Friday, 5 January 2018

Translating a 1938 Czechoslovakian Fast Division TO&E into the 1980's - Cavalry Division

Regulat readers of this blog may know that we have quite an active 6mm "Cold War Alt-History" contingent - ie "What If" WW2 hadn't happened? Especially in Eastern Europe.

Partly this is to allow us to create a non-Soviet  Eastern Europe and thus avoid the relative sameness of all the various Eastern European WarPac armies for our various Western nations to play against, partly it's to allow us to build What-If armies and fit in kit and organisations we like, within a context. The chap who kicked this off started with Poland, and other have take up the reins.

My WarPac Cold War armies is Czechoslovakia, and I wondered what Alt-Czechoslovakia may look like in this scenario. In the previous blog post I looked at what machinery they may heve built if the USSR hadn't taken them over (and stifled their own work) as pre (and during WW2) Czechoslovakia had first rate weapons design and manufacturing. The answer proved to be very interesting, they had a number of vehicles and guns in plans and prototype in the early 1950s, from light armoured "platforms" based on a successor to the Ps38/Hetzer/Marder II family, through amphibious AFVs to a first rate MBT, so one part of teh riddle was answered - tey won't use other people's kit, I have to "bodge" theirs.

This second article looks at how they may have organsed themselves in the 1980's. In the 1930's they were transitioning from a WW1 foot army to a Mechanised army. The majority of the army were still Infantry Divisions that were starting to motorise, but for the 1980's the most interesting structure was the Fast (aka Armoured) Division - 4 were planned, 2 were being built in 1938. So that's what I'm going to build.

Alt-Czechoslovakian army TO&E c 1988

 The TO&E for all Czech units is on the Niehorster website, below is the Fast Division TO&E for 1938

Fast Division TO&E from Niehorster

Looking at the top horizontal line, there are 4 main force components (ignoring the 2 HQ and Logistics functions on the far right) - left to right they are:
  • Cavalry Brigade, consisting of (again left to right, ignoring HQ):
- 2 Cavalry (Dragoon) regiments (battalions)
- 1 Bicycle Infantry battalion with 3 infantry companies, an MG Co (6 MMGs) and a Heavy Weapons Company with 3 x 81mm Mortars and 6 37mm AT guns
- Horse Artilley Battalion, this had 3 Batteries of 76.5mm guns

  • Armoured Brigade consisting of (again left to right):
- 2 Tank Battalions - at the time they had  LTV 35 and 38 Light tanks but they were supposed to be Medium tanks
- 2 Motorised Infantry Battalions - eventually the aim was to have 2 complete Motorised Regiments
- Artillery Battalion - this had 3 Batteries of 100mm Howitzers

  • Reconnaissance Battalion  (going down the line, ignoring HQ)
- Motorcycle infantry company
- Armoured Car company (12 armoured cars in 3 Troops)
- Light Tank Companty (16 tanks in 4 troops)

  • Divisional Artillery assets, again going down the line
- 3 x 20mm AA batteries (in FFOT scale)
- 3 x 37mm (other sources have 47mm) Anti Tank batteries

The first thing you notice comparing this division with an Infantry Division is the tanks and cavalry, obviously. The next thing is the lack of Divisional artillery (an Infantry Division has 3 more artillery batteries, including 2 heavy artillery batteries). I suppose the problem in 1938 was moving the big guns quickly enough. Other versions of this TO&E place the Tank brigade's Artillery Battalion at a Divisional level, which makes more sense as otherwise there are no Divisional artillery assets, but it would be still nice to have a complete medium artullery regiment of 3 battalions in the Division.

To be honest though there is surprisingly little change in Infantry formation structure between 1938 and 1988 even though equipment changes hugely. But direct translation falls apart with the Cavalry Brigade! Obviuosly therefore, the thing to start with is the Cavalry Brigade!

"What to do with cavalry" is a fascinating rabbit hole to go down, but I resolved to solve it by just trying to directly translate what they had in 1938 into 1980 terms, and see what I wound up with and  then "evolve" through the 80's based on gaming experience on the table.

Translating a 1938 Cavalry Brigade to 1980

To recap, in 1938 the Czechoslovakian Cavalry Brigade had 3 main components:

- 2 Cavalry (Dragoon) regiments (battalions)
- 1 Bicycle Infantry battalion with 3 infantry companies, an MG Co (6 MMGs) and a Heavy Weapons Company with 3 x 81mm Mortars and 6 37mm AT guns
- Horse Artilley Battalion, this had 3 Batteries of 76.5mm guns and 100m Howizers
First step was to translate the easier-to-translate stuff, namely the Bicycle Infantry and Horse Artillery.

Step one - Bicycle Infantry Battalion

In 1938 these were an attempt to mobilise infantry cheaply and without a need for a lot of maintenance overhead. I thought the simplest transition would have been to jeeps and then by 1980 to simple, small and  fast APCs. Going to motorcycles I rejected as no one in the 1980's has serious motorcycle forces, and besides they already had a motorcycle Recce unit in 1938!. So the structure became:

The 3 Companies of Infantry each have 4 Platoons of which:
- 3 platoons stay as Infantry, now in  APCs (older, well established APC required)
- 1 platoon is a "Special Weapons" platoon - over time this increasingly meant anti-tank. By the 1980's AT increasingly meant medium ATGW, so a platoon equiped with something like the Milan

The 1938 Heavy Weapons Company is well defined - Mortars, Machine Guns and Anti Tank weapons, so I directly tranlated them as follows:
- The 81m mortars are still around
- The 37mm AT was the biggest vaguely mobile infantry AT weapon and, being mobile infantry "Heavy" weapons I replaced it with a specialist Tank Destroyer vehicle with a weapon that could take out MBTs of the day. Initially gun based (a good opportunity to field a "3rd Gen" Hetzer ) they move to heavy ATGW over time.
- The MG platoon can go a number of ways, in many countries the MMG function was absorbed by moving to APCs (that had MMGs on them) and I assumed that would be the case here in the earlier post-war years, But it was noticeable that by the late 1970's,  armies started to sprout AA capability at a more local level again. The "standard" 1980 weapon would be some form of HMG/Autocannon AA, and maybe starting to transition to small Surface to Air missiles in the later 1980's.

Step Two - Horse Artlllery Battalion

Apparently there were 3 batteries per battalion, of 76.5mm field guns  In most WW2 armies these lighter guns went one of 2 ways - either replaced by similar sized but more portable mortars, got bigger, or evolved into Anti Tank support. I assumed that the Cavalry would deal with the AT role and that this force's job would be local artillery support so switched them to 81mm mortars, to match the infantry. I also cheated a bit in that I assumed over the years one Mortar battery would be dropped for an AA battery as tank-hunting aircraft became a more prevalent threat.

And finally - the Cavalry 

So, What To Do With Cavalry? In Czechoslovakia's case I thought there was a hint in that these cavalry were Dragoons, and had already been converting into mounted infantry, so they were Dragoons going "back to their roots" and there needed to be a strong "mounted infantry" component. What they needed was a good IFV, and the Czechs had an Lt38 based APC on their drawing boards in the late 1940's, so they were going to get (some derivative of) these..

But dammit, they were still cavalry, and had to have speed and elan and impact, and if there ever was a country with a proud tradition of making hard hitting light AFVs it was Czechoslovakia - and they had some designs on the drawing board in the 1950's that just had to see the light of day, albeit in 6mm. So that was it - a combination of mounted infantry in tough, fast, hard hitting APCs and tough, fast, hard hitting light tanks.

I can't find the number of squadrons in a cavalry regiment anywhere, but there were 3 squadrons in a tank Regiment so I assumed that held true in a Cavalry regiment. As the Brigade already has an infantry battalion, I weighted the Cavalty Battalions as 2 light tank squadrons and 1 mounted infantry squadron each. All 1938 squadron/company formations seem to be of "3+1" structure so I asumed 3 of the predominant type (light tanks or APCs) and the +1 was a support weapon type - which in 1980's Europe usually means AT capability.

Putting it together - the 1980's Czechoslovakian Cavalry Brigade

We use the Fistful ot Tows ruleset, it's scale is roughly 1 model = 1 infantry platoon, tank troop or artillery battery. In the 1980's therefore the above logic yields the following TO&E (numbers refer to models used. The structure below is how the above changes come out for the beginning of the 80's. Pplaying experience will quickly inform me as to what evolution over the 80's needs to look like :)

Czechoslovakian Cavalry Brigade, early 1980s

  • Brigade HQ
    • 1 Command IFV
  • Brigade Artillery Battallion
    • 2 81 mm Mortars + APC
    • 1 30mm AA  SPG
  • 2 Cavalry Regiments (battalions), each comprising
    • 2 Light Tank Squadrons, each of 3 Light Tanks, 1 ATGW (Milan Equivalent) Jeep/AFV
    • Mechanised Infantry Company - 3 IFVs + 1 AT Jeep/APC
    • 3 Infantry stands + 1 ATGW (Milan type) stand
  •  Motorised Infantry Battalion
    • Heavy Weapons Company
      • 1 81mm Mortar + APC
      • 1  Mass-HMG AA + APC (May convert to small AAM over time)
      • 2 "Heavy" ATGW APCs or Tank Destroyers
    • 3 Infantry Companies, each of 3 APC + 1 AT Jeep/APC/IFV
    • 3 Infantry stands + 1 ATGW stand  

I imagine that over time Jeeps will be replaced by more protected APCs.

As to what vehicles these are, that will be the next blog post, but in short I assume the following:

  • Any own-design or non-Soviet vehicle the Czechoslovakians had will exist in Alt-History - so OT-64, OT-65, DANA, Praga etc (ie models I have already should be usable....)
  • A number of improvements/evolutions they wanted to make to these can now occur - bigger guns on SKOTs and OT-65s etc 
  • Any vehicles they had on their own drawing boards (see previous blog post) in the 1950's will be used and evolved into a 1970's/80's successor. This includes:
    •  Replacements for the Lt38 family of fast, light AFVs (Pz38, Marder III, Hetzer) including an armoured APC they had in the works.
    • The Letak amphbious AFV, similar to the Russian PT-76 - I assume the OT-62 APC equivalent will be less influenced by the Soviet BTR-50 and have a more "Letak" look and thsi will also be reflected in their BMP-era 80's APC/IFV.
    • The TVP 51 MBT (and upgrades/a next gen successor)
  • Artillery, tank guns wtc of the requisitre calibres will be available
  • They are capable of buying or building comparable ATGW and AAMs to anything the West or Soviets have (or the French will sell it to them - did I mention I also have a French army....
As far as air support goes, in the 1930's Czechoslovakia had an aircraft industry building fighters/light ground attack and trainers but for bombers and fighter bombers they used Soviet and French equipment, In the 1970's/80's they still built their own trainer/light strike aircraft, so why change anything- still using Soviet & French heavier equipment seemed a perfectly reasonable path to continue (I mentioned I already have Cold War Czechs didn't I....)


  1. your on to some pretty cool stuff here.very interesting. Maybe by 1988 the cavalry has become air-mobile?

    1. I thought about Air Mobile but CzechoSlovakia is quite small, I thought something that could be move very fast by even smaller roads and carry all its kit with it would be the best option. That said the light tank I imagine using is airmobile

  2. Nicely done Alan, I've been playing around with the same source for Romanians and Baltic's. Lots of fun!

    1. Thanks Iain - it'll keep your Austrians and Poles occupied :)