‘Going Dutch’: Building a Cold War Dutch Battlegroup (Part 1)

With the Danes finished, it’s time for another Cold War army; the Dutch.  While the Cloggies might seem like a fairly esoteric choice compared to the ‘big players’ in 1980s NATO, such as the USA, West Germany and the UK, they then had a sizeable army and fielded an entire corps (1 (NL) Corps) in West Germany, responsible for the left flank of NORTHAG and the British I (Br) Corps.  They also had a very interesting mix of equipment, from ranging from venerable Centurion Mk 5/2 tanks to upgraded Leopard 1-Vs and ultra-modern Leopard 2A4s, alongside reasonably advanced YPR-765 Infantry Fighting Vehicles and slightly odd YP-408 wheeled APCs, all supported by modern M109 155mm artillery systems.

However… Their approach to discipline raised eyebrows among other NATO armies, though it seemed to work for them and Dutch units were generally well-trained and performed well in exercises.  The Dutch Marines in particular were considered by British Royal Marine Commandos (with whom they operated under joint command) to be their equal.

The particular difficulty facing 1 (NL) Corps in any war with the Warsaw Pact was their deployment: Aside from one mechanised brigade and some corps-level support elements, the vast majority of 1 (NL) Corps was based in the Netherlands and would need to deploy to Germany during the build-up to war, with many units having to drive over 200 miles to reach their fighting positions.

To make that problem even more acute, over two-thirds of the corps was made up of reservists who would need to be mobilised before deployment (equating to one whole division, a lot of support units and around one-third of the personnel in all regular units) .  The Dutch demonstrated their ability to deploy the entire corps to fighting positions within 72 hours, but this fell well short of NATO’s target of 48 hours.  While that might have been marginally acceptable during the 1960s, the Warsaw Pact had by the 1980s demonstrated an increasing ability to deploy rapidly from their bases into attack formation, which made 1 (NL) Corps’ position increasingly vulnerable – a vulnerability that the Warsaw Pact would undoubtedly attempt to exploit.  Consequently, the German 3rd Panzer Division and an advance brigade from the US III Corps (the primary REFORGER reinforcement formation) were permanently based within 1 (NL) Corps’ area of responsibility, in an attempt to plug the gap and win time for 1 (NL) Corps to deploy.

A Dutch TOW anti-tank missile launcher mounted on an M38A1 ‘Nekaf’ Jeep (probably from 101st Infantry Brigade)

All of this makes for a very interesting wargames army and if you’re not too fussy about the very fine detail, a lot of the models can be shared with other armies such as Belgium, Canada and West Germany.  If you want to know more about the organisation and order of battle, have a look at Hans Boersma’s superb website here or my wargame orders of battle and TO&Es here.

In terms of models; a Dutch (or Belgian or Canadian) army hasn’t really been possible in 15mm until very recently, due to a lack of suitable infantry figures wearing US M1 helmets and armed with FN FAL rifles, FN MAG machine guns and Carl Gustav 84mm MAWs, as well as a lack of signature vehicles such as Leopard 1-V, M113 C&V, YP-408 and PRTL.  However, our cup suddenly runneth over, with QRF, the Plastic Soldier Company and Team Yankee all now producing suitable infantry and vehicles!

I’ve presently got a lot of Dutch troops and vehicles under the brush, but here’s the first batch of models:

Leopard 1-V Main Battle Tank

As mentioned in my recent article on modelling Leopard 1 tanks, the Leopard 1-V was a Dutch upgrade of the Leopard 1NL (the V standing for Vebetterd or ‘Improved’).  However, the ‘improvement’ proved unreliable and very power-hungry and delivery of 1-Vs was extremely slow.  All Leopard 1NL were theoretically upgraded to 1-V standard during the period 1981-1985, though some upgrades weren’t complete until 1987 and some units even received Leopard 2A4 while waiting for Leopard 1-Vs (a situation that I highly doubt they were too upset about)!  Many sources describe the Leopard 1-V as being equivalent to the German Leopard 1A5 upgrade programme, but that’s not correct, as the 1-V lacked the advanced fire control, laser-rangefinder and thermal-imaging system of the 1A5.  It was actually equivalent to the German Leopard 1A1A1 and shared the same armour upgrade package as that type (which was also used on the 1A5).

Note that the Tank Battalions of the 42nd Armoured Infantry Brigade, 52nd Armoured Infantry Brigade and 53rd Armoured Brigade were equipped with Centurion Mk 5/2 at the start of the 1980s.  The remaining brigades (11th Armoured Infantry, 12th Armoured Infantry, 13th Armoured, 41st Armoured, 43rd Armoured Infantry and 51st Armoured Infantry) were equipped with Leopard 1NL, as were the 102nd, 103rd and 104th Reconnaissance Battalions.

In 1985 the Leopard 1s of the 41st Armoured Brigade, 43rd Armoured Infantry Brigade and 103rd Reconnaissance Battalion, as well as the Centurions of 53rd Armoured Brigade were replaced with Leopard 2A4.  The Centurions of 42nd Armoured Infantry Brigade were similarly replaced with Leopard 2A4 in 1986 and the last Centurions of 52nd Armoured Infantry Brigade were replaced with Leopard 1-V in 1987.

Dutch Armoured Battalions initially had three squadrons apiece, each with 17 tanks, organised as an HQ of two tanks and three platoons, each with five tanks.  The Battalion HQ had two more tanks, for a total of 53 tanks.

This organisation was changed during the mid-1980s (essentially as units upgraded to Leopard 1-V or Leopard 2A4), with slightly different organisations depending on whether the battalion belonged to an Armoured Brigade or an Armoured Infantry Brigade.  In Armoured Brigades, each battalion still had three squadrons, but the Battalion HQ and Squadron HQs now had only one tank apiece and each squadron was organised as four platoons, each of four tanks, for a total of 17 tanks per squadron and 52 tanks in the battalion.  Armoured Battalions of Armoured Infantry Brigades were organised very similarly, though now had a fourth squadron.  However, the 3rd and 4th Squadrons were of reduced strength (13 tanks), with only three platoons apiece, which gave the battalion a total of 61 tanks.

The models pictured are plastic kits by Team Yankee.  These are lovely kits, but if I have one criticism, it’s that the arrangement of stowage bins isn’t quite right for the Leopard 1-V.  QRF also produce specific all-metal Leopard 1NL and Leopard 1-V kits, which are correct in all respects.  The Plastic Soldier Company also produce an excellent and anatomically-correct resin/metal Leopard 1-V.

YPR-765 Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle

During the 1970s the Royal Netherlands Army was looking for a new APC to replace its clapped-out AMX-13 VTT APCs and took the somewhat bold decision of ordering a series of vehicles based on the XM-765 Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle prototype that the US Army had rejected in favour of what was to become the M2 Bradley.  The new vehicle was designated as the YPR-765 and deliveries commenced in 1975.  These quickly replaced the AMX-13 VTT and by the 1980s over 2,000 were in service, with over 800 of these being built in the Netherlands.

The main difference to the XM-765 prototype was that the turret had been shifted off-centre to the right, in order to allow the vehicle commander to sit immediately behind the driver and to the left of the one-man turret.  The YPR-765 proved to be an excellent vehicle and some are still in service with the Royal Netherlands Army today (many up-armoured models seeing considerable action in Afghanistan), as well as being widely exported.  In 1985 the vehicle also entered service with the Belgian Army, where it was known as the AIFV-B.

YPR-765s were initially issued to the Armoured Infantry Battalions of the Armoured Brigades (13th, 41st and 53rd Brigades) and the 43rd Armoured Infantry Brigade.  The remaining Armoured Infantry Brigades (11th, 12th, 42nd, 51st and 52nd Brigades) were equipped with wheeled YP-408 APCs until 1987, when they too were re-equipped with YPR-765.  The 101st Infantry Brigade was partly re-equipped with YPR-765 in 1988 (replacing trucks).

Above: The basic model was the YPR-765 PRI (Pantser-Rups-Infanterie or ‘Armoured Tracked Infantry’), equipped with a single-man turret mounting an Oerlikon KBA-B02 25mm cannon and co-axial 7.62mm FN MAG.  In addition to the three-man crew it could carry seven infantry, though this was something of a squeeze!  Unlike the German Marder or US Army M113, there was no mount for the infantry squad’s ATGM.

Each Armoured Infantry Battalion (YPR-765) had three Armoured Infantry Companies and each such company had three platoons with four YPR-765 PRI apiece (one carrying the platoon HQ and three carrying rifle sections).

In the Belgian Army the YPR-765 PRI was known as the AIFV-B-25.

Above: The YPR-765 PRCO-B (Pantser-Rups-COmmando or ‘Armoured Tracked Command’) was a command variant for Armoured Infantry Company Commanders, which looked pretty identical to the YPR-765 PRI, but in the back had a folding map-table and space for only two passengers.  Each Armoured Infantry Company HQ had two of these vehicles.

Above:  The YPR-765 PRI .50 was a simpler, cheaper APC variant, being armed only with a Browning M2 .50 Cal (12.7mm) HMG, which was initially mounted on the same style of cupola as that normally fitted to the M113 APC.  These were normally only found in support roles, but in 1988 the reserve 101st Brigade replaced the trucks in two infantry battalions with these vehicles.  At around this time they started being fitted with US-designed armoured turrets and gun-shield kits of the style that had been fitted to M113 Armoured Cavalry Vehicles (ACAVs) in Vietnam.  Here I’ve used a spare ACAV turret salvaged from a Team Yankee M113 APC kit.  These fit perfectly over the socket for the resin PRI 25mm turret, so you can potentially swap turrets to field the different versions.

In Belgian service, the YPR-765 PRI .50 was known as the AIFV-B-.50.  The Belgians made far more use of the .50 version, often mixing them into platoons alongside the 25s.  They also fitted them with ACAV turrets.  Belgian AIFV-B-.50s were also fitted with firing-posts for MILAN ATGMs, though this seems to have been a post-1989 addition.  During the 1980s there was a dedicated Belgian MILAN variant, the AIFV-B-MIL, which had the simple M113-style cupola and a MILAN mounted on the .50 Cal mount in lieu of the .50 Cal.  Internally it was fitted with MILAN ammo racks.

Above:  The YPR-765 PRCO-C1 was the battalion HQ variant and was fitted with a US M26 Cupola.  This was octagonal, with an armoured vision widow on each face and a .50 Cal mount that allowed the weapon to be aimed and fired remotely from within the vehicle.  The same cupola was fitted to the Canadian M113 C&R Lynx and other vehicles.  The lack of a 25mm turret meant that there was additional internal space, allowing nine people to be carried (including the vehicle crew), plus a folding map-table.

Note that the Team Yankee YPR-765 box set includes one metal M26 Cupola for the ‘Artillery Forward Observer Version’.  This cupola was also used on the YPR-765 PRCO-C2 artillery battery and battalion command vehicle and the YPR-765 PRCO-C3 mortar fire control vehicle.

However, the lads at Team Yankee seem to have got their wires crossed here, as the YPR-765 PRCO-C5 artillery forward observation variant was actually fitted with an M113-stye cupola and not the M26 Cupola!  However, never say never… I’ve seen photos of M26 cupolas fitted to some YPR-765 PRRDR (Pantser-Rups-Radar) radar reconnaissance vehicles, when these vehicles should normally be fitted with the M113-style cupola.

Above: The YPR-765 PRMR (Pantser-Rups-MoRtiertrekker) 120mm mortar tractor was also fitted with the M26 cupola and was therefore near-identical to the YPR-765 PRCO-C1.  It was fitted with a tow-hook with which to tow the French-designed Brandt MO-120-RT mortar and had internal racks for the ammunition.  Note that in latter years, YPR-765 PRMRs were fitted with M113-style cupolas and ACAV turret kits, though this seems to have been a post-1989 development.

The Support Company of an Armoured Infantry Battalion (765) had three Mortar Platoons, each with three 120mm mortars, three YPR-765 PRMR and two YPR-765 PRCO-C3.  Note that the Reconnaissance Battalions and the upgraded Infantry Battalions of 101st Infantry Brigade instead used US M30 107mm mortars and M106 mortar carriers.

Above: As discussed above, the YPR-765 PRCO-C5 artillery forward observation variant actually had an M113-style cupola fitted and not the M26 Cupola.  Here I’ve again used a spare cupola salvaged from a Team Yankee M113 APC kit.

Above: The YPR-765 PRCO-C4 anti-aircraft command vehicle, which provided command and control functions for PRTL flak-tanks and Stinger SAM teams, also used the same type of M113 cupola as the YPR-765 PRCO-C5 and was visually identical.

In Belgian service, the YPR-765 PRCO series was designated as the AIFV-B-PC and seems to have used the M113-style cupola throughout.  They don’t seem to have differentiated roles and they may simply have used the same vehicle design for all these roles.

Above:  The YPR-765 PRAT (Pantser-Rups-Anti-Tank) was fitted with the Emmerson Improved TOW ‘Hammerhead’ launcher, as fitted to the US Army’s M901 Improved TOW Vehicle and US Marine Corps’ LAV-AT.  The cupola was also fitted with a pintle-mounted FN MAG.

The Support Company of each Armoured Infantry Battalion (765) had twelve of these vehicles, organised into three platoons, each of four YPR-765 PRAT.  Each Armoured Infantry Brigade also had a Brigade Anti-Tank Company, equipped with another 24 of these vehicles (six platoons).

Note that when on the move, the cupola would be reversed, the Hammerhead would be lowered and the FN MAG would then be facing the front.

1/2-Ton Land Rover

The ubiquitous Land Rover was used in a variety of roles by the Royal Netherlands Army and in the front line was used for light reconnaissance by the Reconnaissance Platoons of Armoured Infantry Battalions and Armoured Battalions (armed with an FN MAG).  These Reconnaissance Platoons had an HQ with two Land Rovers, four FN MAG-armed recce Land Rovers and three radar recce vehicles (YP-408 PWDR for Armoured Infantry Battalions (408) and YPR-765 PRRDR for Armoured Battalions and Armoured Infantry Battalions (765)).  They were also used to transport Stinger SAM teams and for a 1,001 other ancillary tasks.

Note that most units used long-wheelbase Series 2 Land Rover 109s in the Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon role, while Reservist units generally used the M38A1 ‘Nekaf’ Jeep in lieu of Land Rovers.

Modelling & Painting

As discussed in my last article, the Leopard 1-V is a plastic kit by Team Yankee.  QRF and the Plastic Soldier Company also produce models of the Leopard 1-V, which are actually more accurate than the Team Yankee model, which is utilises a ‘generic’ Leopard 1 hull that lacks the stowage bins seen on the Leopard 1-V.  Having no shame, I’m happy with that and plan to use the same hulls with swappable Dutch, German and Canadian turrets.

The YPR-765s are resin/metal models by Team Yankee.  The box includes five YPR-765 PRI and also includes a single metal M26 Cupola and plastic sprues with ITOW ‘Hammerheads’.  As mentioned above, you can also add parts from Team Yankee plastic M113 sets to expand the range of variants.  I’ve also converted one into a YPR-765 PRRDR – a very simple conversion that will be up here soon.  The Plastic Soldier Company also produce the basic YPR-765 PRI, while QRF and Butlers Printed Models also do a full range of YPR-765 variants.

The Land Rovers are lovely little metal models by QRF.  They also produce open-topped versions, which will be most suitable as recce Rovers.

The overall colour for Dutch vehicles at this time was NATO-standard RAL 6014 ‘Yellow-Olive’, which was also used by Belgium, West Germany and France as their standard vehicle colour.  It was also used on Canadian Leopards.  For this I start with a black undercoat, then a basecoat of Humbrol 75 Bronze Green, followed by a top-coat of Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab and then a subtle highlight with a little white mixed in.  Lastly comes my standard dusty dry-brush of Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.  The Dutch didn’t adopt NATO three-colour camouflage until well into the 1990s.

That’s it for now!  More Cloggies coming soon, including infantry,M113 C&V recce vehicles and the YPR-765 PRRDR radar recce vehicle.  I’ve also finally finished a load of Americans, so those will also be up on here soon.

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, NATO Armies, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to ‘Going Dutch’: Building a Cold War Dutch Battlegroup (Part 1)

  1. Pete S says:

    Great post. I don’t fancy your chances green stuffing on the long hair and hairnets on 15mm figures…. 🙂

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  2. Doug Melville says:

    Very nice. Tempted to add to my Danish Battlegroup now, except, I should probably do some Warsaw Pact formations so I am not reliant on a well resourced opponent!

  3. Excellent post! Appreciate all the details to start my own and fairly (now) accurate Dutch platoon. What color do you use for Dutch infantry figures?

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Daryl! I was going to use Humbrol 86 Olive Green, which is what I’ve used for those vehicle commanders (that’s the same green used for WW2 German three-tone vehicle camo, if that’s any guide), as that matches a pair of Dutch Army trousers I owned as a young cadet (not very scientific, I know…). Slightly greyish green, but not as silvery-grey as the West German kit. To be honest you could use any OD shade. The webbing seems to have very closely matched the colour of the uniform, but I like to make it a little different so will probably use Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab.

      The helmets are tricky. They’re always photographed as being covered in hessian, then covered again with a scrim-net cover that’s coloured light khaki-green (sometimes dyed with patches of red-brown), bound around with black bodge-tape. However, BF have modelled them with helmet-covers rather than scrim-nets, so I’m going to go with just the plain khaki-coloured hessian and black band. The Belgians covered their helmets in exactly that manner and from a distance, Dutch helmets do appear to be light khaki.

      FN FAL and FN MAG stocks were plain wood, rather than blackened wood or black plastic.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      I was planning to have a piece up by the end of the week on the Dutch infantry, but I’ve come down with Manthrax, so painting is on hold. I’ve also got a couple of M113 C&Vs and a YPR-765 PRRDR half-finished.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Something else worth mentioning is that Dutch infantry berets are ‘petrol’ (blue-green), armour berets are black and the Marines’ are green. IIRC, the supporting arms’ berets are also petrol.

  4. Hans Boersma says:

    Good write-up! Compliments and thanks for the reference. Some nitpicking: The Leopard-1V did have laser range-finding and fire control (Honeywell-Zeiss). Integrating this is what caused the problems. When it worked the tank fired “sharp like a razor”, I’ve been told, but when it didn’t work the whole vehicle was affected.

    Berets: infantry khaki/brown (petrol is a recent change), commando’s grass green, marines (very!) dark blue. See for example
    https://www.anp-archief.nl/page/50626/rotterdam-25-augustus-1987
    http://www.19afdva.nl/joomla/index.php/alias-foto-s-vanaf-1980/29-alias-1986/detail/3125-johndienst#

    For infantry, check http://www.dafyp408.nl, go to foto’s, fotoalbums. Excellent visual source.

    Helmets: hessian cover, with brown shoe polish and green webbing polish applied by the soldier. Over that a dark olive (“army green”) camouflage net. The band around the helmet was actually a piece of inner tube (rubber). Between ± 1985 and ± 1990 woodland camouflage covers were gradually introduced.

    Combat boots were brown, black for marines. From ± 1990 boots became black for all.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Brilliant! Thanks Hans! Especially for the corrections! I love that YP-408 site too. 🙂

      Strange that they left the coincidence-rangefinder ‘nipples’ in place on the turret-sides! That’s what made me think that it didn’t have a laser. The Germans (presumably with ruthless Teutonic efficiency) took them off and blanked over the holes when they installed lasers.

      Thankfully I’d only painted three berets… 🙂 Before I stupidly Wiki’d for the berets, I was ‘sure’ that khaki was the right colour – I should have stuck with my gut. And I got my Commandos and Marines mixed up… 🙁 I used to run an air cadet unit at a military dockyard and about once a year we’d have a joint unit of British Royal Marines, Dutch Royal Marines and SBS using our HQ as accommodation during exercises and I could have sworn that the Dutch wore green berets like ours… 🙁

      Ah, that explains the subtle red-brown/green tint to the helmet covers! I want to do mine for 1984, so want to go for the hessian look rather than camo covers, so I’ll need to do some experimentation with the painting. Also useful info re the use of bicycle inner-tubes (very Dutch!). I’d assumed that they used the same ‘Black Nasty’ that gets used for everything in the British Army. 🙂

      Thanks again for your invaluable contributions and for the wonderful resource that is your website.

      Kind Regards,

      Mark

  5. Hans Boersma says:

    Just to be clear, I forgot to mention that the Leopard-1V indeed did not have thermal imaging; they remained “night blind” until the end.

    Helmets: they probably used car inner-tubes; they would have an ample supply and one could cut them up transversely to produce ‘elastic bands’ ready for use.

    This might be useful:
    https://www.speurders.nl/overzicht/verzamelen-en-hobby/krijgsmacht-militair-en-oorlog/helm-type-m53-troepenhelm-kl-met-binnenhelm-1985-1-170296163.html

    Cheers,

    Hans

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Hans!

      Did the 1-V have any form of image-intensifier or active infra-red searchlight?

      (I used to have a superb book on non-German Leopard 1s but foolishly gave it away as a present…)

      Re inner-tubes: I prefer my version – any self-respecting Dutchman is surely going to have pockets full of bicycle inner-tubes… 😉

      • Hans Boersma says:

        The 1V had a white light/active infra-red searchlight. The Spielberger book notes that it had “IR night vision devices for driver and commander”, don’t know what that is exactly; goggles I suppose.

        Best,

        Hans

        • jemima_fawr says:

          Thanks Hans! Yes, I guess so.

          I’ll post all the corrections on the next Cold War article – I’ll have the M113 C&V and YPR-765 PRRDR models done soon, so will add the errata to that piece and a credit to you.

          Cheers,

          Mark

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