Saturday, 10 October 2015

Cold War Byzantium - the early Post War years

Part 2 of a series of posts where the aim is to build a force for the late 70's - early 90's to match my SLW colleagues' forces. (Part 1 is back here)

As noted in my 1st post its quite useful to think about the immediate post war evolution, to set the backstory (and the . This is it....

Byzantia went into World War 2, as did so many nations,  with what was essentially a late World War 1 army (see here). In the years before the outbreak of World War 2 they had hurriedly tried to convert their cavalry regiments to light tanks and armoured cars (to the disgust of many older cavalry officers). These proved capable of stopping the Italians, but the Wehrmacht quickly overran the country. At war's end, as well as German equipment left in a hasty retreat, both Soviet and Commonwealth units were in the country and both left equipment - partly as political capital, partly as it was cheaper to leave equipment there rather than take it back and scrap it. This, in a world of extreme austerity, would be the raw material that the post-war military force would be built from.

The army was reformed from the pre War roots, with no greater ambition than to get a force established quickly in very uncertain times - thus the pre-war Thematic system was kept, with the 6 Themes again each providing - in theory - a regiment of 3 battalions, a cavalry (tank) battalion, and an artillery regiment. One battalion made up of wartime fighters was to be full time, one of volunteers in training, and one of reservists. In addition the 6 Light Infantry battalions were reformed from the partisans of the mountain regions.

M3 Halftrack, used for many roles from WW2 on - including Tank Destroyer in the infantry regiments until the late 60's - was phased out of line usage in the 90's but still soldiers on in all sorts of minor roles. 

The lessons learned from WW2 - the importance of mobility, powerful armour and anti armour/ anti aircraft mobile artillery - were also implemented, and so trucks, AA guns and Tank Destroyers were parcelled put to the Thematic infantry regiments.

The central Tagmatic army, the traditional heavy force including the Guard units , was also restructured accordingly. The available battle tanks were allocated to the two reformed Tagmatic "heavy cavalry" regiments, while a ragbag collection of lighter tanks and armoured cars were allocated to the two reformed "Light" cavalry regiments - but these were now combined, along with the two line infantry battalions, into two Mechanised brigades. The two Light infantry Guard battalions were to be converted into those most cool WW2 forces, a paratroop battalion and a special forces battalion.

As much a morale boost for one's own troops, as to demoralise the enemy - Katyusha systems have been part of Byzantium's arsenal since 1945   

In the early years all these units were very understrength but by the end of the 50's they had started to reach planned strengths, and in addition had slowly consolidated their equipment from the huge miscellany of the 1940's to a smaller number of weapons systems, ones that they had believed were still viable,  with purchases on the second hand market. 

The army now had the T 34/85 as their standard battle tank, mainly the SU-100, but still some M-10s and M-3s as tank destroyers in the Thematic infantry, and the Daimler Dingo as the ubiquitous scout car. Most of the light tanks had been retired and replaced with T 34s, but there were still a few heavier British armoured cars in use. The Tagmata mechanised infantry were mounted in M3 halftracks, while a still standardising range of trucks hauled the Thematic infantry and artillery pieces, which were still a mishmash of US, British and Soviet equipment - of which the Katyushka was seen as a key piece - easy to use and devastating to men, material and morale. The ubiquitous Jeep was everywhere, impressing even the mountain men of the Light infantry. 

This stability came just in time, as the Cold War started to get a lot hotter in the 60's, and Byzantium realised it would have to upgrade its WW2 vintage equipment and probably also expand their military forces.  It was time for a complete review, and this was started in late 1962 after the Cuban Missile Crisis sent tensions into the stratosphere.    Like other front line small neutrals, Byzantium opted for the strategy of making themselves "not worth invading" by guaranteeing any opponent would lose too much to make it worthwhile. Core 10 year strategies were defined as:      

  • Mass conscription, mainly to train the population to be able to operate effectively as a reservist partisan force, but also to have a larger force-in-arms at any one time.
  • Upgrade the armour, artillery and anti-armour components of the Tagmata to increase the damage to any invader in the early phases
  • Improve the capability of the Thematic regiments by moving the replaced armour, Anti-tank and AFVs into them, likewise to improve their effectiveness to further ensure enemy casualties.
  • Create a tactical airborne capability by using these new-fangled helicopters, and STOL  aircraft.  
However, this would have to be done on the cheap, as the main expenditure would be on creating an air force with better equipment than late WW2 'planes, as the advances in air power had been radical and a military force with no modern air cover was a sitting duck. So it was back to the Used AFV Almanac, and trying to work out which pieces had the longest future potential. The priority was a new main battle tank. The T-55, Centurion and M-47 were contenders - the T-55 deal was the best bang for limited bucks and the Soviets threw in a whole load of refurbished BTR 152s and some scout cars into the deal to clinch it. Other equipment brought in over the 1960's included the French AML armoured car, plus various other T-55 based weapon platforms*

The T-55 was introduced in the 1960's, and continually upgraded, still serves in Byzantium's Thematic forces. The reliable chassis has been used for multiple other vehicles as well.

So that is the backdrop, and as it turned out the 60's were not as bad as feared. Now, roll forward 15 years and its time to choose the next generation of equipment and define the TO&E for the closing stages of the Cold War where all this Alternate History is going to happen - in Part 3 over here

*Oddly enough, I may just have all these models already for the 2nd line forces ;-D 

PS thanks to Don M for his thoughts from his similar outfit


  1. Excellent write up! Akritai was a nickname for border thematics.......put them in SAS style jeeps with lots of MGs and Recoilless Rifles, a fast reaction /boarder guard force.Militia comes in two distinct categories. One is mobile, the other Kleisourai, or fortified zones. Mobile militia is equipped with scouts cars and tank destroyers, and also truck mounted-mobile infantry battalions. These with little modification can serve throughout this period.

    1. Also the Akritai can be the genesis of your air mobile units as you acquire helicopters .

    2. That's a good thought re Akritai - weren't many Akritai also part time, so that could be a sort of fast reaction reservist/militia element as well. They would just swap RR with Milan/TOW as the period continued

      There could also be a similar "fast response" element in every standing Thematic unit as well as the Light infantry. I was planning that these Thematic regiments should evolve into self supporting mechanised brigades as the older armour became available to them, a light mobile component would play well to that notion. Their reservist elements would definitely be truck mounted, or at best have very old APCs.

      (I am the basing discrete Light Infantry battalions on the Greek Evzones up to this period, but was thinking of then evolving them into a sort of Rapid Reaction force for the 80's era).

      I was thinking that one of the Elite light regiments (Gianitzaroi infantry, maybe the ex-cavalry Vardariots) could become a dedicated air mobile unit, but infantry + jeeps are easily portable by most medium size helos so you could easily move these sorts of units around.

      Re: Kleisourae, Austria bought old Centurion tanks from the Dutch and mounted their turrets in at various strategic points.

      BTW did you have any preferences for aircraft? I'm gaming in 1/300 so will have some on table, certainly helos and ground support. The Soviets put a limit on "real" fightig aitcraft on Austria & Finland, so the get-around was to use "trainers" with a dual strike role.

  2. Yeah from my read on it the Akritai were about 50/50 full/part time troops this was probably due to age of the troops.

    The Vardariots would be to my mind held at army level as sort of the Delta Force/SAS type and
    Regimental Trapezitoi Troops at divisional level. All light cav becomes attack coppers and some light infantry becomes airmobile, all heavy cav becomes tank units.

    Saw that in the 1980s in Korea dug in old tanks used as bunkers.

    I'm working in 15mm with 1/144th scale aircraft. For what your doing here I'd have to say the WWII stuff would solider on till the late 50s. The first jets going into service in 1960, these would be second
    hand Migs and their first truly modern jets in about 1967 to 70, SABs from Sweden would be a good bet as well as trainers from were ever.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Original reply above went off before finished, no editing allowed, so here is the improved version:

      Agree re aircraft in 60's, and that generation starts being replaced in mid-late 70's, so will only appear.probably as reservist/last gasp air power unless the type had extraordinary staying power (or was continually modified to keep it useful - Canberras are good examples).

      IMO the various Mercenary units are still essential to get skilled extra manpower, and heaven knows there will be enough ex soldiers floating round to join them esp if they can "lose" themselves cf Foreign Legion.

      Fwiw I've cast the Vardariots as the newly designated Airborne unit, the elite Mourtatoi/Gianitzaroi are designated as special forces.

      Akritoi are I guess the "first line" of reservists, mobilising very quickly (maybe within days or even hours) to a threat.

      I had a lot to say so have started writing a whole further post outlining a possible structure and why :)

    2. Canberras are a very good example of that! I agree with the elite Mourtatoi/Gianitzaroi
      as your airborne unit.