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Cold war Home Defense Questions

Without wishing to be a damp squib, there are matters being talked about on this thread that may still be relevant to current plans. I won't identify which, but some are in the sphere in which I was involved, even though that was a number of years ago. Just because the Cold War ended nigh on 30 years ago, doesn't mean that some of the plans in place then are any less relevant today and will have been updated accordingly. Just saying.
 
Without wishing to be a damp squib, there are matters being talked about on this thread that may still be relevant to current plans. I won't identify which, but some are in the sphere in which I was involved, even though that was a number of years ago. Just because the Cold War ended nigh on 30 years ago, doesn't mean that some of the plans in place then are any less relevant today and will have been updated accordingly. Just saying.
Relevant to current plans, so safe to talk about the TA role then
 

HE117

LE
They came under the HD District HQ and deployed an Ops Officer or watch keeper to the District HQ.

For example, 579 EOD Sqn was tasked to support HQ Scotland and HQ NW District.
as was 531 EOD Sqn RLC(V) for the really hard stuff!
 
They came under the HD District HQ and deployed an Ops Officer or watch keeper to the District HQ.

For example, 579 EOD Sqn was tasked to support HQ Scotland and HQ NW District.

Not ever having had anything to do with that part of things, what exactly does a watchkeeper role entail? I see it as a part of a few AR roles that I look at occasionally - for the highly unlikely event that I ever come back to the UK at a young enough age to rejoin
 
Not ever having had anything to do with that part of things, what exactly does a watchkeeper role entail? I see it as a part of a few AR roles that I look at occasionally - for the highly unlikely event that I ever come back to the UK at a young enough age to rejoin

Simply put:

In those days it was the staff officer equivalent of ‘stagging’ on, armed with a map, a phone*, a signal message pad, a pack of chinagraphs and assorted aides memoire, while the proper G1-G4 staff got their heads down.

* or a Ptarmigan if you were on a really gucci desk.

In those days TA watch keepers were ‘specialised’ TA posts that only had to meet a 14 day annual training obligation. They didn’t have to turn up on drill nights or weekends.

Often the TA equivalent of those who didn’t get ‘pinked’.
 

Slime

LE
All the more reason for being able to aggressively take the fight them them!

As for a maritime aspect of home defence, see this from @OllieReeder

As an URNU midshipman in 1986, played against the lovely old Portisham, one of the RNXS Hams, in a DEFPA exercise off Dover. She and two tenders played unidentified trawlers, etc, that needed interception, investigation and boarding, with, on a roll of 1 on the die, proving in fact to be a violently non-compliant Spetsnaz assault team rather than a bunch of surly semi-compliant fisherfolk. (Sounds laughable now, but...)

Highlight of the week was when one of the regular matelots, turfed out of Nelson as a makeshift boarding party and shipped by us to back up the Naval Control of Shipping officer,.....

If we discount the ‘as then Soviets having the edge by making the first move, and thus perhaps having the team in country before any war, this leaves us with......
Funnily or obviously enough, no one probably suspected the infiltrators would have come up the Bristol Channel in a SURFACE vessel............They might have done the last 15 minutes in a RIB, but 15 minutes in the dark isn’t much time to find anyone.

Tales of exercise often show how different reality could be to the pretend situations that are exercises :)

When looking at the exercise you mentioned, the obvious questions (about non compliant Spetznaz) would be:
What heavy weapons or missiles did Spetznaz fire against the RN.
And, how many sailors were killed by the fully armed commandos?
 

MoleBath

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Simply put:

In those days it was the staff officer equivalent of ‘stagging’ on, armed with a map, a phone*, a signal message pad, a pack of chinagraphs and assorted aides memoire, while the proper G1-G4 staff got their heads down.

* or a Ptarmigan if you were on a really gucci desk.

In those days TA watch keepers were ‘specialised’ TA posts that only had to meet a 14 day annual training obligation. They didn’t have to turn up on drill nights or weekends.

Often the TA equivalent of those who didn’t get ‘pinked’.
More recently watchkeepers have upped their game by being affiliated to the same HQ regularly and a competitive attitude to jobs available. Also there used to be virtually no promotion in CVHQ.
 
OK - some decoding:

1986 - The year after Ex BRAVE DEFENDER (Sep 1985 - outline details here)​
URNU - University Reserve Naval Unit​
RNXS - Royal Naval Auxiliary Service. A uniformed, unarmed, civilian volunteer service, administered and trained by the Royal Navy to operate in the ports and anchorages of the UK in an Emergency (disbanded 31/3/94)​
DEFPA - I'm guessing Defence of Ports and Anchorages, as in RNX role, above.​
HMS Nelson - In 1986 HMS Nelson was the name applied to an RN barracks in Queen's Street, Portsmouth, with a support services site within its boundary fence. I stand to be corrected, but I think it was primarily a training unit of some description, but I'm likely mistaken.​
All of which would reinforce the point about Home Defence being a role assigned to personnel whose line serials in their Service ORBATs, or who were civilians, meant that they were not destined to be flung into the front line against the Warsaw Pact juggernaut in the event of war, but instead would be Left Out Of Battle (LOOB) on the UK mainland.
Well done sir. All pretty accurate. The point about Nelson in my little tale was that the boarding parties were comprised of the halt, the sick and the lame who tended to end up at Nelson for want of anywhere else to put them. In 1986, the five then University Royal (not Reserve) Naval Units had only had the Tracker class patrol boats two or three years at best, but the RN had realised that nippy little fast patrol boats could actually have some utility in the DEFPA role.

Now, URNU midshipmen like myself had no war role, being technically List Four RNR, but each of the URNUs had a Regular establishment of one Lt Cdr, one CPO Seaman branch, one CPO ME, a Killick ME, and an AB Yeoman, enough to run/maintain the patrol boat per se. The RNR had the Naval Control of Shipping branch, whose job it was to track, organise, assess and allocate all merchant shipping movements in wartime - the old convoy organisation of WW2 in essence - and NCS lieutenants were trained to be boarding officers who could be sent to merchant vessels to talk to the captain, find out about his ship, feed back to control ashore, and instruct him on where to go next - is he allowed into port, or does he need to go to a protected anchorage and wait for a slot to become available, or be completely rerouted, etc, etc.

The problem was that NCS was an RNR officer only sport. In those balmy days of the 80s, the RN blithely assumed it would just round up the halt, the sick and the lame from places such as Nelson, hand them a small arm, and instantly acquire a crack boarding party to back up said RNR officers. Hmmm. When in 1986 we picked up the six matelots who were to be our ship's boarding team, armed with two SLRs and four SMGs, we encountered a slight problem. None of them even knew how to conduct a safety check on their weapons.

Thankfully, no blanks had been issued, but the boss of course did not want them on his ship without the weapons being checked first. Not that he was exactly au fait with the process either, being a Royal Yacht and submarine officer... I am afraid he regarded anything - even THAT rifle - with a calibre of less than 21 inches as unseemly. The CPO Seaman branch looked at the weapons with horror, not having handled small arms since his days as a boy at Ganges. The Chief of the Boat and Killick hid in the engine room. No one even bothered to ask the yeoman. It was left to myself and another midshipman, who had both been in the CCF at school, to take all the weapons off the regular navy chaps, check them, then hand them back once they were aboard. As I originally recounted, we were down one Sterling by the end of the first day of the exercise, after it was dropped by the crack boarding team into Dover harbour.

My CO's views (expressed in his written report post ex) were pretty blunt - if, God forbid, he ever had to do this for real, he would have been far happier if a way could be found to mobilise two or three of us mids, an official lack of war role notwithstanding. As he pointed out, both he and the boarding officer would have preferred someone like myself or my fellow ex CCF oppo, who had by far the most recent range time with such things and if nothing else were far less likely to have an ND, to be issued the two SLRs for the stand-off cover role, remaining on the patrol boat's flying bridge, and let the gash hands run around the boarded vessel with the SMGs. (I did gently point out to him that loaded SMGs carried by the utterly clueless, in confined spaces below decks on a boarded vessel, were a recipe for disaster in themselves...) Of course, a much better solution would have been to have assigned a couple of RMR lads to each vessel, but they were already booked for other ways to die in WW3.

Desperate remedies for what would have been truly desperate times.
 
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If we discount the ‘as then Soviets having the edge by making the first move, and thus perhaps having the team in country before any war, this leaves us with......
Funnily or obviously enough, no one probably suspected the infiltrators would have come up the Bristol Channel in a SURFACE vessel............They might have done the last 15 minutes in a RIB, but 15 minutes in the dark isn’t much time to find anyone.

Tales of exercise often show how different reality could be to the pretend situations that are exercises :)

When looking at the exercise you mentioned, the obvious questions (about non compliant Spetznaz) would be:
What heavy weapons or missiles did Spetznaz fire against the RN.
And, how many sailors were killed by the fully armed commandos?
That was precisely the fear. And, as my post above, will indicate, the DEFPA assumption was that the best the RN could hope for would be to realise that Spetznaz were probably at large when a patrol vessel reported that it was about to conduct a boarding on such and such a vessel, at such and such a location,, then failed to report shortly afterwards - no one doubted that the boarding party would be wiped out if Ivan was aboard, and quite probably the patrol boat sunk by MGs or RPGs, being small glass fibre hulls. The logic was that Ivan would at least have been compromised at a bit of a stand-off from his target, rather than getting into port undetected, and thus giving the HSF platoon or whoever allocated to its local defence a bit more of a chance, even if an air asset was not available to react in time. The boarding parties were the equivalent of canaries down a mine - if they snuff it, you have a problem.
 

Slime

LE
That was precisely the fear. And, as my post above, will indicate, the DEFPA assumption was that the best the RN could hope for would be to realise that Spetznaz were probably at large when a patrol vessel reported that it was about to conduct a boarding on such and such a vessel, at such and such a location,, then failed to report shortly afterwards - no one doubted that the boarding party would be wiped out if Ivan was aboard, and quite probably the patrol boat sunk by MGs or RPGs, being small glass fibre hulls. The logic was that Ivan would at least have been compromised at a bit of a stand-off from his target, rather than getting into port undetected, and thus giving the HSF platoon or whoever allocated to its local defence a bit more of a chance, even if an air asset was not available to react in time. The boarding parties were the equivalent of canaries down a mine - if they snuff it, you have a problem.

The above scenario falls down in trying to stop a party getting ‘into port’.
A port wouldnt have been used, but merely a random part of the coast line. Even if the baddies were known to have been intercepted it still wouldn’t give a location for a landing to anything smaller than a couple of miles (and possibly up to 20-30 miles depending on how early a surface boat was spotted). In a modern car I can get from the coast to a hide in 8-12 minutes, so if we gave infiltrators (with sleeper transport) 30 minutes to get out of harms way it wouldn’t have given much time for reaction.

As with previous conflicts, the eyes and ears of local people are often the best source of info, but then we have the problem of who they could phone, and how long the info would take to be acted on.

Of course, the above also assumed the opposition would do what the defenders had planned for, or that the party had not already pre positioned before commencement of hostilities.

Similarly, the Soviet plan to stop British vehicles being able to move nuclear weapons in BAOR seem to have been far more detailed than the planned defence, and had far more specific resources dedicated to them than any defence had.

Going back to your explaination of a cobbled together RN team, did it liase with ground/army/police/RAF units in order to know if radio traffic had been received/heard during the search?
It stands to reason that any sleepers could have been looking out for any RN vessels and could warn infiltrators in advance.
 

Yokel

LE
It's not at all confusing if you're familiar with the official Home Defence role and structures of the mid-80s.

It only gets confused because of loose usage by people like Dewar (who really should know better, unless he was writing before the term was adopted in about 1983 or 84, and whole new structures implemented to carry it out).

I expect most here are not.

Without wishing to be a damp squib, there are matters being talked about on this thread that may still be relevant to current plans. I won't identify which, but some are in the sphere in which I was involved, even though that was a number of years ago. Just because the Cold War ended nigh on 30 years ago, doesn't mean that some of the plans in place then are any less relevant today and will have been updated accordingly. Just saying.

Good point Keep it historical.

The above scenario falls down in trying to stop a party getting ‘into port’.
A port wouldnt have been used, but merely a random part of the coast line. Even if the baddies were known to have been intercepted it still wouldn’t give a location for a landing to anything smaller than a couple of miles (and possibly up to 20-30 miles depending on how early a surface boat was spotted). In a modern car I can get from the coast to a hide in 8-12 minutes, so if we gave infiltrators (with sleeper transport) 30 minutes to get out of harms way it wouldn’t have given much time for reaction.

As with previous conflicts, the eyes and ears of local people are often the best source of info, but then we have the problem of who they could phone, and how long the info would take to be acted on.

Of course, the above also assumed the opposition would do what the defenders had planned for, or that the party had not already pre positioned before commencement of hostilities.

Similarly, the Soviet plan to stop British vehicles being able to move nuclear weapons in BAOR seem to have been far more detailed than the planned defence, and had far more specific resources dedicated to them than any defence had.

Going back to your explaination of a cobbled together RN team, did it liase with ground/army/police/RAF units in order to know if radio traffic had been received/heard during the search?
It stands to reason that any sleepers could have been looking out for any RN vessels and could warn infiltrators in advance.

I think the role was defence of ports and anchorages, stopping innocent looking vessekscfrom doing things like scuttling themselves in awkward places or attacking things like cranes or jetties.

Does anyone know what measures were taken during World War Two to prevent these sort of attacks?
 
Does anyone know what measures were taken during World War Two to prevent these sort of attacks?
Not specifically, but if memory serves,
(1) mining unspecified approaches to harbours.
(2) Blockships
(3) daily codes for allied ships different at a each port.
I did also hear that channel marker bouys normally marked on maritime maps were removed, the locals being aware where shallows were. Whether that was true or not I don't know.
 
I think the role was defence of ports and anchorages, stopping innocent looking vessels from doing things like scuttling themselves in awkward places or attacking things like cranes or jetties.
Correct. @Slime 's points are all very valid, but the exercise described was all about ports and anchorages, not stopping Ivan and Petr from infiltration across random beaches. It was classic key point defence - you cannot defend everything, just as the HSF could not have a meaningful presence in more than a handful of places, so focus on where Ivan might wish to head to do damage. Stop mini Zeebrugge or St Nazaire raids, rather than foiling the Fourth Protocol. We could barely even plan to stop the putative direct raids, let alone the latter...
 
Not specifically, but if memory serves,
(1) mining unspecified approaches to harbours.
(2) Blockships
(3) daily codes for allied ships different at a each port.
I did also hear that channel marker bouys normally marked on maritime maps were removed, the locals being aware where shallows were. Whether that was true or not I don't know.
Not forgetting floating booms, which famously provided the cover for Op Frankton - Hasler's Royal Marines were the Boom Patrol Detachment, and could train off Southsea by appearing to be using their kayaks and diving gear to conduct checks on the defensive boom for Portsmouth.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
Simply put:

In those days it was the staff officer equivalent of ‘stagging’ on, armed with a map, a phone*, a signal message pad, a pack of chinagraphs and assorted aides memoire, while the proper G1-G4 staff got their heads down.

* or a Ptarmigan if you were on a really gucci desk.

In those days TA watch keepers were ‘specialised’ TA posts that only had to meet a 14 day annual training obligation. They didn’t have to turn up on drill nights or weekends.

Often the TA equivalent of those who didn’t get ‘pinked’.
Ah! the 'RA Watchkeepers Pool'......
 

Yokel

LE
Since we have expanded the discussion to include maritime things, does anyone know what the plans were for RAF and RN SAR flights and squadrons? I assume that SAR would have been needed for all the operational flying and the Soviets trying to sink cross channel ferries, but apart from that would they have been used as additional support helicopters?

@Archimedes probably knows.
 

Yokel

LE
I hope I have helped remedy that a little.

Yes but you can understand why people get a little confused. The British homebase would have been busy supporting BAOR with logistics and other support, mounting operations the the Atlantic and the North Sea/Norway, and conducting offensive air sorties against Warsaw Pact forces.
 

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