Friday, 9 October 2015

Byzantium in the Cold War era

Part 1 of a series of posts on structuring the Medieval Byzantine army into a 70's- 90's Cold War Imagi-Nation.

A fellow club member has been doing some Alternate History/Imagi-Nation work for the Cold War (see here and here) and it has got me to muse about what Byzantium may look like in this era (For non readers of the blog, I imagined  Byzantia was created  after World War 1 from European Turkey and parts of the German supporting Balkan nations like Bulgaria).

World War 2 saw them over-run by Germany after beating back an Italian invasion, and then the rising of a Resistance movement that helped push the Germans out. Both Soviet and Commonwealth forces were in the country at war end.  

To think through what happened post WW2 I looked at what happened to the "neutral" countries on the Cold War borders, such as Finland, Austria and Yugoslavia. There are a number of common threads from a military point of view:
  • All tended to be left with a mix of Allied and Axis equipment after WW2
  • All tended to keep these for some time where they were useable/not obsolete, well into 1970's - even 1980's in some cases
  • They tended to opt for a defensive military strategy, making themselves "too expensive to invade" by optimising their forces to fight defensively and, once the country is taken, the entire nation is organised to resist via a well trained and organised reservist/militia force 
  • In the 1960's, as the Cold War intensified these nations started to upgrade their military. 
  • Austria majored on NATO & Neutral (Sweden, Switzerland) equipment , Yugoslavia on Warsaw Pact - but also used US equipment. Finland was careful to use Warsaw pact and Neutral equipment.
  • All designed & built some of their own equipment - small arms, APCs, and in Yugoslavia's case light jets.  
Where does this leave a newly liberated Byzantium? The key decision was "which way do they swing"?  As with Yugoslavia and Austria, they were occupied by Soviet and UK forces, but then those countries inclined towards one  bloc or the other.  Being part of either bloc was too risky given Byzantium's location. They thus carefully played the two blocs against each other, and behaved much like Finland, neither Western nor Soviet.

The venerable SU-100 - inherited at the end of WW2, still in service (albeit modified over the years) for four decades after

Like most other non first-rank nations, Byzantium had a mix of Allied WW2 equipment that they kept through the 1950's and into the 1960's (and even beyond), but following the zeitgeist started to re-arm in the 1960's. As with Finland they were careful to use a lot of Warsaw Pact equipment, but also bought equipment from neutral Sweden and Switzerland. After France left NATO in 1966 they also bought French equipment (conveniently, so yours truly could get the maximum choice of different gear for their army ;)  )

In order to develop local industry they too developed local arms manufacture, initially building other countries' equipment under licence but then designing and building their own. All that remains now is thus to decide what toys I want equipment they used.

As to army organisation, all these countries  had a defensive conventional force and a large, fairly well trained reservist militia plus reinforced key strongpoints (Austria at one point bought old Centurion tanks and used their turrets as fixed guns).

 French AML-90's replaced WW2 era armoured cars from the late 1960's on.

As with the other Cold War Border neutrals, the army was built around the Brigade rather than Division (reservists would form this larger force). The army was split into regional (Thematic) Motorised and centralised (Tagmatic) Mechanised Brigades, plus (later) two rapid reaction Light Brigades and two Special Force battalions - an Air Cavalry unit and a Light Infantry (aka SAS wannabe) unit.
The other consideration is army organisation - before WW2 they had adopted the French model, and after WW2 initially pretty much kept to it. But come the New Model World 60's, it was felt a new structure should be used.

As to the New Model TO&E, the new French model was too confusing for the French, never mind anyone else. The Soviet model was based around mass and attrition, a tactic available to a hugely populous nation with massive industrial assets. The US model was also one of a populous and rich state. None were deemed appropriate, so they looked at a number of other options before deciding on their own structure, based on their succesful army of 1000 years ago, which they continually tinkered with over the next two decades.

(Part 2 is over here)


  1. LOL, Excellent! This works for me as I already have 30 AMX 30s and supporting equipment painted up in my Neo Basileia ton Rhomaioi cammo..........)

  2. Really digging this Alan, and thanks for the links to my blog.

    1. Well its you that got me thinking.....looks like your Alternative Poles are set for the late 70's/80's/early 90's so I'll match timelines but its worth thinking about previous 2 decades to work out what the reservists/2nd line have

  3. AMX 30 is tempting as I already have a French army, so ts an easy entrant. The key question though is "which year does New Byzantium upgrade" as the AMX only came into service in 1966 for the French - if you were buying gear in the late 60's you can buy older gear far more cheaply - Centurions, T-55s and M-48's for example. And the S tank entered service in 1967, a neutral buy is always safer (and who doesn't want a few S tanks on the field....)

    1. I was figuring on mid 70s for the AMXs and earlier tanks would be T34/85 and T55s with infantry in BTR 50s.

  4. PS. Neo Basileia ton Rhomaioi cammo - now that's a thought...what camo to use? The 60's seemed to be all about using one colour whereas 70's has more multicolour fashions.

    1. Dark Panzer gray base with light gray spots and black stripes....)

    2. Yes I saw on your blog, very impressive :) Must think of something similarly original!

      BTW agree that T-55 is probably the mid 60's replacement for their ageing T34s, but by late 70's its time to think of a replacement again. I don't think I'll use AMXs though as I want my French to fight this lot ;)

    3. I don't know if it was that original it was the need to cover allot of vehicles quickly! The inspiration was: My Brazos Empire stuff is US painted
      in US Army MERDOC so in short Green Guys Good Gray Guys Bad,,,,)

      Yeah AMX on AMX wont work lol, lots of other options out there, T62s, Israeli Type 67s,
      Lots of Chinese options, I was thinking they can probably self produce T34s and T55s so lots of room to make their own recovery, artillery, ADA, and command vehicles as well.

    4. If not build, certainly assemble and update IMO - agree the chassis would probably be used by a lot of other weapon systems. Now to flip coins for their 70's/80's MBT ;)