‘Going Dutch’: Building a Cold War Dutch Battlegroup (Part 2)

This week I’ve been painting more Cold War Cloggies!  As discussed in Part 1, I’m adding a Dutch force to my 15mm Cold War collection and am presently building up models to create an Armoured Infantry Battalion or Tank Battalion Battlegroup circa 1984, equipped with Leopard 1-V tanks and YPR-765 Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles.  I would also like at some point, to expand the army to include YP-408 wheeled APCs, Centurion Mk 5/2 tanks and Leopard 2A4 tanks as options, as these were all in service during my chosen year.

In so doing, Hans Boersma’s superb Netherlands Armed Forces Order of Battle 1985 website has been invaluable and I’ve relied on it heavily in creating my own wargame organisations for Battlefront: First Echelon (my slowly evolving Cold War adaptation of Fire & Fury Games’ Battlefront: WWII wargame rules).

Hans has very kindly taken the trouble to critique, correct and enhance my last missive, so here are the main points from that discussion:

1.  The Leopard 1-V did in fact have a laser-rangefinder like the German Leopard 1A5, so was more advanced than the Leopard 1A1A1.  However, the small ‘bulges’ housing the coincidence-rangefinder lenses remained in situ on the turret sides (they were removed and blanked off on the Leopard 1A5).  The laser rangefinder was very good when it worked, but frequently didn’t work, which was one of the main problems with the Leopard 1-V.  The Leopard 1-V lacked the advanced thermal-imaging system of the Leopard 1A5, though did have an image-intensification system.

2.  Dutch infantry berets of the 1980s were khaki-brown!  I’d painted the berets of my vehicle-commanders ‘petrol’, which is a dark blue-green shade.  As Hans points out, ‘petrol’ berets are a far more modern uniform-change.  I think I’m correct in saying that the combat-support arms (artillery, engineers, etc) who now wear ‘petrol’ berets, also had khaki during the 1980s.  Tank and recce units wore black berets, while the Commandos (not to be confused with the Marine Corps) wore grass-green berets and the Marine Corps wore very dark blue berets with red half-moon patches behind the cap-badge (just like British Royal Marines who are not Commando-trained, in fact).

Thanks Hans!  And so to the new stuff…

A pair of Dutch M113 C&V 25

Unique to the Royal Netherlands Army, the M113 C&V 25 was the army’s standard armoured recce vehicle, used by Armoured Recce Battalions and the Brigade Recce Platoons of Armoured Brigades and Armoured Infantry Brigades.  ‘C&V’ stands for Commando & Verkenningen or ‘Command & Reconnaissance’, while the ’25’ indicates the upgraded version, armed with a 25mm cannon.  This vehicle, like the very similar US Army M114 C&R Carrier and the Canadian M113 C&R Lynx, was based on the ubiquitous M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier and was mechanically identical.  In principle this served to ease problems of logistics and maintenance, but at the time the Dutch had very few M113-based vehicles, as their main APC type was the AMX-13 VTT.  However, M113s were part of the Armoured Recce Battalion organisation and when YPR-765 arrived in 1975, they were also mechanically-compatible.

A .50 Cal-armed M113 C&V

The M113 C&V was originally purchased by the Royal Netherlands army during the 1960s, but then was armed with a Browning M2 .50 Cal HMG.  The very first few vehicles were equipped with the same cupola as the M113 APC, but all were then upgraded to the M26 Cupola (as fitted to the YPR-765 PRCO-C1 and Canadian Lynx), which allowed the gunner-observer to aim and fire the HMG from under armour.  The vehicle commander was also usually armed with an FN MAG 7.62mm MG on a pintle-mount next to his hatch at the front-right corner of the vehicle.

On the surface, the basic M113 C&V appears identical to the Canadian M113 C&R Lynx.  While they are essentially identical in mechanical terms, there are some significant differences in terms of crew-layout:  Primarily the Canadian Army wanted the vehicle commander to be seated behind the driver and alongside the observer-gunner, so the commander’s station and hatch were moved from the front-right of the vehicle to the rear-left.  This hatch was then armed with a pintle-mounted Browning C4 7.62mm MG.  The gunner-observer’s cupola was also shifted forward and to the right, in order to give the commander more space at the vehicle’s rear.  The gull-wing crew-hatch on the right side of the vehicle was also deleted from the Canadian version.

A Canadian M113 C&R Lynx by QRF Models. Note the different hatch-arrangement

In 1974 the decision was taken to upgrade the M113 C&V’s armament to the same Oerlikon 25mm cannon as that fitted to the YPR-765, which was then being adopted into service as the army’s new standard infantry-carrier.  However, unlike the YPR-765’s conventional turret design, the cannon would be mounted in a radical ‘overhead’ mount, very much like the 20mm cannon turret fitted to the German Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicle.  The upgraded vehicles were re-designated as the M113 C&V 25

I’ve used the Team Yankee M113 C&V 25 models here, but QRF, The Plastic Soldier Company and Butler’s Printed Models also produce them.  If you want to create the original 1960s/70s M113 C&V, swap the Oerlikon turret with an M26 Cupola (each Team Yankee YPR-765 box includes 1x M26 Cupola) and add an FN MAG (the Team Yankee plastic Leopard 1 box includes pintle FN MAGs).

In terms of organisation, during the 1980s Brigade Recce Platoons had three patrols, each of 2x M113 C&V 25.  The Platoon HQ then had a single M113A1, an FN-MAG-armed Land Rover and a pair of Carl Gustav 84mm MAWs.

Armoured Recce Battalions meanwhile, were organised according to the ‘Fight For Information’ doctrine also followed by the USA and West Germany, as opposed to the ‘Sneak & Peek’ doctrine followed by the UK, Belgium and Canada.  This meant that they had a mixture of light recce vehicles and main battle tanks in the same sub-units.

Each Recce Battalion had three Squadrons, each with an HQ containing 1x M113 C&V 25, 1x M577 Armoured Command Vehicle, 2x M113A1 fitted with ground-surveillance radar and three identical Recce Platoons.  Each Recce Platoon had an HQ of 1x M113 C&V 25, two patrols, each with 2x M113 C&V 25, an infantry section with 1x M113 APC and mortar section with 1x M106 107mm mortar carrier and a tank section with 2x tanks (initially AMX-13/105, replaced during the 1970s by Leopard 1 and Leopard 2A4 being adopted by the 103rd and 105th Battalions during the 1980s).

YPR-765 PRRDR Radar Reconnaissance Vehicle, converted from a Team Yankee model

Close reconnaissance duties within Tank Battalions and Armoured Infantry Battalions were normally performed by their own organic Recce Platoons.  These were organised identically, having an HQ with 2x Land Rovers and 3x motorcycles, plus two patrols, each consisting of 2x Land Rovers armed with FN MAG and lastly, a trio of YPR-765 PRRDR radar reconnaissance vehicles.  In Armoured Infantry Battalions equipped with YP-408 APCs, the radar reconnaissance vehicles were YP-408 PWRDR.

YPR-765 PRRDR Radar Reconnaissance Vehicle

My ‘wargames standard’ conversion of the YPR-765 PRRDR was a simple job – simply a rectangle of plastic cut to the dimensions of the ZB-298 radar antenna, drilled out and attached to a length of brass wire, which was then inserted into a hole drilled in the left-hand side antenna mount of a Team Yankee YPR-765 model.  In reality, the mount was a little more complicated, as the antenna was also fitted with a folding tripod to allow dismounted operation of the radar.  This tripod would be folded flat alongside the vehicle post-mount.

The ‘official’ cupola for these vehicles was the standard M113-style cupola with pintle-mounted .50 Cal, so I’ve taken a spare cupola from a Team Yankee M113 plastic kit.  However, I’ve also seen photos of these fitted with M26 Cupolas, so you could add one of those instead.  Note that the red & black diamond on the radar antenna is a radiation hazard warning sticker; the same sticker would be found on the radar antennae of other vehicles such as the PRTL flak-tank.

And so to the infantry:

QRF and PSC also produce specific Dutch figures, but I’ve opted for the Armoured Infantry Platoon pack from Team Yankee.  A platoon for Team Yankee roughly equates to a company for First Echelon, so this works out rather well.  However, while the modelling is good, the production quality was fairly poor for this pack, with lots of flash, a few bent/broken rifles and one mis-moulded figure minus a leg!

The selection of poses is also fairly boring, with three identically-posed Carl Gustav 84mm MAW teams and an over-representation of pointing/shouting/waving/radio-operating ‘command’-style figures.  Overall, in my opinion this pack is nowhere near as good as the Team Yankee East German infantry pack, which were the last Team Yankee figures I painted.  That said, all the trimming, filing and fixing has paid off and I’m pleased with the finished result.

Up until the late 1980s/early 1990s, the standard Dutch combat uniform was plain olive-drab, the shade of which faded to a slightly greyish-green though not as grey-green as West German or Canadian uniforms.  I’ve used Humbrol 86 Olive Green, mixed with a little white for highlight.  After this they switched to a new uniform made from British Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) camouflage.  National flag badges were sometimes worn on the shoulders, so I’ve painted them here simply in order to break up the green monotony!  The national flag badges became standard with the change to DPM uniforms.

As for equipment, Dutch webbing equipment was made of olive drab canvas material that very closely matched the colour of the uniform.  However, I’ve opted to paint the webbing in Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab, just to pick it out a little from the general uniform colour.  Dutch Army boots were brown leather, while the Marine Corps wore black boots.  The Army switched to black boots during the 1990s.

The helmets are something of a sore point… Dutch troops during this period were equipped with a US M1 helmet, which was then to be covered in hessian sacking.  The hessian would then be camouflaged (with varying degrees of success) by the individual soldier, using brown boot-polish and green ‘webbing-polish’ (what the British Army would call ‘Blanco’).  This would then be topped off with an olive drab scrim net, all held in place with a rubber band made from a tyre inner-tube.

However, Team Yankee haven’t modelled them with the all-important scrim-net, just a cloth/hessian cover!  I tried doing some with the camouflage, but it looked too bold without the subduing effects of the hessian material, scrim-net and general weathering, so I wasn’t happy with them at all.  From a few photos in 1980s-vintage books, Dutch troops from a distance generally look as though they’re wearing sand-coloured helmet covers, so I decided in the end to go with Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab, highlighted with Humbrol 83 Ochre.  In retrospect, these do look a bit too light and a light brown might be a better colour than ochre… 🙁   Lastly, the helmets were finished off with their rubber band in Humbrol 67 Dark Grey.

As for weaponry, the standard small-arms for the Royal Dutch Army during this period were the FN FAL 7.62mm Rifle, the FN MAG 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun and a smattering of Uzi 9mm Sub-Machine Guns for vehicle crews, senior officers and supporting roles (the same combination as the Belgian and Luxembourg Armies, in fact).  Dutch FN FALs retained the original varnished wood stocks, whereas NATO users of the period had tended to go over to black plastic or black wood-stain on their weapons.

Other infantry weapons included the M72 66mm LAW, the Carl Gustav 84mm Recoilless Rifle and the M47 Dragon Anti-Tank Guided Weapon.  I generally use Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab for the LAWs and Dragons and a darker green (Humbrol 116 US Green) for the Carl Gustavs.  The Dragons also have black/dark grey foam ‘bumpers’ on the ends of the tube and around the tracker/sight unit.

In a moment of weakness, I also bought a pack of Team Yankee Dutch Stinger SAM teams.  This is slightly cheating for my chosen period of 1984, as the Dutch Army didn’t actually form Stinger units until 1985, when they added 3x Stingers to each Armoured Anti-Aircraft Platoon (essentially pairing each PRTL flak-tank with a Stinger).  However, the Stingers had already been delivered in 1984, so had a war happened, they would no doubt have been deployed.

However, had I thought about this for a moment, I would have realised that this pack contains NINE Stinger teams, which is a WHOLE BRIGADE’S WORTH of Stingers at 1:1 ratio and would require an equal number of PRTLs on the table!  The typical allocation for a battlegroup would be a single platoon of 3x PRTL and 3x Stinger, so what on earth were Team Yankee thinking…?  It’s even worse for me, as at 1:3 ratio I now have a whole division’s-worth of Stingers…  Ah well, some are already being painted as US Stinger teams and I’ll probably paint some more as Danes and some more (with head-swaps) as British SAS Stingers for the Falklands.  The other issue is that this pack contains yet more people pointing, waving, gesticulating, shouting and talking into radios… 🙁

Anyway, that’s enough for now!  We had another Cold War clash in Schleswig-Holstein last week, so I’ll report on that soon.  I’ve also finished a load of US Cold War kit and have finished the rest of the YPR-765s for the Cloggies.  I’m now back to painting 10mm Confederates for a game next week and have a lot more Napoleonic stuff to post, so watch this space…

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

5 Responses to ‘Going Dutch’: Building a Cold War Dutch Battlegroup (Part 2)

  1. Pete S says:

    Great post- loads of info again.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  2. Hans Boersma says:

    Those helmets look fine to me, though they indeed might be 0,005 % darker — but they do give the figures a typical Dutch look (thanks also to the brown boots). The national flags were only on the inner jackets (which was basically a thick shirt, google “binnengevechtsjas”).

    Anyway, if you’re not satisfied with the helmets there’s always this option!

    https://youtu.be/U76NyFRT5Io?t=1252

    Cheers,

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Hans!

      Aha! That explains the flags only appearing in some photos – I didn’t notice that they were wearing shirts! Ah well, I like them… 🙂

  3. jemima_fawr says:

    A Dutch veteran has just told me that the ‘furniture’ of Dutch FN FALs was going over to black wood or plastic during the 1980s, with black plastic starting to arrive in 1980… Sigh… 🙁

    Thanks for the excellent information, however inconvenient! 😉

    In this man’s army, the chaps will wear flags on their shoulders and polish the wood on their rifles until it gleams… And not mess up their lovely clean helmet-covers…

    😉

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