My first visit to Berlin was in the early 1970s and it is difficult in a few words to describe what was undoubtedly one of the most bizarre (and exciting) cities in the world. I visited the city a number of times in the late 70s and 80s (including several trips on British Army trains). I also, in a last view of the divided city, flew out 24 hours after the Wall came down just in time to wander round the wrecked offices of the Stasi. The story told in this book is one of the (almost forgotten) chapters of the Cold War and reflects the frequently tense relations between the four occupying powers - France, Britain, the U.S.A. and surrounding the city, the Soviet Union and their East-German 'clients'.
(British Special Nº 9001) British Infantry Brigade Berlin - Armoured Vehicles of the British Infantry Brigade, Berlin is one of the most recent titles by the German military publisher Tankograd. The book is written by Andreas Kirchhoff and is in the publisher's usual format of A4 soft-cover. The book consists of 64 pages with 119 color photos, 23 in black and white with 7 small-scale plans demonstrating the unusual 'Berlin' Camouflage scheme.
The book begins with a brief, although concise, history of the British presence in Berlin, the numerous additional functions of the British Infantry Brigade including the rotating guard duties at Spandau prison, operation of the military trains which served Berlin's military 'occupiers' to supporting the civilian police. Ultimately of course, the real purpose of the three western powers' forces, were to act as 'tripwires' in case of a Soviet invasion and delaying the Soviets long enough so reinforcements could arrive. A somewhat 'optimistic' scenario....
Following the introduction, the book through a few short pages, presents some coverage of the three main exercise areas used by the Berlin Brigade. The next section is a brief photo-report of 'Allied forces Day' which was an annual military parade held by the U.S., French and British units based in Berlin.
The next eight 'sub'-chapters look at specific vehicle types:
Chieftain Mk10/C MBT
Chieftain ARRV (Armoured Recovery and Repair Vehicle) Mk7
FV432/30 armed with the Rarden 30mm Cannon
FV432 Command Post
FV721 Fox Armored Recce Vehicle
FV701 Ferret Scout Car
The final section is a brief (four-page) chapter titled 'Applying the Camouflage' which gives one of the principal argument why the Berlin Brigade is such an interesting study for modellers.
The Berlin Camouflage Scheme.
Rarely are armored formations called upon to prepare for manoeuvre and combat in an urban environment. In the case of the Berlin Brigade, any envisaged combat WOULD be fought in exactly this theater. The standard Green/Black BAOR scheme was eminently suitable for deployment around the Fulda Gap, but Little practical use within the Berlin postal code district. However, the commander of 'D' Squadron 4/7 Dragoon Guards, started looking at the whole question of camouflage and in particular, exploring a means of allowing a 50 ton MBT to 'blend-in'. The basic premise was simple. In a city, objects tend, in the majority, to have a rectangular format - windows, doors, walls etc., whereas, in nature, they tend to have more 'flowing' soft curves. This was the basis for one of the most elaborate camouflage schemes ever to be used on any military vehicle. At the same time, both the U.S. and French Berlin contingents began to experiment with similar ideas although they were never deployed in the numbers of the U.K. contingent. The majority of the 142 photos in the book show this scheme on a variety of vehicles. As a useful addition, the final chapter of the book looks at the composition of the color scheme giving a RAL rather than BS reference. Everything necessary in fact to do a 1/35th scale Chieftain or, if you so choose, the family Trabant in 1:1 scale. On a serious (warning?) note, the author emphasizes that the scheme was kept in IMMACULATE condition, partly due to the amount of time that the vehicles were called on for ceremonial occasions. Her Majesty was obviously NOT a fan of paint-chipping or rust...
The text apart from a few (grating) spelling mistakes is adequate and informative. However, once again, with the Tankograd series, the strength is in the photos. Big, useful and taken from every conceivable angle, the majority of the photos give the impression as being taken precisely for the modeller. The most typical along these lines, are undoubtedly those of the Chieftain which covers every conceivable angle. With the exception of (a few) photos taken on the training ranges, the vehicles are all in 'sparkling' condition. With the overwhelming majority (119 to 23) of the photos in color, the black and white photos are interesting in showing how well the vehicles blended into their environment. Unfortunately, in the case of the majority of the vehicles, suitable donor kits are somewhat thin on the ground and the only alternatives are resin kits.
The book is certainly different although it is (sadly) going to be a little over-specialized for the majority. However, for those wishing to do something REALLY different (and difficult) this book is undoubtedly a wonderful source of inspiration.
Thanks to Jochen Vollert of Tankograd for supplying this and the other titles for review here.
This book covers one of the more interesting units of the latter days of the Cold War. It also gives a considerable insight into one of the more interesting camouflage schemes ever deployed. It also provides the reader with a glimpse of the surrealistic situation which existed in Berlin from 1945 until the collapse of the Wall in 1990.
About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...