Cold War Weapons: The Off-Route Mine

During the Cold War NATO was understandably interested in capable anti-armour weapons. In this video/article we will examine the Off-Route Mine which features in footage from several British Army training films. They show a team of Royal Engineers setting up an L14A1 off-route mine ready to ambush attacking Soviet tanks.

Unlike a conventional mine which detonated vertically when a vehicle drove over it, the Off-Route Mine would be tripped by a breakwire set across a vehicles likely path. When the wire was tripped or broken the mine’s charge would be electrically detonated and the blast would project horizontally.

An Off-Route Mine in position (IWM)

What the British termed the L14A1 was developed in the early 1970s by France’s state arsenals. In French service it was known as the ‘Mine Anti char à action horizontale Modèle F1′ (or MI AC AH F1). It was manufactured throughout the 1970s and 80s by GIAT Industries.

The mine was essentially an electrically fired shape charge, it used the Misznay-Schardin effect rather than the Monroe effect. The former relies on a shallower, concave shape charge, which has a copper cone that is super heated by the explosion and fired out towards the target. This gave it the ability to project its cone further and removed the need for it to detonate in contact with the target vehicle. 

An illustration of how the Off-Route Mine works from a British Army manual

The mine had an effective range of between 70 to 80 metres and according to the 1977 French manual the projectile created by the detonation could travel up to 6km. In terms of the mine’s effectiveness the same manual states that 40m was the optimal range but no closer than 2m.

The manual also notes that “the slightest obstacle in the trajectory of the projectile (such as earth or shrubs) considerably reduces performance.” The diagram below from a 1977 French Army manual shows the effect of the mine on 70mm of armour at 40m, with 0-degrees of angle.

Effect diagram from 1977 French Army manual

When detonated the mine could throw fragments in a radius of 100m and could throw armour shards from a successful strike up to 200m from the target. The British mines came in the L27A1 kit which included a pair of the L14A1 off-route mines as well as instructions, the break wires, a night sighting tool, and an adjustable stand for mounting.

The mine’s electorally-powered detonator was powered by D cell batteries, which Sappers complained had to be frequently changed. The mine itself weighed 12kg and was packed with just over 6kg of Hexolite explosive. There was also a training version, the L28A1, which fired a paint-filled sponge to mark the side of the vehicle and confirm a hit. 

A Sapper setting up an Off-Route Mine (IWM)

The Miacah F1 was removed from French service in 2001. An improved version, the F2, was manufactured in 1996 and used by the French until the mines were withdrawn in 2004 due to corrosion. While some mines may have remained in stores, as some have been seen as late as 2016, they contravened the 1997 Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines because the break wire could in theory be tripped by a human rather than a vehicle.

It was replaced in British service by the ARGES off-round Anti-Tank Mine which fired a modified 94mm rocket with a tandem HEAT warhead. In 1997 it was reported that 4870 Off-Route mines were held by British Army stores, in line with the Ottawa Treaty this had been reduced to 0 by 1999.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

Landmine Monitor Report, 2004, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, (source)
Landmine Monitor Report, 2000, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, (source)
CNEMA Report, 2000 (source)
British Army User Handbook, Mine Anti-Tank Kit L27A1 (Off Route Mine), 1980
French Army MIACAH F1 Manual, 1977

Footage:

Fighting In Woods, British Army training film, 1982, (held by the IWM, DRA 1472)
Fighting In Villages, British Army training film, 1979, (held by the IWM, DRA 1401)

Foe To Friend – The National Army Museum’s BAOR Exhibition

A couple of months ago I visited the UK’s National Army Museum in London. They had an exhibition exploring the history of the British Army in Germany since 1945. Titled Foe to Friend it explores the British Army’s post-war experience in Germany first as an occupier and then as a NATO ally. 

Inside the Foe to Friend exhibit (Matthew Moss)

More than a million British soldiers have lived and served in Germany over the past 75 years. The exhibition tries to capture some of their experiences while relating the history of their operations – no small task.

One of the highlights of the exhibit were the small personal items like photos and uniforms but also vehicles like the Brixmis Opel – a car used by British observers to travel through East Germany. There was also an interactive light up display that let you identify various Cold War Soviet vehicles – just like a Brixmis observer!

Inside the Foe to Friend exhibit (National Army Museum)

The exhibition also shows off some of the uniforms and kit used during the UK’s 75 years in Germany as well as some of their weapons including some instantly recognisable Cold War icons like the L1A1 SLR and the Carl Gustav, as well as the SA80 and my old friend the Sterling SMG. Another essential piece of kit – the Boiling Vessel takes centre stage in a multi-media area with a section on the famous food van owned by Wolfgang Meier – he followed British troops on exercise and sold them bratwurst and fish and chips. 

Inside the Foe to Friend exhibit (Matthew Moss)

The exhibit covered several rooms but was more sparse than I’d hoped and some of the smaller items seem a little lost. I would have liked to have seen more on the large-scale exercises the British Army of the Rhine took part in, like Lionheart 84. The exhibition does, however, conclude with some displays on the operations some of the men station in Germany took part in, including peacekeeping in Bosnia and the first Gulf War.

It would have been great to have had some interactive displays featuring audio or video interviews from service personnel who had been in Germany during the various periods of the Army’s presence. This is something the West Indian Soldier exhibition, which we recently looked at, did well.  

It ends with an excellent graphic depicting how troop numbers in Germany fell dramatically after the Second World War – despite the Cold War, from 780,000 in 1945 to just 135 at the end of the British Army’s deployment in 2020.

The exhibition ran from September 2020 to December 2021.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Further Reading:

‘Active Edge: The Army, Germany and the Cold War’, National Army Museum, (source)
‘Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945’, National Army Museum, (source)
‘Foe to Friend: Virtual Tour’, National Army Museum, (source)
‘Army Life in Germany: Virtual Tour’, National Army Museum, (source)

Fighting On Film: Cold War British Army Training Films – Soviet Encounter & Fighting In Woods

Grab your SLR and LAW 80 and jump in the back of the FV432, the Soviet 3rd Shock Army is on the advance! This week we dive into a pair of British Army training films Fighting In Woods (1982) and Soviet Encounter (1983) with Dr. Kenton White – an expert on the Cold War British Army. These well-made films show a potential (and somewhat optimistic) scenario of how the British Army would have fought the Warsaw Pact if the Cold War had ever gone hot! 

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Cold War British Army Threat Recognition Guide

It’s the 1980s and the British Army Of the Rhine is still stationed in West Germany facing down the USSR’s forces. The Cold War has gotten hot and the 3rd Shock Army is approaching your dugout but how do you differentiate a BTR from a BMP? This handy British Army THREAT Recognition Guide booklet gives you everything you need to know about the Soviet armour, infantry and aircraft you’re facing!

Continuing on from our earlier look at a British Army threat Recognition Guide to Iraqi Ground Forces issued during the Gulf War, we dig into the TAB reference collection again and take a look at this Threat Recognition Guide looking at Soviet air and ground forces facing the British Army of the Rhine in the 1980s.

The Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) in East Germany throughout the Cold War were an ever present threat to West Germany and NATO. This recognition guide covers all of the USSR’s main battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, as well as artillery systems and some of the close support aircraft which would have accompanied the attacking Soviet forces.

The pages of the recognition guide include photographs, diagrams, basic specs and recognisable features of the various enemy vehicles. It was put together by the Intelligence Directorate of BAOR’s 1 Corps.


If you enjoyed these videos and this article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. You can also support us via one-time donations here. Thank you for your support!

British Cold War Missiles – Malkara & Thunderbird

While doing some archival digging I found some interested newsreel footage of early Cold War British missiles. The footage features the Malkara anti-tank missile and the Thunderbird surface-to-air missile.

The Malkara was developed in the early 1950s. It was a wire-guided anti-tank weapon with a 57lb HESH warhead. It had a range of up to 2.5 miles. In the footage we see it guided through a hole in a target net.

FV1620 Humber Hornet launching a Malkara (ParaData)

The Malkara was mounted on a number of platforms and vehicles and remained in service into the mid-1960s. It’s bulk and weight saw it eventually replaced by the smaller Vickers Vigilant and the Swingfire.

Thunderbird, c.1960 (Adrian Pingstone)

The second missile featured in the newsreel is the English Electric Thunderbird, a British Army SAM with a 75km range and a speed of Mach 2.7. The Thunderbird was replaced by the Rapier in the 70s, which is still in service today.

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of these British cold war missiles in action, it’s amazing what you find in archives when you aren’t looking for it!

Bibliography:

Footage Source: Universal Newsreel Volume 30, 1957, via US National Archives, (source)
Anti-Tank Weapons, T. Gander, (2000)


If you enjoyed these videos and this article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. You can also support us via one-time donations here. Thank you for your support!