The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. Part 5.

The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. Part 5.

My ‘Cold War’ trilogy is complete. I enjoyed writing it and the empty space it has left will be filled with a new set of books, based on the outcome of a strategic nuclear exchange. An Apocalyptic trilogy, survival at its worst.

The Cold War era started very soon after the end of the second world war, when the communist east, led by the Soviet Union, and the Western world, led by the United States and its NATO allies, faced each across what became known as the ‘Iron Curtain’.

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The capital of Germany, Berlin, was divided into four Sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Zone of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world.

An Iconic picture of the face-off between the West and the East.  The Cold War truly starts – October 1961.

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I shall cover various aspects of the two opposing forces, providing the backdrop and background information for my three novels.

In 1984/85, the Warsaw Pact was already a significant force, the Soviet Union in particular. To counter this NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, assembled its own force of arms along the Iron Curtain. Not just as a show force against the communist ideals purported by the East, but because the likelihood of Warsaw Pact troops, led by the Soviet Union, crossing the Inner German Border was a real possibility.

Although SHAPE, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, was referenced to Europe for legal reasons, its activities were extended beyond those borders in 2003. SHAPE’s motto is Vigilia Pretium Liberatis, Latin for ‘The Price of Freedom is Vigilance’. In 1951, General Eisenhower signed the activation order for ACE, Allied Command Europe. The key subordinate commands being Allied Forces Northern Europe, AFNORTH, Allied Forces Central Europe, AFCENT, the commands I shall be covering in this and future posts, and AFSOUTH, Allied Forces Southern Europe.

 

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Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe – Emblem

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Allied Forces Central Europe.

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Allied Forces Central Europe, AFCENT, would have to take the brunt of any attack by the Warsaw Pact forces. With responsibility for Parts of Europe stretching from Denmark to the borders of Austria, it had three subordinate commands. The two key ones, Northern Army Group, NORTHAG, and Central Army Group, CENTAG. For this and the next Post, I will concentrate on NORTHAG.

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Northern Army Group Insignia. During the building of the Joint Headquarters, a Frankish battle axe was discovered and subsequently used as their emblem. They chose it because the Franks were a West-European tribe defending against attackers from the East.

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During the 1980’s there was a genuine fear that the Warsaw Pact would come storming across the Inner German Border.

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For the defence of the Federal Republic of Germany, NATO used a ‘layer-cake’ principle. The country was sectioned into layers, with a designated Army Corps taking responsibility for its defence.

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Northern Army Group consisted of four Army Corps; 1 Dutch Corps in the north, beneath that 1 German Corps, 1 British Corps and 1 Belgian Corps. NORTHAG’s area of responsibility ran from the North German Plains, south of the river Elbe, to the city of Kassel. Below Kassel was the responsibility of CENTAG and north of the Elbe was the responsibility of Allied Land Forces Command.

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Crossing the Inner German Border, the Warsaw Pact was expected to attack on possibly two key fronts. The ‘North German Plains’, ideal terrain for their particularly large tank forces, and from the ‘Thurungian Bulge’, punching through the ‘Fulda Gap’, Frankfurt a mere 62 miles from the Inner German Border at that point.

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In the 1950’s, NATO supported the ‘Rhine Defence Concept’, using the wide river as a major barrier to an invading army. The defence line would be along the Rhine and east of the Rhine would be used as a ‘delaying zone’, enabling NATO to pull in reinforcements and reserves. In the late 1950’s, the defence line moved closer to the Inner German Border, the concept of ‘Defence in Depth’. By the 1960’s, West Germany, by now more of an ally than a conquered country, had major concerns about German Cities being left undefended and open to Soviet Occupation. So, by the 1970’s, the concept of a ‘Forward Defence’ was born. Northern Army Group had a tough task. Each of their Army Corps would have a ‘covering force area’, where they would delay the enemy while they moved their forces into position, and  a ‘main battle area’, where the bulk of their forces would dig in. Behind them, in the Corps rear area, they would also have to find the forces to defend against Warsaw Pact Assault Brigades,  Airborne Divisions dropping behind their lines to secure bridges and attack key nuclear weapons stocks and communications centres. Not forgetting Spetsnaz activity.

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Task Force Bravo, later re-designated 22 Armoured Brigade, its Headquarters in Bergen-Hohne, was part of 1st Armoured Division.

NORTHAG had four Army Corps in its lineup (1980’s).

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I (NL) Corps

Netherlands

1e Devisie (mechanised division).

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • Approximately 245 x Leopard  1v
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Infantry Battalions
  • 60 x M109A3

4e Devisie (mechanised division)

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 244 x Leopard 2A4
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 60 x M109A3

5e Devisie

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 140 x Leopard 1v and 104 Leopard 2A4
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions

101e Infantry Brigade (reserve)

  • 2 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions and 2 x Infantry Battalions.

1 (NL) Corps Artillery

  • 22 x M270 MRLS
  • 6 x Lance Missile Launchers
  • 48 x M110A2
  • 20 x M109A2

1 (NL) Corps also had integral reconnaissance and Air Defence units.

1 (NL) Corps, also potentially had the German 3rd Panzer Division as part of their Corps. 13 x Leopard 1A5 and 220 x Leopard 2. 5 x Panzer Grenadier Battalions and a Divisional Artillery Group. 18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

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1 (GE) Corps

Germany

1st Panzer Division

  • 2 x Panzer Brigades and  1 x Panzer Grenadier Brigade.
  • 1 x Artillery Regiment
  • 261 x Leopard 2 and 13 x Leopard 1A5
  • 5 x Grenadier Battalions
  • 18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

7th Panzer Division

  • 2 x Panzer Brigades and 1 x Panzer Grenadier Brigade
  • 1 x Artillery Regiment
  • 261 x Leopard 2 and 13 x Leopard 1A5
  • 5 x Panzer Grenadier Battalions
  • 18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

11th Panzer Grenadier Division

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Panzer Grenadier Brigades
  • 1 x Artillery Regiment
  • 192 x Leopard 2 and 26 x Leopard 1
  • 7 x Panzer Grenadier Battalions
  •  18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

27th Airborne Brigade

  • 4 x Airborne Battalions

Each 1 (GE) Corps Brigade, also had integral armoured reconnaissance and Air Defence. Also artillery,  in the form of M109A3G.

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1 (BR) Corps

Britain

1st Armoured Division

  • 3 x Armoured Brigades
  • Parachute Regiment Group
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 168 x Challenger 1 and 114 x Chieftain
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 3 x Parachute Battalions
  • 48 x M109A2 and 24 x Abbot

2nd Infantry Division

  • 2 x Infantry Brigades and 1 x Airmobile Brigade
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 15 x Infantry Battalions
  • 60 x FH-70

3rd Armoured Division

  • 3 x Armoured Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 224 x Challenger 1
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 24 x M109A2 and 48 x Abbot

4th Armoured Division

  • 2 x Armoured Brigades and 1 x Infantry Brigade
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 171 x Chieftain
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 6 x Infantry Battalions
  • 48 x M109A2 and 24 x FH-70

1st Artillery Brigade

  • 3 x Heavy Artillery Regiments and 1 x Missile Regiment.
  • 24 x M107, 24 x M270 MLRS and 12 x Lance Missile Launchers.
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1 (BE) Corps

Belgium

1er Infantry Division

  • 3 x Armoured Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 120 x Leopard 1
  • 6 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 54 x M109A2

16de Panzer Division

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Armoured  Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 160 x Leopard 1
  • 6 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 54 x M109A2

Corps Artillery

  • 36 x M109A2, 12 x M110A2 and 4 x Lance Missile Launchers.

On the face of it, quite a significant force. Over 2,000 tanks. There were also light tanks for reconnaissance and anti-tank systems in support. But, when you consider that NORTHAG could potentially be up against 3 Shock Army and 20 Guards Tank Army, the 1st Strategic Echelon of the Soviet Union from the Group of Soviet Forces Germany, which had over  2,000 main battle tanks, it would be a testing time. Then you would need to consider the 2nd Strategic Echelon, followed by the Strategic Reserves. On top of that, NORTHAG would probably have to contend with at least 2 Airborne Division drops behind the lines and numerous Airborne Brigade Assaults, along with numerous Spetsnaz operations. But, don’t forget the other Warsaw Pact members, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

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I shall cover the Chieftain Main Battle Tank for the rest of  this Post, but future Posts will look at more of 1 BR Corps, CENTAG and the Group of Soviet Forces Germany. Although Challenger 1, was slowly being introduced, the Chieftain was the mainstay of the British forces for most of the early to mid 80’s.

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Chieftain Mark 10.

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The L11A5, 120mm, high-velocity rifled tank  gun prominent.

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The fume extractor can be seen half way down the barrel which is also wrapped in thermal sleeve to minimise distortion of the tube. Otherwise, loss of accuracy would occur at long ranges due to the differential heating or cooling.

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Hortsmann suspension with 12 pairs of twin wheels in six bogies.

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The tracks are Dry pin, rubber padded with 96 links per track.

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The Mark 10/11 had stillbrew passive armour added to the frontal aspect of the turret and around the driver’s position. It gave added protection against Hollow Charged Weapons such as the Sagger Anti-Tank Missile and the RPG-7, but with very little additional weight for the already 56 ton tank.

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On the right hand side of the turret, as you are facing the tank, and on the left in this picture, you can see part of the TOGS, Thermal Observation and Gunnery System.

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The upgraded Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) Filtration system can be seen on the back of the turret.

 

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Steel towing cable lashed to the side.

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Stillbrew armour clearly visible on this Mark 11.

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Twin wheels in six bogies.

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The Leyland L60 Engine power-pack for the Chieftain 

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6-cylinder (12-piston) liquid-cooled two-stroke, multi-fuelled engine producing 750bhp at 2100rpm.

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The multi-fuel element, a NATO directive, meant that the engine was complicated and difficult to maintain. It was plagued with problems in the early days.

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Smoke projectors, six each side of the turret.

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Weighing in at 56 tons, it could still reach a speed of 20mph off road and 30mph on road

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Mark 11 on the left and Mark 10 on the right.

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The Chieftain carried 64 rounds of 120mm and  6,800 rounds of 7.62mm.

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The L11 series 120mm rifled tank gun could fire a variety of projectiles, including the L23A1 ADFSDS-T (Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot Tracer) and L31 HESH (High Explosive Squash Head).

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The Glacis armour was 120mm thick.

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Chieftains in motion.

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my research and experiences with you.  This is the fifth of my new ‘Cold War’ series, supporting the writing of my new ‘Cold War’ series of novels, covering the hypothetical invasion of West Germany by the Warsaw Pact in the 80’s. ‘The Red Effect’.

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HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

The equipment Photographs and Blog are copyrighted to Harvey Black

2 Comments

  1. Great post mate! Beaut shots of the Bovvy chieftains. If you walk around the woods to the rear of the camp they are filled with ‘hards’ – abandoned chieftains. Quite sad but very interesting to see how well they have weathered. Loved the first 2 of your ‘Effect’ trilogy, will be ordering the blue one now I know its out!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the first two! I am a regular sister to the Tank Museum, so will take a wander around the back. Chieftain is an absolute Cold War Icon. There are other posts with shots of other kit from Bovvy. Once you finished with he ‘Effect’ series, try Cold War Redux – Duplicity, the new cold war. Thank you again.HB

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