can fulfill a wide variety of roles. In fact I'm now thinking OK, for the flash riot around an arrest, 20mm, but for full 'Red Felpersham', Borchester Burning' inner city mayhem 6mm is the way to go. I can build an entire city centre very easily in 6mm on no more than a pizza base.

Irregular Miniatures Civilians

I'm not a slave to scale. 1/300th or even 1/600th would remain subordinate to my 20mm games but still could provide a very viable means of representing some of those aspects of Winter of '79 that would be nice to game on the tabletop.


The Bigger Picture

Tonight we began the discussion about the 'bigger picture'. That is, laying down the groundwork for larger company, battalion and brigade sized battles. So that by the Autumn, we are playing the full gamut from riots, to ambushes, to a battalion sized battlegroup push on Ambridge.

We agreed on Cold War Commander as our system of choice. Why? First, off we've both played Future War Commander, so the systems are familiar. Next, because it's designed to be scalable. We can group three 20mm figures and call them a section this week, a platoon the next and at a push, a company the week after that. Plus CWC also includes stats for British forces and equipment in the Falklands and throughout Cold War era. Finally but not least, it's easy to play on a weekday night after a bastard day in the office.

 That agreed we moved onto 'Red Felpersham'. Maff had an inspirational idea about running a riot game from the security forces perspective from behind the riot shields - atmospheric, quick, simple and perfect for solo play as well. He'll bash up the chassis of the mechanisms and then I'll do my Tarantino on them. Once we are happy, we'll do one from the rioters perspective.

With that sorted the troublesome issue of rioters in miniature arose. Now I have to confess that I really don't understand why with all the available OO scale model railway urban terrain and 1/76th security forces and police vehicles available, riot figures are produced in 25/28mm?

So we looked at alternatives and I've come up with a couple of solutions - cheap and cheerful but really, how much effort do I want to expend painting up rioters in jeans and a bomber jacket 50 times over? None is the answer. Imperial Guard they are not. I need figures that infer a militant mass but without the need for any real detail.

We didn't get round to having a game. Still, we had a profitable Winter of '79 centred evening.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Clampdown

With my rural terrain all but done - some winterised trees, a rail bridge and culvert should see it complete,  it's time to turn our creative energies to the urban "clampdown".

The Dropship 'dividend' in released time will allow me to get round to finishing my barricaded 'estate' in about a fortnights time. After that, it's a small but versatile inner city board.  
"The Clampdown", inspired by The Clash, obviously, will probably start as TEWTs using a Google street map of Worcester as 'Red' Felpersham whilst we work out the system. It will run something like this....

Maff will posit some trots in "safehouses". I attempt to locate them, then send in the snatch squads. I dig out the trots and the Humbers roll in. I suspect that a contact would develop very quickly – shove out some buildings/cars barricades etc and that’s what you see on the table.

Could even work in GEEZERS with a ham fisted arrest by the Flying Squad! Gives me a chance to go all Gene Hunt!  

I've got thirty or so 20mm riot troops an Internal Security Humber Pig, armoured Land Rovers, plus have some Saxons on the way...... just need some rioters - in bulk. 


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Operation Dragon Fire: The Batrep

Penny Pinch Farm: Borset
Some time back of crow fart

There's no way to hide the tell tale sound of the rotors as the three Scouts turned into the valley. Pearce, from Lough Erne was the first to wake. It was almost too late.

Mac and team one rapelled  into the field behind the Dutch barn. With rotors clear, the Scout carrying team 2 moved in and hovered in front of the barn. Team two rappelled here - but a catastrophic roll - Chas's line snags and in trying to free it he crashes 30 feet to the ground.

Team three are the last team in and drop into the field behind the farm whilst Mac in clearing the Dutch Barn. 'Badger One', the sniper OP (off table) reports lights on and quickly off in the house. "Shit!" mission is going loud!

AR15's and an FN FAL open fire from the upper story of the farmhouse. Two Free Taff's (Jones No.1 and Jones No.2) leave their quarters in the upper storey of the bothy and undecided get caught in a firefight with Mac's team.

Scotty leads the remainder of team two in the equipment shed on the ground floor of the bothy. All clear. Plenty of noise upstairs. There's a door. Sponge bursts through it and rakes Jones 1 and Jones 2 with his MP5, only to be hit in return by Dermond.

The IRA guys upstairs in the farmhouse start scoring hits on the SAS. Greaser goes down in team one, Mick, Doggo and Banger in team three are all hit. Sprouts is killed. Banger manages to wing Pearce. As Pearce stumbles into the front bedroom, Badger One takes him out. At this point things are seriously going Pete Tong for the SAS.

Mac leads Rollo and Suds in a rush on the corner of the farmhouse, where they take out Dermond in a fusilade of machine-pistol fire.

Team two make as much noise as they can to distract the occupants of the house. A long haired Taff appears at the top of the steps and fires an Armalite into the shadowy figures in the yard. this only results in him being instantly killed by Mac and co. Someone shouts "Owen! Got the bastard!" over the channel.

An Armalite fired from the house kills Mick in team three just as Mac, Rollo and Spud make a forced entry through the front door. The flash bang stuns McElhinney in the kitchen doorway and he is double-tapped. At this point the dice roll poorly resulting in an Armalite being thrown down the stairs and an Irish voice calls for surrender.

Mac shouts out for all weapons to be thrown down. A shotgun and another Armalite skid down the stairs. As Mac and Rollo reach the top of the stairs a shot rings out, a wounded IRA man fires with his pistol but misses. His last mistake. McIlroy survives - just - is hooded, cuffed and taken downstairs.

A handkerchief appears behind the door of the Bothy - the last of the Free Taffs gives himself up......

Final words from Mac.... "Target neutralised. One taff, one paddy secured. Someone tell the Paras to get over here and leave a note for the milkman! Out."

Cracking game. We both had a real laugh. Just under an hour to play on a 'school night' using Cold War: 1983. I made it tougher on the SAS (Maff) as it's about the game, the theatre and meant to be a bit of a challenge without spoiling the fun. We both agreed over a wet following the endgame, that the balance was right.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Arms And The Woman

Cymthallen Farm, Inner Welsh Border
Teatime. They're Having 'oops:

Captain Masters and Sgt McMillan RM are overseeing the caching of 'liberated' firearms at Cymthallen Farm, home of Alan Cadwgan, 21 SAS (V) Retired. Alan's 21 year old daughter Imogen is cooking 'oops.

An Emergency Government Army Air Corps Scout helicopter radios HQ with a report of suspicious activity in the area based on Cymthallen Farm. Lieutenat Cornwell, 5 Para leads his QRF to the map reference. One Scimitar is destroyed by a mined culvert which alerts the men in the house.

Cornwell pushes on with the intention of stopping any vehicles leaving the farm but is in for a hot reception. McMillan is left to save as much as he can whilst Cadwgan, Masters and Imogen (wearing a Free Wales Green Beret), try to hold off the Paras.

Masters is wounded but Imogen picks up the LAW and steadied by Masters puts a big dent into the Scimitar, shocking the crew and Paras into cover behind the Beech hedgerow banks.

McMillan (green base) breaks for freedom in the Land Rover but is gunned down by Corporal Smollet.

Cadwgan makes it to the Land Rover and pushes the bleeding McMillan to one side. 'Wellie' down he drives them both to safety. Masters and Imogen surrender.

Cornwell surveys the scene. One man down, two tanks out of action, suspect vehicle gone. But on the bright side a Marine Captain and a future Miss Wales in custody, plus there's plenty of 'oops. With that balance sheet he'd be lucky if he wasn't on penguin patrol in the South Atlantic in two months time!

Rules for this short sharp rake were Cold War: 1983 with a few fast play house mods.


Saturday, 11 June 2011

Tales from the Ministry (2)

"Ah, Gerald, thank you for dropping in so quickly. Tea? No Jaffa Cakes I'm afraid. As I've been told to give you an "interview without coffee", biscuits seem excessive."

"I imagine this is about Caerwent, Sir Nigel?"

"Imagine, Gerald, IMAGINE? Our military lords and masters are talking of preventative detention! I do hope there is no history of leeks in your family, Gerald, Cambridge or not. A handful of long-haired welshies with guns toddle up to one of the biggest arms dumps in the UK and fill their boots with OUR AMMUNITION and YOU IMAGINE THATS WHAT I WANT TO SEE YOU ABOUT?"

"Well, Sir Nigel, there was rather a lot of them and the logistic chaps knew they were the ones who'd dealt with that SAS patrol, and the hundred or so Royal Marines didn't help either."

"Marines, Gerald, just MARINES nowadays."

"Sorry Sir Nigel. At least they left the napalm, the bomblets and the nuclear mines."

"All of which belong, despite the receipts, to the USA, Gerald, who, by the way are now asking what happened to several crates of M16s, AR15s and some LAWs? And to judge by the aerial photos, the Pentagon is shipping whats left to Lord Knows Where, while what is left of our stuff has been wired to go "pop" if we as much as sneeze at it."

"But that would take out most of South Wales, perhaps...... if we just had a small cough?"

"And Gloucestershire? Avon? HIGHGROVE? That's all Gerald. Please just make sure Aldershot is still chained to the bicycle stand."

Dragon Fire is GO! Repeat Go!


Green light from COBRA.

Intel suggests Penny Pinch Farm is an IRA ASU hide.

Francis McElhinney, Owen and 3 other suspected Free Wales players have been identified.

Captain (unreadable) and 2 platoons of 5 Para providing cordon.

OP/Sniper team will brief when 5 mins out.

Good Hunting!



TAOR: Borsetshire in Review

Before we move forward let's take a step back and look at what we've created with our TAOR: Borsetshire exercise.

Not one single campaign system was used. Throughout I solely referred to LAND OPERATIONS: Volume III Counter Revolutionary Operations (Part 3), 1969 (revised 1973), and then superimposed it onto The Archers map of Borchester district. This could equally have been an AA routemaster map of Worcestershire.

And yet, with the same speed and purpose of the fictional operation we've placed our campaign arena within a national setting and local geographic context. We've given it key personages, major locations and strategic direction.

Without sweating over how many squaddies, tanks, guns, Garibaldi biscuits or tins of chicken supreme, we know that higher level command and operations are being directed from Felpersham. We've established there's a strong QRF, and a company base at Borchester that's a potential launching pad for smaller scale operations, or even a magnet for attack.

Does it actually matter how many men the Army has in Borsetshire, the composition, size of the population of Felpersham, number of round abouts etc? No. Remember games are the goal not the detail.

There's one scenario ready to play, the SAS raid on a suspect hideout. Plus we've laid out a whole range of potential game scenarios from highlighting the vulnerability of public utilities, transportation and commercial interests, to possible encounters by road bound patrols, incidents at VCPs, a riot in Borchester and an ambush on the moors.

A reverse at this stage could undermine the governments efforts, lower morale whilst boosting that of the insurgents and increasing their numbers.

We've created a sandbox plus the toys to play in it. All this and it's only just turned 9am on the the first day.


Excuse the tongue in cheek use of The Archers, but H. listens to it religiously every week and I really feel the need to do some house to house in Ambridge.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Operation Dragon Fire


Owen “Garry” Owen

B. 1949 Llandyssul parents dec. unmarried 

Studied for BA History at UCW Aberystwyth 1968 – 1969, took years sabbatical to help father run farm on death of mother. Farm then sold by bank 1970. Returned to UCW Aberystwyth for final year. Runs for Dep President (Treasurer) Student Union  and serves during further sabbatical year. Achieved a reputation for savage over-reaction to poor treatment of students by banks. Applied to join University OTC but rejected after familiarisation weekend. Quote from file “I would not breed from this potential officer” – Capt. A. A..
Achieved 2nd class degree 1972  and then moved to Trinity College Carmarthen for a year to obtain Cert. Ed. 1973 resident Llandyssul, applying for teaching posts. 1975, teaching history at Maridunum Comprehensive Carmarthen and also joined TA Logistics Troop, Picton Barracks. Left after a year. Quote from file “not suitable for junior NCO selection – would be followed but only out of curiousity” – Maj B B (TA).

1976 to 1978 date, teaching. Currently unemployed. Believed by MI5 to be “Commandant Armed Forces Independent Wales” and author of “Rhyfel Yngh Cymru” (“War In Wales”), the overall strategy for the ongoing Welsh Insurgency.

Last known whereabouts: Penny Pinch Fm, Borsetshire

Top Priority. 

TAOR: Borsetshire

Today, the emergency government declared martial law in Borsetshire. In a dawn raid, troops of the Parachute Regiment moved into Felpersham and other major towns across the county. Bob Langley reports:
At 5am this morning, heavily armoured columns led by armoured cars consisting of men from 5th Battalion Parachute Regiment simultaneously descended on towns across Borsetshire.
 Shocked residents woke to find barricades thrown up around Felpersham city centre and the major round abouts into the city guarded by armoured cars. Radio Borsetshire is urging the population to remain calm and continue economic and commercial activities normally. Car drivers have been warned of some disruption to their journeys.
Tony Mullet, Regional Officer of the General, Municipal and Badger craftworkers Union has declared this an "act of war" on the people of Borsetshire.
Let's say you need a little more background to feel the love for playing Winter of '79. Nothing wrong with that. I'm and INFP according to Myers-Briggs thingy am happy with being let run loose within a big 'sandbox'. I have time whilst I'm recuperating and need to exercise my mind so........

Borsetshire is a Midlands county on the Welsh Marches. It is vital as a firm base for future operations into 'Free' Wales. What we've seen reported here is an 'assault' battalion' move-in using speed and overwhelming force to establish controlled areas in the major centres of population.

Let's say Borsetshire is a battalion TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility), part of a larger brigade controlled TAOR. Brigadier 'Dickie' Davies has set up his Brigade Headquarters Forward Operating Base in Felpersham Civic Hall which also contains the headquarters of the county constabulary. This will allow close co-operation with the civic authorities and direct liaison with the police plus vital access to their records.

One company will be based here and two further companies will take over the South Felpersham District Council Depot as their headquarters, where a heli-pad will be built. These two companies will form the rapid reaction force within the TAOR and mounted in Saxon APCs with heli-lift capacity for one platoon. A troop of Scimitars and troop of Fox armoured cars has also been assigned.

The 'assault battalion' is setting up a 'temporary' base in Borchester. It's for a company plus a troop of armoured cars and a detachment of Royal Engineers. The armoured car HQ troop and one sabre troop have taken over the evacuated TAVR centre belonging to the East Borsetshire Yeomanry 'The Foxhounds'.

Strong vehicle patrols are in evidence across the county and Royal Engineer clearance teams are escorted to clear culverts and bridges of booby-traps on the A1992 south of Ambridge and the B1834 passage through the Hasset Hills.

Under cover of darkness, acting on intelligence gathered in East Whittingham by local Special Branch and officers of 23 SAS(V), homes are raided across the county and Blue Troop of 22 SAS conduct a special operations raid on Penny Pinch Farm two miles south of Ambridge. An ambush site is also set up on a suspected 'terrorist' route across the moors of the Hassett Hills.

 By 0800hrs, commuters arriving at major bus, rail and road interchanges across the county find a combined army and police presence. Soldiers check identity of workers coming to work at the Borset Vale Power Station. Eddie Trucker's transport business is one of many that morning to see an army presence aimed at ensuring the security of transportation and deliveries to ensure the continuation economic and commercial well being of the county. 

Vehicle Check Points appear at key road junctions. Vehicle and foot patrols motor through the streets of Felpersham. Borchester Poly is closed and barricaded. Tear gas disperses students and trade union members who gather to protest......cue music:


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Big Boys Rules

So what does our 'revolution' look like? Whats the timeline?

Well, during the course of Winter of '79 so far we have sketched out a brief series of events. In some cases we played them out the low key stuff in the fictional towns of East Whittington and Borchester. We also posted the 'revolution roadmap' from the British Army's own counter-insurgency manual.

We've decided that a timeline that has to be adhered to is too restrictive. We might want to play out a game from the easrly phase of the conflict in East Whittington this week and several linked games set around Borchester next, then East Whittington again. The world has moved on since the days of SPI's Wacht Am Rhine where you would spend months of your life pouring over maps and moving counters. Remember, for us Winter of '79 is a box within which to play our games and sometimes we just want to shake the box and see what ticket we pull out.

Campaigns, especially when blogged, also fall prey to "ah yes, but the RAF would have intervened and ......" . So we are going to play episodes from the revolution and civil war instead. Let's say we kick it off with a section patrol from 'N' Para or the government's new Raid Deployment Unit, bumping a Trot gun shipment in the lanes near the The Slaughtered Ferret. Events take their course – presume some losses on both sides but as Paras have a operating base and the Trots don’t as such. The Paras absorb the losses, take on intel and build up to a sweep of Ambridge parish. We decide if the Paras now have it in for the Trots or if they remain being professional Paras from now on….the Trots attitude to Paras is likewise determined and again, do more Trots join the revolution to become field a bigger force or do the survivors harden up and become cadre? 

So, next game is Para section doing a sweep. Or perhaps taking up a “observation/reaction position” at the anvil end of a sweep. Assets now include say a Humber, an armoured Land Rover and a qrf in a couple of Lightweights. 

We don’t have fixed “armies” to do the paperwork on or keep in command radius on map as the whole thing is “virtual” and decided by chinese parliament. Do we really need to use much more than common sense and perhaps a d6 for randomness. If I say “well, I want a gunned up westland scout” its only fair (for sake of fun game) that somehow, Maff the 'Mad Trot' get a few rpgs/Laws or perhaps a Dushka type weapon. Op Sec? lets presume it cancels out and leaks happen on both sides. 

Let's say you want a bit more than that. Maybe I do as a solo campaign whilst im recuperating. What would it look like? Let's take the example of the IRA in East Tyrone in the 1980's and transplant it to the UK.

Jim Lynagh, the leader of the IRA in East Tyrone devised a campaign based on Maoist military theory. This theory involved creating "zones of liberation" that the security forces in Northern Ireland did not control and then gradually expanding them to make the country as a whole ungovernable. Sounds right up our street in the context of Winter of '79.

South Armagh was considered as a liberated zone already, since British forces and the RUC could not use the roads for fear of roadside bombs. The strategy therefore began by establishing another area which the British military did not control. East Tyrone, a Republican stronghold was ideal. The IRA East Tyrone Brigade therefore launched attacks, mostly occurring in East Tyrone in areas close to South Armagh, which offered good escape routes across the border.

Remember that the IRA was on paper at least a Marxist revolutionary organisation and would in all probability not only have offered assitance to Marxist brothers in arms but also tried to profit from the situation on the UK mainland. This in itself offers a whole new range of potential within our games and we neatly answer the question how student rioters at Borchester Poly can be turned into armed insurgents.

Using the example of a real campaign above, we can instantly see how we can move from the 'Passive' phase box to the 'Active' - 'Insurgency' phase of the war; " a whole series of operations ranging from actions between formed units with a simultaneous situation of wide-spread guerrilla activity" (LAND OPERATIONS: Volume III Counter Revolutionary Operations (Parts 1 to 3), 1969 (revised 1973)). Or in other words, the raison d'tre for pushing model soldiers in DPM around a table. The fun stuff.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Winter of '79 What's it all about?

Winter of '79 represents an alternative history of the late seventies and early eighties. In this vision, the 'Establishment'  take control of the legitimate government and the subsequent 'crackdown' is faced with spontaneous popular resistance led by trade union, liberal and left-wing elements, which boils over into civil war.

 Now, I'm going to ask you to forget your own perception of the reality of 1979. Reality? It's only what you believe from what you have been told and will be different for each of us. Just so much conspiracy theory, so what? It simply provides the box within we can build our games.

What did happen, what could have happen what would have happened doesnt matter at all. Not a jot. Winter of '79 provides me, Maff, and I hope some of you with the context and motivation for fighting games based upon a premise of DPM vs Donkey Jacket, SLR vs Armalite, Brit against Brit, in the late seventies and early eighties.

It identifies the protagonists as left vs right, reaction vs liberalism. You can choose to define this at the national level, regional or right down to the local basis. What's happening nationally doesn't necessarily matter if you want to just fight out some actions in Borchester and do house to house, barn to barn fighting around Ambridge.

All we need is a rationale for the battle, who is involved, how they are uniformed and what they are armed with. 

VBCW this is not! No tea and hand grenades Vicar. But there is no reason not to have colourful private armies, trade union and left-wing militias, local defence leagues, new military and para-military formations, each with their own identity defined by your choice of uniforms, camo, weapons, badges and personalities.

Equally the forces on your tabletop can simply be armed civilians vs military, helmets vs berets, maroon vs green, SLRs vs Armalites. International volunteers? Foreign assistance? Your call.

So why 1979? Because it's a watershed. The Winter of Discontent, the collapse of the Callaghan government, the rise of Margaret Thatcher. In the years immediately before we see the vested interests and right-wing gearing up for a 'battle to save civilisation' as they knew it. A fear that Belfast could easily be replicated on the streets of Birmingham, Londonderry in Liverpool. In the years immediately after, we have unrest in Brixton, Bristol, Toxteth and the Miners Strike.

Whilst I may have chosen to play through the scenario of a popular opposition to a right wing crackdown following the election of Maragret Thatcher, you may choose to have it the other way round - with a Moscow backed Marxist take over being thwarted by a military coup or a protracted war of resistance by secret armies.

All in all, there's everything to play for. So, lets slide back the bolt, put a round up the spout and take the safety off.....


Monday, 6 June 2011

Saxon APC

The SAXON Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) developed by GKN Defence would definitely NOT make it onto Jeremy Clarkson's 'Cool Wall' - you would not want to pick up Kristin Scott Thomas in one of these. However it does have a certain 'Internal Security' look that would make it perfect in Winter of '79.

AT105, later christened SAXON (1982) was manufactured in 1976. It was the successor to the dismal failure of the AT-104, introduced in 1972,  as the first vehicle specifically designed as a response to the urban insurgency in Northern Ireland. The AT104 looked like a bigger version of the FV1611 Humber Pig and was essentially an armoured truck sharing many of the components of the Bedford 4x4.

The AT105 differed to the earlier AT104. in that the armoured hull gave the same level of protection to the radiator, engine and transmission as to the crew; eg it could withstand small arms up to and including 7.62mm armour piercing rounds and 155mm shell fragments; redesigned hull floor to give increased protection against damage from mines; more powerful diesel engine and a shorter wheelbase for improved mobility and turning. Able to carry 10 men and all their gear, "big as a house" inside it was considered by those who were hapless enough to ride in it - "better than shankies pony". The AT105 is still used in Afganistan and appears to be able to stop AK47 rounds.

In all fairness to the SAXON, it was not designed to serve as an armoured personnel carrier in the forward edge of the battlefield, but rather as an armoured transport to move reinforcements - mostly from the UK to their BAOR area of operations in relative safety from ambush and air attack.

Whilst the first production run was in 1975 the AT105 would not see service with the British Army till 1984, I think we can safely assume that a national emergency of the magnitude of Winter of '79, would see SAXONS moving troops to hotspots and patrolling the country lanes.

Kingfisher Miniatures produce a wide range of SAXON variants including:

Saxon, 4 x 4, Armoured Personnel Carrier, MAC-18 £11.50
Saxon, 4 x 4, Northern Ireland Patrol with photo etched grilles, MAC-48 £15.70
Saxon, 4 x 4, with L37 Turret.  MAC-54  £12.80

Amongst others, BW Models produce the Saxon APC, BW35 £12.00 and NI patrol vehicle (bull bars, no screens), BW75 also £12.00.

RH Models produce a resin Saxon 4x4 APC, BAFV-6 for £6.99.

In all likelihood the Saxon would be far more common  than an FV432 on British streets. For a one-off model I may well go Kingfisher but for two or more, RH Models will be the order of the day.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

We've Come on Holiday By Mistake!

The classic, nay, iconic 1987 British movie Withnail & I is in one word - SCARY! - it reminds me far too much of sharing a flat with Matt back in my 20's.

You can't fail to love the Uncle Monty's country house 'Crow's Crag'. Otherwise known as Sleddale Hall, at Shap near Penrith. Dare I say, it's perfect for Winter of '79 and if I ever win the lottery, it will become the Winter of '79 Wargames Holiday Centre.

Now I've turned over Dropship Horizon to safe hands I intend to make 'Crows Crag' in 20mm. Reitre to my Winter of '79 estate so to speak. LOL. Carefully constructed there are potentially five unique buildings here  that could be used individually on the tabletop or brought together in different combinations.

Anyhoo, it's not going to be an immediate project. I have several Briitish AFVs to build - a troop of Fox's from S&S Models - plus some figures to convert and even some to sculpt. But a fun project to aim for once I'm confident of my scratchbuilding skills. I don't doubt there will be more than one version of 'Crows Crag' built until I'm satisfied.


Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Bedford RL

....But so is the Bedford RL 4x4 GS wagon that Shaun is currently working on at S&S Models.

S&S Models Bedford RL
(Courtesy S&S Models)

The RL 4X4 was developed from the postwar Bedford "S" series and was introduced in 1953. RL's were used by Auxiliary Fire Service, the Military or Local Authorites and Utilities. They could be found across the world in Commonwealth armed forces too. Tough as old boots, many RLs are still going in private hands. The RL based 'Green Goddess' Fire Engines were sold off by the government, largely in working order, in 2004/8.

Effectively replaced by the introduction of the Bedford MK which began in 1969, the RL still soldiered on in the Regular and Territorial Army in several guises throughout the Winter of '79 timeframe and well into the late eighties.

Several thousand are known to have been bought by the Home Office and stockpiled for use in any potential national emergency.

So, no excuse then not to field at least one of these beauties.


Friday, 3 June 2011

It's a Tank? Right?

If you are looking for an alternative 'tank' to parade through the streets and fields of Winter of '79, consider the FV433 Abbot 105mm Self Propelled Gun. Denizen of 'tank' driving experiences the length and breadth of the UK in the nineties

S&S Models Abbot 105mm SPG
(photos courtesy S&S Models)

There was only a single L (Nery) Battery of 6 Abbots in the UK in 1980. The remainder serving with BAOR. But there's nothing to stop us from having one forcibly appropriated by Rebels or Militia from a REME establishment or taken during breakdown or crew pitstop on a redeployment.

The Abbot was armed with the 105mm L13A1 gun and as standard load carried 40 rounds - including up to 6 HESH rounds for engaging enemy armour. The armour was 10-12mm which doesnt allow it to dominate the battelfield.

Shaun at S&S Models produces this very nice and simple to construct kit of an FV433 at £10 (UK). And it's tempting.......