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British Army of the Rhine alternatives

uk 75

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The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) based in Germany for the duration of the Cold War was a significant component of British defence spending and equipment in the postwar era.
It is a very complicated subject, and .
unlike the Royal Navy or the RAF has not been such a popular subject for books.
So I thought I would start a general thread about BAOR options over the period.
It was reorganised again and again. Units were pulled back to the UK. Its equipment varied in quality and quantity.
In his seminal World War 3 books General Hackett argued for the creation of a second UK Corps in Germany.
 

uk 75

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In particular there was tension,especially before 1967 between forces designed for service in W Germany and those needed for service further afield.
Unlike West Germany's lavishly equipped Bundeswehr with its newly built barracks, Rhine Army was dependent on the hostnation's WW2 infrastructure. Its equipment was often lacking
 

uk 75

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Strange how naval and air force threads get people going but not so much army ones.
I know there are individual threads on BAOR kit like Chieftain and the 25pounder replacement that never was.
Part of the problem is that in the 50s while the RAF were dreaming up atom bombers and the Navy its missile ships the Army had the chicken heated atomic mine.
In fact the BAOR did not have tracked troop carriers in setvice till the mid 60s unlike the US and W German forces.
Its artillery had to make do with the woeful Abbot 105m sp gun instead of decent quantities of M109s like everyone else in NATO.
The 80s brought the curious Saxon wheeled apc for units reinforcing BAOR.
The list is almost endless.
Its organisation charts are a miracle of fudge. The West Germans for example used the standard NATO three brigade division (2 Armoured and 1 Machanised in the case of a Panzer Dvision. In the 70s the Brits were so ashamed of having only 2 brigades in a division that they scrapped the Brigade altogether.
Unlike the RAF who continued to dine out on the Battle of Britain and the Navy with its impressive carriers and subs the Army in the Cold War was associated with obsolete images of national service recruits spud bashing in Carry on Sergeant or standing on street corners in Cyprus or Aden.
It is no wonder that despite our treaty commitment for the first time in peacetime to keep an army on the European mainland, BAOR was a political football. It nonetheless was our most expensive defence commitment.
No accident that as soon as possible after 1990 the legions came home. Of course BAOR was no longer necessary but units from it were soon in action in the Balkans. But the continental commitment had come to an end. For more than forty years ordinary British men and women, with their children got to live in a European country that had been our enemy in 2 terrible wars.
Anyone who did not live through it (and it came to an end pretty much twenty years ago now) cannot understand the impact BAOR had
 

zen

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The thing is BAOR is like most of NATO stationed in Germany for most of it's time. Nothing more than a speed bump in the path of Soviet Armour.

And that was ostensibly it's purpose. Buy time for everyone to find a way out of conflict before the nukes fly.

Once France got nukes, the fact is it didn't matter what Washington was willing to trade away. Paris wasn't going to have another foreign power doing a victory parade through the capital while.....

The good news was that transport infrastructure that had hampered Germany going east also hampered Russia going west. Once they overextend into western Europe, a few tactical nuclear strikes would cut off their logistic tail and they'd run out of everything pretty quickly. Becoming easy meat.

So in this context the BAOR was there to die with allies in sufficient numbers they felt we were doing our bit and would have a right to sit at the negotiations for ceasefire and peace. Or if worse came to it, justify the horrendous carnage a nuclear exchange would produce.

Brutal but true.

This being the redacted, nice and avoiding certain issues post.
 

uk 75

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I am reminded of the exchange in the first episode of Yes Prime Minister between Jim Hacker and the Chief Scientific Adviser about when the PM would press the button.
 

kaiserd

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I am reminded of the exchange in the first episode of Yes Prime Minister between Jim Hacker and the Chief Scientific Adviser about when the PM would press the button.
Including reference to 2020....
 

uk 75

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The whole episode is brilliant.
Sadly the exchange with the chief scientist is not online but his question to Hacker
Where do they (the Sovs) have to get to before you'd press the button? the Reform Club? came to mind in connection with Rhine Army
More chillingly I had sometimes in a job to explain to East Germans why Mrs Thatcher might use Polaris and part of the answer was the fate of 55.000 people in our forces in West Germany. The East Germans did not know there were so many Brits there and did not believe me when I answered the question "what would happen if the West Germans asked you to leave?" with " Well, we'd go home." I did not realise in 1988 that only a few years later that was to happen.
 

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Post cessation of national service BAOR didn’t change that much?
I have, or rather had since I now cant find it, a book charting BAOR’s organisational changes. It always struck me as lots of reorganisation but relatively little change in fundamentals, +/- 10% units etc.

The speed bump is a common belief, but then we saw in 1991 what professional western armoured forces did to a Soviet supplied, trained and conops force comprising conscripts, plus we saw in Afghan how the Soviet Army actually performed and even as recently as Chechyna and arguably Georgia - they were never this steam roller and the sheer mass of NATO troops opposing them and Soviet’s general weakness logsitics wise makes me think it would have been a grinder but they could have been stopped.
A lot of the simulations and models of what were happen were quite flawed in assumptions, 1991 being a surprise to many.

On the comment the legions came home after 1990, for the Army that wasn’t the case as 1st Armoured Division with 2/3rds of the armour was still there until recently. Most of the 90s Army redctions were disbandments rather than relocations back to the UK?

I recall in 2004 Deputy CGS (or COS LAND, I forget) describing Saxon as “not a weapon of war”.

Somewhere on the internet was a clip of the music Dreamscape (trance type), to home movie footage taken by Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan. It was awesome - it showed these soldiers living, moving (no fighting) and just the reality of their time there. A telling moment was when I noticed inside their BTR (or whatever it was), was a poster of Bruce Lee.

There you have the shock troops of the Soviet Army, on ops on behalf of the Union, looking to a Western cultural icon. That isn’t an Army that will drive to the Atlantic crushing everything in it’s path.
 

uk 75

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A cynical friend of mine suggested that Soviet troops would have been so shocked by the lavishness of West German shopping centres that they would have degenerated into a hoard of looters, assuming they coped with the huge traffic jams on German roads.
He was in the TA for the big Lionheart exercise and met young German officers his age who reckoned they would saddle up and head East into the GDR (I think they were ironic.about the W German policy of Forward Defence (Vorneverteidigung).
I think it was the Polish Army who revealed that the Soviets planned to use nuclear strikes on a massive scale to punch through NATO lines.
The commitment of III US Corps to Northern Germany (a brigade was ststioned near Bremerhaven) would have been helpful, assuming it could arrive in time by air from the US and pick up its kit.
The biggest mismatch was in the air where Soviet airpower was much more rigid and less agile than NATO.
Fortunately the Soviet rulers were much more cautious than Western pundits claimed and did not put any of this to the test.
Legions coming home was figurative but thanks for the clarification.
The changes in composition including equipment types were fairly significant.
 

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A cynical friend of mine suggested that Soviet troops would have been so shocked by the lavishness of West German shopping centres that they would have degenerated into a hoard of looters, assuming they coped with the huge traffic jams on German roads.
Reminds me be a bit of Operation Red Lightning from Cold War Hot

The whole idea was designed to take advantage of the alcoholism problem in the Soviet Army.

Crates of alcohol would be prepositioned along the expected line of advance of Soviet units, the Soviet personnel would soon become more interested in the alcohol than moving forward to be shot at.

Alcohol submunitions were also developed for NATO aircraft and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and Tactical Missile System (TACMS) batteries to drop once the war became more fluid and prepositioning was not feasible.

The priority targets for the Kinetic Controlled Air Scatterable Alcoholic Munitions (KICAS-AM) would be in the path of attacking Soviet units, assembly areas, river-crossing sites and headquarters. Each exploding rocket would scatter hundreds of fluorescent orange round plastic miniatures, each on its own parachute.

For Headquarters targets, a special sub-category of KICAS-AM was developed, the Delayed Effect Bomb Cluster, Alcoholic, Leadership (DEBOCALL), which used a higher quality of Vodka that most Soviets never saw as it was reserved for the elite and for export.
 

Hood

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The Soviet army was a strange beast and for all its power on paper its manpower by the 1970s was the main problem, something that even Hackett put into his second volume.
Its conscripts were drawn from across the USSR, a hodge-podge of different people from different cultures, races, religions and languages. Few were probably very enthused by their time in the Army. Its unlikely that they would have fought well. Sure the Guards Divisions would have put up a big fight but you can't conquer Europe with just a handful of decent divisions. Then the WarPac allies also leave question marks, would the Poles have followed the Russians and East Germans? By 1980 Poland has internal strife to sort out, let alone worrying what NATO is up to. The Czechs and Hungarians might have had second thoughts too, 1956 and 1968 were not long ago and as was seen in 1989 - the iron curtain was weakest here. Romania and Bulgaria wouldn't even consider joining in.

But let's not forget that NATO forces were facing the same situation, although perhaps well bedded at the higher echelons with the Norweigians, Belgians, Dutch, German, Italians, Greeks, Turks and others were of varying quality and would have had their own national defence priorities had as mass attack taken place.
Also, its too easy to assume that US forces would have put up a first class effort, yet in the latter years of Vietnam its clear that the ranks of the US Army were disgruntled, widespread 'fragging' of officers and a desperate desire not to fight was hardly the sign of a disciplined and effective force. Units in Europe may have been less affected, but its clear that the average soldier in Vietnam or Afghanistan during this period was equally disenchanted and eager not to follow orders.

All conflicts since 1990 have shown the superiority of Western equipment over Soviet era systems - even allowing for lower-standard export kit to Moscow's allies and clients. A WarPac attack would probably have been the most hellish conflict Europe had ever experienced even without the use of tactical nuclear weapons. With chemical and biological warfare it would be indescribable even by First World War standards. Destruction and death would have been on a mass scale but there is no certainty which side would prevail. I feel the WarPac forces would be the first to crumble, they might have coped better with less logistical support but heavy losses would eat into morale and having KGB men with AK-47s behind the front waves would only take them so far. NATO though has to withstand the onslaught with what equipment it has, sure its going to get pushed back but it might just might hang on, though crowds of fleeing civilian populations will equally sap the ability to move and morale.

My Dad was part of BAOR during the 1970s. I have never gotten the sense from him that he worried too much about a threat of war - he felt any real threat would come from China in due course. In fact hostile Germans from the older generations seemed to be the main opponent! Proof that not even welcomed BAOR, it was still seen by some as much as an occupying force as it was a protective shield against Communist forces who might, for some never explained reason, might want to let its troops go for a paddle on the Channel beaches. The difference was probably all East Germans and Poles hated the Russians so they had less chance to enjoy themselves.
 

zen

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On the Speed Bump...

It's in the 1980's (which is telling) that the idea of technical superiority over numerical came to be possible.
This is when the idea of actually fighting and beating Soviet numbers raised it head.
But the popular cult of defeatism continued to exert it's baleful influence among the ordinary population until the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.

This of course straddles the political will to confront and defeat Soviet power both tactically and strategically.
And should be no surprise it took the whole decade to turn around both deficiencies in the military and the political establishments.
That will was derided, denounced, and dismissed at the time as right wing populism, demagoguery and outright impossible.

What hit hardest was this military display of technical superiority and quickly followed by the political collapse of the USSR, exposing the sheer scale of the delusions about the Communist society and power.

We forget how much the West was riddled with those stating with utmost confidence that we would lose any war, that we were in decline, failing and that we were wrong to fight it at all but should just accept the 'inevitability of history'.
 

kaiserd

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On the Speed Bump...

It's in the 1980's (which is telling) that the idea of technical superiority over numerical came to be possible.
This is when the idea of actually fighting and beating Soviet numbers raised it head.
But the popular cult of defeatism continued to exert it's baleful influence among the ordinary population until the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.

This of course straddles the political will to confront and defeat Soviet power both tactically and strategically.
And should be no surprise it took the whole decade to turn around both deficiencies in the military and the political establishments.
That will was derided, denounced, and dismissed at the time as right wing populism, demagoguery and outright impossible.

What hit hardest was this military display of technical superiority and quickly followed by the political collapse of the USSR, exposing the sheer scale of the delusions about the Communist society and power.

We forget how much the West was riddled with those stating with utmost confidence that we would lose any war, that we were in decline, failing and that we were wrong to fight it at all but should just accept the 'inevitability of history'.
History as per a very specific perspective....
 

uk 75

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Er dont we all describe history from a very specific perspective or are we back at the no views allowed that dont fit the prescribed modern orthodoxy of a certain oh so caring and sensitive kind
 

zen

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On the Speed Bump...

It's in the 1980's (which is telling) that the idea of technical superiority over numerical came to be possible.
This is when the idea of actually fighting and beating Soviet numbers raised it head.
But the popular cult of defeatism continued to exert it's baleful influence among the ordinary population until the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.

This of course straddles the political will to confront and defeat Soviet power both tactically and strategically.
And should be no surprise it took the whole decade to turn around both deficiencies in the military and the political establishments.
That will was derided, denounced, and dismissed at the time as right wing populism, demagoguery and outright impossible.

What hit hardest was this military display of technical superiority and quickly followed by the political collapse of the USSR, exposing the sheer scale of the delusions about the Communist society and power.

We forget how much the West was riddled with those stating with utmost confidence that we would lose any war, that we were in decline, failing and that we were wrong to fight it at all but should just accept the 'inevitability of history'.
History as per a very specific perspective....
Yes a Western one and one centred on the UK and the USA.
 

Arjen

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I know the fear in my country wasn't so much losing that war, but being obliterated before victory - however you might define victory.
 

Purpletrouble

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The end of the Cold War showed very clearly the Soviet Union was a house of cards. The rush with which ever bit abandoned Russia it puts paid to the idea of some unified fighting force.

For instance, how many of that mass of Soviet troops couldn’t actually leave their base areas as they were in effect, a deterrence force for independence.

Defeatism at higher and more political/cultural levels aside, I think in the UK military it was a mixture of not appreciating the Soviet’s weaknesses, and the usual bantar/“I’ve got a bad feeling about this” - something you see in everything we do, yet we then crack on and do it and nobody is massively shocked or surprised, it’s just a cultural thing.

As mentioned above, there is the perennial question of why the Soviet Union would want to conquer western Europe by force when it had seen the Germans fail at that and knew the cost of such a war better than the West arguably. Yes they had offensive doctrine based on their experience from ‘41 but is this no different to the French military culture post WW1 of fighting the war on someone else’s territory? The reality is both sides sat there entrenched with neither wanting an offensive war.
 
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