Home Forums Modern Source for British Cold war TO&Es?

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    Avatar photoirishserb

    Continuing my exploration of the Cold War, I’ve realized that I either have voids or ambiguous information regarding British TO&Es, particularly relating to Squadron/Company level infantry organizations for 58-1963 and 1973-1982.  Are there any solid sources that cover those time frames?



    Avatar photoFredd Bloggs

    Terry ganders Modern British Army book on the british army will give you the answer to the latter period. It was new in 1985’ish.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I’m surprised that particular level should present any problems — as far as I can tell, the organisation of the standard British infantry rifle platoon remained much the same between the adoption of the Bren and “forming threes” instead of “forming fours” in about 1937, and the adoption of the IW and LSW and formalisation of fireteams in about 1985. The weapons changed over that time — SLR replacing No. 4 rifle, FN MAG replacing Bren, and 84mm Carl Gustav replacing 3.5-in Bazooka replacing PIAT replacing Boys ATR. The only scaling change was the move from one 84mm per platoon to one per section, which for BAOR-committed mech inf was certainly before 1978.

    Jac Weller’s “Weapons and Tactics: Hastings to Berlin”, published 1966, gives a platoon as numbering 32 blokes, with 3 GPMGs, 1 2-in mor, and 1 84mm MAW. That means a slightly fatter pl HQ than we had when I was in, because there are the 84mm nos. 1 and 2, as well as mortar nos. 1 and 2, platoon commander, platoon sergeant, radio operator, and runner. Each section would have a corporal, a lance-corporal, GPMG nos 1 and 2, and 4 riflemen.

    As the appointment of lance-serjeant was abolished in 1946 (and possibly the spelling modernised about then, if not before) I would guess that that that would be when the section commander’s job became a slot for a corporal.

    What missing or ambiguous information are you suffering from, specifically?

    All the best,


    Avatar photoirishserb

    Thanks Fredd, glad you mentioned it. I had forgotten about it, but have a copy somewhere, just not where it is supposed to be.  Have to snoop around a bit.

    John, I was surprised too.  I have several docs that I printed  off over the years, but that have no notation regarding applicable years, and I wasn’t bright enough to make note of it at the time.  What you are saying suggests that I’m actually covered for the most part, just needing to connect the dots in my timeline.

    I do have four different dates for the adoption of the 84mm, 1959, 1963, 1965, and 1967.  Do you know if any of those are correct?

    The other thing is conflicts with the number of men assigned to the CHQ through the late 1970s.  Do you know if it was the same as post 1982?

    Many thanks,



    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I do have four different dates for the adoption of the 84mm, 1959, 1963, 1965, and 1967. Do you know if any of those are correct?


    Jac Weller mentions the 84mm in 1966, and says in the text that it has “not yet completely replaced” the 3.5-in Bazooka.

    Looking at the dates of some NA files, just from the catalogue:

    WO 279/830 Inf Trg vol I, inf pl weaps, No. 9 part II, 3.5-inch rocket, with amendments, dated 1953-1966
    WO 279/425 84mm infantry anti-tank gun [L14A1] user hbk, dated 1964
    WO 279/830 Inf Trg vol I, inf pl weaps, No. 9 part III, 84mm infantry anti-tank gun, with amendments, dated 1967-1981
    T 225/2300 RAF Regiment: requirements of the 81mm mortar and the 84mm Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon, dated 1963-1964

    This lot suggest to me that the most “official” date might be 1967, as that is when the appropriate Infantry Training pamphlet changes. That the user manual was available from 1964, and the Treasury thinking about it in 1963, suggest to me that 1959 is too early even for an IOC. I am fairly sure the 3.5-in was still in when the Army went to Kuwait in 1961.

    The film “Code Name Snake’s Eye”, dated 1960 (available on YouTube) shows Royal Marines with No.4 rifles, .303 Brens, Sterlings and the odd SLR, and their ATk weapons are 3.5-in and MOBAT. Admittedly the marines might not have the very latest stuff that one would expect find in BAOR.

    An undated film available on Youtube shows the DLI in BAOR, and from the dates of the DLI’s participation in the Berlin garrison I think must be between 1961 and 1963, when they went off to Hong Kong. The film shows them co-operating with Centurions, and using SLRs, L4 LMGs and 3.5-in Bazookas.

    I’d be inclined to hazard a guess at the 84mm coming in in 1964, and completely replacing the 3.5-in by 1967. The British Army isn’t rich enough to replace everyone’s weapons at the same time, so I’d expect some mixture between those dates, but obviously with preference for new kit going to regular battalions in BAOR.

    The other thing is conflicts with the number of men assigned to the CHQ through the late 1970s. Do you know if it was the same as post 1982?

    Not a clue. I can’t imagine that you need many bods at Coy HQ — the commander, 2-i-c, CSM, CQMS, a couple of signallers and maybe some batmen, runners and clerks, but a British infantry coy HQ doesn’t have any heavy weapons or support things to co-ordinate, so it should stay pretty light. I think Weller confuses himself by attributing a “heavy weapons platoon” to the company, which is an alien idea — what one would be far more likely to see would be the addition of a section of mortars from the battalion’s mortar platoon, and a section of anti-tank weapons from the battalion’s anti-tank platoon. In a mechanized context you probably would add in the medic, with his own vehicle, and the fitter, again with his own vehicle, these being cap-badged RAMC and REME respectively. Its also pretty likely that you’d get a FOO (cap-badged RA) and, even if you didn’t get any actual mortars, an MFC from the battalion mortar platoon. This can all add up to quite a bunch of blokes and vehicles, but most of them will be attachments to the company rather than members of it. Likewise, the BAOR fondness for cross-attaching at quite low levels means that there may well be a troop of tanks attached to the company group, in exchange for which an infantry platoon will probably have been detached elsewhere.

    Sorry to be so vague and useless, but the British Army is one it’s hard not to be vague about.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoFredd Bloggs

    Everything is standard in the British Army, just no one knows what the standard is so they improvise.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    A couple of updates that reduce the vagueness a little:

    Weller gives 12 personnel in an inf coy HQ, whereas the 1943 “Handbook of the British Army” gives 13. Two of these will be officers (OC and 2-i-c). I don’t have a current number off the top of my head, but I doubt it’s much different.

    It occurred to me that dates of introduction into service of key equipments are just the sort of thing politicians like to ask the govermnent difficult questions about, so I had a quick flonk around the electric edition of Hansard. Sure enough, the following turned up:

    Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle and M72 Rocket
    HC Deb 01 March 1978 vol 945 cc281-2W

    Mr. Trotter:
    asked the Secretary of State for Defence when the 84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle and 66mm M72 rocket first entered service.

    Mr. Robert C. Brown
    The Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle entered service with the British Army in 1966 and the M72 rocket in 1970.

    HC Deb 10 May 1966 vol 728 cc238-358
    Order for Second Reading read.

    Sir T Beamish:
    The Minister went on to state clearly that the Army Volunteer Reserve—I am not talking about the Home Defence Force—would be issued with combat kit and the self-loading rifle and that starting in 1967 infantry battalions could expect to get the general purpose machine gun, the Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon, the 81 mm. mortar and modern radios.

    …so, there we are, 84mm MAW to BAOR in 1966 and NATO-committed TAVR by 1967.

    Since Hansard is the official record of House of Commons debates, it shares with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the feature that, where it is inaccurate, it is at least definitively inaccurate.

    In 1978 my TA battalion had LMGs instead of GPMGs, I think perhaps a single 84mm somewhere which nobody had ever seen, and no mortars bigger than 2-inch, but we were an internal security battalion, not NATO-committed. We also had Pye Westminster radios, which gave us the same inability to talk to anyone as the emergency services who used them.

    All the best,


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