Saturday, 26 February 2011

George Malo House: Background

The battle of Top Malo House during the Falklands War of 1982 has always piqued my interest and
I had it in the back of my mind that one day I would  play it out within a Winter of '79' scenario.

I'm therefore grateful to the new Osprey published Force on Force which has Top Malo House as a scenario on page 182 and for bringing the action  back to the forefront of my mind.

I've managed to come up with several variants on the Top Malo theme which I think will be fun to play over the coming weeks. But tonight I'm starting simply with this local set-to in the vale of the Hossack Hills. 

George Malo is an Ulster vet. Local legend has it that he's from Romani stock and that during Bloody Sunday, he rode shotgun on a Humber Pig into the midst of the mayhem. There are those who point him out in that famous Daily Mail photo, used at the Inquiry whitewash and simply labelled as 'Soldier X'.

George, lives out his gypsy inheritance at what is cynically known hereabouts as George Malo House.  His 'estate' is in fact no more than a tumbledown collection of sheds, shacks, caravans and rusting lorry shells. But it's the base from which he and a collectiom of gypsy and scrote drifters rustle local livestock and farm machinery within the county.

The present troubles have meant that times are good for George. There is a thriving black market for illicit bacon, ham and the odd spring lamb or two dozen. And this is exactly why the Borchester Conservative Young Farmers have decided to close down George's business.

Led by ex-Etonian and posh regiment short term commission Robin Partrdge-Woodthrush, the CYF have agreed to burn down the property on the night of 26th February. George Malo will be reasoned with, at the point of a gun, and ejected from the county by force if necessary. One or two of the more recent public school members of the CYF are a bit more gung-ho and relish the thought of ridding the county of this 'scum'. Whatever form that may take!

George has 5 armed and 3 unarmed men about the 'estate'. There's a van load of British Hampshire carcasses to get off to a butcher in Felpersham and eveyone is here to lend a hand. A few of the lads will make sure the bacon  gets' to it's destination AND gets paid for, with no funny business.

George himself is heavily armed with a Shotgun, an SLR and a WW2 German Luger. He's also managed to procure an L4 Bren, an SMLE, Sterling SMG, AK47 and a twin bore shotgun for his men.

Partridge-Woodthrush Senior has connections and unsurprisingly the 12 members of the CYF 'commando wing' are fully armed with SLRs, rifle grenades, Sterlings, and a GPMG.


Thursday, 24 February 2011

British Army Helmets in 1979: Part 3 Internal Security

Unsurprisingly, Northern Ireland became a testbed for new British Army equipment. The MKIV 'turtle' helmet was superceded by more specialist protective headgear as the 'Troubles' wore on.

My favourite from a Winter of 79 perspective is the GRP (Glass-reinforced Plastic) 'Cromwell' helmet. To all intents and purposes a 1970's motorcycle helmet with removable visor.

The Cromwell gave the soldier on the streets far more protection than previously, but significantly reduced the soldier's ability to respond to verbal orders or audible tactical clues. Nevertheless if you want a full on paramilitary look to your forces, then the GRP Cromwell helmet is ideal:

Lessons learned from the Cromwell, were incorporated into the Combat Helmet (Northern Ireland) which appeared in the late 1970's. This was again a modern Glass-reinforced Plastic design and would ultimately lead to the MK6 combat helmet.

GRP Combat Helmet, Northern Ireland: Osprey Elite 044
Security Forces in Northern Ireland 1969-92

I hope you found this short series on the helmets used by the British Army in 1979 useful. You can see that by careful selection of figres you can increase the flexibility and range of miniatures available to you. Once again I recommend Osprey Elite 044 Security Forces in Northern Ireland. If you need just one Osprey title to allow you to paint British Army and security forces miniatures for Winter of '79, this is it.


British Army Helmets in 1979: Part 2 Para & Marine Lids

Trying to find concrete information on post war British Para Helmets is difficult. Luckily with our focus being on 20mm miniatures not collecting militaria or 1/6th scale warriors, where the smaller detail of liners, straps and such matters far more.

In our 1979 time frame we are basically looking at two models of helmet in service at the same time. The classic WW2 era rimless steel MkII Para helmet which soldiered on with British airborne forces right up to the early-mid eighties and the M76 Parachute helmet, lightweight.

 3 Para going ashore, San Carlos, 1982
M76 GRP Para helmets

The MKII Paratrooper helmet was manufactured in 1944 and saw wide service with airborne troops by the time of Arnhem. There were at least two more post war manufacturing runs - 1953 and 1965. British Paratroops continued to wear the MKII into the mid-1980's where it saw service in the Falklands side by side with the M76. The MKII also saw active service with Israeli & Indian Parachute forces.
1 Para, Londonderry, 1972, 
Riot Visors attached to MKII Para Helmets

The M76 had a lightweight but durable Glass-Reinforced Plastic (GRP) shell. It appears to have been a development of the GRP Combat Helmet (Northern Ireland), which itself was the direct forerunner of the MK6 combat helmet (1987). It began replacing the MKII Parachute helmet from 1979 onwards.

M76 Parachute Helmet, Lightweight

The basic shell of the MKII Parachute Helmet was also used for the RAC (Royal Armoured Corps) 'tankers' helmet. With a new liner, this became the Marine Pattern Helmet.

Marine Pattern Helmet

Photos of Royals in the Falklands clearly show them carrying MKIV ("turtle") helmets. It's likely that the numbers of the Marine Pattern Helmet required for a large scale ground operation simply were not available.

Once camo cover is in place, netted and scrimmed up, there's only a subtle difference between the MKII Para, Para lightweight and  Marine Pattern helmets in 20mm, only then up close and you have to know what you are looking for. Rolf Hedges' FALK1 British infantry in camo helmets are dripping in scrim so can be taken for all three helmet models in a single stroke.

This Para GPMG No.1 snapped in the Falklands, could easily step back in time to stand beside Frost at Arnhem.


Monday, 21 February 2011

British Army Helmets in 1979: Part 1 The MKIV

If you thought the subject of British Army helmets for 1979, was a relatively easy and dry subject, then let me reassure you it isn't. Believe it or not, there were a plethora of helmets in use in the late 1970's and this gives us plenty of opportunity to distinguish our troops, personalise our forces and perhaps even create new formations.

The MKIV/MKV 'turtle' helmet is probably the most easily recognisable piece of kit worn by the 70's squaddie and date stamps our model soldiers as being at the height of the Cold War.

Th MKIV, began life as the MKIII also commonly known as the '44 pattern and first appeared on D-Day in 1944/ It remained in British service, much to the chagrin of it's wearers until replaced by the MKVI Combat Helmet between 1985-87.

MKV was simply a MKIV with a foam liner.

Troops deployed to Northern Ireland in 1969 wore camo covered helmets, but as the 'troubles' wore on the helmet was 'demilitarised' and generally seen without adornment. It could also have a perspex visor fitted for riot and crowd control duties.

In the field, the helmet was covered by khaki string netting and adorned with torn strips of light khaki or green dyed burlap and sacking scrim which could be further enhanced with foilage, giving that classic 'Dad's Army' look to the wearer.

In Winter of '79 it would not be out of place for all regular and Territorial Army formations, with the exception of the Parachute Regiment, Royal Marines and armoured vehicle crews, to wear the MKIV/MKV helmet.

Brittannia's 20mm Cold WAR BAOR British have heavily scrimmed MKIV/V pattern helmets which really capture the feel of the 1970's squaddie. You can also buy Cold War British wearing the MKIV/V from Rolf at RH Models and Tony at ERM (Platoon 20).

Part 2 will look at the Para Helmet.


Sunday, 20 February 2011

FV721 Fox Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Wheeled)

Possibly the most common heavily armed armoured vehicle to appear in our Winter of '79 scenario is the FV721 Fox armoured car (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Wheeled)).

 In 1979 the Fox is a sexy bit of kit. Nearest thing you can get to Formula 1 in khaki livery. A 16 ton, 3 man wheeled close reconnaisance vehicle with all-welded aluminium hull and turret, armed with a 30mm Rarden cannon and co-ax 7.62mm mg, and more than capable of 70mph on a good metalled road.


 It was not as is commonly reported, a replacement for the Ferret, but did replace the Saladin armoured car. Entering service in 1973 and built at the Royal Ordinance factories in Leeds, the final production run of the Fox took place in 1979.

I knew a TA Fox CVR(W) commander who loved it. He told me it was like "tearing up the countryside in a trial bike".

At this moment the only 1:76 scale Fox CVR(W) in production is by Scale Link  (code: AA76B002) at £13.06, plus 20% VAT = £15.67. But hold on, Shaun at S&S Models is on the cusp of releasing his own Fox resin/metal kit:

S&S Models: Fox FV721 CVR(W) 
master in progress

The Fox CVR(W) gives us a potent armoured vehicle with both a light anti-tank and anti-personnel capability without wholly dominating the tabletop. It can provide support for an infantry force or heavy firepower for a column of light armoured Land Rovers or internal security vehicles such as the Shorland and Humber Pig.

This is a worthwhile addition to any Cold War / Winter of '79 collection.



A platoon of RH Models Bootnecks came through the post yesterday. This platoon (Troop in RM parlance) is built around Rolf's 1970's/80's British infantry with SLR rifle in beret (Falk1a) .

The figures are top Gucci and really capture the spirit of the Royals. Now, I know I really shouldn't, but I feel another platoon worth of figures plus support weapons is in order after pay day.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Big Man, Big Society, Little Village

Just thought I'd change tack slightly this evening with a family photo.

  Company Linge

The tall smiley chap on the right is David, my father in law, and I respect him beyond words. Fellows on the left - Company Linge, more commonly known as the Heroes of Telemark. Taken a few years after the war. The Garands were the Norwegan Army's official weapons but Company Linge swapped them on operations for K98s and carried Mauser pistols. They also used German leather artic gear. Loads of German stocks left after the war and it was free! The German leather gear was preferred as it had a hook that allowed the K98 to be carried balanced across the chest whilst skiing.

Recently there has been a lot in the press about 'the big society'. David is the embodiment of this concept. Not because he sets out to get on every committee in the community, but quite the opposite. He just goes out and quitely does his thing.

He tells a story of a plane crash. Oh, there are plenty of stories. Including 2 plane crashes, 3 if we include the original Flight of the Phoenix, the one with Jimmy Stewart (got pics to prove it too). Anyhoo. The transport plane in which he and several other soldiers are passengers, crash lands on the South Downs. Pilot killed, co-pilot badly injured and he and a few others walk away with cuts, bruises and broken bones.

The plane is on fire, they are all injured in one way or another, some still need rescuing. And chillingly, at this point he tells of a hunting party. A full blown toffs an' all hunting party, with guns and dogs, that just swept past them and didn't stop to help or offer assistance. And when Heather told him of Winter of 79. He retold this story again, his face full of memory and said, "Yes, I understand".

Been crazy at work - have been working evenings and right through the weekend. No overtime, just over and above, and likely to continue for a week or so. To brighten things up I've ordered some Booties from Rolf. Fingers crossed they arrive soon. Hopefully, get some time this weekend to play out a quick and dirty skirmish; 'Ty Penn Malo'.


Monday, 14 February 2011

Tales from the West Wing

“Hi Zbigniew – help yourself to some peanuts”
“Thank you Mr President; please, read this while I, hey these are good…”
“Help yourself; now this is a transcript, picked up by Fort Meade?”
“Yessir; it’s from Britain and it’s garbled, we think GCHQ tried to jam it.”
“OK, what have we here?”

“…..commanding the Welsh Guards Battlegroup, Warminster……chute Regiment and armour…. all routes blocked…unable to evacuate dependants, women and childr…..accused of mutiny and directed to lay down arms………… surrender to summary courts martial……..have refused. Welsh Guards……tradition of service, remain loyal to the Crown and legitimate Governm…."

“Zbigniew, I’m alarmed and frankly, disgusted.”
“I know Mr President, emotions are running high over this but it’s best we sit tight.”
“Tight? Tight? But Zbigniew, this is plain, wrong. There’s women and kids over there! Get me that guy, Charlie Bosworth, no, Beckworth. I want a line to Fort Bragg, now.”
“With respect, Mr President, this isn’t the time; let Langley make a run with their Scots Play and then we can run some angles.”
“I don’t like it Zbigniew, I just don’t like it, not one bit.”

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Force on Force from Osprey Publishing

I have in my hands a review copy of Osprey Publishing/Ambush Alley Games' forthcoming hardback Force on Force: Modern Wargaming Rules.

Without doubt this has to be the most professional and visually stunning set of wargame rules I've ever seen.  Wargame rules aside, it's a joy to have, to read, to dip into and simply just browse.

Force on Force is illustrated throughout with good quality colour photos of painted modern 15 & 20mm figures in action settings, plus in theatre photos of real troops and weaponry, all supplemented by colour images culled from Osprey's catalogue of modern uniform, battle and campaign titles.

The book is threaded throughout with scenarios, and has a dedicated scenario section at the end. Force on Force also includes sample small scale unit information for all the major nations, unit and vehicle attributes, vehicle charts, special rules for asymmetric warfare, a campaign game, and finally full colour Fog of War cards and Quick Reference pages to cut-out or copy. All in all 224 pages of inspiring goodness!

Is it just for Iraq and Afghanistan? No!  Scenarios run the full gamut from Vietnam, to Top Malo House in the Falklands, Golan Heights to the centre of Grozny.

If you've already played Force on Force from Ambush Alley Games, you know what to expect. For the rest I'll cover the rules in more detail at the end of this coming week. But do check out the FoF Primer on the Ambush Alley website.

RRP is £25 and are currently taking pre-orders at £17.50. Is Force on Force worth £17.50? Damn, it's worth £25! I own the original pdf and I would still have bought the new hardback if I hadn't been sent a copy by the publisher.

Force on Force: Modern Wargaming Rules represents a line in the sand in wargames rules publishing. I can see this book appealing to many non-wargamers let alone non-C20th gamers. It is nothing less than a tribute to the hobby and a great ambassador for wargaming.

The rules are cracking too!


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Westland Scout

Never properly thanked Eli for sending me an Airfix Westland Scout for Winter of '79. So here is a very public Thank You to Eli.

Known as "The Flying Landrover", the Westland Scout was a versatile light helicopter that saw service with the Army Air Corps and Commando Brigade Air Squadron RM, from 1963-1994. In it's basic form it was much used for reconnaissance and border patrol duties. Bench seating in the rear of the cabin allowed 4 fully equipped squaddies to be inserted into 'indian country' and it could also double up  in the CASEVAC or ground support and attack roles.

The basic Westland Scout was unarmoured but it could have a gunner with pintle mounted GPMG in the rear for ground support, or be fitted with 4 SS11 /12 wireguided missiles and 2 GPMGs mounted on the skids. The skid mounted GPMGs were sights were a rudimentary cross made with a chinagraph pencil on the canopy in front of the pilot! Nevertheless, the GPMGs proved successful in operations in both Aden and Borneo. The missile booms and 4 missiles could be fitted in 20 minutes "with rotors still turning" as proved during the lead up to the battle of Mount Tumbledown in the Falklands War of 1982.

The SS11's gave the Scout a powerful anti-tank capability. In the Falklands War armed Scouts attacked Argentine naval forces in conjunction with other helicopters and undertook precision long-range 'sniping' of Argentine artillery and.command assets.

Probably the Scout's most famous role came in the 1982 movie WHO DARES WINS. Perfect fodder for Winter of 79.