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41 Armoured Brigade
41 Pantserbrigade (41 Pabrig)

Force ProfileOperational Role: The Corps Covering Force

41 Briggnkcie503 Matvzgpel PRTL41 Paluabt42 Painfbat43 Tkbat41 Afdva125 Hrstcie Lkvzgbat611 Matvzgpel Leop 2828 AfvdetStstcie 41 Pabrig41 Pagncie41 Tkbat41 Hrstcie Pabrig41 Pabrig41 Bevocie Pabrig

Unit Main Equipment Location Peace Strength War Strength
Staff and Staff Company
41 Armoured Brigade
              Seedorf (GE) 26/34/116 (176)
31/35/148/2 (216)
41 Tank Battalion Leopard 2 Hohne (GE) 38/95/407 (540) 37/98/443/2 (580)
43 Tank Battalion Leopard 2 Langemannshof (GE) 38/95/407 (540) 37/98/443/2 (580)
42 Armoured Infantry Battalion YPR-765 Seedorf (GE) 39/126/699 (864) 43/126/716/2 (887)
41 Armoured Engineer Company [a]                 Seedorf (GE) 8/25/132 (165) 7/27/182 (216)
41 Armoured Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battery [b] PRTL, Stinger Langemannshof (GE) 9/33/104 (146) 10/42/133 (185)
41 Field Artillery Battalion [c] M109A2/A3 Seedorf (GE) 41/96/332 (469) 30/94/436/2 (562)
41 Brigade Supply Company                     Seedorf (GE) 5/20/142 (167) 7/27/265 (299)
828 Transport Detachment [d]                     Seedorf (GE) 2/5/50 (57) 1/5/50 (56)
41 Brigade Repair Company [e]                   Seedorf (GE) 11/72/273 (356) 6/49/194 (249)
611 Materiel Support Platoon Leopard 2 [f]                   Seedorf (GE) 1/7/24 (32) 1/7/23 (31)
125 Repair Company (Corps) [f]                     Hohne (GE) 6/38/115 (159) 8/41/151 (200)
503 Materiel Support Platoon PRTL [f]                     Hohne (GE) 1/8/19 (28) 1/12/29 (42)
41 Brigade Medical Company                   Seedorf (GE) 12/19/118 (149) 19/21/144/2 (186)

41 Armoured Brigade Peace Strength: 237/673/2938 (3848)
41 Armoured Brigade War Strength: 217/575/2971/12 (3775)


a. Brought up to (near) war strength in January 1986 by placing the Short Leave platoon on active duty, which increased peace strength to 8/28/166 (202).1 
b. Peacetime organisation; under command of 15 Armoured Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion in wartime.
c. A Battery was not stationed in Seedorf (GE) but in Oirschot (NL), serving as School Battery for B and C Battery.2
d. Peacetime organisation; under command of 105 Transport Battalion, Corps Logistic Command in wartime. Under direct command of the Brigade in June 1985, by December 1985 placed under the command of 41 Brigade Supply Company.
e. Unit strengths shown are per July 1985; by December 1985 peace strength had dropped to 8/52/192 (252) and war strength to 8/47/173 (228).
f. Peacetime organisation; under command of Corps Logistic Command in wartime. 125 Repair Company (Corps) (in full: 125 Repair Company Corps Support Battalion) was formed in September 1985 and had taken 503 Materiel Support Platoon PRTL under command by December 1985. At that time 41 Brigade Repair Company likewise had taken 611 Materiel Support Platoon Leopard 2 under its command. Hitherto these two materiel support platoons had been under direct command of the Brigade.

Force Profile

Together with 103 Reconnaissance Battalion and 41 Engineer Battalion, 41 Armoured Brigade (reinforced) constituted the forward-deployed element of 1 (NL) Corps in West Germany. In terms of fire power, materiel, readiness and unit cohesion the brigade was the Royal Army's most capable fighting force.3 The Leopard 2 main battle tank was arguably the best operational main battle tank available, whilst the YPR-765, thought perhaps dismissible as "the poor man's Bradley", was nonetheless a veritable infantry fighting vehicle rather than an armoured personnel carrier like the M113 or the YP-408.4 The brigade's officers and sub-officers were kept knowledgeable about Warsaw Pact military organisation and tactics and periodically reconnoitered the deployment areas, which had been charted in detail for their suitableness to support defensive, counter-offensive and engineer operations.5 Conscript personnel serving in Germany were picked more selectively than those serving in the Netherlands: for each batch of one hundred and twenty conscripts needed to fill a line company of 42 Armoured Infantry Battalion for instance two hundred were selected (after the regular selection, which accepted about three men out of four),6 who would go through a further sifting process during the four months of basic training.7 Readiness was high, with units permanently kept on a six hour alert status and the main body of the brigade brought up to near war strength: 42 Armoured Infantry Battalion, 41 and 43 Tank Battalion and 41 Armoured Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battery had no subunits on Short Leave, whilst 41 Armoured Engineer Company was likewise brought up to near war strength in January 1986.8 The selective intake of personnel and the distance from home, combined with a restricted system of leave, created a sense of unity and interdependence that was felt to be greater than in units based in the Netherlands.9 All this seems to have payed off at least to some degree, as in both national and international military competitions it were often the Germany-based units that performed best.10 <

Operational Role: The Corps Covering Force

In case of an actual or impending attack by Warsaw Pact forces, 41 Armoured Brigade was to cover the approach march and deployment of the rest of 1 (NL) Corps to its sector in West Germany and, if necessary, fight an aggressive delaying battle to win time: the covering force battle. Following the Royal Army's tactical doctrine and established modus operandi the brigade would not fight in the organic order of battle displayed above, but form combined-arms battle groups, as illustrated in Unit Organisation and Equipment, Mixed Battalions and Company Teams.
In this role the brigade formed the nucleus of the covering force (CF), the composition of which changed over time as concepts of operation evolved and reorganisations were implemented.11 A permanent factor in the covering force however was the assistance of 3 (GE) Armoured Division, necessitated by the maldeployment of 1 (NL) Corps. In case of alarm this German division would take 41 Armoured Brigade, 103 Reconnaissance Battalion and 41 Engineer Battalion under command and secure the Dutch corps sector until the bulk of 1 (NL) Corps would arrive, which would take at least forty-eight hours, but probably longer. Until relieved the reinforced 3 (GE) Armoured Division would operate under the command of 1 (NL) Corps.12

In 1979 Commander, 1 (NL) Corps had felt confident to give the mobilisable 5 Division, recently mechanised and improved in readiness, a prominent role in the covering force battle.13 As soon as possible 5 Division was to relieve 3 (GE) Armoured Division by taking 41 Armoured Brigade under command and reinforcing it with 13 Armoured Brigade and 52 Armoured Infantry Brigade, which together would then form the covering force. Whether these reinforcements would arrive from the Netherlands in time, and whether they would be able to effectively fight the important and tactically difficult covering force battle remained questionable however, especially regarding the mobilisation-dependent components from 5 Division.14

Covering Force, 1 (NL) Corps Sector, 1979-1985 15
Ststcie 5 Div51 Pagncie44 Painfbat42 Painfbat43 Tkbat52 Bevocie Painfbrig52 Paatcie51 Afdva52 Briggnkcie52 Tkbat11 Tkbat12 Bevocie PabrigStstcie 52 Painfbrig41 Afdva52 Hrstcie Pabrig41 Paluabt13 Briggnkcie41 Pagncie41 Bevocie Pabrig41 Briggnkcie41 Hrstcie Pabrig41 PabrigStstcie 41 Pabrig41 Tkbatbsm13 Pabrig12 Afdva17 Painfbat49 Tkbat15 Painfbat52 PainfbrigStstcie 13 Pabrig13 Pagncie13 Hrstcie Pabrig13 Paluabt52 Paluabt

In July 1985 Commander, 1 (NL) Corps implemented a new concept of operations which reflected a more realistic view on the readiness of its formations and that of 5 Division in particular. Taking into account the possibility of a surprise attack by the Warsaw Pact's large standing forces,16 it was recognised that 5 Division, given its maldeployment and mobilisable status, would unlikely be able to play any effective role in the covering force operations. The new covering force, once again under the operational command of 3 (GE) Armoured Division, would now comprise 103 Reconnaissance Battalion, 3 (GE) Reconnaissance Battalion, 41 Armoured Brigade and 2 (US) Armored Division (Forward).17 This force was to fight the delaying battle between the Inner German Border and the Elbe-Seitenkanal (the Covering Force Area) for at least twenty-four hours in order to enable the active-duty formations of 1 (NL) Corps, notably 1 and 4 Division, to deploy to their battle positions.18
After being relieved by the main defensive forces 41 Armoured Brigade would be taken into reserve to recuperate and take part in subsequent counteroffensive actions; see 1 (NL) Corps, Operational Role.

Covering Force, 1 (NL) Corps Sector, 1985-1989
2AD (Fwd)41 Afdva42 Painfbat3. PzAufklBtl41 PagncieD/2-1 CAV41 Bevocie Pabrig103 Verkbatbsm3-41 INF4-41 INF41 Briggnkcie498 SPT41 TkbatStab/StKp 3. PzDiv41 Hrstcie Pabrig43 TkbatHQ 2 AD (Fwd)Ststcie 41 Pabrig4-3 FA41 Paluabt41 PabrigD/17 ENG2-66 ARM


1. NIMH 430, inv. nr. 55 (Slagorde KL stand 23 december 1985). SSA-MvD, CLAS/BLS 7643, Memorandum Realisatie Legerplan 120-1B d.d. 22 maart 1985. < 
2. A Battery serving as school battery: website 41AFDVA.NETGeschiedenis van de 41e Afdeling Veldartillerie and other pages. <
3. For a somewhat wistful retrospect, see Matser, Untergang, 556-557. <
4. At this time the American M1 Abrams was still armed with a 105 mm rather than a 120 mm gun, whilst the British Challenger had serious problems with its fire control system. Zaloga, Abrams, 11. Dunstan, Challenger, 16-23. "Bradley" refers to the American M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. For an overview of the YPR-765 in Royal Army service see Staarman, De YPR-765. <
5. Elands et al., 250 jaar, 201. Felius, Einde Oefening, 306. Hoffenaar, Van der Meulen en De Winter, Confrontatie en ontspanning, 139. <
6. Van de Worp, 42 Schoolcie, 36. Three men out of four: HTK 1982-1983, kamerstuknr. 176000 X ondernr. 2, 35. <
7. Van de Worp, loc. cit. The first four months of basic training were handled by School Company 42 Armoured Infantry Battalion in Oirschot (NL). <
8. Hoffenaar, Van der Meulen en De Winter, loc. cit. Additional measures to increase the readiness of the troops in Germany were underway: the Short Leave company of 41 Engineer Battalion would be placed on active-duty in September 1986 (SSA-MvD, CLAS/BLS 7643, op. cit.), and in October 1986 the storage of materiel for the Short Leave components of 103 Reconnaissance Battalion and 41 Field Artillery Battalion would be centralised in Seedorf. SSA-MvD, CLAS/BLS 7643, Memorandum Realisatie Legerplan 120-3B d.d. 22 maart 1985. < 
9. Asbeek, Griffioen Special, 14, 39, 41. NIMH, D1499 DPL in BRD (army information film, 1988). Restricted system of leave: in cycles of ten weeks there was one long and one short period of leave (long period: ten days, including two weekends; short period: from Friday to Monday). During weekends, which began on Saturday at noon, readiness was ensured by roll calls. Asbeek, op. cit., 23. Hoffenaar, Van der Meulen en De Winter, loc. cit. <
10. In 1985 A Squadron, 43 Tank Battalion won the Canadian Army Trophy (CAT), a biennial international  tank gunnery competition amongst the armoured forces of NATO countries in Western Europe. In the next edition (CAT '87) C Squadron, 43 Tank Battalion ended in fourth place overall whilst achieving the highest score of the Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) participants. At CAT '89 the trophy was won by A Squadron, 41 Tank Battalion. Rens, Het Regiment Huzaren, 253. Zaloga, Tank War, 51Website 43 Tankbataljon, Canadian Army Trophy. Website Mihalko, Canadian Army Trophy Competition (lists all CAT scores from 1963 to 1991). In 1985 a team from 103 Reconnaissance Battalion became third in the Boeselager Trophy, a German competition for reconnaissance units, out of twenty-two participating teams from nine countries. Anonymus, 103 Verkenningsbataljon, 32. Teams from that battalion came second in 1984, third in 1980, fourth in 1983 and fifth in 1981 and 1987 (website http://run.to/boreel, now defunct). Felius reports that 42 Armoured Infantry Battalion "nearly always" won the Generaal Bartelsbeker, the national competition for armoured infantry units. Felius, op. cit., 232. <
11. The covering force was to "observe, intercept, engage, delay, disorganise and deceive the enemy before he can attack the main force". North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Allied Training Program 35, Land Forces Doctrine (Brussels: NATO, 1981), xiii; quoted in Golden, Clark and Arlinghaus, Conventional Deterrence, 138. Dutch designation for covering force: beveiligende strijdmacht (bsm). VS 2-1120/2, II-6. VS 2-7200 (1983), toelichting bij Bijlage 1 en 2, Bijlage 1-3. Elands, Van Gils en Schoenmaker, Geschiedenis 1 Divisie, 213. <
12. Elands et al., op. cit., 227. 3 (GE) Armoured Division temporarily under command of 1 (NL) Corps: information kindly provided by O.W. Dragoner, author of Bundeswehr, Teil 2.1, which contains a detailed order of battle of this division in 1989 (59-65). Dragoner reports that the temporary subordination to 1 (NL) Corps was agreed upon in the middle of the 1980s, perhaps earlier, and further that from 1986 the German division would, after its Covering Force mission, not be resubordinated to 1 (GE) Corps, but form a reserve corps for NORTHAG together with 7 (GE) Armoured Division and a British division, enabling Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Central Europe (CINCENT) to use III (US) Corps as a theater level reserve. Thanks to O.W. Dragoner (email 15.02.2013). For the involvement of German engineer units in the necessary defensive preparations, see 101 Engineer Combat Group, Operational Role. When interviewed in 1995 (about the formation of 1 GE/NL Corps), Lieutenant-General G.L.J. Huyser (Rtd.), Commander of 1 (NL) Corps from 1981 to 1983, stated in retrospect that "during NATO's large-scale autumn exercises the integrated performance with the German corps was an example to our allies. The third German armoured division was more a Dutch than a German formation, and the Dutch 41st Brigade appeared to belong more to the third German armoured division than to its Dutch division." Goudriaan, Het legerkorps. <
13. 5 Division was mechanised and restructured between 1975 and September 1979 (Operatie Omega). The new mobilisation plan of 1979 advanced its mobilisation by calling up one brigade in each of the three mobilisation phases, rather than mobilising all three brigades in the last phase. Hoffenaar en Schoenmaker, Met de blik, 346. De Jong en Hoffenaar, Op herhaling, 115. Schoenmaker, 5 Divisie, 304-305. <
14. Hoffenaar en Schoenmaker, op. cit., 355. Elands, Van Gils en Schoenmaker, loc. cit. Elands et al., op. cit., 227. De Jong en Hoffenaar, op. cit., 115. For a description of 41 Tank Battalion's role in the covering force battle plans in 1982, see Westerhuis, Een tankeskadron, 13-14. <
15. As it seems unlikely that the two added brigades would deploy without any ground-based air defence I have attached an armoured anti-aircraft artillery battery from 101 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group to each brigade. It should also be noted that up to 1983 each brigade included a brigade reconnaissance squadron (zelfstandig verkenningseskadron, ZVE), not shown here. These were equipped with M113 C&V armoured reconnaissance vehicles (with KBA-B autocannon 25 mm) and AMX-13 light tanks (with 105 mm gun). See Isby and Kamps, op. cit., 329; Rens, Huzaren van Boreel, 383-398; website Kronieken 13 ZVE, 013-016, passim. <
16. See 1 (NL) Corps, footnote 18. <
17. This was the official designation of 3 Brigade, 2 (US) Armored Division in its role as forward-deployed element of III (US) Corps. Isby and Kamps, op. cit., 373, 455. Website U.S. Army in Germany, 2nd Armored Division (Forward). In 1989 the American brigade was withdrawn from the covering force. Elands, Van Gils en Schoenmaker, op. cit., 250. For a detailed order of battle of 2 (US) Armored Division (Forward) in 1989, see Dragoner, Die Streitkräfte der USA, 51-53. < 
18. For this paragraph: Hoffenaar en Schoenmaker, op. cit., 384. Elands, Van Gils en Schoenmaker, op. cit., 249. De Jong en Hoffenaar, op. cit., 115-116. It will be observed that the protruding shape of the covering force area made the covering force vulnerable to envelopment by advancing enemy forces, especially if the main defensive forces would not yet be in place. See also Golden, Clark and Arlinghaus, op. cit., 112, where the phrase "indefensible pocket" has some relevance to this situation. To the north the covering force area was to a degree protected by the Elbe river, but the river crossings in Hamburg and in particular the bridges at Geesthacht and Lauenburg were susceptible to being seized in a surprise attack because of their proximity to the Inner German Border and the relative weakness of NATO forces north of the Elbe. Elands et al., op. cit., 230-231. Meanwhile, actual war plans of the East German army (Nationale Volksarmee, NVA) for offensive operations against 1 (NL) Corps are discussed in some detail in Lautsch, Zur Planung, 25-27. <