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The Farndale Cocktail









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General Sir Martin Farndale KCB



 General Sir Martin Farndale commanded the Northern Army Group (or NORTHAG) of NATO during the Cold War. As the Warsaw Pact lined up to face NATO from Scandinavia to southern Europe, the NATO defensive force was divided into three – the Scandinavian force (the Allied Forces Northern Europe) in the icy north. The Northern Army Group which protected the line of defence from the Baltic to the Harz mountains, and the central European force, known at CENTRAG (the Central Army Group) to the south.


NORTHAG comprised five Corps – each of a Dutch, German, British, Belgian and French Corps, with an American Corps (based in USA) to act as its reserve force and to arrive (perhaps jet lagged) by air as the war started.


Each Corps comprised about 77,000 soldiers. The size of the entire British Army in 2019 is circa 80,000 soldiers.


Martin Farndale commanded the British Corps, 1st British Corps (comprising the fighting element of the British Army of the Rhine) between 1983–1985 as Lieutenant-General and immediately afterwards he became Commander NORTHAG.





One of the key principles of War is the Concentration of Force being the concentration of military force so as to bring to bear such overwhelming force against a portion of an enemy force that the disparity between the two forces alone acts as a force multiplier in favour of the concentrated forces.


Thus it has long been a key military strategy in attack to concentrate force at a small perhaps vulnerable point of the battlefield in order to punch through and overwhelm the defender. That was known to be the strategy of the Warsaw Pact. It was often applied unsuccessfully in World War 1.


The principle is equally important in defence. Hadrian’s Wall provided a physical barrier, but was defended by very small numbers of soldiers. Their job was simply to use the barrier of the wall to slow any attack and to signal to forts of legions behind the line, who would focus their force in defence at the point of any attack.


In World War 2 concentration of force in defence was often used successfully. In March 1943 Field Marshall Von Manstein faced a concentrated attack by the Soviet force at Kharkov. He allowed his enemy force to penetrate deep into his territory before ordering a powerful counter strike into the soft tail of the concentrated force, thus cutting off its logistical tail and leaving the attacking force exposed and without supplies. The strategy for an attacker can be a dangerous one if over exploited. A strategy of concentration of force in attack can be met with concentrated force in defence. Thus a strategy of a ‘thin red line’, spreading a defence force equally along the line of defence, was long recognised as an ineffective strategy.


The Strategy developed by NATO in response to the Warsaw Pact threat was focused on the concentration of effective force. NATO commanders intended to allow significant penetration by Warsaw Pact attackers into western European territory but to apply their own concentrated force at the most vulnerable moment against the attacking force. This involved a careful strategy of intelligence gathering and anticipating the progression of enemy forces.




Martin Farndale was an artillery officer by background. He understood the importance of the combined firepower of the infantry and tank units with the firepower of infantry mortar units, artillery batteries, helicopter anti tank squadrons, and airpower.


He devised a strategy to concentrate not only the force of tanks and infantry, but the whole firepower of air, artillery and helicopters, at a decisive point in the battlefield.


His strategy became known as the Farndale Cocktail.













The Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) was a NATO military formation comprising four Western European Army Corps, during the Cold War as part of NATO's forward defence in the Federal Republic of Germany.


The Army Group headquarters was established on 1 November 1952 in Bad Oeynhausen, but was relocated in 1954 to Rheindahlen. The HQ complex near Mönchengladbach contained NORTHAG HQ and three other command posts; the headquarters of the Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF), British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and Royal Air Force Germany (RAFG).


Previously, 21st Army Group had been on the left flank of the Allied advance into Germany, and had advanced into the North German Plain. This may have been the reason that a four-corps sized formation - which would usually be considered an army - was given the title of 'Army group'.




During the construction of the main Joint Headquarters (JHQ) building, a Frankish battle ax (Francisca) was found. It was the badge NORTHAG chose because the Franks were a West-European tribe fighting against attackers from the East. In the year 451 AD the Franks defeated an army under the leadership of Attila at Châlons-sur-Marne and thus ended a conquest of Western Europe by the Huns.




NORTHAG wartime structure in 1989

NATO corps sectors in the Central Region


In the NATO command structure NORTHAG belonged to Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT), which in turn reported to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). NORTHAGs responsibility was the defence of the North German plains from south of the river Elbe to the city of Kassel. The defence north of the Elbe was the task of Allied Land Forces Command Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland (COMLANDJUT), while south of Kassel it was the task of CENTAG.


Commander in Chief of NORTHAG was the commanding General of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). Chief of Staff was a German Major General, with a Belgian or Dutch Major General as alternates.


Northern Army Group was assigned the following formations:


·         I Dutch Corps (Dutch 1st, 4th and 5th Mechanized Divisions and the 101st Infantry Brigade.[1] From July 1985 the German 3rd Panzer Division was added.[2])

·         I German Corps (1st Panzer Division, 7th Panzer Division, 11th Panzer grenadier Division, and 27th Airborne Brigade.)

·         I British Corps (1st Armoured Division3rd and 4th Armoured, and 2nd Infantry Division)

·         I Belgian Corps (1st Infantry and 16th Armoured Division)

·         III French Corps as reserve corps (2nd Armoured Division, and 10th Armoured, and 8th Infantry Division (France))


III (US) Corps was assigned as reserve corps. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Armoured Division was forward deployed at Garlstedt. The rest of 2nd Armoured Division, along with 1st Cavalry Division, 5th Infantry Division (Mech), 212th Field Artillery Brigade and 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment would join NORTHAG through OPERATION REFORGER within days after an outbreak of hostilities. They would draw their equipment from POMCUS depots in the Netherlands, Belgium and North Rhine-Westphalia.


These organizations fell in peacetime under their respective national command authorities. Only in the case of attack did operational control over the Corps automatically transfer to NORTHAG. Air support was provided by 2 ATAF.

During peacetime NORTHAG multi-national staff commanded the following units:

·         13th Belgian Telecommunications Company (13 Cie T Tr)

·         28th Signal Regiment, Royal Signals (NORTHAG)

·         German Telecommunications Battalion 840 (NORTHAG)

·         Dutch telecommunications company

·         NORTHAG telecommunications company (radio NORTHAG Air Support Squadron), which consisted of soldiers from all four nations.


In the case of war the headquarters of the 2nd ATAF and NORTHAG would be relocated to the JOC (Joint Operations Centre), a bunker complex in the St. Pietersberg in Maastricht area.


Field Operations


In the NATO defence plan, NORTHAG was assigned the area between Hamburg and Kassel (North-South) and the German-Dutch, Belgian to the (then) inner-German border to defend against a potential threat from the Warsaw Pact. The locations of NORTHAG forces were accordingly, mostly in this area. In the north the command bordered Allied Forces Northern Europe (AFNORTH) and in the south the Central Army Group (CENTAG).


Under General Sir Nigel Bagnall, NORTHAG tried to re-orientate its defensive plans from a static defence to a more mobile approach. By 1986, this plan envisioned the formation of armour-heavy reserves held under army group command.


Ground operations relating to the crisis in former Yugoslavia began in late 1992. In November 1992, the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina was provided with an operational headquarters drawn from HQ NORTHAG, including a staff of some 100 personnel, equipment, supplies and initial financial support.




On 24 June 1993, the headquarters of NORTHAG and 2 ATAF officially disbanded during a military ceremony. The last commander of NORTHAG was General Sir Charles Guthrie, KCB LVO OBE.[5] The last Chief of Staff was Major General Helmut Willmann, later commander of the Eurocorps.