Saturday, 5 October 2013

British Infantry Brigade Berlin



I have a penchant for ‘odd’ units/formations with the subjects I like to do, usually meaning lots of scratch building/research/head-scratching and usually extra work in the painting department just to to get a unit on the table!
I’ve always had an interest in the Berlin Brigade since seeing some grainy photos way back in the mid 80’s. The seed was planted; there would be a Berlin Brigade at some point on the table! Now 20mm would be the ideal scale, however nobody in my club was/is interested in 20mm modern at the moment and since I’m enjoying my micro at the moment I thought I would put together a Berlin Brigade force to assist my West Germans and counter my WARPAC stuff. As the brigade is quite small it will be bulked up with some green/black stuff also. 
I started these test pieces some time ago before the West Germans; however I did not finish them off before the West Germans. These are next on the table. This is a test base for the brigade HQ. Since I took these photos the aerials have been shortened! Better photos to follow.

The best (only) book on this subject is the Tankograd British Special No. 9001 - buy it!

So a little history......
The presence of the British Forces in Berlin dates back to the end of World War 2 when in July 1945 the 7th Armoured Division “The Desert Rats” was the first unit to enter Berlin. Arrangements were made for a four-power control of Berlin, the three western allies decided to scale down the size of their forces to a Bridge each. It was 1946 when the size of the British force was finalised; this would be three infantry battalions, one armoured regiment and various supporting elements. It was common practice to rotate British units in West-Berlin every 1-2 years. The armoured component (a reinforced squadron of 4 troops - 18 tanks) was supplied by an armoured unit already based in Germany; the other formations were rotated from various locations. The infantry battalions were down-scaled from mechanised to non-mechanised units with more wheeled than tracked vehicles.
The modern battlefield is changing rapidly; the opportunity to conceal forces from the opposing forces by means of camouflage is steadily declining. The sole purpose of camouflage is to hide ones equipment and personnel from the opposing force or at the very least disguise a piece of equipments true purpose, normally this is done by attempting to blend in with the background. Attempting to camouflage vehicles in the urban environment is somewhat more problematic, the British forces in Berlin were expected to operate not only in open terrain but in the streets of the city. It had been noted that camouflaged equipment when operating in built-up areas was rather more noticeable due to the camouflage scheme being ‘alien’ within that environment and more noticeable. During my days of humping ‘heavy weights’ in a camouflaged suit, early field craft skills highlighted several features that gave an object/person away -   Shape, Shine, Shadow, Silhouette, Movement and Noise............nothing like a 55 ton tank painted in green with black stripes trying to blend-in to a background of masonry, brickwork and in a street!

Two One Bravo 'Blending in'.

Up until 1983 the British Brigade in Berlin were camouflaged in the standard green/black, with the deployment of D-Squadron 4/7 Dragoon Guards the commanding officer Major Clendon Daukes started to challenge the current method of camouflaging the brigades vehicles as they always looked out of place in the urban environment. He experimented with cardboard silhouettes of the Chieftain MBT in the windows of his office, searching for suitable geometric forms to match the surrounding buildings, windows and fences. He realised a rectangular pattern would match the given background. The sizes of the colour blocks were to mimic doors, windows and other linear features found in the environment, colours were to be those that occurred within this environment – white, grey and brown. He noticed the repetition of vertical lines and by careful placement of different size squares and rectangles he was able effectively to disguise the shape of the tank.

Chieftain (I'll leave the Mk to the more knowledgable folks)
Following trials with cardboard silhouettes Major Clendon Daukes applied the scheme to one of the vehicles of his squadron, this was demonstrated to his Brigade Commander who accepted and encouraged its use, he suggested that the scheme should be demonstrated to the Corps Commander who visited Berlin to see the scheme for himself, allegedly, he said “I can’t see your F*****g tank so it must be a good idea”. Originally the scheme was only used on the vehicles of D squadron 4/7 Dragoon guards before it was ordered for all vehicles within the Brigade. Each vehicle was to be painted to the same pattern, there was a 2” margin of error allowed in the placement of the colour blocks; the same size blocks of colour and pattern would make it harder to determine the strength of the British Forces because they all looked the same.  It is often quoted that the size of the colour blocks were scaled down for smaller vehicles, this is not the case; irrespective of the size of vehicle, whether it is an MBT, APC or Land Rover, the blocks of colour are approximately eighteen inches square and were not to be scaled up or down for different vehicles.

Chieftain Berlin Brigade scheme, blending in well!

Chieftain (I'll leave the Mk to the more knowledgable folks)
Colours There are several sources claiming what the colours are, there was in the early period an effort made to match the grey colour to weathered tarmac and the brown to soil. I later years, standard colours were used to save money and time during the painting of vehicles. Light grey colours replaced the RAF blue-grey, which led to a darker appearance in vehicles which used those colours. There are some comments from veterans of the 4/7th that the white was actually ‘dirtied’ with 10% black added.
The official line from the RAC & RTR Museum Bovington are that the colours were:
White RAL 9010
Blue-grey RAL 7031
Brown RAL 8025

Dick Taylor in his excellent series of books on British Army Colours and Markings 1903-2003 states that the early colours used in 1983 were probably BS Colour Dark Admiralty Grey No 632 and Service Brown No.499

*A note for the true anoraks ;-) the Chieftains Mk.5 to Mk.10 inclusive were assigned from the parent Armoured Regiment based in West Germany, so they were supplied from that unit. As the Chieftains were upgraded throughout their service life Chieftain Mk. 5 to Mk.10 were used in Berlin, The 14/20th KRH were amongst the last units with Mk.10’s to wear the scheme. To date I have not seen a photo of a Mk.11 Chieftain wearing the Berlin Brigade camouflage scheme, standing by to see one now.
Chieftain (I'll leave the Mk to the more knowledgable folks)
FV721 Fox Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle
C- Squadron 14/20 Kings Hussars Chieftain Mk 10/c  
FV432/30 July 1992 Soltau, note the darker appearance to the camouflage. 
Land Rover in the Berlin Brigade scheme

It is certainly effective! ;-)
 More images to follow !.....