‘Going Dutch’: Building a Cold War Dutch Battlegroup (Part 3)

Following on from my previous updates in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I’ve recently added a few more bits and pieces to my 15mm 1980s Cold War Netherlands battlegroup for the (under-development) Battlefront: First Echelon variant of Fire & Fury Games’ Battlefront: WWII rules.

In these rules, each model vehicle or heavy weapon represents 2 or 3 actual items and each infantry base represents a section/squad.  My 1980s Dutch organisations can be found here and they’re almost completely drawn from the 1980s Netherlands order of battle presented on Hans Boersma’s outstanding website here.

A sincere Dank je wel must go to Hans, Bart and Wout for putting me straight on all my mistakes areas for further research in previous articles!  It really is most appreciated and I await your corrections for this nonsense… 😉

Above:  I’ve finally completed a full Tank Squadron of Leopard 1-V main battle tanks.  As discussed in Part 1 and in my Beware of the Leopard! article, I’m using the Team Yankee Leopard 1 plastic kit, which has the advantage of being able to swap the turrets around (with the help of magnets) and using the same hulls for Dutch, German and Canadian Leopards.

Note that this is NOT a depiction of a tactical formation!  This is merely a load of models bunched together for photographic purposes! 🙂

Though it has to be said that my tactical formations are little better… 🙁

Experts in AFV recognition will no doubt note that the Team Yankee Leopard 1 model lacks the hull stowage bins that were a feature of the Dutch Leopard 1-V (see the photo at the top of this article). Sharing the hulls also means that I can’t apply nation-specific decals such as the ‘NL’ national marking that can be seen on the top photo. However, that’s a compromise that I’m willing to accept for the sake of saving money and associated marital bliss…

If you want a 100% accurate Leopard 1-V including stowage bins, QRF’s metal model of the Leopard 1-V is the way to go.  QRF are also the only source for the earlier Leopard 1NL model

Above: At the start of the 1980s, Dutch Tank Squadrons had an HQ of 2x MBTs (Leopard 1NL or Centurion Mk 5/2) and three Platoons of 5x MBTs, equating to 1 model tank for the SHQ and 2 model tanks for each Platoon, as shown here.  All Tank Battalions had three identical Squadrons, regardless of their affiliation to Armoured or Armoured Infantry Brigades.

As Tank Battalions began re-equipping with Leopard 1-V and Leopard 2A4 during the early to mid 1980s, the organisations changed markedly:  Tank Battalions of Armoured Brigades retained the three-Squadron formation, though Tank Battalions of Armoured Infantry Brigades moved to a four-Squadron formation.

Within each Squadron, the SHQ was reduced to 1x MBT and the Platoons were reduced to 4x MBTs apiece.  While the number of MBTs within a Platoon had reduced, the number of Platoons within each Squadron increased from 3x Platoons to 4x Platoons.  However, in the case of Tank Battalions of Armoured Infantry Brigades, only the A & B Squadrons had four Platoons.  The C & D (reservist) Squadrons kept the three-Platoon structure.

In game terms, this revised organisation gives me something of a dilemma with regards to the tank-to-model ratio, as the SHQ only had 1x MBT, which doesn’t warrant a model in its own right.  If the Platoons were 3x tanks apiece (like Danish or West German Squadrons), then some of the ‘loose change’ can be absorbed into the SHQ to justify a separate SHQ model.  However, there is no ‘slack’ in this organisation, so the Squadron in game terms consists of 6x or 8x tank models, depending on the squadron type (I need to paint one more…).

Above: Here we see a combined-arms Tank Squadron Team, consisting of a Tank Squadron minus one Platoon and reinforced by an Armoured Infantry Platoon in YPR-765 PRI, an anti-tank section with YPR-765 PRAT and an attached artillery forward observer in YPR-765 PRCO-C5.

As discussed on Hans Boersma’s site, the Dutch experimented with various variations on the theme of mixed Company Teams and Battalion Battlegroups.  However, these tactics were difficult to achieve for an army with short-service conscription and little in the way of a long-service professional officer and NCO cadre (doubly so with the reduced Squadron HQ establishment in the new organisation).  Nevertheless, they did persevere and mixed Teams/Battlegroups would have been formed in wartime, with varying levels of success.

It’s interesting to note that the West Germans and French (and some others) took a very different approach, organising many of their battalions as permanent combined-arms units.  However, having to establish permanent infantry/armour units in peacetime led to its own challenges – primarily in terms of cost and logistics.

Above: The Royal Netherlands Army was not a great user of the basic M113 armoured personnel carrier (though many of its vehicles such as the YPR-765 and M113 C&V were mechanically identical).  However, Dutch Armoured Reconnaissance Battalions and Armoured Engineer Companies used the M113A1 as their primary armoured personnel carrier.  The Recce Battalions also used the M106 107mm mortar carrier variant.

Above:  The vast majority of Dutch M113s simply had the basic commander’s cupola fitted.  However, I found one photo of a Dutch M113 in the field with the ‘ACAV’ cupola fitted, so used that as an excuse to fit this entirely atypical bit of kit… 🙂

I should add that I’ve given the commander a khaki beret, as this is for my Armoured Engineer detachment (I await correction…) 😉

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Cold War - NATO Armies, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

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