Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Truck for all (WW2) seasons

When Strelets released their box set of South African WW2 Union Defence Force (UDF) 20mm plastic figures, this was the sign to set out on a project I have long wanted to do - the SA and KAR (Kings African Rifles) forces that fought against the Italians in East Africa in 1940/41 (a friend of mine at my club has just such an Italian army....) and they are also good for the early desert war (so long as you add in a decent no. of Men in Tin Hats)  and the little known invasion of Madagascar.

The next problem was to source the trucks. I needed many, the pre WW2 re-arming UDF had based itself on the German motorised divisions as the best solution to move forces fast over large expanses of usually fairly dry terrain,  and so had a LOT of trucks. The main infantry transport trucks were Ford 4x2 30 cwt (1.5 ton) trucks, the UDF commandeered nearly the entire production of trucks in 1940/41. Chevy and Dodge produced most of the 15 cwt trucks for the UDF.

The Great WW2 Truck Conundrum

But while rooting around for a model to use, I noticed something else. Every other country with Ford (and Chevy, Dodge et al) plants in country, started to turn these trucks to military use. This included Germany, who also had Ford plants. Not only that, they were supplied to the Soviets in large numbers.  

But here is the Great WW2 Truck Conundrum. This truck was used by nearly everyone in WW2, yet apart from a few (pretty expensive) resin models and a (very) few LRDG models with cut off cabs, you just cannot get these models in 20mm scale. You'd have thought something that you can use for every darn army in WW2 in every tear and sector would be a popular kit, but no.

The Ubiquitous Truck - The UDF Entering Abyssinia 1941 (above) and (below) in Italy 1944/5 (below)

South African 3-ton truck

(Below) Australian Artillery tractor with 4x4 Marmon Herrington transmission , then Ford in German service, then Russian. The Russian one sports teh 1942 -onwards grill shape, and (to quote) "Together with his civilian ancestor, the 2G8T, from which he differed in the engine type and some minor modifications, the total amount of delivery sums up to 61,000, making the »Ford-6« the second most delivered truck."


Anyway, I happened to notice that a Russian kit manufacturer, PST, makes the Long Wheelbase Ford in Soviet service with exactly the right shape but has the the 1942-onwards grill, and for a reasonable price. I decided that (given the entire lack of these very common trucks in any wargames army, and thus the total lack of demand) that only the most rivet-counter wargamers would notice the difference between the '41 and '42 grills, or tell the difference between a '42 Ford or early war Chevy, and brought PST trucks on board in big numbers for my UDF army.
Converting from 30cwt to 15-20 cwt truck

Its just a matter of changing wheelbase length and back of truck, and the PST kit lends itself to an easy conversion - bringing the back wheelset forward, chopping the flatbed off at the 3rd stanchion, and ditto the side boards and tarp cover is a very simple operation 

Conversion from 30cwt LWB (left) to SWB (right), the SWB model can also be used for 1 tonner (20 cwt) that can (ahem) proxy for 15 cwt trucks without looking too out of place. More of the UDF truck park being built is in rear of photo...)  
The Truck for all seasons 

Having now built a bunch of these trucks, and looking at the meagre collection of trucks in my collection of US, later Commonwealth and Soviet 20mm armies it also became clear that, if painted with a suitable brown-green-dusty paint scheme all of them could use it as well. (Germans a bit harder as Ford Germany was cut off and never upped to the '43 grill, but hey who cares - could be captured ones right?)

As to colouring, this a picture of a South African truck in Italy 1944/5 (Dodge, as it happens - Chevies & Dodge's had a similar experience to Fords) - generic green-brown + dust s probably OK for all Allied armies at any rate, Jerry will just have to have captured ones when I play them :)

Thus I now have the Truck for All Seasons, for all my armies, (albeit with a little bit of licence....) 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Saxe-Märchen's forces take Honours of War

We were trying out the new Osprey Honours of War 7YW rules, using one of the scenarios in the book, and using my armies - so Saxe-Märchen's forces were one side and my French the other, and one of the other club members took some pics of the game - so here are some pix of my Imagi-nation in action:

Regiments Wahlheim and Driebrucken advancing

Sarkozy Hussars (still being re-based but sent into action anyway) backed up by the Malthus Dragoons

 Here comes trouble - French Horse en avance! 

The French hold the high ground - on the right is a French "Imagi-Regiment", the Swiss Regiment Valaise  (all my French army units come from wine producing regions, so I made up a Swiss one from the Valais as the French seemed not to have one from that area)

The assault on the heights - The Duchess' Own Fusiliers (magnificent in their pink mitres) supported by a  light brigade formed of the Grimmwald jagers and Feeland Freikorps, the English regiment in the rear is proxying the Regiment Schonberg, I just haven't finished painting it yet....) advance into the firestorm of the French regiments Champagne, Medoc and Beaujolais. Ouch! See the losses (pennies) dropping!

It was an extremely balanced scenario, the Saxe-Märchen troops were attacking and took the crossroad objective but were unable to shift the French from the heights controlling the main road so a stalemate occurred, both sides exhausted (both would break on another loss or 2).
As to the rules - they play fairly fast, it's not a complex ruleset, be interesting now to push it to the size of forces we play in Black Powder, typically c 6-8 brigades a side, double the size of the forces on table. This ruleset gets very bloody at close range, clearly aim is to get to a decision fast which bodes well for bigger games. Also cavalry combat is brutish and short, and the side with the last reserves won.

We thought the artillery and skirmishers were a bit overpowered, but everything else seemed more or less accurate. Will check with the rules forum on those.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A side project - WW2 SA 6th Armoured Division

Got diverted by another hobby horse of mine - the 6th (South African) Armoured Division that fought in Italy 1944/5. I had wanted to do a small Bolt Action 28mm force and decided to get it done over the Xmas break (One can only paint so much 7YW lace before simple khaki is required for a break... )

Why the 6th SA? Well, I had built it as my "main" Allied WW2 force in 20mm quite a few years ago for Rapid Fire gaming, to fight my son's Germans. There were a bunch of reasons for that:

(i)  I'm South African....
(ii) The Allies and especially the Axis powers in Italy used a huge range of equipment (ie whatever they could get their hands on), so we (especially my son) could use a wide range of toys in our games if we played Italy
(iii) The 6th is a fascinating unit in its own right for gaming with, as it is quite a mix of interesting things - consider that:
- It fought under both the British 8th and US 5th Armies, no other Commonwealth force did that.
- It used an interesting mix of Commonwealth, US and SA equipment, for e.g. combining 76mm and 17pdr Shermans, Dodge 3/4 tonners ("Beeps") not British gun-tows, and their own armoured cars and trucks
 - At various times British, Indian and US troops fought under its command, so you can "legally" mix Commonwealth and US forces on a tabletop.
- "Uniform" was at best a style guide, they mixed British battledress, SA summer gear, US gear (and anything they could find on campaign) so mixing British 8th army and later figures with a few bush hats, US helmets etc is de rigeur
- It had a fairly unique camo scheme well into its time in Italy, blue/black splodges on a light mud brown hull.
- Finally, its final battle in the campaign was the battle of Finale!
(BTW the Flames of War website has a decent writeup on the 6th)

Anyway, I decided to do it in 28mm as well for Bolt Action et al , so built a platoon of the Imperial Light Horse/Kimberly Regiment, the Motorised Battalion that was part of 11th Armoured Brigade. This unit had halftracks, not trucks (The 6th used SA made trucks that you can't get models of in 28mm/1:48 in its Motorised Brigades, so a halftrack unit it had to be ) .

Of course, the infantry was often operating in conjunction with its tanks so a Sherman was an essential addition. I also read they used their M10s (called the "Grouse" ) in close support too for bunker busting and battlefield artillery as well as TD duties so I added one of those too.

The project so far has completed:
- two infantry sections, (last one on the way)
- halftracks for all 3 sections
- the armour
- 2 jeeps, to be allocated to various ancillaries as required

Still to be built are a 2" Mortar section, 3" Mortar section, PIAT team, Sniper Team and the impedimenta of the platoon HQ.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Difficult Tidings for Saxe-Märchen

"The French want us to send more troops"

We left the Saxe-Märchen contingent (2 foot battalions, a Dragoon Regiment, and a converged Grenadier battalion) in the field as part of Soubise's French army some 2 years ago, watching the Hesse-Hatlands, with not much happening.

The French had decided, after a few battles,  that the Reichsarmee overall was mostly pretty poor, and the Saxe-Märchen contingent, despite giving a fairly good account of themselves in action,  were lumped into this definition and thus best kept far out of any risk of contact with the enemy.

So apart from some action in 1757, the years 1758 and 1759 had passed quietly for the Saxe-Märchen in the field, watching the borders of Hesse-some-hat-or-other.

This arrangement had so far suited everybody just fine. "In the field" meant French money for time and billetage, no action meant no extra expenditure and no grieving widows for the Old Duke to worry about, and the soldier-boys in the field were quite happy to be billeted on the Hessian farmers. Yes, they got the same ploughing, mowing, sowing, hoeing and reaping fatigues they got back home,  but over here a nice uniform meant the farmer's daughters and wives were far more likely to allow a bit of extra furrow-ploughing after hours.

By and large the opposing French and Hanoverians had ended the campaign season each year roughly where they had started. The threatened English Invasion of Saxe-Märchen and environs hadn't happened, as it was mainly the French who were being offensive. The small amount of Petit Guerre that had occurred near  Saxe-Märchen itself had been competently sorted out by the Grimmwald Jaegers. The young bloods posturing in the Duchess' Own Fusiliers and the Duke's Leib Garde du Corp cavalry gave some semblance of a force for Defence of their (miniature) Realm

In fact it had all been working so well that the Duke had sent the Schönburg Regiment out as well when the French had moved the Swiss battalion originally brigaded with them to more active service. More cash,  less cost, and getting rid of the irritating Colonel Waltz who had been making too many eyes at the Duchess.

But all that was now changing - the disastrous defeat at Minden had impacted the French and their Allied forces' front line strength. So, a List had been made of Reichsarmee units  that could be moved to the 1st line, and the Saxe-Märchen contingent had now been "promoted" to first line service. Worse than that, the Mosel battalion originally brigaded with them had not been moved to 1 st line service, and the French had "suggested" that the Duchess' Own Fusiliers be moved into the field to bring the contingent up to full brigade strength for next year's Great Offensive.

"But it's made up of all the minor nobility and bourgeoisie and burgher's kids" said the Duchess. "They volunteered to serve in the Fusiliers there precisely so you wouldn't send them off to war"

"But mein liebe knödling (my little dumpling)" said the Duke pleadingly, "they are now soldiers, and the French say they want more soldiers"

"There will be a riot if you send them to war, you will have all the good Matrons of Saxe-Märchen on your case. And then the husbands. Do you really want that much trouble?"

"We can send a Militia battalion"

"Oh come on, the Militiamen can barely find their pants on a good day. "

"Maybe take the best men from each battalion"

"Yes, but that would be about 2 companies worth, we need at least four more"

"Well what other options do we have?"

"The French want troops, if we don't send them they will take them"

Just then, there was a knock at the door......

(Got the new Osprey 7YW rules for Xmas, some good Imagi-Nation sized scenarios in the back I'm planning on playing out)

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Cold War turns hot

The Backround

Recent posts have been about the "Cold War" Byzantine project - the genesis of this is that my club mate Iain has invented an Imagi-Nation force for Poland, set in the "Cold War" of the 80's. Except not only has he imagined a New Model Army for a New Poland. he has also posited an entire Alternative History based around WW2 not happening, but a seperate series of events moving off from a 1930's Europe.

Well this dovetailed into 20th Century Byzantium's imaginary history quite well - created as a Class C Mandate after WW1, parts of various defeated powers' territory - Turkey, Bulgaria and Austro-Hungary - were ceded to the new state - more details here, and the Byzantine Cold War forces are discussed in a series of posts ending with this one.

Anyway, the lack of a major war did not prevent all the various frictions endemic in post WW1 Europe causing a large number of local wars and incidents (cue lots of wargames opportunities....), but also shifting alliances and intrigues that make the history of the past decades rather, well, Byzantine.

The Encounter

Fast forward to the 80's, this means that, via various shifting alliance commitments, a Byzantine force was sent deep into MIttelEuropa to back up Our Peace Loving Allies against the Polish Expansionist Regime and its Lackeys. Trying to get away with as little contribution as possible Byzantium sent an Armoured Brigade, a Mechanised Brigade and a Light Infantry demi-brigade, a Position Artillery Battalion and a small air contingent, and this force has been operating on the Eastern flank of our Glorious Peace Loving Allies' advance into the disputed region of (the translation device fails here, there seem to be no vowels in the name), with the objective of seizing the market town of (Vxwzytu - translation fail) which sat at the head of a strategic valley..

Following Byzantine Doctrine from Leo's Tactica (revision No 1,453 published 1974) the 3rd (Thracia) Evzones (Light Infantry) demi brigade was sent ahead to take the town, while the 5th (Rhodope Theme) Mechanised brigade advanced on a broader front. (Byzantine  Demi Brigades are modelled on the French - a battalion of light troops with attached artillery and a light armour company of the famous Trapezitae). The first Evzone company is always designated as Recce, and is motorcycle and jeep borne, and their 3 platoons fanned out, one going north towards the town up the road, the others bouncing over fields to come in from each side (and see what may be out there). The ATGW platoon followed behind in its jeeps. Behind them the other 2 platoons in light trucks moved up, and behind that the Trapezitae Company of AML 90's trundled up the road while the Artillery Company set up its 2 Mortar and the AA Platoons and FAO in a hamlet about 1 km from the town.

The first inkling that something may go wrong with this plan was when autocannon fire raked the jeeps bundling up the road, setting a few on fire. The remaining infantry made a beeline for the hedgerows and hunkered down in the shrubbery for the rest of the game with their heads down. The jeeep ATGW platoon moved into the same bocage, and opened fire on enemy armoured cars visiible in the town. The enemy were clearly not expecting missiles and hadn't really hunkered down so a few armoured cars were brewed up in fairly short order..

Meanwhile the other Recce platoons had reached a wood on the left of the town, and a hill on the right respectively and both reported advancing enemy armoured cars plus troops moving up the road into town - an enemy Armoured Cavalry force  was trying to seize the same town, and had got there first!

The Demi Brigade has one company of armouerd cars as noted, but it looked like the enemy had 3, so the decision was made to dismount the infantry in cover and set up the ATGW platoons to prevent the enemy from sweeping either side of the town, while "our" armoured cars would see if they could rush the town with infantry following.


Byzantine Light Infantry debussing in woods to bring ATGW to bear

The Mortars started pumping smoke onto the approaches so this manouevre couldn't be spotted and hot at. However it transpired that the enemy infantry also got into town first so the plan of a rapid assault was scotched. Plan B was to blast the sh*t out of the town with artillery while formimg a line to prevent the enemy armoured cars from sweeping through either side, while seeking permission for Plan C - bring up some of the Mechanised Brigade as reinforcements.
Well, this was executed as flawlessly as possible in the fog of war by our Most Excellent Forces, and the enemy infantry spent most of the afternoon suppressed while the Byzantine ATGW's teams whittled away at enemy armoured cars, who vainly tried to hit teams of infantry spread across hedgerows and woods.

At <deleted by military censors> p.m. the T-55s of the Mechanised Infantry's tank battalion streamed up the road, swinging to both sides of the village to clear the enemy armoured cars and allow the Byzantines full freedom to smash the Poles in the village.

Except....the Recce jeeps reported more infantry and enemy tanks rolling up on their side of the village.... 

Here comes trouble - Polish Vickers tanks roll up - their 120mm guns hugely outperform our T-55s guns and armour, This ensured the town stayed in Polish hands despite their Armoured cavalry unit taking sever losses

....and soon their tanks rolled around the village as their infantry entered it.. This seemed to cheer up the battered enemy in the town and a flurry of their ATGWs flew out, causing consternation among the conscripts in the lead Squadron of T-55s, and they promptly pushed oil into their tank exhausts creating a ton of smoke while they reversed tactically withdrew their tanks at full pelt.

 The end situation - for some reason the picture rotated and I can't un-rotate it :(   Anyway the white streaks show ATGW action at longer effective range than the tanks have, the blue lines are the Byzantine Retreat Strategic Withdrawal when the Vickers tanks (red arrows) moved up.Iinfantry in the hedges are very hard to get rid of, so the Polish armour was not that keen on pursuit -they had achieved their objectives anyway.

But the more worrying sign was seeing Polish Vickers tanks swinging into action, their 120mm guns effectively outranged the T-55's 100mm gun by a good 1000m, this was not a fight to be had for a village that the enemy clearly now occupied in strength anyway. Besides, Byzantine Doctrine is strong on the "He who runs away" bit, especially when its not really your war, and calling a massive barrage of smoke from the rocket batteries, the Byzantines armour retired into the gathering darkness. The enemy tanks didn't really want wnat to advance farther as they had already taken a few jits from Byzantine ATGW, so contented themself with reinforcing their position.

The Wargame Rules, OK

Fought with Fistful of Tows using Iain's initiative and C&C modifications

This was a very interesting and surprsingly entertaining game - essentially two quite strong recce forces going for the same objective. Both being totally made up, it was interesting to see how our respective TOE's fared. Infantry nunbers about the same, Poland had more armoured cars, Byzantium had fewer but had supporting mortars and more ATGWs. Both sides' armoured cars & missiles would KO the others if they hit, so it was a game of careful manouvering , playing cat and mouse and trying to snap at enemy assets while avoiding losses yourself before your heavier forces arrived. Byzantium got better dice C&C calling our off table Artillery in, so the Polish advantageous position in the town was partly neutralised by landing HE on their heads all game- until our FAO had a Blunder (double 1) and called it on himself, and a battery of 122m guns duly obliged..Parts of him and his Dingo are widely spread around a number of foreign fields. Also the Byzantine Light Infantry are crack troops so designated as "Good" which makes their shooting with ATGW better than the "Average" Poles's shooting (especially once they are suppressed!). However the Byzantine conscripts in their T-55s are "Fair" - quite fragile when taking incoming, and bailed as quickly as they could.

The Outcome

Byzantium had won the skirmish (it's official, its in our Military Archives, we won!), knocking out a lot of Polish armoured cars with relatively little loss to themselves, but ultimately the Poles had won the game by occupying the village. Their armour arriving gave them a superior position and forced us to retire.

An urgent request has gone back to Constantinople HQ to get some of the newer refurbed T-55s here PDQ, these older ones are not going to cut the mustard

The outrageously false propaganda account by the Poles of this battle is over here

Saturday, 31 October 2015

New Byzantium - the Cold War army

This is Part 5 of what has turned out to be a bit of a magnum opus (part 4 is over here)

When the idea of a Cold War Byzantine army occurred to me to fight Iain's Imagi-nation Poles, I thought it would be simply a case of choosing some kit and inventing a TO&E structure. It turned out I "needed" to think about the military strategy that the force was designed for, to get the "what" that the overall army structure of a Medieval system might make some sense in, and then to think about orginins - the post WW2 & early Cold War equipment that would still be in the army, just so the choices of the structures & equipment of the period we plan to fight (late 70's/80's) had a history and made a kind of sense in a context.

And then that bad man Don M and I started to explore all sorts of fascinating byways Byzantium could have evolved into, setting of even more ideas.

Anyway, enough of that, its all there in parts 1 through 4, and now on with the toys the army has in the 70's/80's (I'll ignore anything not really visible in 1/300 scale).. If you haven't tead them, the next section sums it up.

A Brief Summary of the last 4 posts' discussion on equipment

WW2 and Immediate Post War gear still in service

Post 2 covers this in detail. In short, German, Commonwealth & Soviet equipment was left when those forces pulled out (reluctantly, in the Soviet case) and it was all used, so the army of the 40's and early 50's was a polyglot collection of kit. Over the 50's they started to consolidate into a few types that (i) looked like they would stay useful longest, (ii) more could be bought cheaply and/or (iii) spares were readily available. As more modern equipment came in over the decades much was retired but the "best of" was passed from the elite and armoured brigades to the 1st line Infantry and then to the 2nd line reservist units.  T-34/85 tanks, SU-100 Tank Destroyers, M3 Halftracks, Daimler Dingios and Katyushkas, plus a variety of guns and reliable Soviet trucks still survive into the late 70's/early 80's force.

New Byzantium - first line Thematic motorised infantry battalion in the 1950's/60's - Jeeps with recoilless rifles as AT. Towed Mortars & AA. This is still the structure of 2nd line (reservist) Thematic units. TO&E follows Fistful of TOWS structure

In the 1950's and into the 60's, as with Yugoslavia & Finland, it was felt most expedient to buy Soviet equipment (Hungary was an example that was somewhat mind-focussing) - so over the 1950's various upgrades were made, but most re-armament was around continuing to rationalise equipment. The army folowed other border neutrals and gradually standardised around Soviet equipment, with a few useful old stagers like the M-3, Dingo & 25 pounder remaining..

Into the 1960's

Come the Cold war Hotting up, came a need to upgrade to equipment that wasn't really just WW2 vintage plus. New MBTs (T-55s) and other equipment was procured, an eye out at all times for good kit at a good price. Soviet supply was releced to an extent by other Warsaww Pact countries and neutrals. Towards the end of the 60's (after France left NATO) the Panhard AML-60 and 90 came in as new "heavy" armoured cars, replacing a variety of WW2 vintage armoured cars that had increasingly been kept running by duct tape and fervent prayer. .

The 70's

The 1973 October War had a big impact on military thinking, the Top Brass came to 3 main conclusions, in that an army with:
  • Better tanks in good defensive positions could KO a lot of enemy armour - fast
  • Missiles! Both AT and AA missiles brought the Arabs back into the war after they had lost their armour and any air superiority.  
  • You can stop a lot of nasty things with a big artillery barrage 
  • Conversely, enemy artillery barrages are nasty unless your troops are protected from them.
This drove 4 conclusions in the Future Army Review, and led to:

- an upgrade of the T-55 fleet as well as the serach for a new MBT
- a crash programme to equip AT elements with ATGW, and extend them to other parts of the force, ditto introduction of SAMs
- Increase in artillery elements (mainly mortars) at Brigade level as well as expansion of the rtilleery arm
- The need for an IFV for the mechanised infantry

The whole point of all this - the army of the late 1970's and 80's Cold Wars


Belisarius Man Battle Tank

The emergence of the T-72 in WARPAC nations' armies in the early 80's really rattled the Top Brass, as it was clear nothing they owned was going to stop this tank, upgrading the T-55 fleet further was pointless as they had reached Peak Gun with their French 105mm upgrade, and to an extent getting T-72's was pointless as it was going to be an older version of what they would probably face.  Interestingly, "neutral" (aka non NATO) France had developed an AMX-30 upgrade, the AMX-32, and was desperate for a first export customer at the same time Byzantum was desperate for a T-72 killer. The AMX 32 would eventually come with a 120mm gun that would actually stop a T-72 (soon, soon, said the French soothingly) and so, with a few mods and an agreement to allow a lot of local production, a modified AMX 32 was bought, with the French 105mm gun initially and promises of an upgunning (soon, soon). In Byzantine service this was called the Belisarius and started equipping the Armoured brigades in the early 80's. The last T-34's were withdrawn from the 1st line Thematic forces as freed up ex Armoured Division T-55's filled those slots. (Backstory - I bought a bunch of Heroics & Ros AMX-32s many years ago, so they were a shoo in for the MBT :-)   Much to my surprise, they are still on the H&R price list )

T-105 and T- 55 (Mod)

As noted, the T-55's were continually upgraded, those in the Tagmata are being upgraded to 105mm guns. As the Belisarius enters service T-55sare being moved to the Thematic 1st Line units, retiring  the last T-34s.into the reserve cadres

 T-105 tank battalion in Fistful of TOWS format , 3 companies of tanks and Cursores have Dingo w/ATGW. Camo is adapted from a 70's Czech pattern


T-34s are now mainly kept in the 2nd Line Reservist forces, having had various upgrades over the years. There is continual discussion about upgunning, but these machines are very old and refurbishment cost is not that different to replacing them with refurbished T-55s so that is the preferred approach, T-34 hulls are increasingly used to mount other weapons or as spares repositories. 

Tank Destroyers


Still soldiering on as the Tank Destroyer in all Infantry brigades, over many refurbishments. As the ATGW vehicles and T-55s arrive in the 1st line units, the SU-100s are starting to be retired to the 2nd Line, where the 100mm gun is a better option than a T-34/85.   

Missile using Tank Destroyers

Throughout the 70's/80's there was a crash programme of attaching ATGMs to APC and Scout vehicles, but no dedicated missile AT system exists as yet in the inventory. 

Armoured Cars

AML 90 & 60

AML-90 is used in the armoured companies of the Light Battalions, and the Recce companies of all mechanised infantry. AML 60 Mortar used in the light infantry


Used in most Recce units, now increasingly being re-equipped with ATGW missiles. The WW2 era Dingo has been a workhorse for 40 years, as it is highly flexible and easy to run, and the State Arsenal has developed the capability to remanufacture much of the car. It was due to be phased out but it has turned out to be a useful carrier for smaller AT and AA  missiles, as well as continuing to be a useful "armoured jeep"in the Recce units.

AFVs/APCs/Troop Transports


It's a reflection of the era that the BMP-1, despite huge shortcomings, was the best IFV of its era. But it had huge shortcomings. But the availability of BMP-2s in numbers in the early 80's meant 2nd hand BMP-1 prices fell persuaded Byzantium to invest in the IFVs, which they upgraded in their own workshops, using kits and added their own turret arrangement


The workhorse of the Tagmata for some years and increasingly equipping 1st Line infantry units, also being equipped with AA or AT missiles as infantry AT APCs. Some are converted to carry mortars in the mechanised infantry units, replacing the BTR 152 mortar carriers. 

 Tagmatic Mechanised  Battalion, 3 companies in OT-64s and Dingo ATGW, Psiloi have a Dingo platoon as well as Jeep platoons. Artillery AA and Mortars are self propelled 

FUG  PZH 944 / Mowag Piranha

Main transport APC of the Light Infantry (apart from Jeeps) since the 70's, also increasingly being equipped with AA or AT missiles. Experience in the 70's showed that the trucks and jeeps used till then could compromise light infantry survival.  The OT-64 was felt to be too hard to transport by air and too cumbersome for the light infantry in difficult terrain and the FUG's were the smallest amphibious vehicles that could carry a full infantry squad available

By the late 80's it was becoming clear that the light infantry needed a better armoured ride than the FUGs, and the Swiss  Mowag fitted the bill. Experiments have also been made with mounting AML 90mm turrets on the Piranhas, and these are progressing well....

BTR-152 APC & M-3 Halftracks

M-3s still used for non front line tasks like mortar tows, BTR's being phased out of 1st line units as BMPs replace OT-64s in the armoured brigades, and those OT-64s replace BT-152s in 1st Line Thematic units .

Jeeps & similar

Appears all over the army, but is especially the main vehicle of the Light Infantry & Recce (Psiloi) units. Many of these are armed with HMGs and AT devices, where recoilless rifles are starting to be replaced by ATGWs.

Thematic 1st Line forces, 3 Companies of infantry in BTR-152s, ATGW in Jeeps, Psiloi company on LHS in Jeeps with HMG and ATGW, BTR 152 mortars and AA on RHS. OT-64s are in the process of replacing BTR 152s

Air Assets

The discussion with Don in the Comments below, and with Iain last night got me to thinking about Air assets. In Fistful of TOWS its unlikely we'll see much more than helos and the odd ground attack, so here are New Byzantium's.


- The WSK/Mi-2 is the main light helicopter, and is increasingly over the period being armed with ATGW. (It's a very pretty helicopter, I've always wanted an army with them.)

- The Mi-8 is the medium transport workhorse of air forces across the world, and so it is with New Byzantium. Some Mi-4's remain but are not used for rear area transport.


- L-39 Albatros - Like many smaller nations, new Byzantum used the same plane for advanced training and ground attack work, and also like many countries, they kickstarted a jet aerospace industry by licence manufacture of the Czech aircraft.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Cold War Byzantium TO & E - Detail

Part 4 of a series exploring a hypothetical Byzantine state in the Cold War ere - Part 3 is here
Part 5 following is here

Byzantine Army Structure & Operation

The Byzantine Thematic system varied quite widely over 1,000 year as one would expect, and there was even variation at any one time, but New Byzantium will use the Thematic system at its height. Broadly this was (interpolating between a few sources) as follows for military structure:

- A Theme's (province/region) force consisted of 2 - 3 Turmai (brigades). Initially all were part time, over time a full time core emerged.
- The Turma consisted of c 2-7, some say 5, Moira (and other names - but basically battalions/regiments)
- The Moira consisted of c 5 Banda (Companies/Squadrons), again number of Bandon in a Moira vary.
- The Banda had 4 - 6 Allaghia (names vary but they are platoon equivalents) Note that the 6 subdivision was paired so in effect it was 3 (pairing is quite a thing in Greek and Roman armies, so may be a thing here too.
- The Allaghaia was split into 4 smaller units, various sources say 8, 10 or 16 men, these seamed to have been paired into 2 larger units each of 2 of these squad sized units.
The various "comprising of" numbers seem to be partly variation over time or circumstance, and partly as to whether a unit was infantry or cavalry (sources probably get confused too, and the meanings of unit terms changes etc. Take for example the shifting use of "squadron" or "troop" over the last few centuries). 

At the Turma (Brigade) level it seems that there could be infantry and cavalry Moira (Battalions), or infantry and cavalry of different functions in a force. That seems to be equivalent to a modern Brigade formed of (say) infantry and armour. The Byzantines did use artillery but not usually in field battles, that is a feature of modern era armies and needs to be factored in to any army structure.It's not clear if each Theme had its own artillery but it's certainly plausible.

Lower level organisation

Furthermore, Byzantine line units were split into different functions - both infantry and cavalry were split into Archers (toxitai) and Spearmen/Lancers. Cavalry units also had designated scouts (cursores) that were split off, infantry units had designated light infantry (psiloi), specialised infantry to break enemy armoured formations up (menavlatai) etc. In modern terms these were "support" troops to the line troops. The quoted ratios vary, but at all times about 25 - 40% of the force at a Company (Bandon) level were archers of some sort, for example  Various sources have this split at a squad and platoon level, some at a company level, and it may well be there was a matrix system where for eg archers could be grouped into one unit, as Grenadiers were in Horse & Musket times. But for example a cavalry Bandon had about 40% archers, these could operate in the line as back rankers shooting, or be thrown out as scouts, or flank supports - in fact it looks like they may have been allocated at a higher level for this work as the cursores - but these could also have been specialists, like a Recce company would be today. Looking at most armies' evolution it probably evolved from some being siphoned off as designated skirmishers, then becoming a recognised light component

Support troops and systems

Tactically, Byzantine forces used infantry as a solid core occupying space and giving shooting support, cavalry operated off this platform and were able to retire and reform behind it. Predominantly cavalry forces had infantry on mules so they could keep up, the Varangian guard rode horses and dismounted before the battle - in todays terms, armour operates closely with the infantry, and even mainly armoured forces had mechanised infantry components!

Byzantine Structures in a modern context

I have opted for using the following structures and splits to translate the forces into amodern idiom.
  • Somewhere between 25% and 40% of the units at any one level can have different support troops functions to the main unit.
  • I have held the "average" numbers of subunits in a unit as per the Byzantine standard, and designated the minimum unit to be the size of a modern squad, or an AFV
Thus the following theoretical structure emerges, translated into modern terms ("Support" as used below means a wider range tham archers or scouts, but with similar functions (Heavy Weapons, Scout/Recce, Artillery etc):

- A Theme is a divisional sized force comprises of 2 or more Brigades plus top level artillery
- A Brigade (Turma) is c 5 Battalions, of which 40% (2) are support Battalions
- A Battalion (Moira)  is c 5 Companies, of which 2 are support Companies
- A Company (Bandon)  is 3 - 4 Platoons, of which 1 is a support Platoon
- Each Platoon is split into 4 Infantry squads or AFVs, of which 1 is a Support squad.

At a Battalion level, this translated into the following generic structure::

New Byzantine generic Battalion 

Brigades will usually be made up of 5 battalions normally - 3/5 of the majority type, plus 2/5 of whatever support is required in that type of unit - so a standard Mechanised Infantry brigade is 3 Infantry Battalions, 1 Armour-breaking (I interpret this as anti-tank today) and 1 HQ/Support, comprising of scouts, allocated heavy artillery etc. Armoured Brigades are 3/5 armoured battalions, 1/5 supporting infantry, and 1/5 HQ/Support (heavy weapons etc)

(Note that as Ancient Byzantine organisations could vary from 2 to 7 Battalions in a Brigade, so might Cold War ones depending on task or level of completeness - Part 3 explained why post war and 2nd line units may well be incomplete).

A note on Support troops

There are 3 main functions as far as I can see:

Psiloi (infantry) and Cursores (cavalry) seemed to have similar roles - locate, harry, flank, skirmish with an enemy. They seem at the least to have existed at the Battalion level as indepenedent forces - these I use as the Recce functions, and they are fielded in considerable number as per Byzantine practice.

Toxitai (Archers ) and Hippo-Toxitai (Horse Archers) gave the low level units their firepower, so they are modelled as the 25% of support troops in the Platoon & Company level forces. However, they also existed as independent units to add firepower, these are modelled as the Artillery battalions in a brigade

Menauvletai (infantry) and Klibanophoroi (cavalry) had one role - to break up enemy armoured formations. They used hand to hand components, I have modelled them instead as the heavier Anti-Tank elements, held at Battalion level..

The Peltastoi

I formed  6 independent battalions "professional" light infantry (enough for the core of 2 brigades) to represent the enigmatic Peltasts - troops who were seemingly regular, and seemed to be involved as rapid response / rough terrain / assault  / fight in the line forces. In today's terms these seem to look a lot like crack rapid response light infantry, so that is how they are conceptualised here. The Greeks have a troop prototype that fits this well for the last 100 years or so, the famous Evzones.

Organisationally I envisage these units being structured as per the infantry at the lower levels, but closer to something like the Foreign Legion Demi Brigades (Battalion size units with support companies of Brigade level assets) in structure, if not the skill of the Legion - though I believe they will be formed of better than average troops. They thus are highly mobile, use a lot of lighter transports (4 x 4s), plus have a small but mobile heavy weapons (mortars, AT and HMG) and armour (heavy armoured car) component. This latter hards to the Trapezitai - light cavalry, but lancers so packed a punch - in today's terms the French and South Africn practice of fast, light armoured cars packing a real punch is similar.

Don & I also thought it may be fun to redefine some of the Trapezitai (trick riders) as motorcycle Recce troops.

First Line , Second Line & Akritoi (Reservist Forces)

A Theme also differentiated between First and Second line forces, and the Akritoi. First line forces were well trained and equipped, over time becoming full time and part of the greater Tagmata. 2nd line forces remained part time, tending to be less well equipped. I interpret that as First Line = Regular full time units of the standing army, the Second Line are reservists. The first brigade in every Theme is thus formed of a standing army, but 1-2 more Brigades can be formed of reservists etc, but are clearly not as well equipped. Post War, Byzantium's First Brigade was motorised, the Second Line had to walk, but by the 70's the First Line was mechanised and the 2nd Line were motorised to various degrees.

Akritoi seem to be a term for both all Border forces, and also part time Thematic soldiers who were a first line of response in times of invasion (probably both) while the Thematic army mobilised. Their role was to harry any enemy force, slow it down, split it up, ambush outliers etc. Don M and I have been having a good discussion about the Akritoi, and we have decided they could be represented today as a ready reserve of keen part timers, possibly mounted in "technicals" (aka 4x4 with fairly powerful weaponry bolted on the back), dispersed over the border towns in small units at squad and platoon level, maybe less formally structured. I have structured these as semi-independent companies that attach to the Thematic brigade to add to its Recce/Scout components.

A Thematic commander was also responsible for the Kleisourai, those manning the fortifications/ border passes/ strongpoints in the Theme, this was probably normally done with 2nd line forces.

The Tagmatic (full time) army consisted of  the guard units and full time cavalry (initially heavy, later heavy and light), and over time various specialist forces. Sizes of units vary, but given how quick the Byzantines were to organise mercenary units according to their systems, I can't see why Tagmatic organisation would have been much different to the rest of the army. As the Thematic forces developed full time elements the Tagmata grew to include them.

In Cold War Byzantium the Tagmata proper comprises of the Armoured Brigades, Light Infantry, Special forces and Army level artillery and Air assets, with the Thematic full time brigades closely co-ordinated and considered as psrt of the "greater Tagmata". 


Speaking of the Foreign Legion, the Byzantine army always used a smattering of mercenaries, and after Manzikert increasingly relied on them. There were two main types of mercenaries - those that became regular units and part of the Tagmatic standing army, and irregular bands recruited ad-hoc.

I've used regular mercenaries as easy ways to access skills and numbers that otherwise may be hard to argue a small nation could possess  - the Latinikon, formed of mainly European tankies, les Biscotins (biscuit eaters), a Foreign Legion like infantry force. The Varangian Guard was reformed with White Russian exiles and post WW2 formed from those escaping communist regimes (and quite a few Russian deserters). The Tourkopoloi and Vardariots were formed after WW1 from ex-Turkish muslim and christian Balkan light horsemen originally, and keep their formative traditions to this day, though recruits now can come from many areas.

It's harder to model the role of the various irregular (mainly asiatic light horse) mercenaries, the closest  I can think of is bands of volunteers coming to fight for Byzantium in times of trouble, organised less formally and equipped in "Technicals" (a lowest cost bang for buck) operating as irregulars around the formal forces - as I imagined some of the Akritoi do, above.