The British Army in the Twilight War
The British Armys military actions during the Twilight War. Where units ended the war in substantially different forms the final configuration (normally composite battlegroups) is named. This normally only applied to BAOR units. It should be noted that this overview does not include the fighting in Ireland.
Britains airborne forces had previously been part of 5th Airborne Brigade, but with the rapid formation of new units from regular troops in the UK, the formation was renamed 1st Airborne and another force took the name 5 Brigade. However the brigade was utterly unchanged by the renaming on New Years Day 1997. The Brigade was then deployed to Europe directly under the control of SACEUR. However initially there was little for the paratroopers to do as NATOs armoured divisions rampaged across Eastern Europe.
However the force was blooded in destroying Soviet Spetznatz and Air Assault forces attacking NATOs supply lines in Poland and Eastern Germany. Greatly enhancing their reputation for rapid and aggressive action. When Italian troops invaded Bavaria through Austria, 1st Airborne was one of the first units to be thrown into the action to slow down the Italians. The brigade was deployed throughout the mountainous Tyrol region and the Bavarian Alps in small mobile units harassing the Italian forces. Eventually Italian Alpine units were called in to force the Paras out of the mountains, a contest that ended when the Italians began to withdraw from Germany and the Paras pulled back from the Alps to re-group.
The brigade was then reorganised and rested, although it did sterling work against marauders and was occasionally called up to launch raids. Its last major action was during the invasion of Czechoslovakia when the unit took part in securing Prague. Soon after the unit was withdrawn to the UK by HMG to help control the country. The brigade served as HMGs enforcers, being brought in when extreme violence was required to solve a situation. The threat of their presence was often enough to resolve a situation peacefully.
Early in 2000 the Brigade was disbanded and reorganised. All available manpower was concentrated in the with 1 PARA whilst 2 PARA was reduced to a cadre formation and set about the process of recruiting itself up to strength again. The remainder of the 1st/2nd Gurkha Rifles were combined into a company group within 1 PARA until they were eventually to receive new recruits from Nepal in 2006. In 2004 1 and 2 PARA were sent out to the Middle East to join their sister battalion and form the new 1st Airborne Brigade deployed in Bahrain and Oman.
6th Airmobile Brigade was a new formation within the British Army, which had for long rather mistrusted large scale airmobile formations. The brigade was initially formed with two infantry battalions and two aviation regiments equipped with Lynx helicopters (although it was planned to re-equip with Apache gunships in 1999 but this never came to pass). Infantry airlift was provided by medium helicopters of the Royal Air Force. The brigade was designed primarily as a defensive anti-tank force, to counter Warsaw Pact armoured thrusts. In the event its role proved most different.
The Brigade played an important part in the success of early attacks by I British Corps. Ranging ahead of the armoured spearheads seizing vital bridges and road junctions and harassing deploying WP forces. They were the first allied troops into Berlin, seizing vital points and meeting up with the besieged forces. Images of British troops from the Brigade raising the NATO and Union Flags above the skyline of Berlin in 1996 proved as emotive as the pictures of the Red Army hoisting their flags in 1945.
The brigade had a short time to catch its breath before again ranging ahead of the armoured spearheads on the road to Warsaw. However attrition and lack of spare parts were catching up with the brigade, the RAF in particular seemed unwilling to make good the brigades helicopter losses. However the infantry of the brigade was reinforced with reservists and an Irish TA battalion which would give great service.
When the WP counter-attack came the brigade was deployed as far forward as possible to take the sting out of the enemy advance. However the brigade was unable to stop, or indeed even slow the advance much. Its Lynx helicopters proved not to have sufficient firepower and the number of helicopters dwindled through enemy action and mechanical failure. Pockets of troops were cut off because of the losses of troop carrying helicopters and most were captured, although some famously managed to pass through Soviet lines and reach the safety of Germany.
From then the battalion operated as light troops, mainly in southern Germany and conducting the occasional raid into enemy territory. However by 1999 the British had gathered as many helicopters as possible to give the brigade some of its old mobility back. This was quickly shattered in 2000 as the brigade was brought in again to try and stop the Soviet offensive, despite some brave fighting the brigade again proved too light to stop the juggernaught. The brigade was then fought alongside 19 Brigade for the rest of the campaign before being brought back to the rear areas little stronger than a company.
The brigade lingered on near Hanover, until 2001 when it was disbanded and its component units sent back to the UK to try and recruit back to an effective strength.
The Berlin Brigade was regarded as one of the plum postings of the British Army during the Cold War. However its soldiers were the first into action when West German troops entered East Germany and the War broke out. However the brigade had long been trained in defensive urban warfare, and they hunkered down against the onslaught, trading ground for time. The fighting was brutal with nowhere safe for the wounded to be treated, and with most of the few attached tanks rapidly put out of action the situation was desperate.
However, aware that I British Corps and the rest of NATO was charging towards the city (despite unkind references to the Battle of Arnhem) the brigade held on. The newly raised 4 RAR suffered more heavily than the Irish Guards but the brigade inflicted hideous casualties on the attacking Soviet conscripts. Forced back to a defensive position near RAF Gatow, and united with the surviving men of the US and French brigades the unit waited for the end. However they were rescued finally by units of I British Corps, and took part in the rout of Soviet forces from Berlin.
Since then the unit has been used as a reserve force protecting the lines of supply. It has only seen one major action since in helping to secure Prague in 1998. In 2001 the Brigade was disbanded and the units sent home to recruit. 1 Irish Guards would later see action in England and Ireland during the pacification. Sadly the 4th Battalions of the RAR and Queens were not to survive, and the battalions were disbanded and its men sent to other battalions of their regiments.
The role envisioned for the SAS in WW3 in Europe during the Cold War was twofold. The TA SAS regiments (21and 23) were to provide long range recce for I Corps and stay behind parties of Forward Observers to call in tactical nuclear artillery strikes. The regular 22 SAS would infiltrate a squadron of men into Eastern Germany to wreck as much havoc as possible on the Warsaw Pact behind the lines.
The events of the Twilight War initially proved these ideas wrong, as NATO armour cleared East Germany with extreme rapidity. Instead the SAS decided to operate as long range recce and raiding force, using the ubiquitous Pink Panther Land Rovers as well as more stealthy measures. Therefore an ad-hoc brigade formation was created for local co-ordination. When the NATO advances stalled, the brigade would move forward and conduct operations to keep the WP off balance. SBS Marines would conduct detailed reconnaissance in advance of river crossing operations.
When NATO was retreating the brigades men would stay behind to hamper operations (killing WP Traffic Regulators was an amazingly effective way of bringing their forces to a halt in a welter of traffic jams), and the regular soldiers conducted some amazingly effective raids on headquarters (dressed apparently in WP uniforms) that caused lasting damage and paranoia. Allegedly it was a volunteer SAS man of the brigade that called in the first NATO tactical nuclear strike during the retreat from Warsaw.
As time went on the divisions between TA and regular SAS men became superfluous as both became hugely battle hardened. The skills of this unit were evident in the fact that despite its arduous role it had one of the lowest casualty rates in the British Army during the war. Directly under the control of SACEUR the unit conducted a huge range of operations, including many raids into Russia and deep into the Warsaw Pact.
The unit was moved to the UK in late 1998 after the second round of strikes on the UK, although many men were operating around the world. The brigade structure was abandoned in favour of the new UK Special Forces headquarters in 2000. Members of the brigade would serve in many roles in dangerous parts of the UK and Ireland as well as outside the UK.
The role of the Territorial Army, Britains volunteer soldiers, during the war was one mainly conducted on the home front. In Britains build up to the war is was decided early that pre-war plans for large scale reinforcement of BAOR by TA units was not to go ahead. Instead the war was to be fought mainly by the regular army, so many regular units stationed outside of the European theatre were recalled and replaced by mobilised TA units. Later in the war individual volunteers from the TA units would reinforce the weakened battalions as the supply of regular reservists dried up.
However until some of the regulars could be regrouped and sent to Germany, there was a need for rear area security for BAOR. It was decided that two TA brigades would be mobilised and co-ordinated under 6th Field Force (itself normally a mixed regular-TA brigade) and was consequently deployed to Germany just before the start of the NATO offensive. The TA brigades were deployed to protect I Corps lines of communication, and saw action against Spetznatz troops and other saboteurs. In the retreat from Warsaw some elements of the brigades (mainly Anti-Tank) were attached to the battle groups of 3rd and 4th Armoured Divisions, where they acquitted themselves well.
The main operations of the brigades were in anti-marauder operations from this point and securing logistical supplies. But as the regular infantry units began to assemble there was less and less for the units to do. The brigades also gained extra personnel from RAF ground crews whose squadrons had ceased to exist being assigned to them. Both brigades were returned to the UK after the nuclear attack on London, and 6th Field Force disbanded, its personnel going to replace casualties in other formations.
The two brigades operated in and around the South East, being key units for UKLFs operations. The brigades were considered to be the best of the TA formations as they had proper operational experience. After the second round of strikes 49 Brigade was sent to Middlesborough area and North Yorkshire to set up holding and refugee camps in North Yorkshire and protect the remaining industrial capacity on the Tees. 51 Brigade remained in the South East, until 2004 when it returned to Scotland and absorbed several elements of the Royal Army of Scotland (most of whose units were TA formations).
49th Infantry Brigade
51st (Highland) Infantry Brigade
I British Corps was the main all-regular force of the BAOR permanently deployed to Western Germany in peacetime. Originally it consisted of two Armoured Divisions (1st & 3rd) the Artillery Division and the newly effective 6th Airmobile Brigade. However the 2nd Armoured Division was in the UK waiting to reinforce the Corps if needed.
I Corps had been substantially enhanced by the re-equipment program of the 1990s, with the units based in Germany fully equipped with Challenger tanks and Warrior fighting vehicles. The artillery of I Corps was equipped with the excellent AS 90, and MLRS systems were being also being deployed. The 2nd Armoured Division was equipped mainly with the older Chieftain Stillbrew, but was fully equipped with Warrior. In addition the 17th/21st Lancers of 22nd Armoured Brigade were freshly equipped with the ultra-modern Challenger 2.
During the War, I (Br) Corps was often used both as NATOs chosen spearhead and rear-guard, and often suffered huge casualties, fighting in East and Southern Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Despite ending the War as little more than a shell I British Corps had one of the proudest reputations in the Western Alliance. It was commanded throughout the war in Europe by General A. Cromwell (late of the Blues and Royals) who held the Corps and later BAOR together with an iron fist and tactical brilliance. He died of cancer in 2003.
24th Brigade was a Saxon equipped infantry brigade, originally assigned to UKLF as a force reserve. However in late 1996 it was decided to move the unit to Norway to back up Royal Marine and Army forces in that theatre. However lack of shipping and bad weather caused delays in the units embarkation, eventually the collapse of the Soviet forces in Norway removed the need for the 24th Brigade to deploy there.
However in August of 1997 the situation in Poland was deteriorating and the Brigade was moved there under the command of 1 Corps. The fresh, regular soldiers of the brigade played a key role in the withdrawal, and proved their worth in rearguard fighting. Since then they have been an integral part of the Corps, creating the breach in the WP defences that allowed the Corps into Czechoslovakia in 1998 and suffering heavy casualties in the long winter in that country. They then conducted anti-marauder operations in the Hanover area, until being one of the first BAOR units to return to the UK early in 2000, coming under the control of UKLFs Strategic Reserve.
Both these regiments were armoured recce regiments, and usually formed the I Corps Recce Group. Although were often detached to the Corps individual divisions or even to other national formations in need of their specialist skills. The Royal Hussars were savaged in the retreat from Poland in 1997, and then served predominantly as the Corps HQ security force. Although parts of the unit were occasionally called upon by the Corps Commander to perform special tasks. The Inniskillings were converted to cavalry in 1999, and patrolled as mounted infantry in the Brunswick area. Both regiments returned to the UK with the rest of I Corps in 2001 and took part in the Pacification. The Royal Hussars serving in the Midlands and Cornwall, and the Inniskillings in East Anglia and Ireland.
1st Armoured Division was a pre-War regular formation permanently deployed to Germany. It proved throughout the war to be the best overall British Division in the fighting. But at a horrendous cost, by its return to England it had fewer than 10% of its original strength operating as a single battle group.
The Division crossed the inter German border in December of 1996 and engaged Soviet forces not long later. Smashing between 12 Guards Tank and 35 Motor Rifle Divisions on its way to Berlin. Confidence was sky high and casualties low as the long ranged British Challengers out shot the Soviet tanks. The division arrived on the outskirts of Berlin on Christmas Eve (the war wasnt to be all over by Christmas.)
Along with the rest of I British Corps the 1st Armoured began a break in battle to gain entry to the besieged Western part of the city. In heavy fighting the British regulars proved vastly superior to their Soviet conscript opposition, but nevertheless the divisions infantry took heavy casualties. The breaking of the siege and the relief of West Berlin caused a collapse of the Soviet position in East Berlin. And I Corps followed up to the Polish border at Frankfurt-am-der-Oder, before pausing to rest and rearm.
In April 1997, Operation Advent Crown was launched with I Corps providing the spearhead for 3rd German Army and NATOs drive into Poland. 1st Armoured again led the way, smashing the Warsaw Pact positions on the Oder in a two week set piece battle, and leading the drive through Poland to Warsaw. Once again superior equipment, tactics and training were paying off as the battle hardened Toms reached the Polish capital. Unfortunately attrition was beginning to catch up with the British forces. Once again I (Br) Corps was asked to take a capital city, but this time the opposition was much stronger, progress slower and casualties higher.
However in July the Italians invaded Southern Germany through Austria overcoming the lightly armed forces in that area. NATO scrambled to meet the threat, and 1st and 2nd Armoured Divisions were put under the command of the newly formed II British Corps and rushed into Bavaria. Fighting alongside Dutch and German troops the 1st Armoured Division drove straight for the heart of the Italian V Corps, driving it into the outskirts of Munich. An attempt to outflank the British was destroyed by German forces. By August the Italians were defeated and the pursuit was handed over to German units and the battered 1st Division, drained by more urban fighting was stood down to rest and absorb replacements drawn from the Territorial Army. Even so the division was operating as little more than a reinforced brigade group, and many of its best soldiers were dead.
Two events then hit the Division. First was the occupation of the Rhineland and Western Holland by French forces. British soldiers saw this as a betrayal by an erstwhile ally. Second was the use of nuclear weapons, first tactical weapons which caused many deaths on I Corps retreat from Warsaw and then on the UK itself. Although not effected directly by the nuclear attacks they had a real effect on the attitudes of the Toms. They became mentally tougher, and much more willing to use casual brutality. From this time on many fewer prisoners were taken alive.
1st Armoured took part in the defensive campaigns that led up to the Fulda Battles and spearheaded the NATO attack into Czechoslovakia in August of 1998. Slipping behind the main Warsaw Pact defensive line at Karl Marx Stadt (Chemnitz) the 1st Armoured secured Prague and the road East before attacking WP forces south of the capital. This allowed the 2nd Armoured Division to attack towards Brno and threaten the WP supply lines. This drive had a decisive effect on the Soviet forces that had then been brought to a halt near Frankfurt. Their vital supply lines threatened they began to withdraw and consolidate. Alongside German troops 1st Armoured was to remain in this area through a long hard winter of skirmishing until withdrawn in the Spring of 1999.
1st Armoured then was stationed along with the rest of the BAOR in North Western Germany, its pre-War home as NATOs strategic reserve. A position brought about because of the BAORs weakness after three hard years of fighting and the chronic situation in the UK brought about by a further round of nuclear strikes on the United Kingdom. 1st Armoured settled down to control the area around Brunswick, bringing a degree of control back to the area.
1st Armoured returned to the UK in August 2001, where it operated as a composite armoured battle group in reserve whilst its regiments and battalions recruited to bring its units up to strength. The unit was later involved in finishing off the NRA in fighting near Bristol. 1st Armoured was commanded throughout the war by Lt. General J Heller (later Viscount Heller and Chief of Defence Staff, a Paratrooper and SAS soldier) who proved one of the best Divisional commanders of the war.
7th Armoured Brigade
12th Armoured Brigade
22nd Armoured Brigade
The 2nd Armoured Division was formed in 1996 from UK based units and slated to join I British Corps should it proved necessary to reinforce that formation. The Division travelled to Germany in October 1996 and conducted exercises on the Sennelager ranges to bring it up to speed. It crossed the IGBL covering the left flank of the 1st Armoured Division in its rush to Berlin. It engaged in the flank the remnants of 12 Guards Tank Division, nearly wiping that formation out, before taking up positions to the north of Berlin where it stopped a counter-attack from 20th Guards Tank Army. Holding that formation in position until a German Corps swung into its flank, routing it.
Berlin taken, 2nd Armoured Division led I British Corps to the Polish border taking Frankfurt-am-der-Oder but it proved unable to take the Oder bridges. Operating alongside 1st Armoured in the attritional two week Battle of the Oder, the Warsaw Pact forces were ground down and stretched thin until the assault was launched across the river breaking the defensive position. 2nd Armoured then followed 1st Armoured through Lodz and onto Warsaw. Where 2nd Division conducted the break in battle for 3rd Armoured to enter the city proper.
However the division was swiftly re-deployed to II Corps to fight the Italian invasion of Bavaria, fighting in the Battle of Munich. With the Italian withdrawal 2nd Armoured was rapidly switched back to I Corps where it became the Corps reserve in Eastern Germany during the withdrawal back from Warsaw. Fortunately the winter of 97/98 were quiet and the Division was able to recover much of its strength.
The Soviet offensive of the summer of 1998 was a testing one for 2nd Armoured as it was engaged as the I Corps rear-guard slowing the southern arm of the Soviet onslaught. This 2nd Armoured Division achieved this task manfully buying time for the rest of I Corps to prepare for a set piece battle at the Fulda Gap. At Fulda General Cromwell commanding I Corps gained one of his great victories, massing his remaining Challenger and Chieftain tanks to shoot the attacking soviets to pieces before they came into range. A counter-attack by 2nd Armoured then swept the remaining Soviets into a route away from field.
I Corps was then launched in a diversionary attack into Czechoslovakia, which to the surprise of some succeed by flanking the defenders with a march through the mountains. Whilst 1st Division dominated the area around Prague, 2nd Division headed east towards Brno to menace the WP supply lines that ran through Vienna. By this stage the British Army Group Cromwell was little more than a Division and was succeeding only because its dash, aggression and reputation were overawing the defending troops but at a real cost in manpower. They didnt have the infantry strength to secure their gains, so German reinforcements were rushed into Czechoslovakia but were too late to regain the lost momentum and the NATO forces settled into Western Czechoslovakia for a bitter winter of partisan fighting.
The NATO forces were withdrawn in the Spring of 1999 as their forces were hugely overextended. 2nd Division had fought its last major battle in Europe and settled into quarters near Hanover. In late 2000 the Division was transferred by sea to Newcastle in the north of England before moving on to occupy Catterick Garrison. The Division then conducted security operations in the area, pacifying the North East between North Yorkshire and the Borders. Before moving in to pacify the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire areas by 2005.
2nd Division was commanded by a number of officers throughout the war, several of whom were killed in action.
15th Armoured Brigade
24th Armoured Brigade
49th Armoured Brigade
II British Corps was very much the Cinderella of the BAOR, being formed late in early 1997 under the command of General G. F. Fullerton RGJ, when it became obvious that the war would not be over by Christmas. II Corps was set up in Germany to control the new formations being created and to back up I Corps in Poland. As I Corps specialised in dashing offensive operations and hard fighting rear-guard actions, II Corps was more often employed in reserve or in defensive operations.
II Corps first action occurred when the Italians invaded up into Bavaria. At the time II British Corps had only its Recce Group, and a pair of Territorial Army formations under command. So the 1st and 2nd Armoured Divisions were rapidly withdrawn from Poland and rushed into the action. II Corps relieved the Dutch and German forces delaying the Italians and forced the Italians back to the outskirts of Munich where it fought the 3 week battle of the Munich Cauldron. An attempt to outflank II Corps was foiled by German forces near Augsburg, which led directly to the Italians being forced back into Austria.
II British Corps was then stood by to support the NATO retreat from Poland by an assault into Czechoslovakia. The detailed planning for which later provided the basis for I Corps attack into that country in 1998. II Corps was once more in reserve when the Warsaw Pact again invaded through Bavaria, and provided support for I Corps invasion of Czechoslovakia.
1999 was a quiet year for II Corps, which was in a much better state than I Corps, and the Corps conducted much anti-marauder work in North West Germany. As well as standing by as NATOs Reserve. In 2000 II Corps was intended to act as a reserve for Operation Ancient Mariner, the NATO strike into Poland. Instead it ended up in a drawn out campaign to defeat the Soviet counter-attack and the Corps won its spurs in this defensive warfare. General Fullerton was killed in August 2000 and was replaced by General Morris from 4th Armoured Division.
The Corps then remained in North Western Germany until 2003 helping to control the area and provide a reserve for any further NATO operations none of which came to fruition. II Corps provided much of the muscle for the Hanover Provisional Government as well as training and equipping the German Legion that was to provide security in the area once the force withdrew. Once it returned to the UK the Corps was disbanded.
This Brigade was formed in August 1996 at Crickhowell, Wales from regular units in the United Kingdom and equipped with Saxon and FV 432 armoured vehicles. It was initially deployed on internal security duties, before conducting disaster relief operations in the South East after the nuclear strikes on London. Duties that drastically affected the outlook of all the brigades soldiers.
In June of 1998 the brigade was deployed to Germany under II Corps to free up other forces for front line duties. The brigade did not see action against the WP that year but saw frequent combat against marauder gangs of all nationalities whilst protecting British logistics and rear area facilities. 19 Brigade gained a fearsome reputation for toughness and reprisals against marauder groups, some of which became atrocities. Nevertheless marauder activity always dropped in areas where 19 Brigade was operating. The brigade even recaptured a number of tanks which it formed into an ad-hoc armoured group.
In 2000 19 Brigade saw action against the Soviet counter-attack to Operation Ancient Mariner, proving their skills against a more conventional enemy. They then conducted anti-marauder operations in the Hanover area, remaining there even after the main force of the BAOR had departed, working alongside the British organised German Legion against the marauders.
The II Corps Recce Group consisted of two of the more flamboyant cavalry regiments of the British Army, both of which arrived in Germany early in 1997. However the units were often placed under the control of other formations. The RSDG first saw action against the Italians in Bavaria, and later served with I Corps at Fulda and in Czechoslovakia, the forward elements of the force actually reaching Vienna before being pushed back. Back under the wing of II Corps in 2000 they served with distinction in Poland and Eastern Germany.
The QRIH was attached in 1997 to 1st German Army and was amongst the NATO forces to actually reach Russia. It served expertly earning the admiration of the Commander of the 1st German Army in the retreat from Poland under attack all the way from the 7th Guards Tank Army. It later served with the 2nd Armoured Division before the Fulda battle and served alongside 1st Armoured in Bohemia, being the first NATO troops into Prague. In Poland and East Germany in 1999 the QRIH served as long range recce troops as well as launching attacks against WP supply bases inside Poland.
Both regiments survived the war in good shape, and with enhanced reputations. They were converted to cavalry in 1999, a change that aided their role in anti-marauder operations. On which they were engaged until their return to the UK in 2003.
3rd Division started the war as a well equipped armoured formation of two brigades (4th and 20th Armoured) under the control of I Corps, which took part in the race to Berlin destroying 35 Motor Rifle Division as it did so. It then took the key role in relieving the Berlin garrison. In close quarters fighting the division succeeded in all its objectives but at a heavy price in manpower and armour (the first non-posthumous Victoria Cross of the war being won by Sergeant Campbell of the 1st Gordon Highlanders in fighting at RAF Gatow.)
The Division played an important part in Operation Advent Crown capturing Kalisz and Lodz before reaching Warsaw. There the division took on the same role as it had at Berlin, fighting its way slowly towards the Vistula. However the fighting was greatly increased in intensity over that in Berlin, as the Soviets had reinforced heavily with veteran troops from the Chinese front. Progress slowly ground to a halt.
However, in August 1997 the WP counter-attack forced the Division out of Warsaw or risk being surrounded. The depleted division fought hard in rear-guard actions, which did great damage to the Soviets but couldnt halt the oncoming juggernaught. It was at this stage NATO resorted to the use of tactical nuclear weapons, to which the Soviets replied in kind. Although not destroyed the division took even more casualties especially in valuable equipment. Thankfully the advance petered out allowing the battered 3rd Armoured some little respite.
In February the remnants of the division were pulled out of the line. The least battered 20th Armoured Brigade was transferred across to 4th Armoured Division to bring that division up to a strength of 3 armoured brigades. 4th Armoured Brigade was then joined by two infantry brigades from Northern Ireland that had previously been under II Corps as a rear area security force. The division was then re-designated as a Mechanised Division, and in June 1998 was deemed to be ready once more for combat and put under the command of II Corps.
The Division next saw action in 2000 in Eastern Germany and Poland. Conducting numerous defensive actions and local counter-attacks. It was in one of these operations just inside Poland when Sergeant (acting Captain) Campbell of the Gordon Highlanders won his second, posthumous, Victoria Cross. The Division then spent the next few years in the Hanover/Celle area until returned to the UK in 2003. The Division then took part in pacification and relief operations in the Birmingham area, before becoming a major part of General Hellers Expeditionary Force to Ireland.
4th Armoured Brigade
3rd Infantry Brigade
8th Infantry Brigade
4th Armoured Division was brought into being including two British based Armoured Brigades (11th and 33rd) at Warminster in 1996. These brigades were predominately equipped with older Chieftain tanks and had not yet been equipped with the Warrior fighting vehicle. As such they were deemed to be much less effective than the other British armoured divisions.
The Division was deployed to Poland in the spring of 1997 and thrown straight into the siege of Warsaw, just in time as the 1st and 2nd Armoured Divisions were re-deployed down to Bavaria. The 4th Division was involved in backing up 3rd Divisions efforts to reach the Vistula, as well as securing the outskirts of the city. The Division was heavily involved in trying to beat off the resulting soviet offensive. Even giving the pursuing Soviets several bloody noses in several well fought rear-guard actions, due to the Division's closeness to the enemy it suffered far less from nuclear attacks than the 3rd Division did during the retreat.
Transferred to II Corps the Division was strengthened by the addition of the 20th Armoured Brigade from the badly damaged 3rd Division. But the Division largely acted as an uncalled upon reserve for the next few years. Missing out of the Fulda and Czech campaigns. And for this reason was the strongest British Division with a strength of two full brigades. For this reason it became II Corps and NATOs main reserve force. However it was only to see major action in 2000 when it was largely responsible for finally stopping the charge of 7th Guards Tank Army in the vicinity of Dresden.
4th Armoured Division remained in and around Magdeburg and Brunswick until 2005 as part of Britains last commitment to NATO and the Hanover region. It then moved to the Netherlands settling around Arnhem as part of Britains commitment to the Netherlands and as an insurance against further French aggression against that country. In 2008 the rebuilt 4th Armoured Division provided the British heavy contingent to the western mission to secure the Arabian oil fields.
11th Armoured Brigade
20th Armoured Brigade
33rd Armoured Brigade
5th Mechanised Division was formed from two infantry brigades (1st and 5th) late in 1996, and in late 1997 was reinforced by 39th Infantry Brigade which had been withdrawn from Ireland. The division was employed on internal security and disaster relief until deployed to Europe in 1998 under the command of II Corps where it operated in support of 1st and 2nd Armoured Divisions, with its brigades deployed under their command as street fighting auxiliaries.
As a purely infantry force it saw few pitched battles, although 39th Brigade took part in the occupation of Prague. It normally operated in reserve, and in securing urban areas bypassed by the armoured forces and so saw much bitter fighting.
The Division proved itself in 2000 against the Soviet offensive, holding the bridges over the Oder for 4th Armoured to retreat over. As an infantry heavy force the Division was one of the first to return to the UK late in 2000, and took a major role in the pacification. Although 1st Infantry Brigade was transferred to Canada in 2005.
39th Infantry Brigade
1st Infantry Brigade
5th Infantry Brigade
Although the Guards regiments of the British Army are have an excellent reputation on the battlefield they are perhaps best known for their ceremonial role. Their red tunics and black bearskins became synonymous with many peoples idea of the British Army. When war broke out two battalions of the Guards and mounted elements of the Household Cavalry (About 400 troopers of the Life Guards and Blues and Royals) were based in London and Windsor to conduct these activities, which continued much as normal.
However when initial euphoria about NATO successes faded the British began moves to mobilise what resources they could. Whilst detachments (mostly older and very young soldiers) continued in the ceremonial role the rest of the units were moved to a mostly deserted Aldershot to form the 32nd (Guards) Infantry Brigade. The infantry was lightly equipped for security duties whilst the HCMR was to form a recce group, the brigade was mounted in trucks and Land Rovers and had few heavy support weapons. Nevertheless it would prove useful in the internal security role freeing up mechanised units for service in Europe.
When nuclear weapons were first used in Europe the brigade was called out to control riots in London. The HCMR actually used its immaculately groomed horses to support Metropolitan Police mounted units. When London and much of the south were destroyed the brigade was in East Anglia on exercise. It is interesting to note that the HCMRs horses had been moved out of the capital on the day before the nuclear attack. This raises questions about how much British intelligence knew about an attack, and whether their priorities were what they should have been. Or simply if the move was a pure coincidence.
The Brigade was swiftly moved in to the south to aid disaster relief efforts, but soon found itself in riot control duties. The Brigade became the bastion of military rule in the south, as well as providing the Kings bodyguard. It kept the sometimes fractious Territorial Army units in line, controlled rioting and destroyed larger marauder bands where it could find them. The Brigade was reinforced by the battle hardened 1st Scots Guards from Norway in early 1998. The Guards were the ultra-loyalists of the army, and largely responsible for the saving of the south of the country from anarchy.
This role continued into late 1998 when a second wave of nuclear strikes destroyed much of the north and midlands. The Guards continued to take what action they could, controlling refugee flows and maintaining what was left of HMG. The HCMRs Land Rovers were replaced by their horses (which they had painstakingly cared for since the apocalypse) in 1999. With the gradual return of the BAOR the demands on the Brigade lessened considerably, and it became a key part of UKLFs reserve. It served in securing the Home Counties and took a major role in the final campaigns in Cornwall.
3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines
3 Cdo Bde started the war in its normal configuration with a battalion group (1 ACU) of the Royal Dutch Marines under command. It was the first British force to see action against the Soviets, when in mid-November it was rushed into position alongside the Norwegian Army. The brigade fought long delaying actions in the mountainous north of the country. Ambushing the long lines of Soviet vehicles trapped on narrow roads clogged with winter snows almost with impunity. As they did so it bought time for the deployment of US Marines, Canadian forces and the multi-national ACE Mobile Force.
As these force entered into the battle, the dispirited and under-equipped Soviet conscripts melted back towards the border, many of them dying because of the cold and Norwegian guerrilla action. The elite NATO forces ran rings around the Soviets and the rout to the border raised morale and expectations. The advance eventually stalled at the Litsa River inside Russia as Soviet reinforcements arrived and the spring removed many of NATOs advantages.
The Kola Peninsular Campaign of the summer of 1997 proved something of a phyrric victory, as advances through Finnish territory proved hugely costly. It was also realised that in relatively open country the light allied forces could not repeat their success against the heavily equipped Soviets. Nevertheless the major Soviet naval bases in the region were heavily damaged, when the front stabilised it was left to the Norwegians to defend their territory, as it seemed unlikely that the Soviets would repeat their costly invasion.
At the same time of the Kola Peninsular Campaign the Special Boat Service elements of the Brigade launched the hugely ambitious and successful Flashart Raid (The origins of this name are somewhat obscure) on Soviet fleet and command units at Kronstadt and Leningrad. Sadly fewer than half the troops survived the raid, although some were later found interned in Finland, and the submarine HMS Orpheus was lost.
The brigade was withdrawn back to the Narvik area to rest and refit, during the winter of 1997. Where it was reinforced by members of the Royal Marines Reserve from the UK, bringing its strength back up. Parts of the brigade were frequently detached to the Norwegian Army to serve as raiding and recce formations frequently penetrating the Soviet border. Other Royal Marines were grouped into the newly raised J Company, which was attached to the Norwegian Royal Guards Brigade to protect the King of Norway. In the summer a reinforced 42 Commando was withdrawn to the UK and then sent on to serve in the Middle East. In January of 1998 the French invaded Holland, turning the west bank of the Rhine into a free fire zone. The Dutch Marines who had served so valiantly alongside the British wished to return home to fight for their homeland. The Royal Marines arranged a ship to return a most of them home, along with several British volunteers, although a few of the Dutch elected to remain with their British allies.
The remnants of 3 Commando Brigade remained in Norway until the end of 2000 when it returned to the UK. In the meantime the Brigade had become a major part of Norways defences and had a substantial number of Norwegian volunteers within its ranks. (The links lingered long and it was common for many years for RM soldiers to be seconded to the Royal Guards Brigade). The Brigade also served as a special purpose reserve for HMG during this time, with the deployment of the uncommitted Commando being at the discretion of military commanders.
At the end of 2000 the Royal Marines started to return home, 45 Commando to the area of its base in Arbroath where it was welcomed back by the families that remained. A stand off with the local militia was short-lived, and the Royal Marines swiftly brought order back to the area. The remainder of the Brigade was returned to its bases in the troubled South West, where they secured their areas and established a bastion for HMG to expand into the area. Raids from both the NRA and Duchy of Cornwall were commonplace, until the final pacification of the area. Although it should be noted that several Soviet ex-POWs operating as the grandly titled Group of Soviet Forces England eventually joined the already multi-national ranks of the marines, a tradition that continues to this day with many of their descendants who have settled in the South West.
UK Contingent, ACE Mobile Force
The Allied Commander Europe Mobile Force was a multi-national light force of around divisional size designed to be deployed to either the Northern of Southern Flanks of NATO. The invasion of Norway by the Warsaw Pact saw the deployment of the AMF to Norway, along with US and British Marines and Canadian Light Infantrymen.
The British element of this force was the 1st Scots Guards Battle Group, which included two squadrons of heavy armour as well as the light, arctic trained infantry. Although the Chieftains of the 1st Royal Tanks were somewhat unwieldy, as part of defensive ambushes in Norwegian bottlenecks even pairs of tanks proved capable of stopping whole battalions in their tracks. However few Chieftains survived the Kola Peninsular Campaign and for a short time 1 RTR was equipped with a motley assortment of captured Russian armour. In this configuration they took part in a number of intruder raids into Russia in 1998 alongside the Royal Marines, before being repatriated to the UK late in that year to the Newcastle area.
The British contingent served with the AMF from the start of war until the withdrawal back behind the Norwegian border in 1997, when the AMF broke up and its contingents returned to national control. The Scots Guards Battle Group remained in Norway until early in 1998. The support elements of the battle group were passed on to 3 Commando Brigade, and the Scots Guards moved to the South of England to join 32nd (Guards) Infantry Brigade securing the south of England.
6th Infantry Division
When Britain entered the war its position in the Far East was a precarious one, in advance of the planned return of Hong Kong to China its garrison had been reduced to one Gurkha battalion. Whilst the remaining forces where deployed in the Middle East supporting Oman. It was obvious that levels of forces were too low, and given the state of recruiting in the UK something needed to be done. As always HMG took the cheapest option. In early 1996 a decision was taken to raise the number of Gurkha units in the British Army, and add 2nd and 3rd battalions to each of the existing four regiments (except the 2nd Regiment which already had a 2nd Battalion, and so gained a 3rd and 4th).
Using a core of men from the existing battalion and re-recruiting former Gurkha soldiers (at a premium). The British opened the floodgates of recruitment in Nepal. The brave and loyal men of the Himalayas responded once again and the eight new battalions were oversubscribed (although India launched a formal protest when recruiting for her regiments dipped.) The summer of 1996 saw these regiments going through a rapid training process, including exercises in Kenya, Oman and Malaysia. A feature of note about the new battalions was the high level of officer posts occupied by Nepalese Queens Gurkha Officers.
By the end of 1996 these new raw battalions were deployed into Hong Kong organised into two brigades, the 14th consisting of the 2nd Battalions and the 15th of the 3rd Battalions. Support equipment for these brigades was on quite light scales but effective for their needs. The two brigades were formed into the 6th Infantry Division alongside the garrison battalion.
The 6th Division entered China in January of 1997 and was placed under Chinese command where it gained in experience and confidence hunting Spetznatz troops and guerrillas. In the Summer the division took part in the Chinese offensive in north-east China, before being transferred to the Yalu River area where it linked up with US forces. The Division took substantial damage in the nuclear exchanges that occurred that summer (NBC training having been neglected). The division was withdrawn to southern China, but unit moral was still remarkably high thanks to the innate toughness and cheerfulness of the Gurkha soldiers. Overall the force suffered from none of the poor discipline or desertion that was so marked in Chinese units.
The unit settled down in the Shenzhen and Hong Kong areas, keeping the area remarkably clear of marauders and helping in humanitarian efforts. Longer range raids have also been conducted to break up possible threats to Hong Kong. The Division is working alongside locally raised Chinese irregulars and is firmly in control of the area liaising both with the Governor and provisional councils in the area. Its main problem is in the lack of reinforcements to the rifle companies, but the situation is not yet critical.
14th Infantry Brigade
15th Infantry Brigade
The small, but oil rich, Sultanate of Brunei on the island of Borneo has no indigenous defence forces, but the Sultan hires a battalion of Gurkhas from Britain to defend the country. Also present in the country is the British Armys jungle warfare school. Throughout the conflict a low level conflict ran along the Indonesian/Malaysian border that runs down the island. The Gurkhas found themselves committed to action alongside the Malaysian forces against the Indonesian insurgents and special forces. Although never defeated in action the gradual attrition slowly began to wear down the battalion. However in the later years of the conflict it was in touch with the British commander in Hong Kong and could replenish its strength.
Middle East Field Force
The MEFF was set up as a regional rapid reaction force drawn mostly from Gurkha units due to be withdrawn from Hong Kong and was initially deployed to Britains long term ally Oman to help again put down guerrilla activity in that country. In mid 1996 25th Brigade was joined by 3 PARA and SAS elements from the UK in advance of a planned offensive in the Dhofar region.
When Iran was invaded 25 Brigade was moved to Bandar Abbas to help secure the port and support the local forces. In April 1997 the Soviet 103rd Guards Airborne attacked Bandar Abbas in a daring long range attack. The brigade fought back in a valiant attempt to keep the port open for reinforcements, but it was a hopeless task. Outnumbered and outgunned the brigade pulled back leaving many Scots and Nepalese dead in the crowded streets. The brigade retreated to the mountains and conducted a guerrilla campaign against the Soviets, rallying the local Iranian forces around them. The brigade also provided heavy support for US Special Forces operating in the area. By June the brigade was pulled back to Oman.
The next element of the MEFF to go into action was 3 PARA which was attached to the US 82nd Airborne Division for the audacious Operation Pegasus II behind Soviet lines in Iran. The battalion survived remarkably well and returned to the safety of the US perimeter by November.
For the next few years the MEFF, now including a veteran Commando of Royal Marines, was deployed on a range of security operations in Saudi, Bahrain and Iran which continued throughout the year. Mostly in support of US operations, and did not see any major actions. British special forces were especially busy in the region throughout this period, although few details remain.
The MEFF was later to provide the higher headquarters for British involvement in securing the region in 2008. Although 25 Brigade was later to transfer to Hong Kong, and be replaced by the re-built 1st Airborne Brigade and later still 4th Armoured Division.
25th Infantry Brigade
The Waterloo (Anglo-German) Brigade
Lacking adequate training areas for armoured manoeuvre warfare in Europe the British had long maintained a training establishment in Canada, called BATUS (British Army Training Unit Suffield). This area allowed British armoured units in Germany to fly over to Canada in rotation during the summer and test their skills against the resident OPFOR unit. The realistic training at BATUS was considered the best test of the skills of individual battle groups and one of the primary reasons for the fine showing of I British Corps in the war.
In 1996, BATUS had been expanded in size to be able to take brigade manoeuvres. In the spirit of Anglo-German co-operation the 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment was joined by two German units to test its skills at the end of the BATUS season. Their exercises against the OPFOR provided by the Cheshire Regiment went well but were overshadowed by the tense situation in Europe.
As the world mobilised the British and German governments agreed to help the Canadian government in maintaining order in the country, and the forces at BATUS were put on stand-by and under the control of the 1st Canadian Division. The BATUS force eventually renamed itself the Waterloo Brigade, after that famous Anglo-German victory, and also because some of its units were station near the Canadian town also named after that battle.
The brigade was mostly involved in security and disaster relief operations in Western Ontario, although it suffered some wastage through desertion after the nuclear attacks. Morale faltered as news of the fighting in Europe slowly reached them and the brigade became somewhat fractious. However the Soviet invasion of Alaska changed the situation hugely, and the brigade threw itself into the fighting on Canadas western border with gusto. The arrival of the fresh Canadian forces and the Anglo-German unit effected to halt the Soviet strike. The brigade then served in rotation on the border before returning to Western Ontario as a security force and began to control the area as services failed.
The rather sedentary existence was occasionally enlivened by anti-marauder operations, and the brigade reconfigured itself to store much of its equipment it could no longer run due to fuel shortages. Some parts of the brigade have launched raids against marauder formations into northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, which have brought protests by both CivGov and MilGov but no great concern from the individualistic citizens of those states glad to be rid of a few more marauders. In the new millennium a battle group was drawn from the brigade under the Commander of the Cheshires which broke out its remaining armoured vehicles to aid the loyalist Canadian government against Quebecois separatists for several years. (The Cheshires to this day have the honour of wearing the Maple Leaf on their uniforms.)
The Brigade eventually broke up and the British elements, minus those who had married locally or simply wished to remain in Canada, returned to the UK in 2005. The Brigade was replaced by 1st Infantry Brigade from the UK at the request of the Canadian provisional government most of whose units were fighting in Quebec. Some of the Germans in the brigade also returned to Germany, although many remained locally and the German units rather faded away. However a German community remains in the area to this day.
South Atlantic Field Force
When the Argentineans tried to take advantage of the fighting in Europe to reclaim the Malvinas in August 1997, the British dispatched a battalion of Territorial Army soldiers to back up the small regular garrison and local TA unit there. In addition the Argentine government was warned in no uncertain terms that as the War was now a nuclear one, they should conduct themselves very carefully. Nonetheless it is believed that the TA battalion had a number of contacts with Argentine Marine recon teams around the island. Although most were resolved peacefully.
Cyprus Field Force
The Turkish invasion of Cyprus came in early 1997, and was at a dangerous time for the British who controlled two Sovereign Base Areas on the island. The regular garrison had just been replaced by mobilised Territorial Army formations who had yet to settle into their role. However the bitter fighting on the island avoided the SBAs, the Eastern one of which was mostly abandoned by the British as they concentrated their defences around the more valuable Western Areas and Akrotiri peninsular. As the conditions on the island developed into guerrilla warfare, the British areas became and oasis of calm and home to groups of refugees including stranded holiday makers. The British also absorbed the remnants of the UN peacekeeping force on the island.
Later the British would mount expeditions to clear groups of marauders congregating around the SBAs, and on one occasion had to face down Turkish Army units who wished to attack Greek refugees in the ESBA. The situation on the island has degenerated into a three way stand off between the remaining military forces with the added problems of out of control marauders. The British have increasingly become seen as the honest dealers on the island helping to broker the rare cease-fires and deals on the island.
107 (Ulster) Brigade
Gibraltar Defence Force
The regular battalion stationed on Gibraltar at the start of the conflict the 2nd Battalion, Royal Greenjackets was withdrawn to Britain to become a part of the follow on forces to deploy to Germany. It was replaced by a called up Territorial Army battalion, the 4th Battalion (V), The Parachute Regiment, a tough and aggressive unit. 4 PARA was to work alongside the locally raised Gibraltar Regiment (later the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.) in the defence of the small colony and its facilities.
Although the Spanish government made no attempt to attack the colony it sealed it off from the mainland, and the colony was forced to really on its stockpiles, the occasional ship and smuggling from North Africa. Later as central government broke down several rogue units attempted to storm Gibraltar, but were met and thrown back. The Siege of Gibraltar would last from mid 1998 until 2001 when the various marauder groups finally dispersed and a regular supply ship from the RN began to make visits. During the siege however units on the rock would often launch raids across to the mainland to sting the besieging forces. The Gibraltarians also urged and led raids from large bands of Moroccans on to the Spanish coast which led to much bad feeling in later years. The RN also had to mount a sizeable piracy suppression campaign in the years after 2003 to lessen the threat to reviving shipping passing into and out of the Med.