Cold War Canucks, Eh? 4th Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group in the 1980s

I promised a little while ago that there would be some breaks from the wall-to-wall Seven Years War coverage and that the Olive Drab would return!  So even though I’m still painting tricorns and lace, here’s a look at some of my 15mm Cold War Canadians.

For most of its existence, the 4th Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group (4 CMBG) was the land component of Canadian Forces Europe.  It’s held a great interest for me since I read Kenneth Macksey’s superb book ‘First Clash’ in my teens and then passed through CFB Lahr in West Germany, on my way to an exchange trip to Canada in 1989.  ‘First Clash’ was originally written as a training manual for Canadian soldiers and dramatised the events of an actual exercise in West Germany, going into enormous wargame-friendly detail regarding the course of the battle.  4 CMBG therefore became my very first ‘Ultra-Modern’ wargames army in 1/300th scale (back when such things really were ‘Ultra-Modern’ rather than the distant history they are now).  I lost interest in 1/300th gaming a very long time ago, but couldn’t help slowly building up a force of 15mm Canadian vehicles using QRF models YEARS before any suitable infantry figures were available.  I also wrote some Cold War Canadian orders of battle and TO&Es

Then, just a few years ago, QRF finally brought out their Canadian infantry models and they were soon followed by more models from Team Yankee and Armies Army (this latter range was bought by PSC, but is presently out of production and has been sold on, but will hopefully reappear).  So at long last, it’s possible to build a full Cold War Canadian force and do games in 15mm! 🙂 

Anyway, first some historical background…

In 1957 the brigade, then designated as 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group (4 CIBG), was deployed to West Germany, replacing 2 CIBG as Canada’s contribution to 1 (Br) Corps of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and NATO’s Northern Army Group (NORTHAG).  In 1959 and with 4 CIBG about to be rotated back to Canada, the decision was taken to leave the four permanent Canadian Brigade Groups in place as regional organisations.  This meant that 4 CIBG would become the permanently forward-deployed brigade and sub-units would then be rotated through it from the other brigades.  With three strong infantry battalions (each with four rifle companies), a strong armoured regiment (with four strong squadrons of Centurion Mk 11 tanks), a field artillery regiment (M101 105mm howitzers), an engineer regiment, a nuclear-capable missile battery (Honest John tactical missiles) and a recce squadron (Ferret armoured cars), 4 CIBG was one of BAOR’s strongest brigades and often referred to as a ‘Light Division’.

4 CIBG became fully mechanised from 1965 to 1966, adopting new equipment such as M113 armoured personnel carriers, Lynx recce vehicles and M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers, being re-designated in 1968 as 4 CMBG.  However, in the same year, Pierre Trudeau‘s newly-elected administration brought about wholesale cuts and reorganisation, most notably combining the traditional three-Service structure into a single-service Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), later shortened to Canadian Forces (CF). 

The funding for Canadian Forces Europe was reduced by half; 1 Canadian Air Division in West Germany, having only just been reduced during the previous administration from twelve to six fast jet squadrons, was further reduced to three squadrons and retitled 1 Canadian Air Group (1 CAG).  One of 4 CMBG’s three mechanised infantry battalions, one of its four armoured squadrons and the missile battery were also disbanded.  Around a third of 4 CMBG’s remaining personnel, including a full infantry battalion, armoured squadron and artillery battery, were withdrawn to Canada, to be flown over to West Germany during build-up for war.  At a stroke therefore, the forward-deployed strength of 4 CMBG had been dramatically reduced from 6,700 men in 1968 to 2,800 in 1970.  The Canada-based brigades also lost their heavy armour and their NATO reinforcement role.  On top of all of this, 4 CMBG was transferred from NORTHAG in Northern Germany to the US-led Central Army Group (CENTAG) in Southern Germany, where it took on an ill-defined reserve role for the US VII Corps and II (GE) Korps.

All these shenanigans caused massive dismay within NATO and accusations that Canada wasn’t pulling her weight within the alliance.  In response, the Trudeau administration offered a brigade as a wartime reinforcement to NATO’s AFNORTH Command in Norway or Denmark (this was in addition to Canada’s standing commitment of a single battalion group to ACE Mobile Force (Land)).  This brigade, known as the Canadian Air-Sea Transportable (CAST) Brigade Group, was to be equipped with the new and wholly inadequate Armoured Vehicle General Purpose (AVGP) family of wheeled armoured vehicles; chiefly the Grizzly APC and Cougar Direct Fire Support Vehicle.  Widely derided in the Canadian Forces as ‘Hong Kong North’ (a reference to Canada’s doomed reinforcement of Hong Kong in 1941), the CAST Brigade mission would eventually be abandoned in 1988.

During the 1970s it soon became apparent that the remaining Centurions were reaching the end of their days, being increasingly unreliable and wholly inadequate in the face of the new generation of Soviet threats such as the T-64 and T-72 main battle tanks.  Despite governmental reluctance to invest in heavy armour, Trudeau was finally persuaded (with the help of a German offer linking German tanks to a wider trade deal) to replace the Centurion with a new main battle tank.  Several options were considered, with Leopard 2 being the preferred choice, though not yet available.  Leopard 1 was therefore chosen as an immediate interim option until funding and production capacity enabled the hoped-for upgrade to Leopard 2. 

In 1977, 35x ex-Bundeswehr Leopard 1A2 were leased for the Royal Canadian Dragoons to begin Leopard conversion training in Germany, followed in 1978/79 by the purchase of 114x Leopard C1 (this number included some turretless driver-training models), plus Leopard-based Taurus armoured recovery vehicles and Beaver bridgelayers.  The infantry also got some new toys to play with, as their M113-mounted M40A1 106mm Recoilless Rifles were replaced with the considerably more capable BGM-71 TOW ATGM (16 M113-mounted TOW launchers per battalion in 4 CMBG, with half that number in Canada-based units).  The guns of 4 CMBG’s artillery component were also upgraded, from M109 to longer-ranged M109A1.  The older M109s were cascaded down to units in Canada, where three additional M109/M109A1 regiments were formed.

The election of Brian Mulroney‘s administration in 1984 brought about a re-emphasis on Canadian defence and the immediate return of 1,000 men to the forward-deployed element of 4 CMBG in West Germany.  This meant that the three armoured squadrons could now be permanently manned, with a fourth ‘flyover’ squadron mooted, which would theoretically take over the stored reserve tanks (though it doesn’t appear that this was ever practiced during exercises).  There were also numerous incremental upgrades to 4 CMBG’s vehicles and weaponry, including the creation in 1987 of a whole new 4 Air Defence Regiment, one battery of which was assigned to 4 CMBG, equipped with twelve M113 vehicles mounting the revolutionary ADATS missile system. 

There also even wild talk of equipping the two mechanised infantry battalions of 4 CMBG with a British-conceived turretless 120mm tank destroyer designated ‘Chimera’ to supplement their TOW ATGMs.  Each battalion would receive sixteen Chimera, which would then be paired with the sixteen M113 TOW carriers already present.  However, the Chimera project never got any further than the concept stage in 1984/85 and the idea was soon quietly shelved without any prototypes being built, though it makes a very interesting ‘what-if’.  4 CMBG did however, receive a boost to its anti-tank capability in the late 1980s, with the adoption of the potent M113A2 TUA (‘TOW Under Armour’), which represented a massive advance over the old M113 TOW carrier.

The Canadian Defence White Paper of 1987  brought even greater changes to 4 CMBG; most notably the re-establishment of 1st Canadian Infantry Division, the headquarters of which was formed in West Germany in 1988.  4 CMBG, along with some divisional elements, would now be the forward-deployed element of an entire division, with 5e Groupe-Brigade du Canada (one Light Armour Regiment (Cougar & Lynx), two Light Mechanised Infantry Battalions (Grizzly) and an M109 regiment) becoming the follow-on brigade, alongside further elements such as an additional artillery regiment of M109 and a divisional recce regiment equipped with Lynx.  This meant that the much-derided CAST Brigade mission to AFNORTH was now finally ditched.  The supporting 1 Canadian Air Group also now reverted to its previous title of 1 Canadian Air Division and would be similarly reinforced from Canada during the build-up to war. 

The long-held plan to purchase Leopard 2 didn’t materialise until well into the 21st Century (and a wholly different range of world problems), though with the recreation of 1st Canadian Infantry Division, plans were put in place to purchase a further two squadrons of Leopards, thus allowing Militia units to gain proper tank experience and to provide additional tank support for 1st Canadian Infantry Division.  However, the Cold War ended before these plans could be implemented.  Other abandoned plans included the purchase of a light section/platoon-level ATGM such as MILAN, the replacement of M113 with a tracked MICV and the purchase of self-propelled mortar vehicles such as the M125 81mm mortar carrier.

Nevertheless, despite all the political machinations, defence cuts and problems caused by under-manning and inadequate equipment, the Canadian Forces, as one of only two all-volunteer armed forces in NATO (the other being the UK, with the USA becoming the third in 1973), maintained very high standards of discipline and training, were highly motivated and were very well-regarded by their NATO allies throughout the last two decades of the Cold War.

Above:  The single Canadian tank regiment in 4 CMBG was crewed by the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) until 1986, when they were replaced by the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s) (VIII CH).  The regiment had three tank squadrons (A, B & C Sqns) equipped with Leopard C1 and a recce squadron (D Sqn) equipped with Lynx.  Each tank squadron was still organised along WW2 lines, with a Sqn HQ of 3x Leopard C1 and four Troops, each with 4x Leopard C1, for a total of 19x Leopard C1 per Squadron.  The HQ Squadron had another 4x Leopard C1, bringing the regimental total to 61x Leopard C1.  Curiously, most published sources list 77x Leopard C1, which must presumably include the stored reserve tanks and which might have been used to form a fourth tank squadron in wartime.

In game terms, each of my model vehicles, aircraft and heavy weapons represent 2-3x actual items, while a stand of troops represents a headquarters or infantry section/squad.  The unit shown above therefore represents an Armoured Squadron Group consisting of the Armoured Sqn HQ, three Armoured Troops and supporting elements (a Mech Infantry Platoon plus artillery FOO, engineer section and air defence Blowpipe section) following on in M113s.  The fourth Troop has been detached to form part of a Mechanised Company Group (see below). 

Above:  The Leopard C1 was largely based on the Leopard AS1 which was in turn developed for the Australian Army from the basic Leopard 1A3.  The Leopard 1A3 was the first model to adopt a ‘square’ welded turret instead of the rounded cast turret of earlier models and had spaced armour, giving it much the same level of armour protection as the Leopard 1A2, but with greater interior space.  The Leopard AS1 and C1 both adopted the superb Belgian fire-control system developed for the Belgian Army’s Leopard 1BE and improved it further by adding a laser rangefinder, though the Canadians did away with the Australian modifications for fighting in a tropical environment.  The Canadians improved the design further by adding a low-light TV (LLTV) system which, while not up to the standard of the thermal imaging systems then in development, still gave it a considerable night-fighting advantage over most other tanks then in service.

Above:  As previously discussed in an earlier article, I’ve used the excellent Team Yankee Leopard 1 plastic kits for most of my Leopard C1s, though I’ve also got some older metal Leopard 1A3 models by QRF.  QRF have since produced a ‘proper’ Leopard C1 model in metal (as well as a Canadian Centurion Mk 11 if you want to go ‘old school’).  The distinguishing features are the cage-mount for the LLTV camera replacing the IR searchlight box on top of the gun-mantlet and the use of a C6 GPMG (Canadian-made FN MAG) mount in lieu of the MG 3 used by the Germans and most other nations.

Unlike all other Canadian vehicles, which used a standard three-colour camouflage scheme, the Canadian Leopards were factory-painted in the standard NATO ‘Yellow-Olive’ (RAL 6014) infra-red-absorbing paint scheme, so looked much the same as West German or Dutch Leopards, apart from the black Maple Leaf emblem on the turret sides.  I use Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab over a basecoat of Humbrol 75 Bronze Green for Yellow-Olive.  The crews weren’t allowed to re-paint these tanks or even touch up scrapes, lest they ruin the IR-absorbing properties.  However, the Canadian Leopards were sent back to the factory in the late 1980s, where they received a new paint-scheme in the new standard NATO three-colour camouflage scheme of green, black and red-brown.

Note that the Maple Leaf emblem had a white edge when painted on tanks, but was usually plain black without the white edge when painted on other AFVs.  Other markings included small Canadian flags, weight discs and NATO tactical markings painted front and rear (either in true colours or low-visibility black) and callsigns painted in large black figures on the hull sides and rear.  However, as I swap these hulls with other turrets to make Dutch and German Leopards, I’ve left off the hull-markings and have instead painted the callsign on the turret rear.

One other thing worth mentioning is that according to veterans and photographic evidence, the crew never wore crew helmets, only the black Royal Canadian Armoured Corps beret.

Above:  The Squadron Group’s attached infantry platoon dismount from the M113s and move forward.  The callsign 42B on the M113 indicates the 3rd vehicle of the 2nd platoon of the 4th company of the infantry battalion to which it belongs.  The full platoon of four vehicles would be marked 42, 42A, 42B and 42C.  The armoured regiment followed the same pattern, with A, B, C & D Squadrons having 1, 2, 3 & 4 as their squadron callsign.  The RHQ used 9.

The M113s are painted in the standard Canadian three-colour camouflage scheme that was in use from the 1960s to the 1990s.  Each type of vehicle had a mandated camouflage pattern, though the precise application of the pattern did vary from vehicle to vehicle.  There was once a fantastic website called ‘Armoured Acorn: The Canadian Armour Website’, which had graphic representations of all the mandated camouflage patterns, as well as a lot of actual examples and variations seen in the field, PLUS graphical orders of battle for various NATO and Warsaw Pact armies, as well as a lot of WW2 stuff.  Tragically however, the site is now long-dead, though some of it can still be found via the Wayback Machine at this link.

The base colour was a bluish grey-green that tended to fade to the blue (some vehicles I saw parked up in Canadian bases in 1989 were almost turquoise!).  I use Humbrol 78 (Cockpit Green) for this colour, which is a little bright, but doesn’t look anywhere near as bright on the table as it does here in these photographs!  The other colours were khaki-green (for which I use Humbrol 159 Khaki Drab – my standard WW2 British tank colour) and black (which I heavily highlight with Humbrol 67 Tank Grey).  I should add that all my vehicles get a final dry-brush of Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.

Note that Canadian M113s almost always had a spare roadwheel attached to the glacis, though the Team Yankee kit doesn’t include a spare wheel.  QRF however, now produce a Canadian M113 in metal, which includes a spare wheel.

Units based in Canada were meant to reverse the grey-green and khaki-green, thus making khaki-green the dominant colour.  Grizzlies and Cougars seem to have been painted that way as standard and I’ve seen photos of M109s painted both ways, but I don’t recall ever seeing a photo of a Canada-based M113 variant or Lynx painted in the ‘Canada scheme’.

Some photos show the khaki-green part of the scheme as brown and restored vehicles often have red-brown in lieu of khaki-green.  In the case of old photos, this is sometimes an artefact of the colour film processing, but some units did started using brown paint once the Leopards had adopted the NATO three-colour camouflage scheme.  In the case of 8th Hussars, there are photographs of them on parade in 1981 using additional bands of dark red-brown as a fourth camouflage colour.  These seems to be a scheme unique to that regiment and they don’t appear to have used it once the regiment deployed to 4 CMBG in 1986.

Above:  The 1st Troop of Lynx recce vehicles from the armoured regiment’s D Squadron moves forward (‘4’ indicating D Squadron and ‘1’ indicating the 1st Troop).  Although administratively a part of the Armoured Regiment, D Squadron was actually a brigade recce asset (having replaced the former independent Brigade Recce Squadron of Ferret armoured cars) and would therefore be separated from its parent regiment in wartime to conduct Brigade recce tasks.  Close recce tasks for the regiment were actually therefore performed by the RHQ’s own Lynx Troop (which presumably had ‘9’ callsigns, though I’ve not had this confirmed). 

Above:  D Squadron Lynxes move through a village.  Sources disagree regarding the number of Lynx operated by 4 CMBG.  Veterans tell me that D Squadron RCD had three Troops, each with seven Lynx (Troop HQ with one Lynx and three patrols of two Lynx), while the RHQ Lynx Troop is described as having four patrols of two Lynx.  However, published sources repeatedly state a total of 20x Lynx for the regiment, although usually then stating that they were all massed in D Squadron, ignoring the RHQ Lynx Troop, so that can’t be right.

The Mech Infantry Battalions each had a Close Recce Platoon also equipped with Lynx.  This is described in most sources as having 11x Lynx, organised into an HQ of 2x Lynx and three patrols of 3x Lynx.  However, some sources suggest 9x Lynx, organised into an HQ of 1x Lynx and four patrols of 2x Lynx.

In game terms I use 3x model Lynx for each of the D Squadron Troops and 4x Lynx for the Close Recce Troop/Platoons.  These models are resin & metal models by Team Yankee.  I’ve also got four metal models by QRF for my infantry Close Recce Platoon.

Above:  A Mechanised Infantry Company dismounts from its M113s.  One Mechanised Infantry Battalion, the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Régiment (1 R22eR – known colloquially as the ‘VanDoos’), was permanently assigned to 4 CMBG throughout the 1980s.  The other battalion in 4 CMBG was the 3rd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR) until 1984, when they were replaced by 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI or ‘Princess Pats’) until 1988, when 3 RCR returned to 4 CMBG.

Canadian infantry battalions were strong, being still organised along WW2 lines with four rifle companies and a support company.  The British Army by contrast had long since reduced the strength of its battalions (in most cases) to three rifle companies, in line with virtually all other NATO armies.

Canadian infantry companies were organised along the classic ‘triangular’ theme; each of three platoons, with three sections apiece.  Each infantry section at full strength (which it rarely achieved) had ten men led by a Sergeant, with a Master Corporal as 2IC.  The section organisation was reminiscent of that employed in WW2, with a Rifle Group of seven men (including the Section Commander) armed with C1 Assault Rifles (FN FAL – also known as FNC1) and a Gun Group of three men (including the Section 2IC) equipped with a pair of C2 Light Machine Guns (also known as the FNC2, being a heavy-barreled version of the C1 fitted with a bipod and fed with 30-round magazines).  Some units such as the PPCLI experimented with splitting the section into two equal ‘Fireteams’, each having one of the C2s.  The Section would also be issued with M72 66mm Short-Range Anti-Armour Weapon (Light) or SRAAW (L) for point-defence against enemy armour.

Canadian C1 Rifles generally had natural red-brown wood furniture on the butt, pistol-grip, foregrip and carry-handle.  C2 LMGs lacked the foregrip furniture surrounding the barrel, but had a strip of wood attached to each leg of the bipod.

In Mechanised Infantry Sections, one rifleman would be designated as the M113 Driver and would be equipped with a C1 SMG (Canadian version of the British Sterling SMG) and things could be complicated further in defensive battles by dismounting the Browning M2 .50-Cal HMG from the M113 (which carried a tripod for that purpose) and re-allocating men to operate the weapon.

In 4 CMBG each section would be further burdened with a Carl Gustav 84mm Short-Range Anti-Armour Weapon (Medium) or SRAAW (M), which would be allocated to the Rifle Group.  Units based in Canada however, would normally have only one Carl Gustav per platoon rather than one per section.

The organisation and weaponry changed radically at the end of the 1980s with the adoption of the C7 Assault Rifle (an improved Canadian version of the M16) and the C9 LMG (Minimi).  The Section was now split into two equal fireteams, each including a C9 LMG and an M203 40mm Under-Barrel Grenade Launcher.  One fireteam also carried the section’s Carl Gustav.  However, this change only really took effect in the 1990s (though I was given weapon training on the C7 during an exchange visit in 1989).

The standard Canadian Combat Uniform was introduced in 1963 and continued with minor modifications until the 21st Century and the introduction of CADPAT camouflage uniform.  The uniform was plain greyish olive green (a colour defined as Olive Green 107) and the baggy pockets on the jacket and trousers were designed to be big enough hold C1 rifle magazines in lieu of ammo pouches on the webbing (which curiously didn’t have front ammo pouches, though a chest-rig was issued to C2 LMG gunners).  However, the 1982 Pattern webbing finally brought back the much-missed ammo pouches and the jacket was modified at the same time, deleting the lower pair of front pockets.  Boots were black leather.  I use Humbrol 86 Light Olive, with quite a lot of white mixed in for the highlight.  Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab for the webbing.  

The US M1 Pattern helmet would typically be covered with a US Mitchell Pattern helmet cover (the classic ‘Vietnam’ style).  This was reversible, with (appropriately enough) a maple leaf foliate pattern on one side featuring brown twigs, various shades of green leaf and occasional copper-brown dead leaves.  I use Humbrol 80 Grass Green mixed with the same quantity of white for the base shade, Humbrol 160 German Camouflage Red Brown for the twigs, Humbrol 76 Uniform Green and 116 US Dark Green for the green leaves and Humbrol 62 Leather for the dead leaves, secured with an olive drab elastic band, for which I use Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab. 

The reverse side of the Mitchell Pattern cover was a ‘cloud’ pattern in five shades of sand and brown designed for use in arid terrain, though I’ve seen photos of Canadian troops using the ‘arid’ side in areas of dead grass and leaves (presumably during winter).  During the 1980s Canadian troops also started receiving US Woodland Pattern helmet covers and the photo showing a .50 Cal team near the top of this page shows two men; one wearing the Mitchell Pattern cover and his mate wearing the Woodland Pattern cover.  Of course, these were frequently covered in the field with scrim, camouflage netting, foliage and other ‘garnish’.

Soft headgear consisted of a soft, brimmed ‘Combat Cap’ (i.e. a bush-hat) in olive green or a British-style beret (pulled down over the right ear, with cap-badge over the left eye).  Berets were rifle green for most regiments and corps, though the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps wore black, the Canadian Airborne Regiment wore maroon and the Royal Canadian Military Police wore scarlet.

Above:  The platoon would ride in four M113 APCs, with the Platoon Commander’s vehicle also carrying a Weapons Squad, consisting of a C5 General Purpose Machine Gun (the venerable Browning M1919 .30 Cal re-bored to 7.62mm) and an M19 60mm Mortar, which was a simple hand-held light mortar, very much like the old WW2 2-inch mortar it replaced.  In Canada-based units the Platoon Weapons Squad would also include the platoon’s solitary Carl Gustav.

The Company Headquarters rode in another two M113s and in some cases also included a fourth Weapons Squad, with another C5 GPMG and M19 Mortar.  With the change to new small-arms  at the end of the 1980s, the C5 GPMGs were replaced with the superlative C6 GPMG (FN MAG).  Taking a leaf out of the British Army’s book, C6 GPMGs could be fitted with mortar sights to enable indirect fire.

In game terms the whole company is represented by 1x Commander stand, 9x Infantry stands (3 of them with Carl Gustav), 1-2x C5 GPMGs and 1-2x M19 Mortars, with 9x M113s.  Up to 3x Infantry stands may be swapped out for M2 HMGs dismounted from the M113s.  That might seem like a lot of M113 models, but any attached FOOs, Blowpipe teams, Pioneers and Engineers will also utilise them.

Above:  Mechanised Infantry Companies rarely operated in isolation and would invariably have elements attached from the battalion’s Support Company and might also swap platoons with the armoured regiment to form combined-arms Groups.  Here we have a Mechanised Company Group, which has swapped out one platoon for a tank troop.

The models here are metal Canadian infantry figures and plastic M113 & Leopard kits, all by Team Yankee.

Above:  Each mechanised battalion had a Support company consisting of a Mortar Platoon, Anti-Tank Platoon, Recce Platoon and Pioneer Platoon.  The Mortar Platoon (as shown above) consisted of eight C3 81mm Mortars carried by M113 APCs, which in game terms becomes four of each.  Despite what Team Yankee and other wargames army lists might tell you, the Canadians never managed to obtain a self-propelled mortar carrier such as the M125 (81mm mortar carrier based on the M113) and the mortars would therefore have to be dismounted to fire.

Support Company callsigns mostly began with a 5: Mortar Platoon was 52, AT Platoon was 56 (or sometimes 55) and Pioneer Platoon was 58.  The exception was the large Recce Platoon, which even though it was subordinate to the Support Company, had callsigns starting with 6.

The mortars and crews here are metal figures by QRF, while the M113s are plastic kits by Team Yankee.

Above:  The Anti-Tank Platoon was equipped with sixteen (or eighteen – sources disagree) with TOW ATGM launchers mounted on M113s.  A lot of wargame rules and army lists refer to this combination as the ‘M150’, but it would appear on deeper investigation that the ‘M150’ designation was never officially applied in the US Army, Canadian Forces or NATO generally.

Tactically these would normally be split up on a mission basis, with most companies and squadrons in the battlegroup having 2-4 M113/TOW vehicles assigned.  The mechanised infantry companies benefitted not only from the boost to their anti-tank capability, but also from the night vision capability provided by the TOW launchers.

As mentioned above, 4 CMBG upgraded its AT Platoons during the late 1980s and replaced the M113/TOW combination with the new M113A2 TUA (TOW Under Armour).  This vehicle was also adopted by the Norwegian Army as the NM142 and had an armoured turret fitted with thermal sights and a ready-to-fire TOW 2 missile mounted in a box on either side of the turret.  A C6 GPMG was fixed coaxially to the outside of the righthand missile box and could be fired from within the turret.  The turret was offset to the left and the standard M113 commander’s cupola (without HMG) was shifted to the right.  Note that all M113A2 TUA were delivered to 4 CMBG already painted in the new NATO three-colour scheme and exercise photos from 1989 show them working alongside older M113s still painted in the former Canadian three-colour scheme.

[Edited to add that Butler’s Printed Models have just released the M113A2 TUA! 🙂 ]

Above:  When fighting a defensive battle, a proportion of the battalion’s TOW teams would be dismounted from their M113 and a tripod was provided for that purpose.  The M113A2 TUA was also equipped with a dismountable launcher.  Dismounting TOW isn’t an option in Team Yankee rules (yet another reason not to play them), so of course they don’t produce models for dismounted TOW teams…  QRF thankfully fill that capability-gap!

Above:  An M577 command vehicle belonging to the battlegroup Headquarters Company (9 callsign).  Note that this camouflage scheme is slightly different to that of the M113 or Lynx, but this is the mandated scheme for the M577 and all such vehicles would be painted the same.  This is a very nice little model by QRF, though looks a little small next to this rather over-scale Team Yankee Lynx!

The Lynx is an engineering recce vehicle belonging to 4 Canadian Engineer Regiment (4 CER), hence the 11 callsign (for the 1st Troop of the regiment’s 1st Squadron) and the commander’s standard Canadian Forces rifle green beret.  The regiment was equipped with M113 Dozers and Beaver armoured bridgelayers (based on the Leopard 1 chassis and known in German service as the Biber).  Sadly I can’t get M113 Dozers or Beavers in 15mm, though Armies Army briefly sold the M113 Dozer before the range went out of production.

Mechanised Infantry Battalion Pioneer Platoons also operated the M113 Dozer.  These would have 58 as their callsign.

Above:  1 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA), in addition to its four batteries of M109A1 self-propelled 155m howitzers, also included an Air Defence Troop, equipped with fifteen Blowpipe SAMs.  In wartime these SAMs would be distributed among the various sub-units of 4 CMBG.  Their transport officially consisted of M151 MUTT jeeps, but ‘First Clash’ describes Blowpipe teams being carried by M113 and they were probably carried in the infantry’s M113s. 

The rather underwhelming performance of Blowpipe as revealed by the Falklands War of 1982, where it was used by both sides, led to the much-improved Javelin (not to be confused with the US anti-tank weapon of the same name), which was adopted by 4 CMBG in the late 1980s.  Happily, Javelin was visually identical to Blowpipe, so we can use the same models. 🙂 

These models are taken from the Team Yankee Canadian M113 pack.  For some reason and as mentioned above with regard to the mortar platoon, the Team Yankee game-writers like most heavy weapons to be vehicle-mounted, so the Blowpipe gunners are ‘based’ on a plinth enabling them to be fixed firing their Blowpipes from the top-hatch of an M113 (they do the same thing with their British Blowpipe gunners).  This of course, is bollocks.  Blowpipes would ALWAYS be dismounted to fire.  I’ve therefore cut down the plinths to make a thin base under their feet and stuck them onto normal card bases.

Canadian Forces Europe also included two Airfield Defence Batteries (numbered 128 & 129), equipped with 40mm Boffin Guns (hydraulically-operated naval Bofors Guns) and more Blowpipe SAMs.  Blowpipe Troops and Batteries were also formed in the three M109 regiments back in Canada to support the three Canada-based brigades.  

Above:  The anaemic air defence element of 4 CMBG meant that the brigade would invariably be supported by air defence elements from the US VII Corps or II (Ge) Korps.  In ‘First Clash’ the brigade was under US VII Corps command and was therefore supported by a US Air Defence Artillery (ADA) group consisting of M163 Vulcan Air Defence System (VADS) and M48 Chaparral SAM vehicles.  These model Vulcans are by Team Yankee (the US M113 pack contains all the necessary parts for the M163), while the Chaparrals are by Butler’s Printed Models.  If under II (Ge) Corps command the support would more likely come from Flakpanzer Gepard and Roland SAMs.  The Gepard model below is a metal model by QRF.

However, in 1988 the extremely expensive Canadian Low-Level Air Defence Project finally bore fruit with the arrival of the super-advanced Air Defence Anti-Tank System (ADATS) and the creation in West Germany of 4 Air Defence Regiment RCA.  4 Air Defence Regiment absorbed the two existing Airfield Defence Batteries (renaming them as 127 & 128 Air Defence Batteries), which were now each equipped with four ADATS vehicles and eight radar-guided Oerlikon GDF twin 35mm guns.  A new 129 Air Defence Battery was formed for the air defence of 4 CMBG, equipped with twelve ADATS vehicles (three Troops of four).  The 1 RCHA Blowpipe/Javelin Troop was also absorbed into 129 Battery and was now transported in M113 (three launchers per vehicle).  A further ADATS battery (119 Air Defence Battery) was also formed in Canada.

Most unusually and as the name suggests, ADATS also had a secondary anti-tank role and its laser-guided missiles were capable of defeating 900mm of homogenous steel armour, which is on a par with TOW 2.  Note that while the cancelled US version of ADATS also included a co-axial 25mm cannon, the Canadian version was only fitted with missiles.

As my Cold War armies are strictly limited to 1984/85, I don’t have any ADATS in my collection, but the Team Yankee ADATS models are very tempting…

Above:  444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron  was assigned to 1 Canadian Air Group/Division at CFB Lahr, tasked with providing tactical helicopter support to 4 CMBG.  It had a unique organisation of twelve CH-136 Kiowa Light Observation Helicopters, whereas the squadrons assigned to the other three Canadian brigade groups had a 6/6 split of CH-136 Kiowa and CH-135 Twin Huey.  The Kiowas of 444 Sqn would provide 4 CMBG with liaison, light transport, reconnaissance, artillery forward observation and forward air control support.  For heavier transport or anti-tank helicopter support the Canadians would have to rely on their US and German allies.

This is a pretty rare model from the Entex ‘Pocket Pak’ range and is actually about 1/110th scale rather than 1/100th, so is slightly small, though not prohibitively so.  The model is of very poor quality, but beggars can’t be choosers!  The canopy is moulded in a horrible emerald green transparent plastic and the side-windows are moulded as part of the fuselage, so I’ve just painted over the lot and used my black/gun-metal/silver method for painting windows. 

I’ve also attached a spare Minigun (some M113s in Vietnam were fitted with miniguns, so they’re always spare on the Team Yankee M113 sprue).  Canadian Kiowas in reality were probably unarmed, though the Canadians did conduct Kiowa/Minigun trials and there is a photo of a Canadian Kiowa firing a minigun (which is suspended from a test-rig beneath the aircraft).  So as always, if you give me an inch I’ll take a mile…

Sometime around 1989, the traditional paint-scheme of olive drab and grey with full-colour markings was modified, with a leaf-green shade replacing the grey and the markings being replaced by subdued versions in black.  In photos of the later scheme, the dark olive drab bands often look brown compared to the brighter green bands.

Anyway, that’s more than enough olive drab for now!  Tricorned service will be resumed shortly… 

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

25 Responses to Cold War Canucks, Eh? 4th Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group in the 1980s

  1. Dean says:

    Absolutely fabulous read. Many thanks! I’ve just been buying kit for 4CMBG in microarmour, and will eventually model up a few companies for small-scale combat in 15mm too. Your post is filled with helpful info, pics, and painting guidance. Where the heck do you find the time? I have a small French brigade for AoE that has been sitting on the paint table since Christmas. I think the blue uniforms have actually faded since I slopped on the base coat, and they haven’t even campaigned yet!

  2. Robert John Turner says:

    Holy Makinaw! What a great read.

  3. Paul Smith says:

    Hi Mark

    Another excellent read, it brought back memories of Suffield in 76 including 12 days in isolation in a Canadian military hospital, but that’s another story!

    Cheers Paul

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Paul! 🙂

      That’s ok, you’re among friends here. I have it on good authority that what happens on BATUS stays on BATUS… And that moose was sick and probably would have died anyway…


  4. Steve J says:

    A great read with so much great background info. The Armoured Acorn website was just brilliant and so sad it’s not easily available still.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Steve,

      Yes, it was a bloody tragedy when Armoured Acorn left this Earth. 🙁 I’ve no idea what happened to the site or to Barry who owned it. I’ve lived in eternal hope that someone might be able to resurrect it. Thankfully I managed to save all the Canadian camo plates for my own use, but I can’t reproduce it here as Barry obviously still owns the copyright.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      I’ve noticed, on visiting that link for a second time that it’s brought up a whole different bunch of images from Armoured Acorn, so it’s worth re-visiting the link.

  5. James Manto says:

    This was a nice nostalgia trip.
    I know a few former members of 4CMBG.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers James! Fact-checking would be appreciated… 🙂

      • James Manto says:

        See what i can do.
        I like how you set the Brigade against the backdrop of domestic politics which really shaped it.
        Answered a few of my questions watching from the sidelines

        • jemima_fawr says:

          Cheers James! I had stacks and stacks of notes from hundreds of online discussions (and notes I made while visiting Lahr as a cadet and grilling the officers of the 8th Hussars) and built those army lists based on those notes. But now I’ve lost those notes, I can’t quite remember the fine detail (e.g. does my troop of 4x Lynx represent 8 real vehicles or 9…?). Yes, once I started writing this I realised that it was impossible to separate the political side from the military. There were obviously plenty of political machinations going on within other NATO allies, but few (with the exception of the French) seemed quite as dramatic as the changes caused to 4 CMBG by the shifting political winds.

        • Don Perrin says:

          My recollections from the period make this spot on. However, when TUA came in, there weren’t enough, so some M150 TOW on pedestal continued. Great read!

          • jemima_fawr says:

            Brilliant! Thanks Don! Was that in 4 CMBG or one of the other brigades?

            And was it actually called M150? There’s been a lot of debate about that over the years.

  6. Codsticker says:

    I agree- incredible blog entry, fantastic to read.

  7. Pete S/ SP says:

    Great post- loads of great information there that I’ll lean on when I get round to my own 4CMBG.



  8. jemima_fawr says:

    I notice that Butler’s Printed Models have just released the M113A2 TUA, so that means that every armoured vehicle operated by the Canadian Forces in the 1980s (apart from the hopefully-temporarily out-of-production M113 Dozer) is now available in 15mm! 🙂

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