Saturday 31 July 2010

Hull is For Heroes: Intro

 "Bravo Team. We have intelligence of an illegal arms shipment on a Cypriot registered freighter heading for Hull. The weapons appear to have been stolen from a Norwegian army barracks last month and are being transported in a blue SMERSK LINE container. 

We are going to take the ship when it hits British waters before they have a chance to offload the gear onto smaller vessels.  Seems there are some British nationals on board - we suspect they are armed and accompanying the merchandise. We need to keep a couple alive.

A Royal Navy Sea King will drop Bravo and Charlie Teams on the main deck at 05:15 hrs zulu. Charlie will locate and secure the cargo, Bravo will take the bridge and secure the hatches leading topside before  clearing the accomodation areas and engineering. We'll then hand over to the Royal Navy to take the credit".

......four hours later........
"Shit! A fog bank is preventing the chopper from flying to the target. We'll have to take her as she enters Hull Harbour. The new plan is to stow aboard the Pilot boat and storm the target when it docks alongside. Check your gear, load up the Range Rovers. We are about to break the land speed record on the M42......."

Sunday 25 July 2010

Combat Minis 20mm SAS in 'Black Kit'

Perhaps the most iconic military image of the 1980's, was created by the black-clad, hooded and gasmasked SAS troopers who brought a dramatic end to the Iranian Embassy Siege in London, right in front of the TV and camera lenses of the world's press.

Not surprisingly, after a mammoth session playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Maff and I have both stumped up for our very own 20mm (ex-Hotspur) Combat Miniatures' SAS teams in 'black kit' from Stonewall Miniatures.

Combat Miniatures 20mm: Urban Operations Range
URBN2 SAS in Operation Nimrod Equipment
(photo from Sapper Joe's blog, used with permission)

Mine arrived yesterday in a parcel of mixed goodies. My thanks to Mark at Stonewall for a quick & painless purchase. All in all very nice figures. I'm going to buy at least one additional pack from Stonewall to give me three teams - Embassies & Town Halls "storming, for the use of". I also plan to convert at least one of the figures kneeling firing the Browning pistol into a standing firing pose.


Wednesday 21 July 2010

Midshire Mayhem


Further violent scenes in the Borough yesterday as an armed gang staged an armed robbery on the Neville Street branch of the Midshire Bank. As one man guarded the getaway van, three masked men ran into the bank, taking a customer hostage at gunpoint. Local art dealer Brian Sowell saw it all, "well, once the three gentlemen had entered the classical portico of the bank, all was quite still, apart from the screams of course. There was then a most alarming noise as a Jaguar car, driven quite obviously by a man possessed of the demon of speed, braked to a halt. Some urgent gentlemen, some exhibiting most foul ties and alarming sideburns, leapt out of the car - like Leander crossing the Hellespont - and called upon the villain guarding the van to surrender or face the consequences. Sensing that the tranquility of the urban mis-en-scene was to be further ravaged, I went into my shop and drew the curtains."
Events soon escalated - DCI Hacker shouted to the gunmen in the bank to "come out now you bunch of ponces or we'll drag you out by your knackers". At this point shooting could be heard from inside the bank and a gunman ran out of the door, firing a sawn off shotgun at DC Banham who had taken cover behind a cream Morris Minor. DC Banham was unhurt but returned fire, killing the guman instantly.
Uniformed police then arrived at the scene and entered the bank - inside the staff and customers were safe but both gunmen were critically injured, one fatally. DCI Hacker later stated "it seems that the villains fell out, panicked and shot each other. Still, saved us the paperwork".

John Foyle was arrested for attempted armed robbery and taking and driving away a vehicle. He was found not guilty of the former charge and released on bail.

DCI Hacker described himself as "gutted" at the verdict.

Gary Malone was shot by DC Banham.

Ian Naughton was apparently shot by David Cody who is intensive care pending trial.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

The First Fires


Special Late Edition

Chaos erupted on the streets of Felpersham last night. By the end of the uproar involving hundreds of protestors, an estimated 50 police officers were injured and 100 persons arrested.  At least 10 buildings including the historic Felpersham Department Store were destroyed by petrol bombs.

A break away group of protestors, most wearing balaclavas, some armed with improvised weapons attacked Felpersham TA Centre at the height of the riots. A Police spokesman said that a few had gained entrance but the weapons stored in the armoury were at no time threatened. 14 police officers were hurt in this separate incident.

The riots appear to have been sparked by an impassioned political tirade against the government made by Miss Claire Dixby, speaking at the Felpersham Young Socialists' conference. The conference was held at the Masonic Hall in the centre of Felpersham earlier in the evening and disturbances broke out immediately afterwards.

Speaking today in the the aftermath of last night's destruction, Miss Dixby said

"There is no peaceful road to socialism—we are building a revolutionary socialist youth movement to lead the struggle".

There was a continued heavy police presence at Borchester College today.........


Hobbycraft Summer Specials

A quick heads up that Hobbycraft have the following summer special offers on just now:


Airfix 1/76th Land Rover FC 1 Tonne GS for £3.99

The Land Rover 101 FC (Forward Control) 1 Tonne truck entered service in 1975 and served with the British Army up until the late 1990s. The body parts were detachable allowing it to be airlifted to forward operating areas.

The 101 FC was capable of 60mph on a good road and could tow up to 4000lbs. It was primarily used as a tractor for the 105mm L118 Light Field Gun and Rapier AA Missile launcher. TA infantry battalions were also issued 1-tonners as transport for their 81mm mortar platoons.

Airfix 1/76th Bristol Bloodhound for £3.99

The Airfix Bristol Bloodhound missile set is a real blast from the past. The set includes the missile and launcher, missile trailer and a 1/2 ton Series II SWB Land Rover, plus 6 dodgy figures and an even dodgier dog!

An RAF Bloodhound Mk 1 Squadron site had 32 launchers, which were spilt into two fire units of 16 Launchers. There would also be a Launch Control Post Building, Works Services Building and two Type 83 Radars and their Control Cabins. These 16 Launchers were set up in two Sections of 8, each tied to one of the radars. 

The Bloodhounds were mostly deployed to protect main airfields in the Midlands. Jim Callaghan's review of Britains defences in 1977 found that there was only had one spare 'reload' per launcher. The 'plan' up to then had been to buy more missiles from Sweden if we needed them, in the middle of a shooting war, with the Soviet Union! Well done THAT Civil Servant! 

The Bloodhound missile is't what excites me, it's the Land Rover! OK, it's a simple model with no seats or internal detailing but this is a good opportunity to pick up some cheap SWBs for your Territorials, or civvie Land Rovers for rebel an revolutionary forces.

If you are in the States, take a look at


Olivers Part-Time Army

The Territorial Army, known as the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve or 'TAVR' pre 1979, was a significant contribution in manpower to the defence of the United Kingdom in wartime. Composed of civilian volunteer reservists the TA provided the British Army with complete units up to battalion size.

Of the 58,000 men and women in the TA, 40% served as infantry 20 per cent. signals, medics and engineers, the rest in logistics and other service arms.

The TA also included 3 battalions of paratroops (4 Para, 10 Para, 15 Para), 2 SAS regiments (21st and 23rd), and a number of Yeomanry armoured car and reconnaissance units. 

In 1979-80 the TA was 12,000 below establishment. Infantry units were generally 80% or more full, but there was a severe shortage of drivers especially in logistics units and other specialist functions.

Territorial Army Centres (or Drill Halls) were a common feature across the country. Even my own village has one. Each Centre had it's own uniform/equipment QM store, armoury and the vehicles required by it's role.

Every TA unit had small professional British Army cadre. The part-time soldiers, 'Terriers' or more unkindly known as 'Weekend Warriors', were mostly committed to what they were doing and had an excellent esprit d'corps.  A good number were ex-soldiers who often made up the bulk of the Ncos but by far the majority were ordinary men and women off the street, who became soldiers one night a week and a couple of weekends each month.

On joining, a recruit would spend a period in the recruit platoon learning military basics before taking a 2 week 'basic' training course at a Regular Army establishment. Further specialist weapons or equipment training was then provided as necessary, again often at Regular Army training facilities. TA Soldiers could volunteer to serve with regular army units as short-term regular soldiers (1 year).

Unlike the National Guard, until 1996, the Territorial Army could only be called up by Queen's Order. This was an all or nothing approach. General mobilisation of the Territorial Army occurred in this manner for the Korean War and again for Suez.

The TA wore regular British Army uniforms, often adorned with their own unique regimental distinctions and were armed in a similar fashion to the regular army - L1A1 SLRs, Sterling SMGs, GPMGs or L4A1 (Bren) Light Machine-guns. The distribution of support weapons was generally lighter than similar regular army formations - eg one Carl Gustav 84mm MAW per platoon - whilst heavy weapons were older models, eg 120mm L4 MOBATS. Though there was a significant re-arming of the TA from 1982-1985 with modern weapons such as MILAN.

Vehicles were a mix of new and old - modern Bedford MKs served alongside Bedford RLs from the 1960's and Bedfords, Austins and AECs of Korea vintage. The Saladin armoured Car and Saracen APC soldiered on in the TA after their withdrawal from regular army formations. The Saladin was replaced by the Fox in the late seventies but the Saracen continued for some time due to the cancellation of 25% of the MOD orders for Spartan family CVR(T) APCs.

to be continued.............


Monday 19 July 2010

4x4 Wheels On My Wagon

Discussing vehicles we need for Winter of '79 last night, Maff made a very good point. His argument ran that every army base and TA centre the length and breadth of the country would have at least a Land Rover or two and maybe some Bedford 4 tonners on hand.

The way I see it, 2 Land Rovers and a 4 tonner are a convoy to be ambushed, a supply depot to be raided, a vehicle park to be liberated,  HQ captured, or a QRF platoon coming to the rescue. Add an armoured Land Rover or Saracen APC to escort this lot in 'bandit country' and we have a perfect starter force.


Tuesday 13 July 2010

The Semi-Professionals


Scene: A grotty bedsit; two young men - one, Cody (short dark hair) is sat on the bed, stripping and oiling a sten gun, the other Foyle (curly dark hair) is lounging on a sleeping bag on the floor reading "Chamber's Legal Primer vol 2". Both have handguns in shoulder holsters.
Foyle: Hey - when do I get to sleep on the bed?
Cody (smugly): You don't - we tossed for it and you lost.
Foyle: Yeah, well you had an unfair advantage
Cody: You mean my keen eye and dexterity?
Foyle: No, you're just a complete tosser
Cody points a finger at Foyle
Cody: Now, behave or I'll tell McTavish and he'll take your porno book off you.
Foyle just looks at Cody and goes back to his book
Cody: Soddit I'm bored - sure there's no smut in your book?
Foyle: Sure of it. You wait - I pack this in and I'm off to be a lawyer; maybe a Judge, end up in my court and you'll be in for a dose of porridge
Cody: Get stuffed - if we get done for that Securicor job, we'll be doing the time. Bang goes your legal career then mate
Foyle: I hate undercovers
Cody: Depends who you're under the covers with
Foyle: Tell me about it
Sharp rap on the door - both draw their handguns
Cody: If you're the landlord - we're out!
Door opens, in walks Mr McTavish - a greying Scotsman in a raincoat holding a carrier bag
McTavish: Guid Morning lads - you can put the guns away. Pshaw - is that smell you, Cody?
Cody : Nah, it's his cooking
Cody points to a hotplate in the corner - a pan steams menacingly
McTavish: What the crivens is it?
Foyle: Lamb tagine with apricots and chickpeas. Got the recipe from this Libyan bird, Leila, at the LSE
McTavish: Libyan heh? Is she cooperative?
Cody: Too right she is - he's knackered, a broken man, look at him. Oh no, he always looks like that
McTavish: Thats enough, Cody. Right, the lads and lasses at GCHQ picked up a phone call from the Headshed at Red Spike - they're doing the armed robberies to get funds to bail that mad trot Spart and then to get some more guns - AKs and the like
Foyle: Did they buy the fake Securicor blag?
McTavish: Och aye they did and all. They want to meet you pair.
Cody: Nice - we meet 'em, then we slot 'em?
McTavish: No. You meet them and let them recruit you. You tell us where they are hitting next, then the lads from Hereford slot them. Here's your in [he takes a pair of Skorpions from the carrier bag] they've been jarked so be careful with them. Now lose those shoulder holsters - you look like professionals.
Exit McTavish
Foyle looks at Cody.
Foyle: Undercover eh?
Cody: Tell me about it......

Monday 12 July 2010

Armoured Land Rovers from BW Models

Barry Wright at B. W. Models produces what must be the most comprehensive range of 1/76 : OO scale white metal models of  military vehicles used by all branches of the British Armed Forces from 1940 onwards. He has some cracking stuff, including armoured Land Rovers that are perfect for Winter of '79.

 B.W. Models: Code BW274
 Land Rover Series 3 LWB VPK Armoured
  (photos courtesy BW Models wesbite. Used with permission)

Not surprisingly, Ulster was the birthplace of the very first "add-on" armour "kits" produced for Land Rovers, which at this time was the Series III model.  Developed in the early 70's both the RUC (BW271 & BW272) and British Army introduced the VPK (Vehicle Protection Kit) consisting of fibre glass panels and clear plastic Makrolon armour to provide additional protection for their Land Rovers.

There's a fantastic article in Soldier Magazine's archive (click here for pdf).

The Army continued improving the original VPK armour to counter the increasingly more common high velocity rounds terrorist groups were now using. In 1980 GKN Sankey produced a new "add-on" armour "kit" of Makrolon and Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) panels known as HVPK (High Velocity Protection Kit).

B.W. Models: Code BW277
 Land Rover Series 3 LWB HVPK Armoured
  (photos courtesy BW Models wesbite. Used with permission)

This was fitted to standard Army Series III LWB Land Rovers which became effectionally called "Piglets" by their crews. The armour was continually improved with addtional protection to the doors and front being added to the Land Rover 110 (Defender) that replaced the Series III from around 1982 onwards.


Dutch Treat

Back to work this morning in glorious sunshine. As we are in the middle of the 'Tattie' Holidays I had the luxury of an empty carriage. So spent the joruney carefully studying each farm, steading and small clutch of houses we passed - taking mental note of each.

It turned into one of those days, so left promptly tonight to drop by Hobbycraft on the way to the station. Picked up a 1/76th Airfix  Saracen APC and a Bedford MK (both ex-JB Models).

Prize purchase was a Hornby Dutch Barn - the latter reduced from £19.99 to £13.99 and then a further 30% off at the till. Less than £10 - bargain! Recommend a stop by Hobbycraft if there's one near you.

Last week my head was spinning with trying to decide what urban/rural scenics to buy. Eyeballing the countryside again on the way home, I'm going to concentrate  on creating a rural setting initially - enough models for 2 farms and a clutch of buildings round a crossroads, tumbled down cow sheds etc - plenty of inspiration locally.


Sunday 11 July 2010

Hornby buildings

I think the excellent prebuilt range of buildings by Hornby are ideal fo gaming in the 70s and 80s. They have some interesting subjects, come ready painted and if carefully selected certainly have a period feel. The only problem is that they can be a bit fragile and pricey.

firestation 1

They also do a great range off street furniture.



The Long Firearm of the Law

In the Seventies the average British Bobby in true Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars fashion was armed with no more than his whistle, Hyatt cuffs and 15 & a half inch truncheon. There was no centralised authority controlling firearms issued to the country's Police forces. Each Chief Constable, subject to the approval of his police authority, could decide how many and what types of weapons were necessary for his force.

By way of example, in 1972 all the police forces under Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland held the following weapons:

Rifles 185
Pistols 165
Revolvers 243
Shotguns 27

Police Officers assigned to protection duties were routinely armed, but for the majority, the policy was that firearms were carried only "when there is reason to suppose that a police officer may have to face an armed man and used only if human life is endangered".

The Metroplitan Police recieved their first dedicated firearms unit, D6 (later D11,PT17, SO19, now CO19) in 1966. The first "Instant Response Cars" with armed police officers were introduced by West Yorkshire Police in 1976 - these are now common place and known as Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs).

67% of rifles in Police use throughout the UK were .303 SMLE MkIV No.2. Following a working party on Police firearms in 1970, the Enfield L39A1 was chosen as a replacement. Small adjustments to the weapon were recommended by the Police Scientific Development Branch to create the 7.62mm Enfield Enforcer.

The most common hand gun was the Smith & Wesson M&P/M10 revolver. In addition to the weapons held by each Police force there were several secret arms stores in the UK stocked with SMLEs and Stirling Sub-machine guns for arming the police wholesale in event of a war or national crisis where extremes measures may be required to control the population.

Under plans for Nuclear War with the Soviet Union - there would be 'flying columns' of police - 100 or more strong that would be stationed at strategic locations throughout the UK.

Baton rounds and tear gas were available in 14 Police Forces in 1979.

 Oct 7, 1985 - Seven people were arrested. At the height of the riotings, mobs of black and white youths used shotguns, gasoline bombs and other weapons in running battles with police.

LONDON (Reuters) - Vowing to meet force with force, London's police chief today authorized use of tear gas and plastic bullets after a policeman was hacked to death with a machete in the worst rioting ever seen in England.

[Kenneth Newman] said he had reluctantly authorized the use of tear gas and plastic bullets to quell future riots, and [Richard Wells] said the time had come for Britons "to prepare themselves for tougher options."

Police have used tear gas on mainland Britain only once - in 1981 against rioters in the Toxteth district of Liverpool. They have never used plastic bullets, though British troops have employed them in Northern Ireland.


DPM Sapper Joe's Way

I've been following Sapper Joe's blog and have to admit that I am really impressed by Joe's skill at painting DPM. Tricky at the best of times, he has really pulled it off in 20mm.

 Joe's DPM painting skills (photo used with permission)
Combat Miniatures 20mm British (Corp5 & Urbn7)

Chatting with Joe, he based painting his DPM on the tutorial from the now defunct Mongrel Miniatures website. I've summarised this tutorial below:

1) Undercoat the figure black

2) Paint the whole uniform and helmet with Vallejo 921 English Uniform.

3) Add green blotches of Vallejo 894 Russian Green all over the uniform,

4) Follow with brown blotches of Vallejo 822 SS Camo Black Brown.

5) Don't make the blotches of either colour too big, so as to totally obscure the base colour.

6) Highlight the base colour with Coat d' Arms 225 Khaki

7) Repeat the process with the dark green blobs, applying a highlight of Vallejo 886 Green Grey.

8) When applying these highlights, don't obscure the colour underneath, as this is where the depth of colour comes from. Try to keep the highlight surrounded by a line of the base colour on each layer.

9) Highlight the brown blotches with Vallejo 984 Flat Brown and then add some irregular black swirls. Be careful not to make these too prominent or too thick as they will dominate the whole uniform if you do. Aim for single strokes of your paintbrush for each swirl, with enough paint on it to complete it in one stroke. At this point I painted the exposed parts of the helmet and roll at the base of the webbing with Russian Green as a basecoat.

10) Paint the webbing with Foundry Granite (midtone).

11) Highlight webbing and puttees a highlight of Vallejo 886 Green Grey.

12) Drybrush helmet netting black

13) Paint scrim muted natural colours – earth/tan etc

14) Outline pockets, joins between jacket and trousers, straps and belts etc to separate the parts of the figure and show off the separate items of dress and equipment with a dark colour.

15) Para Berets – Vallejo 33/926 Red

British DPM

Mark adds:

At the end of the day the choice of colours and overall effect is a matter of personal taste when representing camo in smaller scales. If you reduce the DPM camo scheme above within an image editor, you'll notice that the colours start to merge as you make it smaller. This happens in reality when the naked eye views camo over distance. The green, tan, brown, black of DPM, appears as green/tan/ black at 50 metres, green/black at 100 metres and just plain green at 200 metres.

The only change I would make to the tutorial above is that the puttees should be Vallejo 921 English Uniform. I would suggest that depending on the effect you want to achieve, use green as your base colour rather than the 'tan', then use brown blotches to partly cover the tan and green. That way you don't end up with lots of 'tan' in difficult to reach folds and creases.

Highlighting each colour in 20mm and below is, let's be honest, a pain in the proverbial. From my own experience with DPM combats I suggest these rough and ready methods:

1) Use a pointed detail brush to 'paint' Citadel Devlan Mud wash directly into creases and folds.
2) Once you've painted the figure, wash all over with watered Devlan Mud, then highlight using the base colours again.
3) Once the figure has had the basic colours painted, lightly drybush all over with Vallejo 819 Iraqi Sand. Pay particular emphasis to knees and elbows.
4) 1 followed by 3 above.

Now for some eye watering DPM on W40K Cadians take a look at the Dakka Dakka Forum (click here).

I'll take another look at DPM and the variations you can bring to your miniatures in order to differentiate between units/ factions in future posts.

Joe, thanks once again.


Saturday 10 July 2010

Brainstorming: "The Case of the Army truly stated"

It may be worth bearing in mind the following stats when trying to determine the dynamics of how individuals and units within the British Army would behave in any internal political crisis:

The military population of Britain including wives and children was 230,000. Of 43,000 married quarters 1/3rd were in Aldershot, Catterick, Colchester or Bulford/Tidworth, the other 2/3rds distributed across 160 towns in the UK. Only the Parachute Regiment and Household Division retained permanent established garrison bases with permanent married quarters.

After the 1977 report on pay, the increase in rents and food charges "created great bitterness and a deep mistrust of the Government" (quote: House of Commons).  8,000 Army families received Social Security benefits to prevent them falling below the breadline. 908 Army officers applied for premature voluntary release in 1977–78. Some 4,643 men left the Army prematurely at their own request during that same period.

Almost 50% of private soldiers were recruited from the industrial North-East of England and Scotland, but only 15% serving in regular regiments were based there. Only 3% (average) of the British Army were registered voters.


Friday 9 July 2010

Revolution Road Map

Gaming at the regional level provides an opportunity within Winter of '79 to call upon LAND OPERATIONS: Volume III Counter Revolutionary Operations (Parts 1 to 3), 1969 (revised 1973). This is the British Army's 'manual' for counter-acting revolutionary and insurgency warfare.

 LAND OPERATIONS: Volume III Counter Revolutionary Operations 
Part 1 General Principals: Appendix A

LAND OPERATIONS: Vol III lays down what we could call a revolutionary road map - the general characteristics for each phase of the conflict, what actions are most likely to occur and the typical response of the military and civilian authorities. This gives us an excellent blueprint on which to structure our games. At the local level a violent protest, a convoy ambush, or attack on a seat of regional government might elicit a response that pushes the participants into a more aggressive phase of the conflict.


Brainstorming: Regional Government

Why devolve the game setting to the Sub-Regional Seats of Government (SRSG)? Well, a couple of reasons.  I have to admit that I 'm having trouble rationalising how an armed revolution can be turned into a civil war whilst central government mainatins it's grip on a country the size of the UK. Not without it seeing it being a long and protracted affair.

Pushing the government of the hypothetical crisis out to the regions actually makes the whole thing more realistic - to me at least - and means we can define a specific region as our gaming area of operations to play out the ebb and flow of the revolution and onset of civil war.

I'm not sure how much of the sixties/early seventies national crisis/emergency and war Sub-Regional Seats of Government infrastructure existed in 1979 - Emergency Planning taking over from the defunct Civil Defence in the mid-1970's - but it works for me as an assumption for my games, especially as they were aligned with the local military command District.

For an outstanding work on emergency and war government in the UK see Steve Fox's excellent thesis THE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL: Governing Britain After The Bomb, which is wholly available online. I'm sure you'll find plenty there for your own game setting.

There's a lot of potential within this framework - attacks on the regional centres of governments, local coups, military take-overs, division and civil war at a county or borough council level. Do the local Territorials who are local civilian workers after all, many of whom may be unemployed, follow orders or do they whole or in part declare for the local opposition - shades of the first days of the Spanish Civil War in Madrid and Barcelona?
Any thoughts are welcome.


Brainstorming: Alternative Timeline

"I am in politics because of the conflict between good 
and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph."
Margaret Thatcher, PM

Just how do you model insurgency, revolution and civil war in late C20th Britain? Well, first we need a background, be it the chilling doomsday scenario of Exercise Grass Seed, 1966, or as in our case a "Workers United Will Never Be Defeated!" popular reaction to heavy-handed government measures. 

 "The only effective and permanent counter to a
revolutionary movement is good government......"
LAND OPERATIONS Volume III Counter Revolutionary Operations Part1

The political road map leading towards the tipping point that actually turns industrial unrest and peaceful protest into armed conflict against the state is still  in a state of flux - it's too easy to get mired within the
politics or carried away with creating an unnecessarily detailed background when focus at this stage should really be on the game. However, my thinking has examined several alternative timeline scenarios but ultimately keeps bringing me back here:

Jim Callaghan's handling of the 'Winter of Discontent' towards the end of 1978 leads to increasing industrial protest in the streets of Britain. The Army is brought in to break strikes and violence erupts. A state of National Emergency declared. Conservatives call a vote of  'No Confidence' in the Labour government precipitating the May election in 1979. Conservatives win. 

Margaret Thatcher, now PM, decides in a demonstration of strength to show who is in charge of the country. Militant Tendency hard-liners within the Trade Unions shut down critical power stations and bring coal distribution to standstill. Army move in, strikers killed in an accident. Next day first shots are fired. The Queen's appeal for calm is not seen due to a 'power failure' at the BBC. Militants severe the telephone network. Barricades are thrown up across streets up and down the nation.
The government COB-R committee sitting in secret declare that the UK has ceased to be a governable corporate political entity and places the Sub-Regional Seats of Government (SRSG) on a war footing......

London Calling.........
London Calling.........


Thursday 8 July 2010

Brainstorming: The People Armed

“If you go to Liverpool… they are coming in from Ireland. 
Somebody says from Poland, from Italy, from France, from Albania.”

A quick brainstorm on firearm ownership in the UK in the 70's and early 80's.

Progressive arms controls in the C20th denuded the rights of individuals to legitimately bear arms. The 1968 Firearms Act brought together all existing firearms legislation in a single statute and formed the legal basis for British firearms control policy until 1988 when the Firearms (Amendment) Act hurriedly came about in the wake of the 1987 Hungerford massacre.

The number of legally held firearms during the period we are gaming can be gathered from the following statistics:

In 1969, there were 216,281 firearms certificates held by private individuals in the UK; in 1986 the figure was 160,285. Despite the first ever controls imposed on shotguns by the 1968 Act, in 1969, 637,108 people were licensed shotgun owners (i.e. permitted to own any number of shotguns); and in 1986 there were 840,951. Virtually all these certificate holders were either members of gun clubs (for target shooting), engaged in hunting game for sport (largely an elitist past-time, even in the seventies the United Kingdom was increasingly urbanised with relatively few areas where game could be shot in the wild), or gamekeepers/farmers (for the control of vermin).

Out of interest, the weapons legally licensed and owned by Michael Ryan, the Hungerford Massacre gunman included:

    * Zabala shotgun
    * Browning shotgun
    * Beretta 92 semi-automatic 9 mm pistol
    * CZ ORSO semi-automatic .32 pistol
    * "Type 56" 7.62x39mm semi-automatic rifle (Chinese copy of the AK-47)
    * M1 Carbine .30 7.62x33mm semi-automatic rifle

The licensed arms dealer who sold these weapons to Michael Ryan is quoted as saying "I wouldn’t really like to say how many guns I’ve sold over the years, certainly tens of thousands".
The number of illegally held firearms in the 70's probably numbered 250,000 including many ex-service weapons and WW2 trophies. In a 1965 gun amnesty a man in Royston, Hertfordshire, handed over an anti-tank gun, four service rifles, 12,000 rounds of ammunition, several live grenades and three booby traps.

The 1968 amnesty would net 25,000 illegal weapons and in 1988 a further 42,000 weapons plus 1.5 million rounds of ammunition were handed in to police.

Criminals had no problem in acquiring firearms for robberies: from 1974 to 1984 the number of robberies using firearms in England and Wales rose from 650 to 2,098. A survey of 80 gun related crimes determined that 16 used sawn off shotguns, 20 9mm pistols, 13 revolvers and 7 automatic rifles or sub-machine guns  (mostly Uzi and Mac-10). Most of these appear to have come in via Liverpool Docks and many had an Irish connection.

So we are looking at over 1 million shotguns, mostly single and double bore hunting/sporting models, between half and one million assorted firearms - everything from Brown Bess through Mauser pistol to AK47 and Bren gun in private ownership (legally or otherwise).

And that's before our heroic revolutionaries turn to arms dealers, hardened criminals, old boys networks, the IRA and foreign diplomats and revolutionary movements (ETA) for aid.


Dawn Raid at Railway Cuttings


Residents awoke to doors breaking and shots being fired in a dawn raid that left two, including a policeman, fatally wounded. "Railway Cuttings is a quiet street" said Mr T Hitchcock, who runs a B&B, "many of my guests are artistes and just aren't used to this sort of thing. I knew the lads in number 15, they often borrowed sugar or fertiliser for their garden and once gave Miss Jacks some spare peroxide they had. They'd wave at me as I went to donate blood. But I saw this coming, Oh yes, the signs were there if you know what I mean."
As the Police scoured the area for forensic evidence, DCI Jack Hacker read out a statement, "This was a textbook raid, shockingly marred by the murder of DC Towle at the hands of workshy criminal scum who have now got what they deserve. We have more than eneough evidence to achieve a conviction of the surving toe-rag."
A Source Close to the Flying Squad revealed todays grim events to our reporter, "Well, boyo, it was like this see, the Guv he was at the front door with a fireaxe and Terry, while me and Bammo were in the alley by the back gate. The Chief had sent two marksmen along and we'd got them where they could cover the back. The Guv blew the whistle and took out the front door, Bammo opened the gate and we tore in and I took my axe to the back door. This boyo was in the kitchen and made a dash for it but I tackled him and down we went - there we were in a bit of a ruck on the floor when the Guv tanks in and kicks im in the head. That's when we heard the shots upstairs. Bammo cuffed him to the fridge and we ran like stink upstairs - thats when we heard two more shots. Turns out Terry bach had looked in the bog just as the shooter came out of the front bedroom and just shot him - then ran along the landing and opened the back window to do a runner, he was waving his .38 he was and the marksmen both got him, fair play to them. "


DC Roy Towle was shot in the course of duty

Stevie Watson was shot by policemarksmen, he was holding a .38 webley revolver which was proved to be the weapon used to murder DC Towle

Douglas Dawson was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, armed robbery and the murder of DC Towle. In his summing up, Justice Forsyth told the Jury that "Dawson was not holding the gun but you may wish to decide that he was as responsible as his appalling fellow thug, the unlamented Watson." Dawson was found guilty by unanimous verdict and sentenced to life imprisonment. At his trial he had a pronounced limp.
Chief Constable Rodney Boye of East Whittington was quoted as saying "This case has broken the legs of the wave of armed crime in the Borough".
Two days later two masked men armed with sten guns held up a Securicor van on Whittington High Road. The Police are appealing for witnesses and investigations are "ongoing".


Brainstorming: Trained Manpower

What was the pool of manpower with military training in the United Kingdom in 1979/80?

Here are my first thoughts.....


National Service always rears it's head in this type of debate. Just like every squaddie in 1914 being regarded as a veteran of the Boer War. National Service ended on 31 December 1960, with the last National Serviceman being demobbed in 1963. Under National Service healthy males 17 to 21 years old were conscripted to serve in the Armed Forces for 18 month, and remain on the reserve list for four years. They could be recalled to their units for up to 20 days during these four years. Men were exempt from National Service if they worked in  coal mining, farming or the merchant navy.

National Servicemen served in Korea, Malaya, Cyprus, Borneo, Suez building up a good deal of miliutray experience but by 1979, we are looking at even the youngest National Servicemen being 39 years old. Essentially men between 40 and 50 years old of whom only a relatively small proportion would have more than basic training with the small arms of their day.


The British Armed Forces were continually downsized in the 60's and 70's. So even if we put a round figure of 10% turnover in personnel it's difficult to come up with any realistic estimate at the number of trained ex-military personnel in the general population. The Regular Army Reserve in 1979 was 121,500, then 3,000 Royal Air Force Reserve and a similar number in the Royal Navy Reserve.  There were 58,900 serving Territorial Army soldiers as of 1st January 1979. Maybe 200,000 or more ex-Territorials/RAFVR/RNVR of varying ages and degrees of training and experience.

40% of the TA were infantry. We must also include ex-Territorial Army personnel. Though it's worth adding that Territorial Army units at this time had 60-80% of full complement and of these only around 50% undertook the minimum training to qualify for the annual bounty.


In the late '70s some 28,000 public schoolboys served in the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at any one time, in 288 schools across the UK ("Eton Rifles, Eton Rifles....."). In many of these schools it was compulsory to serve. For an exaggerated but interesting idea of what the CCF was like- see Lindsay Anderson's IF (1968).


Boys from all walks of life, between 12 and 18 years, 9 months old could join the Army Cadet Force (ACF). Girls were allowed to join in the early 80's. By 1979 it was estimated that 1 in 6 of the male population of the UK had been an Army Cadet.


There were also 2-3,000 Officer Cadets serving in university Officer Training Corps (OTC) . These were organised in companies. Around 1,000 joined each year of whom maybe 50 went on to become officers in the regular army and 200 in the Territorials per annum.

Some mullings over...... The numbers rack up don't they! It would be wrong to write off the importance of any of the groups above in a popular insurrection or civil war scenario. Some military training is better than none and we are talking about potentially important groups of men (and women, but this is the seventies) who could bring military skills and experience to union militias, local defence forces and the like. We must not forget that many were Ncos and officers who had experience leading troops or as military specialists.

Found some House of Commons figures....... As of June 1978, the Regular Army forms 0.28 per cent of the total UK population. The Army reserves combined form 0.33 per cent.


Background: United Kingdom Land Forces in the late 70's

This is a rough and ready overview of the British Army in the late '70's. Sources disagree about manpower figures and the constant minor organisation changes are a headache to keep up with, especially as paper and practice were often quite divergent.

In 1972 all troops within the UK came under the Commander in Chief United Kingdom Land Forces (C-in-C UKLF), with lieutenat-general as deputy. C-in-C headquarters being based at Erskine Barracks, Wiltshire (Salisbury Plain). His command extended to British forces in Belize and at the Suffield exercise area in Canada but NOT Northern Ireland.

Within UKLF there were nine semi-autonomous military districts. South-East and Scotland Districts are commanded by a lieutenat-general, the rest major-generals. As of June 1976 these were:

South-East:         17,500 Regulars,  8,000 Territorial Army
South-West:       19,500 Regulars,  3,000 Territorial Army
London:              12,000 Regulars,  7,000 Territorial Army
North-East:           9,000 Regulars, 10,000 Territorial Army
Eastern:                 8,500 Regulars,  7,000 Territorial Army
West Midlands:     5,000 Regulars,  4,500 Territorial Army
Scotland:               4,000 Regulars,  8,000 Territorial Army
North-West:          2,000 Regulars,  7,000 Territorial Army
Wales:                   1,500 Regulars,  3,500 Territorial Army

Following the 1974 Defence Review which imposed swingeing economies on the Armed Services, regular divisions and brigades in the UK disappeared and were replaced by 1977 with 6th Field Force (formed from HQ 16th Parachute Brigade), 7th Field Force (formed from 19th Infantry Brigade), and 8th Field Force (formed from HQ 5th Infantry Brigade). The Field Forces were superimposed onto existing district commands and as a rough rule of thumb contained 3 regular and two territorial infantry battalions plus assets.

6th Field Force became the strategic reserve for SACEUR. Taking over from 3rd Division as UK Mobile Force it boasted a parachute element from the re-organised 16th Parachute Brigade, with HQ at Aldershot, South-East District. The air element assigned to 6th Field Force was 2 squadrons of jaguars and 22 Puma Helicopters.

7th Field Force, mapped to Eastern District at Colchester was destined to be the BAOR reserve, whilst 8th Field Force, mapped to South-West Dsitrict at Bulford was the C-in-C UKLF reserve for home defence.

The United Kingdom's contribution to Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (Land) or ACE Mobile Force(L) in 1979 was one squadron of Harriers, four Puma776W helicopters, an infantry battalion group, a logistic support battalion and other support troops 1,500 men stationed at Dover. ACE Mobile Force (L) was destined to be part of an international NATO brigade sized unit to be deployed in Norway or Turkey as required.

Outwith the tactical units there are of course many tens of thousand of soldiers in all the service corps, (RAMC, RAOC, REME, Royal Signals, Military Police etc), training and administrative functions of the army in the UK. Add to this Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel. The vast majority of whom are capable of standing to and taking up arms as required - though readiness and resolve may be questionable (within the context of gaming an internal crisis).

In addition to the 89,000 Regulars and 58,000 Territorial Army in the UK, 61,000 British troops were based in Europe, of which 55,000 were in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). Further troops, including the Brigade of Gurkhas were stationed in protectorates and the few remaining colonies - such as Hong Kong. One battalion of Gurkhas was based in the UK.

Northern Ireland was garrisoned by 12,000-15,000 British servicemen divided into 3 Brigade commands. There were 5 'garrison' battalions which were supplemented as the situation required by other formations on short, roulement or emergency tours. A 6th 'garrison' battalion was added in 1978 and a 7th in 1979/80. The Ulster Defence Regiment, created for duty within the province in 1970, had 8,000 full and part-time soldiers by 1978.

Finally but not least, 3 Commando Brigade consisted of  40,41, 42 and 45 Royal Marine Commandos. Two Commandos were based at Plymouth and Deal(?), 45 Commando was based at Arbroath. The Royal Marines maintained a worldwide force projection role so deployment in the UK varied continuously.

Rounding up, 29 regular infantry battalions were stationed in the UK. It was envisaged that 2 battalions at least would be available to each District command in a war. Of the Territorials 25 per cent of the total BAOR wartime strength would have been Territorial Army and of the 88 infantry battalions in BAOR during a war 38 (43%) would have been Territorials.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Miniatures: Cold War British Infantry from Britannia

I have to admit that Winter of '79 left the ground as a project largely due to Britannia Miniatures range of 20mm British Infantry for the1960's-80's. 

 Britannia 20mm Cold War Platoon Command
Photo courtesy of Britannia Miniatures website

These Britannia minis are simply bursting with 1970's/80's squaddie character! I purchased a platoon worth plus some extras and was instantly delighted when I took the figures out of the package. As a result they will provide the basis of most Regular or 1st line Territorial Army (TA) Crown formations I put on the table.

Britannia 20mm Cold War 'Charlie G' team
Photo courtesy of Britannia Miniatures website

What makes them so special? The Britannia Cold War Brits are distinguishable from more modern British troops by their vintage kit. MkIV helmets hidden by loads o' scrim, '58 pattern webbing plus weapons such as the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR), Stirling SMG, and recoilless "Charlie G" 84mm. Plus you can't get away from the fact that Britannia's sculpting style is perfect at recreating that typical squaddie 'shabby' chic.

BAOR 1 Nco advancing with SLR
BAOR 2 Private standing firing SLR
BAOR 3 Private running with SLR
BAOR 4 Radio Operator advancing with SLR
BAOR 5 Private advancing with SLR
BAOR 6 2 man GPMG team advancing
BAOR 7 Private kneeling firing light mortar
BAOR 8 2 man Carl Gustav team, kneeling firing
BAOR 9 3 man Platoon HQ

With the sad passing of Dave Howitt of Britannia, as of 5th October 2011, this line appears to be on hiatus. Britannia were purchased by Andrew Grubb of Grubby Tanks but as he can't be arsed answering my query about future availability of the BAOR figures, my pounds are being spent elsewhere.

If you fancy getting some 70's/80's Cold War/Falklands era Brits, then the single most useful source on the internet is Forces 80, a living history group dedicated in representing the British Armed Forces From 1978 to 1989.

I highly recommend their 3 part series on Combat Uniforms of the 80's. It's a surprisingly  authoritative overview of British Army combat dress - better than many published works, and a good starting point for anyone interested in the period.


Tuesday 6 July 2010

Emergency Stop at City Cars


Shots were fired and two arrests made when the newly formed Flying Squad intervened in an armed robbery in the Borough. Bystander Fred Barnes said "these three blokes hopped out of this Ford motor by Honest George's City Car Sales and walked up to his office and kicked in the door. One of them comes running out and gets into the motor - he had this crate of scotch in his arms but his mate was holding a chuffing great bank bag - stuffed it was. Anyway, there's this screaming of engines - like a Spitfire with overdrive, I was in the RAF in the War see, Malta an that - and up tears this Jag with blokes leaning out of the windows. The driver must have touched 50 in the last stretch down Station Road but he slammed the anchors on hard like - so he lost it and spun the Jag. Shame it hit the bollard, ruined the paintwork. One bloke leans out of the window and shouts "dont move - you're all effing nicked!" and from there it all got a bit tasty. Bullets all over the shop like Tobruk all over again - I was in the War you know."
Traffic Warden Eric Potts, 41, takes up the dramatic tale "Well, the villains, they opened fire on the Police Officers - the one in the car shot out of the window while his mate fired a shotgun at the driver of the Jaguar. The driver was hit but credit to the Flying Squad, they must have been shaken by the emergency stop but they all piled out. The lad holding the cash bag just legged it as far as The Winchester Club and tore off down the alley - I'd have chased him but I got this dodgy knee. Korea you know. So this copper with this awful loud, that punk music is nothing I tell you tie, he leans over the bonnet of the Jag and shouts "armed police, give up you tarts" and a second later he shoots the guy in the car. Then this huge ginger copper - he was the driver and his arm is bleeding, he drops the geezer with the sawed off. One shot. Right messy it was."

In a later statement Flying Squad DCI Jack Hacker said "On hearing of the raid on one of the Borough's most well known businessmen, we raced to the scene and intervened; the pond life I mean suspects opened fire and after a shouted warning we returned aimed fire at the armed scum, suspects, injuring two of them. The third ran off and evaded pursuit. DS Owens received a minor wound in the exchange of fire but was instrumental in nailing one of the lowlife gits, suspects. We expect early convictions. Job done. Mine's a pint."

Post Script

Douglas Dawson (24) was released without charge following what his solicitor termed "an intensive interogation by fascist goons".
William Brown (22) was convicted of armed robbery, wounding a police officer and damage to public property (viz a table and chair) and was sentenced to 15 years in custody.
The whereabouts of Stevie Watson and £500 taken from City Cars are unknown but the Police are following up leads and a raid is imminent.
Rick Spart, spokesman for Red Spike has been released on bail.

A crate of scotch has been donated to The East Whittington Police Benevolent Fund.

Monday 5 July 2010

Gaming The Winter of '79

In the good old bad old days of gaming, a C20th British Civil War scenario would see gamers dividing the UK straight across the middle, then equally dividing the armed forces, arranging for dribs of reinforcements from BAOR and other overseas deployments before bashing each other across the arbitary border in some Cold War rematch of WW1.

I'm glad to say that things are different  these days. Wargame rules such as AMBUSH ALLEY make representing the very nature of asymmetric warfare not just possible in miniature but challenging and fun. So we will be approaching The Winter of '79 from two different angles and essentially different play styles within a single overriding theme.

Maff is leading the build up in tension in the fictional amywhere inner city borough of East Whittington. These games are going to be small and probably focus around a corner pub, a used car business on an old bomb site and a railway viaduct with a few shops in it. Using GEEZERS - "SHUT IT!" CI5 and local Special Branch will be attempting to foil bankrolling raids by revolutionaries, and prevent arms deals from going down.  MI5 drones or SAS will bust armed Trot cells, bomb factories and arms caches using FLYING LEAD.

My personal gaming focus is on riot, rebellion and revolution! Civil protest and disturbance leading to armed insurgency and open civil war. Riots and running gun battles on the streets of Borchester using AMBUSH ALLEY. Union militias, Mad Trots, Very Private Armies will square off against each other and a fractured British Army using FORCE ON FORCE. A squallied war of patrols, raids and snatches across the country at large will be played out with classic SCUDBUSTERS, RECON and others.

Larger engagements between forces loyal to the civil power against rebel British Army, revolutionary and militia units are n the cards, but we will build up to these. Initially a clutch of Land Rovers, a few Bedfords, the odd armoured vehicle and helicopter, plus a gaggle of civvie vehicles is enough to get the show on the road. You'll find Land Rovers and Bedfords far more ubiquitous and versatile than a troop of CVR (T) Scorpions.


Sunday 4 July 2010

New broom in East Whittington

“East Whittington cop out”

From Rotten Boroughs column in “Private Spy” magazine

Yet more red faces in the East Whittington Constabulary as the hapless CID fail, yet again, to achieve a conviction against the infamous “East Whittington Three”. Despite an alleged crime spree that has rampaged across the Borough, the Police have never produced a solid case and rumours of attempted fit ups now abound. The recent not guilty verdict relate to charges of armed robbery and wounding a police officer; added to previous cases, the tally of wounded coppers who have fallen victim to their own superiors bungling has risen to three, along with several on gardening leave pending investigation to alleged links to local underworld figures. This was one farce too far for the Borough Police Authority and DCI Albert Spencer (“Frank” or “Oooh Betty”) to his long suffering detectives has now been sacked as head of CID and a new man bought in.

DCI Jack “Jim” Hacker, formerly of the West Midshires Regional Crime Squad today announced he was setting up the East Whittington Flying Squad to tackle the wave of crime that has hit the Borough:

“I’m an old fashioned hard copper who believes in nicking scum and Man U supporters” said Hacker at a press conference last week “The Flying Squad is going to tackle crime head on and give it a good kicking.“ Other more interesting Hacker quotes include “you did it and that’s why you’re falling down the stairs”, “tell me who drove the motor and I’ll start hitting him not you” and “I’m nicking you because I want to”.

Local civil rights groups are already complaining at Hacker’s appointment but an EWC spokesman has pointed out his high conviction rate in Midshire “if you want them nicked, Hackers your man”.