On smoke in battle

By Rob Morgan

The armoured car in the photographs is a British-built Fox, taken at the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers Barracks here in Wales recently. This afv was introduced in the early ‘70s and withdrawn in the mid-‘90s. Some 200 served with the British army and a number survive in the African armies of Nigeria and Malawi. Armed with a 30mm Rarden cannon, a co-smoke 1axial 7.62mg, it carried four smoke dischargers each side of the turret. You can see these in better detail in the second photo. I’ve wargamed with modern and WWII afv’s and indeed with armoured vehicles in most of the wars of the 20th century, but I don’t ever recall using smoke dischargers, at least I don’t remember any rules for their use in any of the games I’ve played. Although they turn up on many hulls and turrets, the Fox carries what looks like a veritable battery of them, eight in all, and on a light recce vehicle.

smoke 2How effective are smoke dischargers? Possibly someone who’s served in an armoured unit will have experience of them. Are they a hangover from days when smoke was more common, hazing the field of combat?

Any thoughts, anyone?

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2 Responses to On smoke in battle

  1. dexey says:

    I wasn’t in an armoured regiment but as a very young soldier in the mid to late ’60’s I was at a demonstration of tanks (Chieftains iirc)on Salisbury plain.

    One part that has stayed in my memory was the discharge of smoke.
    The tank was facing the viewing stand, it discharged its smoke (White Phosphorus iirc) and it was hidden from us by a dense smoke cloud in a very short time. We could hear the engine rev up and gradually grow quieter. When the smoke cleared the tank had gone having reversed at high speed back behind a rise in the ground.
    It was an impressive demonstration of the use of smoke.

  2. I fired chemical and WP out of an 81mm mortar – a bit different from vehicle dischargers.

    I also did a lot of moderns wargaming back in the ’80s using the WRG and Challenger rules. As I recall, vehicle dischargers allowed one to place a couple of cotton balls 10 or 20 scale meters in front of the vehicle. These blocked line of site for Mk I eyeball, IR, and Image Intensifying sights but not thermal imaging. Popping smoke when the ruskis showed up was pretty much SOP for my little lead Canadians.

    The Steel Panthers video game (really a computer version of the Panzer Blitz / Arab Israeli wars board war games) allows the use of discharger smoke across several eras. While very handy for smoking out Jagdpanthers in WWII, it is ineffectual when used by Iraqis against M1s in the gulf wars.

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