Saturday, 7 November 2015

Some notes on the British Berlin Brigade of 1985

In the context of Battlefront's Cold War gone hot 'Team Yankee' project, my mate Baz asked me to do a little research on the Infantry component of the Berlin Brigade, as it was composed in 1985, the year that Harold Coyle's eponymous novel, and thus the rules, are based. Baz is a lifer, a regular soldier who served for many years in the Royal Horse Artillery. Accordingly, he knows all he needs to about Gunner and Armour org, but I thought I'd add in some additional snippets I discovered anyway, in case it piques anyone's interest in this aspect of wargaming the Cold War. Personally, I'll be siting my games further west - I don't like FIBUA at the best of times and the camo scheme seems like a nightmare to paint!

Berlin Infantry Brigade 1985 - 3 Infantry Battalions:

1.       1st Battalion Royal Hampshire Regiment (The Tigers) (1RHANTS) Dec ’83 – Feb ‘86

Royal Hampshires' Col in Chief, HRH POW getting in the driver's seat, Berlin 1985. 
2.       1st Bn Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire (1PWO) from Jun ’83 – relieved by 1st Bn Devon and Dorset Regiment (1DandD) Apr ’85.

Fox A/Cs manned by 3RRF Recce Platoon, Berlin

3.       3rd Bn Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (3RRF) from Mar ’83 – relieved by 1st Bn Royal Highland Fusiliers (1RHF) Mar ‘85
Infantry Bn Organisation.

It is not clear whether the Berlin battalions were organised as Mechanised (FV432 APC), Type A (Saxon APC) or Type B (Softskin transport) scales of organisation. Since we know they had 432s and softskins, I suspect some kind of unique Berlin lash up. I have noted the differences in scales below.

I do know that each Berlin battalion had at least the following vehicles in 1985:

Recce Platoon – 4 x FV432 Fire Support Vehicle (Fox Turret with 30mm Rarden Cannon) and at least 4 x FOX A/C

FV432 Fire Support Vehicle with Fox A/C turret sporting the Berlin Bde dazzle camo scheme
A/T Platoon – 4 x FV432 fitted with WOMBAT 120mm recoilless A/T gun, and 4 x OT Long Wheel Base Landrover (LWB) also carrying WOMBAT.
Ferret light scout car
A liberal quantity of Ferret A/C for light patrol and liaison duties.

Overall Infantry Battalion Organisation:


3 x Mechanised or Rifle Company
Fire Support Company
HQ Company

Fire Support Company:
Company HQ:

Recce platoon – 8 x Scimitar if Mechanised, 8 x Fox A/C if Type A, 8 x LWB if Type B

Mortar platoon – 6 x 81mm mortar in 432 if Mechanised,  8 x 81mm mortar if Type A/B

81mm Mortar
AT platoon – HQ plus 5 sections, each 4 Milan ATGW firing posts. Some units, typically TA Home defence battalions still retained WOMBAT, and we know that Berlin units had WOMBAT, so probably no MILAN in view of the likely engagement ranges? 

Other than vehicles, all rifle companies were organised in this way:

Company HQ

3 x Rifle Platoon, each consisting of 3 sections.

Each section would be broken down into 2 further teams, either: Gun group of 2-3 men with GPMG and Rifle group of 4-5 men with SLRs; or 2 Fire teams, each of 1 x LMG and 3 x SLR. Additionally the sections would have carried several 66mm AT rocket launchers and 1 x 84mmm L14 ‘Charlie G’ recoilless rocket launcher in addition to their personal weapons.


Independent (Berlin) Armoured Squadron – ‘D’ Squadron, Queen’s Own Hussars (QOH) from Apr ’83 – relieved by ‘B’ Squadron, 14th/20th King’s Hussars (14/20H) May ’85.

Note to maximise the armoured strength allowed within the 4 powers agreement, the Berlin Armoured Squadron thee HQ troop was a full strength troop, resulting in 18 Chieftains instead of the usual 16 in a Type 57 Armoured Squadron.

Some good footage of the BB Chieftains in the last 1989 Allied Forces Day parade here, although I can only count 10 Chieftains and 6 X 432 FSVs:

Although in this clip of the 1982 AFD parade only 12 Chieftains are on parade:

 Well that's all I have on the Berlin Bde, be great to hear from anyone who served there...
Berlin Brigade 1945-1989 - Held until Relieved!


  1. Hi, I was in Berlin from mid 1983 to mid 1985 as a radio technician with 14 Field Workshop.
    As such I regularly spent time with all of the other units in Berlin.
    The Brigade infantry was on foot with some trucks and their recce platoons were equipped as you mentioned. But I never saw any ferrets in Berlin - just the fox.
    There was said to be javelin SAMs but I never saw any or even RA people.
    I spent lots of time with the tank Squadron and they did not have 18 gun tanks! They had 1 chieftain ARV and I think possibly 16 gun tanks (but it was a long time ago).
    The AFV camouflage looks very strange when you first see it, but it was very effective in the city. Not so good in the Greunewald though!
    Paul C

    1. Thanks very much for the valuable info Paul, it all helps unravel what seems to be a peculiar orbat!

  2. My dad was in the 1st bn the Prince of wales's own regiment of Yorkshire,(as was I later) and was based in Berlin during this time (great posting, i loved it there as a kid). He was the anti tank platoon 2ic as a Csgt.

    I could ask him what the bn org was if he still remembers. How many milan posts they had etc..or if they did indeed have wombats still.


    1. Thanks Steve we would be most grateful for any light your dad could cast on the A/T platoon - particularly if it was a PWO special org or the standard Berlin one they operated.

    2. I maybe wrong but I think the Devon and Dorsets had the Wombat and then conversion to Milan started meaning 1 Dand D may have been the last users of the Wombat.

  3. Well Sparker me old cock sparrow, I think we have opened a can of worms here BUT its a great way of finding out about these things.
    I have tried hand painting the Berlin camo on the tanks and 432's I Just waiting for some Tamiya masking tape to arrive. Once they are done I will send a few photos. Have no idea how to post photos in TMP.


  4. Well Barry, I have to say:

    'Attention on the upper deck. Face to port and salute: Master Painter!''

    for being mad enough to even attempt the Berlin paint scheme - 15mm? Jaysus! Would be delighted to post any such pics up on TMP for you. (With TMP you need to already have a url for any phots - ie they already need to be on your website or on the net)

    But yes we have opened up a can of worms but lots of good information has come in, both on here and on TMP, so you should be good to go - assuming you have any eyesight left!

  5. A nice post Sparker, and I too am awaiting with some eager anticipation the forthcoming releases from Battlefront and know I won't be able to resist a BAOR force, but will probably hang off until then.

    Which surprises me, as back in the 80's I could barely look at any (as they were then) modern games without involuntarily flinching.

    I am also finally looking forward to punching out the counters on my SPI Berlin '85 game, and reading Hackett's book. Time and distance, I suppose...

    1. Thanks Lawrence. Yes I guess I feel the same way about naval wargaming! But I too can't wait for TY to come out...

  6. "Royal Hampshires' Col in Chief, HRH POW getting in the driver's seat, Berlin 1985."

    Her Royal Highness as a Prisoner of War!!!! �� They kept that one well hidden!

    So many acronyms ... so little time! ��

    von Peter himself ... perhaps a little deliberately obtuse

    1. Thanks your vonship - lol! (Actually the official NATO abbreviation for Prisoners of War is PW as opposed to POW - can you believe it!)

  7. I found out that there was some RA cap badges in Berlin around this time. It was 6 Troop, 46 (Talavera) Air Defence Battery. This Bty was in fact one of four independent air defence Bty's, who's role was to provide close air defence where required. I would think 1 with each of the Div's in B.A.O.R at that time. They were armed with ( in 1985 ) the Javelin .
    As a note of interest, the other independent AD Bty's were 10 (Assaye) AD Bty, 21 (Gibraltar) AD Bty and 43 (Lloyds Company) AD Bty respectively.

  8. Javelin in 1985? Us terriers were still running around with Blowpipe!

  9. Yes they only got it two years before in 83 when they still had the Blowpipe

  10. All BB batalions were reconfigured type B infantry with the recce element having 4 x 432/30's 8 fox and two fv432 apcs. anti tank had wombats mounted r on lwb stripped down LR mortars wer split up amongst the companys and mostly manpacked