Thursday, 30 December 2010

New OO Scale Hornby Buildings for 2011

Hornby has announced it's new OO scale Skaledale buildings to be released in 2011, which includes a good mix of useful countryside, urban and industrial models.

There's a new departure in a small selection of unpainted Ready-to-Assemble buildings at £12.75 each. R9645 Bungalow and R9644 two-storey townhouse being of most interest. At first the price seems expensive but they do come in around the same price as Airfix's recently released bombed damaged European houses.

 For urban layouts. there's a number of full and half relief pre-painted cast buildingss - mostly shops but also an Indian Take Away, Baptist Church, Country Garage and the Wheatsheaf Arms pub.

R9562 Wheatsheaf Arms

Hornby have also expanded the number of useful large and medium sized modern industrial buildings available in the form of R9661 Low-Relief Factory, R9659 Industrial Building, R9662 Low-Relief Modern Factory Front and R9658 Workshops.

R9658 Workshops

Individually or together to create an indstrial estate, they are perfect for GEEZERS! "Shut It!" games or a 1979 plus military or post apocalypse skirmish. I can already see R9658 Workshop as a B&Q, Cash & Carry, Council transport depot, Royal Mail distribution centre, bonded warehouse or similar. It can be further augmented for games with Portakabin/s, a gatehouse, diesel tanks, and International Containers from Knightwing to create plnety of variety and cover.

Finally but by no means last, my favourites. A complementary range of derelict farm buildings that are probably the most useful of all the new releases for Winter of '79:

 R9646 Derelict Farmhouse

 R9648 Derelict Stables

R9647 Derelict Barn

 R9649 Derelict Outhouse

Take two Derelict Farmhouses, the Outhouse, add one or two destroyed buldings from S&S and/or perhaps a destroyed church such as GameCraft Miniatures superb ruined church....

 ...... and you have an abandoned and contested village.


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Killing on Ebay

Made a killing on Ebay in the form of a DVD collectors set of LIFE ON MARS for 99p!

We're returning to the streets of East Whittington in the New Year. The crime rate has rocketed as the slags take advantage of the vacuum left by the police whose hands are full, dealing with civil disturbance and growing political unrest.

But, in a smoke filled office, DCI Hacker has put together a squad of hard bitten, old style cops armed with a 1974 Ford Cortina to bring law and order back to the borough.

At this mornings press conference, DCI Hacker reassured the public "This is how we will extending the full arm of the law from now in East Whitington:"


Monday, 27 December 2010

Separate Weapons

Separate weapons are always useful for converting figures or upgunning vehicles. An SLR added to a civilian or otherwise anarchronistic modern military/militia figure defines it within a Winter of '79 context more so  than minor clothing/uniform or kit details. 

B.W. Models have a very nice range of small arms and support weapons in 1/76. Ideal for Winter of '79. All packs are £0.50 unless noted otherwise.

  • BWA1:  5x Rifle .303 No 4 
  • BWA3:   5x Light Machine gun, .303 Bren Mk 2
  • BWA4:   1x OML 3 inch mortar with 3 round ammo carrier, £1.00
  • BWA9:   5x SLR - FN Self Loading rifle, 7.62mm
  • BWA14: 5x Blowpipe Missile Launcher, £0.75
  • BWA28: 5x GPMG - General Purpose Machine gun 7.62mm
  • BWA55: 5x SA80

Kingfisher Miniatures also have a range of Modern 1/76 separate small arms and heavier weapons - many of which are ideal for Winter of  '79. Packs are £1.00 unless noted otherwise.

  • A-01:  Two each M240 MG pintle mount,M60 E3 MG bipod, M16 A2, MG/GPMG bipod.
  • A-06: M240 MG and mount, 10 per set.
  • A-07: M60 E3 MG and bipod, 10 per set.
  • A-08: M16 A2, 10 per set.
  • A-11: MAG/GPMG and bipod, 10 per set.
  • A-79: MG .50 Cal and spigots, 10 per pack, £ 1.60
  • A-81: Modern weapons: 5 xSA80, 3 x LSW, 2 GPMG, £ 1.80

 RH Models (Liberation Miniatures) have a range of 20mm heavy weapons. I've deliberately stuck to British or American weapons in British service. However you can expand the international scope of Winter of '79, by incorporating Cold War American or Soviet weapons from Rolf's full list.

  • WEA12:  2x MILAN MK 1 ATGW £2.00
  • WEA18:  GPMG on vehicle mount- for Landrover, Ferret Mk1 etc £0.50
  • WEA18B: 2x GPMG AFV MOUNT £1.00
  • WEA30:  TWIN .50 CAL £1.00
  • WEA33:  GPMG ON TRIPOD £0.50
  • WEA41:  US .50 CAL ON POLE MOUNT £1.00


4 Wheels on my Armoured Wagon

Fully in tune with my Winter of '79 concept, Heather generously gave me these 1/76th scale B.W. Models kits for Christmas:

            BW274: L/Rover Series 3 LWB, VPK armoured (Army)
            BW77: Humber 1 ton, "Pig" APC (N Ireland)
            BW200: L/Rover Series 3 L/weight VPK Armoured (N Ireland)

I was in love with these models, that is until I open the packets and looked at them carefully. I'll review the individual models in more detail during the course of this week.

Still swaying about getting your hands on some Internal Security models? Take a look at where they are displayed in an appropriate I.S. setting. Right up your 'street' Joe! Here's an example:

 BW Models, BW297: Humber 'Flying Pig' £15.00

In addition to Heather's present, I also received a fistful Eureka's 20mm Internal Security Brits in riot gear from Mike. A small bag of separate 20mm SLR rifles were included, allowing me to push on with converting civilian figures into armed militia or rebels. Thank you, Mike!


UPDATED 27/12/10

Sunday, 26 December 2010


Scanning this morning I found the complete series 1 of SPEARHEAD: available on DVD for £9.93.

Spearhead was a 1978 TV drama that provided an unglamorous worm's eye view of British Army life from the soldier's perspective. The story revolves around a platoon  in the fictional 1st Battalion Royal Wessex Rangers, designated as the Army's  'Spearhead' battalion. Series 1 was the best and see's the fictional squaddies undertaking an Internal Security role in Northern Ireland. Plenty of Winter of '79 eyecandy in the form of Humber Pigs and armoured Landrovers.

Light infantry battalions in the UK were assigned in rotation as a rapid reaction 'Spearhead Battalion' capable of short-notice deployment worldwide. It required the chosen unit to be ready to deploy its headquarters, lead ('active edge') company and logistic elements within 24 hours and have the remaining companies and support assets on the ground within 72 hours (source: Hansard).

Spearhead: episode 1 (fast forward to 2:10)

A Spearhead Battalion may have familiarisation deployments in Belize, Hong Kong, Cyprus and Kenya prior to taking up it's spearhead role. The most common operational deployment was short notice contingency reinforcing of British troops in Northern Ireland in antincipation or response to crises.

To ensure the troops were at the highest possible state of readiness, the Spearhead Battalion was issued with full scales of wartime equipment and undertook regular sub-unit exercises and readiness call-outs of the lead company. The Lead company was expected to maintain a permanent maximum 4 hour alert status.

Today the Spearhead Battalion is known as Spearhead Land Element. This assignment lasts 4 months and  the 'active edge' company is expected to deploy within 24 hours with follow up elements 4-12 hours later.

In Winter of '79, the 'Spearhead Battalion' provides us with a highly trained and efficient rapid reaction force that can be used at flashpoints anywhere in the country.

When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies

An unexpected Christmas gift yesterday was Andy Beckett's travelogue of 1970's Britain. It's scope covers Edward Heath's election in 1970 to the rule of Thatcher in 1979. Why travelogue? Because it's written in that eclectic oratory style of Bill Bryson's travel walkabouts. There's only the briefest of timelines - Beckett identifies salient events, people and happenings to weave a journey through a turbulent decade.

I found it a particularly apt gift, having got home early enough from work on Friday to wrap presents on the kitchen table whilst watching the final half of SWEENEY 2 (1978) on the TV.

When the Lights Went Out is an immensely readable book. I've just been dipping so far and look forward to giving it more time over the next couple of days. If you are interested in the 70's Britain that created Winter of '79, may well be worth you picking up in one of the post Christmas sales.


Broadsword Calling Danny Boyo!

Welch Fusiliers Patriotic Front on patrol
Taff Y Van, Christmas day, 1979

Friday, 24 December 2010

Seasons Greetings!



Have a good 'un guys!
Mark, Mike & Maff

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Operation Idris

"Good evening. On Panorama tonight we bring you a special report on the full story of the last few days' tumultuous events along the Welsh border.

Jeremy Paxman reports from Shrewsbury.

"Shropshire is a county in shock. Last Sunday, a column of Landrovers led by an armoured car appeared in Montgomery, just over the border. A group of heavily armed Welshmen in military uniform declared a Welsh Free State on the steps of the town hall. 

To many, it seemed a joke at the time but yesterday those same Landrovers, armed with heavy machine guns and brimming with armed militia, tore through South Shropshire, from Shrewsbury as far as Leominster, leaving a trail of blown bridges, culverts and apparently mined roads. They did, however, take a few minutes out to sing a hymn at a wedding reception in Craven Arms before blowing the railway bridge. As Government forces closed in, they made a quick dash back into Wales via Leintwardine and dispersed there along Forestry Commission tracks. 

There are reports, unconfirmed, that the radar dish at RAF Clee Hill was destroyed by an anti-tank missile. An unidentified army source commented, "the RAF are really narked; there's not a working bridge in sight and we are clearing those mines very carefully. If we did want to go for Wales, we aren't doing it from Shropshire".
In the studio tonight we look at events in London. Rumours abound that the Colonels from a number of Welsh regiments had told the MOD and Army Council that they would not order their men to fire on fellow Welshmen.  These officers were summoned to the MOD to "clarify issues". They have not been heard from since and the belief has developed that they had been summarily court martialled. The Welsh Guards were not involved but a message is known to have reached the regiments concerned via an officer of the Welsh Guards. A copy of the message reads "Cut and run; get the boys home".

Late last night a large military convoy left the Home Counties along the M4. When challenged by Police, an officer in the lead vehicle replied "Dont worry boys, we're off to sort those Taffs out we are". As the column crossed over the M5, they were cheered by a convoy of Royal Marines heading north. The truth emerged when they then crossed the Severn at Tewkesbury and were last seen driving out of Ledbury for Mid Wales. Military Police had, by now found the entire barracks, married quarters, motor pool and armouries empty, apart from a few English soldiers who were totally drunk. "All the vehicles that left the barracks, crossed Offa's Dyke" said a local reporter who hitched a ride with the last convoy, "I counted them out and I counted them back in"

It is now quite clear that the so-called Free Wales Army diversion in Shopshire was planned to cover the wholesale exodus of what appears to be possibly two battalions of professional soldiers. Meanwhile the Welsh Guards, who remained at their post, have now withdrawn to barracks and posted troops in full battle dress on guard. They are reported to be under a stage of siege as the Provisional Government seeks to disarm them. Welsh Battalions in Germany have reported to the Bundeswehr Command as ready to serve under NATO.

Tonight Radio Free Wales was heard to broadcast "Wales is no longer in the UK but is very much part of Europe. We stand with NATO and hope NATO will respond in the same way". We now go over to..." SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

"We apologise for the interruption to this programme"

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The French Connection

Last night I remembered that somewhere in my book collection was my old, old edition of ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLES of the World by Christopher F.Foss.

I dug it out and for twenty or so minutes, savoured being reminded about the AFVs that were around at the end of the seventies. Finally, I looked at the frontspiece to find that it was the 1977 edition!

I'd been thinking about arms sales to the UK - who would take the opportunity to make a buck or offload some outdated kit AND make a buck from our national crisis? Well, the French, goes without saying - just cross the Channel, established arms industry, a quick telephone call to Colonel le Blanc and a couple of ro-ro Ferries drop off some nice shiny Panhards straight off the production line.

Now, ACE make four very nice 1/72nd scale plastic kits of French AFVs that are most likely to have come to our shores - either to bolster of the government or, if you want something that bit different for your forces of Democracy and natural justice, our rebels.

First, the Panhard AML-90. Hard hitting workhorse of the French armoured car fleet. First produced in 1961, sold by the Gaulois load across Africa and other states including Eire. The '90' indicated a 90mm gun with an effective range of 1,500m. Just the job for taking on provisional government Scorpions.

Like our own Ferret Scout Car, the AML series spawned many variants, including the AML-60, armed with a breechloading 60mm mortar.

ACE also gives us the Panhard M-3 4x4 armoured personnel carrier. One of my favourite bits of French kit, ever since I saw them in the hands of the Irish Army. I can only really describe it what the Humber Pig would have been, if it had been designed with some classic French chic!

Apparently a two man crew and 10 passengers fit it there somehow. ACE also produce the Irish Army version with the TL21.80 turret housing twin 7.62 FN MAG machineguns.

If you are clever in your purchasing for Winter of '79 you can use at least a couple of these French made AFVs for our civil war scenario AND have forces available for AK47 Banana Republic games, or hypothetical cross-border run-ins between Brits and Irish border patrols.

All these kits, plus 1/72ns scale Scorpion and Scimitar kits are available from Model Hobbies in the UK.

Now, taking into account the comments left below, then we are left with the Heller VAB VTT 4/4 1/72 APC. The VAB entered service in 1976, so right for our time frame. If you use your Googlefu wisely, you'll find them for under £5.

Just thinking, the WW2 British Daimler armoured car might just make a decent proxy for the AML-60.


Rebel, Rebel

I receive a small stipend at the end of the year for my extra-curricular but still work related activities and have a couple of squids left to spend on a Winter of '79 theme before the year is out. With Maff upping the ante in Wales, I turn once again to Rolf Hedges' extensive 20mm post war, cold war and modern figures ranges for suitable minis, where £12-15 will buy me a small but still complete unit.

By far the best figures for ex Regular/Territorial rebel units or a nationalist milita based on a military cadre come from Rolf's SAS Range.

First things first, let's forget the 'SAS' tag. What we have is a range of 'shambly' figures in largely accurate but non-uniformly attired British kit. Where the gear is anarchronistic (eg Gulf War 1) I'm treating it as specialist or homebrew kit sourced via Silvermans and the like. No need to get hung up on it. It's a civil war - remember, Millets is your friend!

So, first up, we have SASFALKSQU; Falkland era SAS - 6 with M16A1, 2 with CAR 15 - mixed headgear (£3.90); and SASFALKSUP; as above, 2 with GPMG, 2 with BREN, 4 with M16/M203 (£3.90).

Well, can't go wrong with these dedicated 1970's/80's SAS minis. I currently have a pack each of these plus a pack of Vietnam era OZSAS; 9 SAS, mixed weapons (M16A1,SLR etc), mixed headgear (£4.35). I added the OZSAS to give my rebels more variety and the essential Brit squaddie character that only an SLR can bring.

I'd prefer to have more SLRs in my unit but 'Armalites' aren't a bad choice as an alternative weapon in this timeframe. There were plenty in GB even if not generally issued, and further stocks could be had via terrorist links, friendly foreign agencies or unscrupulous British and international arms dealers.

I also go for the M16 over an AK47 in a Multi-Coloured Swap Shop/Tiswas/Professionals/Tinker, Tailor....  UK. Instead, I'm saving the AKs for my Left Wing, militant union or revolutionary militias for that Mad Trot/Red Under The Bed feel.

Those three packs alone give us enough figures for a decently sized rebel British Army platoon. Plus, versatile enough to provide us with Flklands SAS, post apocalyptic/meltdown survivors or even Twilight 2000 options.

You can expand your force with more of the same, or SAS1; 9 figs, SAS GULF WAR 1, bareheaded - 3 with M16/203, 3 with MINIMI, 3 with M16A1  (£4.35); and SASGPMG: 2 FIGS with GPMG,  bareheaded (£1.00). The FN Minimi came into service in 1974, but would take over a decade before the British Army took it on. This is one weapon that just doesn't feel right for Winter of '79, so suggest you pop these minis in the spares box, use them for head conversions or convert them to other weapons.

Further character or unit identity can be created through anyone one or more of the following packs, which are otherwise identical to SAS1 above: SAS2: 9 FIGS IN BUSH HATS (£4.35), SAS5: IN WOOL KNIT CAP (£3.90), SBS1: 8 FIGS, IN BERETS (£3.90), SBS2: IN COMMANDO CAPS (£3.90). The wool knit caps naturally having more of a cold. bleak moors/wintry feel.


Tales from err, Langley, Shhhh!

"Bob! So, the British situation. Bit of a clusterfuck. What about our bases?"

"The provisional government......"


"Provisional government......"

"That's not how the President see's it. Anyway, our bases?"

"Weeeell,  the British are saying that they can guarantee the sovereignty of our bases. We've beefed up security. Additional troops flown in and established a 50 metre warning zone, with Jeep patrols and behind them a pretty solid tripwire defence of Claymores". 

"50 metres?"

"It gives us room to catch protesters or refugees, without being seen by the British or US media as using unreasonable force. In any case, our real strategic assets, our jewels in the British crown so to speak, are in Scotland and worse case scenario......"

"Worse case scenario?"

"...Is, we withdraw our military presence to Scotland. The US guarantees independence in return for keeping our bases, Holy Loch, Edzell, Machrihanish etc. Fly in a division or two to Prestwick under the cover of a REFORGER exercise...." Could be a real coup for Jimmy!"

"We don't like using the "C" word in this office."

Monday, 20 December 2010

Tales from the Ministry


"Good-oh Rupert do come in. So whats all this about Wales then?"

"Well Nigel, it's gone a bit rag week. Free Welsh Armies setting up shop all over the place".

" I don't know, take your eye off the kettle for one moment........ Do you think they're serious?"

"The names they're giving themselves are pretty serious. If they play as a team and go at it with the same passion as the rugby? We may be in for a stiff time."

"Mmm. What about the Guards?"

"The Welsh Guards? Why, they're guards Nigel!"

"And the Royal Regiment and Welch Fusiliers?"

"If that's the case, we might as well say that every man who laughs at Max Boyce is a turncoat!"

"Jaffa Cake?.........."

Radio Free Wales

Teulu Cymru HQ
" Radio Free Wales 271.4mhz, is pleased to announce the liberation of Montgomery by forces of the Teulu Cymru (Welsh Cadre), 2nd Brigade, Free Wales Army. Across Cymru, forces of freedom are regaining the land of our forefathers". 

"Radio Free Wales. Join us. Freedom is ours!"

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Urban Camo Chieftains in 1/72

Three new Altaya 1/72 Chieftain Mk.V BAOR (Berlin Germany 1984) arrived this morning from Model Hobbies in Stoke on Trent.

These are stonkingly good models. The camo pattern isn't quite 100% accurate for Berlin Brigade Chieftains but it does look and feel right. The lines are a little fuzzy in one place, but this is Winter of '79 and a hastily applied urban camo spray job during a national crisis is par for the course. 

I ordered the Chieftains from Model Hobbies online webstore at 9.05am on Friday morning and received an email confirming dispatch within the hour.  Despite the Christmas rush and the country being gripped by snow, the postie brought them to my door today, Sunday morning. It goes without saying that I am really, really impressed by the service from Model Hobbies.  They delivered big time, and are now my first choice for plastic and diecast models in the future.


Top of The Pops

"Guys n gals! Guys n gals! No.1, Oliver's Army, Elvis Costello and the Attractions. How's about that then? Uhwouhwoouh!"


Latest! Take That Pinko!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Jon Snow, Reporting From London

"Thousands lined the streets of the capital today to applaud the Government's new 10th Field Force as it passed in review".
"The new formation has been created from the cadres of Regular and Territorial Army units based in the City and Greater London. The parade has been described as the greatest display of military power in the city since the Victory Parade of 1946".
"Despite continued resistance in Brixton, Streatham and Southwark by forces in opposition to the Provisional Government of National Emergency, a 2 mile long column led by the Pipes and Drums of the historic reformed London Scottish, marched past the saluting stand in Pall Mall, where Lord Louis Mountbatten took the salute as head of the Provisional Government". 

"This new force, loyal to the government, is to all intents and purposes a New Model Army.  Hundreds of armoured vehicles, in a striking new urban camouflage scheme demonstrate the resolve of the government to quash opposition once and for all....back to the studio".
"In a televised broadcast following the march past, Lord Mountbatten addressed the nation".......
 "Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. Your government undertakes to do everything in it's power to return peace and unity back to this great country.
There will be no hiding place for those who oppose our nation's traditions of democracy and the rule of law. Whether it be a council estate or suburb, city or quiet country village, there will be no hiding place for the forces of chaos and disorder.
God save the Queen!"

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

All I Want for Christmas...... VPK Armoured Land Rovers

I'm a bit short on I.S. vehicles for Winter of '79, so I gave Heather my Christmas wishlist today. Any two of the following from Barry at BW Models:

BW274: L/Rover Series 3 LWB, VPK armoured (Army)

BW77: Humber 1 ton, "Pig" APC (N Ireland)

BW200 : L/Rover Series 3 L/weight VPK Armoured (N Ireland)

Will make a nice little patrol in Borchester High Street or down the country lanes.


North Sea Hijack

Sapper Joe contacted me offline and asked about the protection afforded to nuclear weapons as this is a key strategic question within a civil uprising or civil war scenario. The subject also has some direct gaming potential for rebels, insurgents or terrorists attempting to seize nuclear warheads or bases.

I did a bit of digging and uncovered a complex arsenal of British nuclear weapons, secret bases, storage and atomic weapon research facilities. Plus a very interesting and little known elite Royal Marine unit.

The Royal Marines had responsibility for safeguarding the Royal Navy's nuclear assets in transit. As the Navy had by far the largest inventory of nuclear warheads the Royal Marines appear to have gradually taken over exclusive responsibility for 'riding shotgun' on all nuclear weapons in transit.

3 Commando Brigade found this role proved increasingly difficult from an operational point of view. Royal Marine sub-units took it in turn to be on standby and would only be given only a few hours notice to provide personnel at X in full combat kit and drawn ammunition.

This is where it all ties in with the very tongue in cheek and gloriously camp 1979 action movie North Sea Hijack. When the first North Sea platforms came on stream in 1975, the British government feared a terrorist attack from any one of the active terrorist organisations at the time in Europe and the Middle East, including Black September, Bader-Meinhof, Red Brigades, the PLO and the IRA. The Maritime Counter-Terrorist Force was set up in 1975 in conjunction with 5 Special Boat Squadron (SBS). I remember Wargamers' Newsletter running an article back then with b/w photos about a training exercise conducted by the Maritime Counter-Terrorist Force and a ships' company of Royal Marines.

Some joined up thining in top echelons brought about the formation Commachio Company Royal Marines, which became operational at RM Condor, Arbroath on 1 May 1980. Three hundred strong it fell under the command of Commandant General Royal Marines (CGRM) in London. I am led to believe Commachio Company RM, also incorporated 5 SBS, and now had full responsibility for the protection of nuclear weapons in both static sites and in transit, and for the provision of reaction forces to counter terrorist incidents on offshore installations or ships at sea.

Commachio Company Marines, went through an intensive training programme concentrating on weapon handling, public control, close quarter battle, vehicle movement and Rules of Engagement. The goal being to ensure each member of the Company could apply varying degrees of force at specific targets but also judge when that force can be applied.

I would need to do more research but it appears that nuclear weapon convoys were commanded by an RAF Squadron Leader with a Flight Lieutenant as executive officer. Ministry of Defence Police drivers (armed?) drove the lorries and RAF motorcycle outriders escorted the convoy and undertook traffic control. There would also be a police presence and staff from the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE).


Monday, 13 December 2010

Swingfire: Anti-tank Guided Missile

The British Army deployed a range of anti-tank guided weapons in 1979. The most numerous of which was the wire-guided Swingfire.

Swingfire earnt it's name from the capability of being able to launch up to 90 degrees from it's intended target. The missile would literally 'swing' into it's victim. In addition the weapon could be fired remotely from up to 100 metres from the missile platform, giving it immense tactical advantages in the use of cover and concealment.

The missile was large, heavy and expensive. It was found mounted on the FV438, a variant of the FV432 armoured personnel carrier, the CVR(T) family FV102 Striker and the FV712 Ferret Mark 5. The FV438 deployed two missile launchers that could be reloaded from within the vehicle. The Striker had five externally loaded launchers and the FV712 Ferret had one mounted on either side of the turret.

The FV712 Ferret was withdrawn from service at the end of 1978, to be replaced by FV102 Strikers. The Strikers then equpped Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) guided weapons batteries. Several FV712 still exist in private hands today, so would have been available again quite quickly in 1979. The smaller size and greater road worthiness of the vehicle may have made it more practical in the Winter of '79 than it's larger tracked brethren.

A variant of Swingfire called Beeswing could be mounted in Land Rovers and there was an  interesting sub-development called Golfswing which was a single missile launcher pulled by one man on a golfer's style trolley contraption. You can see enormous potential within Winter of '79 for this! Whilst it may seem a bit Heath Robinson and somewhat of a joke, it was designed to emulate the 'Suitcase Sagger' which had been seen to be effective against Israeli armour in the Seven Day War as recently as 1973. After which western military pundits advocated a network of man and motorcycle portable guided weapons as an answer to the tank armies of the Warsaw Pact. this would ultimately lead to the adoption of the MILAN wireguided anti-tank missile.

Swingfire had a range of 4,000 metres and would prove to be an excellent tank killer. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it was successful 75% of the time through malfunction due to poor handling, storage or even something as simple as the wire guiding it becoming caught or cut during the missile flight. It was also a complex weapon to learn to use, and so had a built in operator training facility within the sighting and operating unit. In wargames terms, I suggest treating any unit that's new to the weapon as Novices when firing with a corresponding reduction in hit probability.

In 1979 the Swingfire armed FV438s and Strikers were controlled by the Royal Artillery and operated in dedicated Guided Weapons batteries.

FV438 is not currently available in 20mm/1/76th scale. The sexier Striker is available from RH Models, (code BAFV19), Kingfisher Models (code MAC-114) and the FV712 Ferret Mk5 is unsurprisingly available from BW Models (Code Fv309).


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Defending the Crown: Operation Candid

In a week which has seen an assault on Prince Charles in the centre of London by student protesters, I thought it would interesting to highlight the plans to protect the Royal Family in the event of major national crisis or full-scale war.

 Operation CANDID, came into being in 1963, with the aim of protecting the Royal Family, but especially the H.M. the Queen in the event of war. The details of the plan changed through the decades but were essentially based on creating a Royal Duties Force centred around the Guards battalion based at Windsor Castle at the time of the emergency.

Scots Guards, No.2 Dress

 Windsor Castle would be the mobilisation point for the Royal Duties Force, a battalion of Guards, reinforced with a squadron of the Household Cavalry equipped with armoured cars to provide a reconnaissance unit together with a light aid detachment and a communications troop. In total the force consisted of about 1300 men, fully mobile and self-supporting for 7 days. It was well equipped with wheeled transport and included “6 Queen’s baggage vehicles”.

It was given 4 tasks –

    * Guard for Her Majesty the Queen
    * Guard for KP17 (key point 17 – a secret location, possibly Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle)
    * Reserve
    * Guard for other members of the Royal Family

The Force was capable of dividing into 4 independent units and “should be…prepared to move to different locations to provide guards and establish communications with the nearest RSG”, (Regional Seat of Government), “It would be in radio communication with CHQ, the HQ of the district it is moving through and other groups in the force”. The Queen and Royal Family would be escorted to pre-determined place or places of safety and then provided with static protection. In the event of a nuclear exchange, it's possible that the underground facilities at Corsham would be the main location. However, in our civil unrest / civil war scenario, one or more country houses in the Midlands or Scotland may come into use.

SO14 currently provide close protection to the Royal Family but in 1979, I believe these duties fell to The Royalty Protection Squad, Department A1, based at Cannon Row police station under the Queen's Police Officer. It was responsible for the protection of the Queen at public functions at Buckingham Palace, and all times when she was outside the Palace, including visits to Holyrood and Balmoral. The Queen's Police Officer also supervised the personal protection of all members of the Royal Family, although Royalty Protection Officers were not in the squad. The Queen's Police Officer commanded the police guarding the interior of the Palace and its grounds, through the Staff Officer. Royalty Protection Officers were armed with Walther PPK 9mm pistols.

Scenario ideas for Winter of '79 just tumble out of these scant facts. Kidnap attempts on the Royal Family, ambush of the Royal Duties Force convoy, assault on the Royal Family's hideaway. Perhaps even an SAS rescue - Who Dares Wins style. If you want to go all post apocalypse - even attack on the Royal Family by Zombies.


Olivers Part-time Army: Territorial Army (Volunteer) Infantry 1979-80

At the end of 1979 there were 38 volunteer Territorial Army infantry battalions. 3 battalions had been formed from cadres of 3 Yeomanry Regiments, other infantry units amalgamated disbanded artillery batteries. Thus in a few cases, rifle companies might be designated 'Squadron' or 'Battery' in what was to all intents and purposes an infantry battalion.

  • Royal Wessex Yeomanry    
  • Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry    
  • Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry    
  • 1st, 2nd battalions 52nd Lowland Volunteers    
  • 5th, 6th/7th battalions Queen's Regiment    
  • 4th battalion King's Own Royal Border Regiment
  • 5th, 6th battalions Royal Regiment of Fusiliers 
  • 5th/8th battalions King's Regiment    
  • 5th, 6th, 7th battalions Royal Anglian Regiment    
  • 1st, 2nd Wessex Regiment (Volunteers)    
  • 5th, 6th, 7th battalions Light Infantry   
  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd Yorkshire Volunteers    
  • 1st, 2nd Mercian Volunteers    
  • 3rd battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers
  • 3rd, 4th battalions Royal Regiment of Wales    
  • 4th, 5th battalion Royal Irish Rangers    
  • 3rd battalion Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment    
  • 4th battalion Queen's Lancashire Regiment    
  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd 51st Highland Volunteers    
  • 4th battalion Royal Green Jackets    
  • 4th, 10th (X), 15th battalions Parachute Regiment
Units with NATO assigned roles were the best equipped with four rifle and a HQ company consisting of   Recce, Mortar, Anti-Tank and Assault Pioneer platoons. The Parachute battalions (V) also incorporated a machine-gun platoon. Battalions destined for home defence had a smaller HQ company (just a mortar battery),command element and much lighter scales of equipment. These home defence battalions were not expected to sustain long term operations in the field or undertake all arms maneouvre battles.

For Winter of '79 you can base Territorial Army units on genuine formations or have some fun creating your own, with their own unique name, dress & barrack uniforms, lineage and customs.


Olivers Part-time Army: Territorial Army (Volunteer) Artillery 1979-80

Rising tensions on the European continent in the 1860's and a threat of war with France, saw the formation of the Volunteer Force comprising of Volunteer Rifle and Artillery units across Britain. In the early C20th these were incorporated into the Territorial Army (TA) but many kept their proud history and traditions and managed to remain alive in spirit as troops or batteries during the rounds of post war cuts and subsequent amalgamations in the 1960's and 70's.

The TA artillery formations were all part of the Royal Artillery and had roles in wartime supporting 5th and 7th Field Forces destined to reinforce BAOR.

The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC)
Regimental Headquarters at Armoury House, Finsbury, London.
All sub units located, except were shown, at Armoury House, Finsbury, London.

Regiment was enlarged and reorganised into a Surveillance & Target Acquisition,covert long range reconnaissance and stay behind role in 1973, comprising:
  • First Squadron: Somme Troop, Ypres Troop, Arras Troop.
  • II Squadron: El Alamein Troop, Cassino Troop, El Hamma Troop.
  • III Squadron: Aden Troop, Gaza Troop, Rhine Troop.
  • plus ceremonial Gun Troop (6x 25pdrs) at Tower of London. (home defence role in wartime)

100 (Yeomanry) Field Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers)

Formed 1 April 1967 with Regimental Headquarters at Grove Park, London.

BATTERIES: BL 5.5" Medium Guns, changed to L118 105mm Light Guns in 1980.
  • HQ (Home Counties) Battery at Grove Park, London.
  • 200 (Sussex Yeomanry) Medium Battery at Brighton and Reigate.
  • 201 (Herfordshire and Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Medium Battery at Luton and St Albans.
  • 202 (Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry) Medium Battery at Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Norwich and Swaffham.

101 (Northumbrian) Field Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers)

BATTERIES: BL 5.5" Medium Guns, changed to L118 105mm Light Guns in 1980.
  • RHQ and HQ Battery at Gateshead.
  • 203 (Elswick) Field Battery at Blyth.
  • 204 (Tyneside Scottish) Field Battery Kingston Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 205  (3rd Durham Volutneer Artillery) Field Battery at South Shields.

102 (Ulster and Scottish) Air Defence Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers)

Formed 1 April 1967 with Regimental Headquarters at Newtownards.

BATTERIES: Each 12x Bofors 40/70 Light Anti-Aircraft Gun, re-equipped with Blowpipe man portable Surface to Air Missiles in 1978-79.
  • HQ Battery at Newtownards.
  • 206 (Ulster) Air Defence Battery at Coleraine.
  • 207 (Scottish) Air Defence Battery with HQ and D Troop at Glasgow and E and F Troops at Edinburgh.
  • 212 (Highland) Air Defence Battery, Arbroath.

103 (Lancashire Artillery Volunteers) Air Defence Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers)

Formed 1 April 1967 with Regimental Headquarters at Liverpool.

BATTERIES: Each 12x Bofors 40/70 Light Anti-Aircraft Gun, re-equipped with Blowpipe man portable Surface to Air Missiles in 1978-79.
  • HQ Battery (King's) at Liverpool.
  • 208 (3rd West Lancashire) Air Defence Battery in Liverpool, B Troop at Prestayn and C (South Lancashire Artillery) at St Helens.
  • 209 (The Manchester Artillery) Air Defence Battery with HQ and D and E Troops at Manchester and F Troop (The Bolton Artillery) at Bolton.
  • 213 (South Lancashire Artillery) Air Defence Battery at St Helens with Troop at Widnes.
  • 208 Battery at Aigburth Road, Liverpool. Later (?) B Troop to 'A' Company Welsh Volunteers.

104 Air Defence Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers)

Formed 1 April 1967 with Headquarters at Raglan Barracks, Newport.

BATTERIES: Each 12x Bofors 40/70 Light Anti-Aircraft Gun, re-equipped with Blowpipe man portable Surface to Air Missiles in 1978-79.
  • HQ Battery at Raglan Barracks, Newport.
  • 210 (Staffordshire) Air Defence Battery at Wolverhampton.
  • 211 (South Wales) Air Defence Battery with HQ and D (Monmouthshire) Troop at Newport and E (Glamorgan Yeomanry) Troop at Cardiff and F (Brecknockshire and Monmouthshire) Troop at Ebbw Vale. Later detachment (?) at Abertillery.
  • 214 (Worcestershire) Air Defence Battery at Malvern.

Independent batteries
  • 266 (Gloucester Volunteer Artillery) OP Battery Royal Artillery (Volunteers).
  • 269 (West Riding) OP Battery Royal Artillery (Volunteers). Leeds ?
  • 289 Parachute Battery Royal Horse Artillery (Volunteers). London/Essex. 1977 redesignated as 289 Commando Battery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery (V), with 6x L118 105mm guns.
  • 307 (South Nottinghamshire Hussars Yeomanry, Royal Horse Artillery) Battery (Volunteers), independent OP battery, Bulwell.

Hands up, this is a work in progress...... I will update as more information come my way.


Royal Artillery Deployment in UK, 1980

 The following information is the culmination of research into the deployment of the Royal Artillery in Britain in 1980, It's based largely on secondary and tertiary sources, so should be viewed as indicative only.


1 Field Regiment RHA: Topcliffe, Yorkshire: Equipped with BL 5.5" Guns in 1979, then FH70 in 1980
HQ Battery
A (The Chestnut Troop) Battery: 8x FH70
B Battery: 8x FH70
E Battery: 8x FH70

2 Field Regiment RHA: Larkhill, Wiltshire (Dortmund most of '79)
HQ Battery
L (Nery) Battery: 6x Abbot 105mm self propelled guns
O (The Rocket Troop) Battery: 6x 105mm Light Guns - AMF(L) Roled
N (The Eagle Troop): equipped by Royal School Artillery with a variety of artillery currently in use for training and familiarisation.

4 Light Air-Portable Regiment RA: 6th Field Force, Aldershot
HQ Battery
29 (Corunna) Battery: 6x 105mm Light Guns
88 (Arracan) Battery: 6x 105mm Light Guns
97 (Lawson's Company) Battery: 6x 105mm Light Guns

16 Air Defence Regiment RA: Kirton-in-Lindsey, moved to Armagh in late 79, back in UK again April 1980.
HQ Battery
14 (Cole's Kop) Battery: 12x Rapiers
30 (Roger's Company) Battery: 12x Rapiers
32 (Minden) Battery: 12x Rapiers

29 Commando Light Regiment RA
: Plymouth/Poole
HQ Battery
7 (Sphinx) Battery: 6x 105mm Light Gun (based at RM Condor, Arbroath, Scotland)
8 (Alma) : 6x 105mm Light Gun
79 (Kirkee) : 6x 105mm Light Gun
148 (Meiktila): Naval Gunfire Support (NGS) Target Acquisition battery for 3 Commando Brigade (regard as Special Forces)

32 Guided Weapons Regiment RA: Bulford, converted to Swingfire from 105mm L118 Light Guns in 1978.
HQ Battery
12 (Minden) Battery: 6x FV438 Swingfire (1980, but not 1979)
46 (Talavera) Battery: 12x Blowpipe (or Swingfire according to regt history)
74 (The Battle Axe Company) Battery: 6x FV438 Swingfire

47 Light Regiment RA: Colchester
HQ Battery
3 Battery: 6x 105mm Pack Howitzers
4 (Sphinx) Battery: 6x 105mm Pack Howitzers
31 Battery: 6x 105mm Pack Howitzers

22 (Gibraltar 1779-1783) Battery: 12x Blowpipe (Commando Air Defence)


Royal School of Artillery
1st Battery (The Blazers)  
Administrative Wing of the Support Regiment in Larkhill where it consisted of MT Troop, Range Detachment, Gunnery Trials Detachment, Guided Weapons Troop and the Royal Artillery Sales Team. 

17 Depot Regiment RA: Woolwich
24 (Irish) Battery
59 (Asten) Battery

Junior Leaders Regiment RA:
(105mm Pack Howitzers ?)
33 Battery
39 Battery
40 Battery
41 Battery

 If I've done my sums correctly, an approximate total of:

24x   FH70 155mm guns
6x     Fv433 Abbot 105mm self propelled guns
42x   L118 105mm Light Guns
6-18x   Swingfire Anti-tank Guided Missile vehicles (FV438s or FV102 Strikers)
36x   Rapier Surface to Air Missile Launchers
24x   Blowpipe man portable Surface to Air Missile Launchers
18+ 105mm Pack Howitzers (guesstimate)

Further artillery weapons, up to a battery of each type then in service, were held at Larkhill, currently 24 (Irish) battery, but believe could be 1st Battery (The Blazers) confusingly amalgamated with 24 battery  according to The Blazers battery history.

Updated 19 December 2010.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Uzi......Freedom Fighters Friend

The sub-machine gun of choice for your ex-pat Mercenaries, criminal underworld and common or garden revolutionary in 1979 was the Uzi. Designed by Israeli general Uziel Gal in 1948, it's reliability and reputation in action saw it become the favoured weapon of the world's elite forces and terrorists alike.

The Uzi was considered accurate for a gas blow back operated sub-machine gun, plus good penetration and stopping power. Additional plus points were  low recoil, muzzle blast, climb, size, weight, cost, and minimal training time. All in all, making it an ideal for civilians turned freedom fighters.

Here we see Major Harry Burton leading a private 'security force' of ex-pat former servicemen and soldiers for hire on the Dixby Estate, home of  Sir Marcus Dixby MBE, Managing Director and senior shareholder of British Pastoid Chemical.

I must admit, I prefer the idea of British renegades and rebels armed with Uzi's (and Sterlings) in '79 rather than more hackneyed  AK47 and Armalite. East Riding Miniatures (Platoon 20)  have a variety of Uzi armed figures mixed into their post war Civilian/Freedom Fighter and IDF ranges. Rolf Hedges has a pack of Uzi armed civilians (code UrbUzi) in his Urban Terror range.

I recently bought a pack of Elheim Pakistani troops with H&K MP5 (code PAK05), My plan is to convert them to more civilian attire and use the h&K MP5 as a Uzi proxy. May just give them a headswop and use the figures as para-military or rebel militia types.



The SAS Pink Panther Land Rover

The Special Air Service (SAS) gained fame in the Western Desert during WW2,  in using heavily armed US Willys Jeeps to conduct hit and run missions on German airfields and lines of communication.

The SAS regained a desert role in the mid 1950's in Oman where they operated a small fleet of armed Series I 88" Land Rovers. These heavily armed Land Rovers were festooned with weapons. The commander sat to the left of the driver, on a raised seat, and was armed with twin forward firing Vickers K machine guns mounted above the dashboard. The radio operator sat centrally in the rear compartment, facing backwards with his radio sets to his left and a .30 calibre heavy machine gun. Even the driver had a machine gun, mounted on his door pillar.

With the need to increase the scope of operations to cover Aden and other middle-eastern hotspots, the SAS Mobility Troop switched to the Series IIA 109 Land Rover in 1967. It immediately gained the nickname of 'Pink Panther' or 'Pinkie' after it's pink, yes pink, desert camouflage. Worth noting that Until 1974 at least, military Land Rovers left the Solihull factory in deep bronze green and were painted for role or theatre as necessary. Olive Drab/Black camouflaged Pink Panthers saw service in Borneo, Belize and operating in forward reconnaissance roles on the inner German border during the Cold War.

These 109-inch Series IIs were stripped of doors and windscreens and fitted with multiple smoke grenade launchers, a new spare wheel mount, desert compass, long-range fuel tanks and water tanks and of course a battery of weapons.

Common weapon configurations were:

1 x Commander's GPMG
1 x Rear GPMG

1 x Commander's GPMG
2 x Rear GPMG

It's possible that in 1979, they migt also have had

1 x Commander's GPMG
1 x .50 cal HMG

1 x Commander's GPMG
Milan wire-guided missile launcher

In addition to the crew's personal arms, the vehicles also carried Carl Guztav 84mm recoilless rifles and LAW 66mm disposable anti-tank rockets.

The Series IIA Pinkies remained in service until 1985 when they were replaced with the new Land Rover 110 DPV (Desert Patrol Vehicle).

I don't think there are currently any Pink Panthers available in 1/76th or 20mm. Rolf Hedges does plan to make one:  BAFV21; SAS PINK PANTHER LAND ROVER (1960'S/70'S ) but still NYA (Not Yet Available). Rolf has a usable proxy in the form of BAFV10; SAS DPV LANDROVER AS USED IN 1991. He also sells a range of vehicle heavy weaons such as pintle GPMGs for those wanting to convert standard military or civillian Land Rovers or other vehicles.