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Which countries have used rail bikes in their armed forces?

Which countries have used rail bikes in their armed forces?

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Some 15 years ago, I read an article on "rail biking" and as part of the article it showed pictures of soldiers riding the rails on rail bikes! I believe the photos were from between 1850 and 1950.

This website show what rail biking is all about.

Four people rail biking!

A rail bike ready to go!

Can anyone point out a source of information of a particular country employing such bicycles in their armed forces?

From the Military History Journal (Volume 4 No 1 - June 1977) there is an article entitled BICYCLES IN THE ANGLO-BOER WAR OF 1899-1902, by D.R. Maree, which seems to fit this question.

The 'War Cycle' carried several men on the coupling-framework in addition to the eight riders, could be fitted with a Maxim gun, and was capable of a speed of over 48 kmh. Photo: Africana Museum

A special 'War Cycle' was built for use on railway lines, and a prototype of this 8-man bicycle can be seen at Fort Klapperkop Museum. It was introduced into South Africa by the Royal Australian Cycle Corps and had a detachable rim which was fitted to the pneumatic tires, enabling it to be used on rails. When the rim was removed the bicycle could be used on normal roads. These cycles were used for reconnaissance, for carrying despatches, checking the railway line for demolition charges, and also for removing the wounded from a skirmish taking place near a railway.

13 Military Motorcycles of World War Two

Though less powerful and protective than the war’s other vehicles, motorbikes were widely fielded in the Second World War. They were useful for messengers and reconnaissance troops, especially in fast-moving formations. Many of the nations involved in the war produced their own versions.

Puch 800

Many of the motorbikes used in the war were civilian models that had been adopted and repainted by the military. The Austrian Puch 800 was one example of this approach, with many units bought by the army straight from the factory. Its most unusual feature was a shallow vee engine which was set across the frame of the bike. It was usually equipped with a sidecar.

Puch 800

FN M12

The FN Company in Liège had been selling civilian motorbikes to the Belgian Army since World War I. After providing M86 bikes in 1936, it decided to go one better and develop a model specifically for military use.

The M12 was significantly better than the M86. Attached to the side was a boxy sidecar with machine-gun mountings at both front and back. A more powerful engine drove both the rear wheel and the wheel of the sidecar. It could maneuver well in small spaces thanks to a reverse gear.

FN M86 Super Sport 1937 The civilian version of the FN M12. By Lars-Göran CC BY-SA 4.0

CZ 175

One of several similar bikes created for the Czechoslovakian army in the 1930s, the single-seater CZ 175 wasn’t a powerful bike. Built as a light bike, it could be manhandled with ease to get over rough terrain but had only limited power. Only the front wheel had any suspension.

A 1939 ČZ 175. By Addvisor CC BY-SA 4.0

Gnome-Rhone 750 Armée

Built in 1938 for the French Army, the Armée was a tougher, heavier version of prevalent civilian designs. It was usually equipped with a sidecar and was most often used for communications, carrying a passenger around. Its flat-twin 750cc engine drove the rear wheel but not the sidecar one.

An improved version, the AX2, was given an 804cc engine which provided superior traction, letting it travel better over bad terrain.

Gnome-Rhone 750 Armée. By AlfvanBeem CC0


A large, heavy bike, the R75 was one of several German models built specifically for operation with a sidecar. The sidecar had racks to carry either a mortar or a machine gun, turning the whole vehicle into a mobile weapons platform. These vehicles were primarily used in Kradschützen units – mobile motorbike forces within Panzer divisions. They were also sometimes used by paratroopers, who carried them in the holds of Junkers 52 transports.

BMW R75 motorcycle with sidecar. By Sean O’Flaherty CC BY-SA 3.0

Zundapp KS750

The Zundapp company’s answer to the R75, the KS750 was another German heavy military motorbike. With a similar layout and size of engine to the R75, as well as a standardized sidecar, there was little to differentiate the KS750 from the BMW model. It served in the same roles, again carrying either a mortar or a machine gun mounted on the sidecar.

Zundapp KS750. By Stefan Kühn CC BY-SA 3.0

Type 97

Built in 1937, the Type 97 was a Japanese imitation of American Harley-Davidsons. It was primarily used on the Japanese home islands but sometimes taken overseas as Japanese forces spread across East Asia.

The Type 97 was sometimes fielded as a solo bike, sometimes with a light sidecar. It didn’t usually carry weapons, though a machine gun was occasionally mounted on the sidecar.

Troops pushing a motorcycle through a river. By Bundesarchiv, Bild CC-BY-SA

Excelsior Welbike

The Welbike was an unusual British design. Meant to make airborne troops more mobile, it was small enough to be packed up in a container and dropped by parachute. The result was an awkward looking bike with tiny wheels and an underpowered engine with only 98cc of power. The saddle and pillar folded away for transport.

The Welbike could carry no equipment, was almost useless off-road, and was unsuitable for tall riders. It was quickly abandoned by the military but revived after the war as a relatively cheap and portable civilian vehicle.

Excelsior Welbike

Norton 16H

Another British bike, the 16H’s ruggedness and dependability made it popular despite its modest performance. The British Army mostly used it as a solo vehicle during convoy marshalling and to dispatch riders. The Royal Air Force equipped it with a sidecar as standard. The Canadian Army, like its British counterpart, used the 16H for dispatch work.

1942 Norton 16H motorcycle. By sv1ambo CC BY 2.0

Norton 633

The Norton 633 was a more powerful version of the 16H. Designed to be fitted with a sidecar, it was the only British military bike to provide drive to the sidecar wheel. This sidecar wasn’t like civilian ones, being little more than an open box, devoid of protection from the weather. It had a rack for a Bren light machine gun and was sometimes used as a weapons platform.

Norton 633. By AlfvanBeem CC0

Cushman Airborne Motor Scooter

Cushman scooters were adopted early in the war for messengers and employees at large U.S. military bases. Because of their usefulness, a new version was made in 1944 for use by airborne troops. Like the Excelsior Welbike, the Cushman Airborne could be parachuted into action and assembled on the ground to make paratroopers more mobile. It had limited fixtures – including no lights – but was more effective than the Welbike.

Cushman Model 53 Airborne Scooter. By Alf van Beem CC0

Harley-Davidson WLA

A slight modification of an existing civilian vehicle, the Harley-Davidson WLA was a popular bike among the American armed forces, who used it for police work, reconnaissance, and communications. Its lights were changed from the civilian model to meet military standards and it was fitted with special brackets to carry a submachine gun. With a speed of 65mph, it was one of the faster bikes of the war.

Harley Davidson WLA 45. By Joost J. Bakker CC BY 2.0

M1 Extra Light Solo Motorcycle

Weighing less than half of a Harley-Davidson WLA, the American M1 was originally designed for airborne troops. To this end, its components were built to withstand being dropped – if need be, the ignition could even work without the battery. Rugged, reliable, and great for cross-country travel, it was later adopted by other service branches for messenger work.

UK Veterans Railcards – All The Updated Gen

Veterans Railcard: What is the cost, who is eligible, what date is it released?

A Veterans Railcard that gives former members of the UK Armed Forces discounted rail travel has been launched and will soon be available for use – but what will the card offer and who is eligible?

What Is The New Veterans Railcard?

The card will work in a similar way to other railcards, including two new cards which were launched last year – one for rail travellers aged 26-30, and another for teenagers aged 16-17 that offered half-price fare reduction.

UK Veteran ID Cards: All The Gen About Them

Who Is Eligible For The New Veterans Railcard?

The new railcard will be available to around an extra 830,000 veterans and will give them a third off most rail travel. It extends discounts to veterans not yet covered by existing discounts.

Any veteran, no matter their age, will be able to buy the card unlike other railcards that normally apply to particular age groups.

It is estimated that between 1.6 and 1.7 million veterans already qualify for either the Senior (over-60s) or Disabled Person’s Railcard.

When Will The New Veterans Card Be Available?

The Veterans Railcard will be available for use on journeys from 5 November 2020.

How Much Will The Veterans Railcard Cost?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that a one-year card will cost £21 for an initial introductory period, but the price will then increase to £30 after 31 March 2021.

A three-year railcard will also be available for a price of £61, until the end of March.

What Discounts Will The Veterans Railcard Offer?

It will offer the railcard holder and their companion a third off most rail journeys and 60% off for up to four children aged between five and 15 years old.

A choice between a physical card and a digital version is available.

At the moment, there are only plans for discounted rail travel across England but the Government hopes to roll out a similar discount across Scotland and Wales.

Similarly, it is yet to be confirmed if discounted travel will be extended to some city transport networks such as London.

10 Unusual Military Allowances You Might Not Have Heard Of

Other limited discount schemes already exist in some parts of the country such as the Manchester Metrolink, which gives free travel on Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day, to former members of the Armed Forces who carry a veterans badge, and free travel to serving Members of the Armed Forces who carry an MOD Card 90.

Final details for London travel discounts with the new veterans railcard are still being negotiated with Transport for London.

The veterans railcard is not the same as the Veterans Concessionary Travel Scheme (VCTS) Pass which offers discounted or free travel on some services in and around London to anyone in receipt of an ongoing payment under the War Pensions Scheme or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, including war widows/widowers and eligible dependents.

The VCTS pass offers concessionary fares in London Fare Zones 1–6, plus outlying stations including Rickmansworth to Amersham, inclusive, and stations Carpenders Park to Watford Junction, inclusive, on participating Train Company services, London Underground, DLR, London Trams and most bus services in the Greater London area.

A HM Forces Railcard is already available which can be bought by serving personnel for £21 per year.

Could Family Members Also Use The Veterans Railcard?

The new railcard includes similar standard terms and conditions as existing railcards, but the veterans railcard also offers discounts to a spouse, providing they are travelling with the card holder, and 60% off for up to four children aged between five and 15 years old.

Why Was The Veterans Railcard Created?

The new card offering discounted rail fare is the first step in the Government’s plans to do more to support those who have served their country and comes after the Government created a new Office of Veterans’ Affairs (OVA).

The Government pledged to provide lifelong support for veterans.

It is hoped the new railcard will help boost veterans’ job prospects and strengthen family bonds through cheaper travel.

The discount forms part of the Government’s new veterans strategy to support all former servicemen and women.

The strategy sets out support available for those who have served their country in areas including employment and job skills, health and wellbeing, housing and finance.

The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture That Works

The country had one mass shooting in 2001, but a resulting anti-gun referendum failed to pass. The Swiss will not give up the gun. Can their system work in the U.S.?

Swiss marksmen shoot at targets over 300 m away during an annual shooting-skills exercise near Bern

Even as the gun-control debate rises again in the U.S. in the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the gun-loving Swiss are not about to lay down their arms. Guns are ubiquitous in this neutral nation, with sharpshooting considered a fun and wholesome recreational activity for people of all ages.

Even though Switzerland has not been involved in an armed conflict since a standoff between Catholics and Protestants in 1847, the Swiss are very serious not only about their right to own weapons but also to carry them around in public. Because of this general acceptance and even pride in gun ownership, nobody bats an eye at the sight of a civilian riding a bus, bike or motorcycle to the shooting range, with a rifle slung across the shoulder.

“We will never change our attitude about the responsible use of weapons by law-abiding citizens,” says Hermann Suter, vice president of Pro-Tell, the country’s gun lobby, named after legendary apple shooter William Tell, who used a crossbow to target enemies long before firearms were invented.

Switzerland trails behind only the U.S, Yemen and Serbia in the number of guns per capita between 2.3 million and 4.5 million military and private firearms are estimated to be in circulation in a country of only 8 million people. Yet, despite the prevalence of guns, the violent-crime rate is low: government figures show about 0.5 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. By comparison, the U.S rate in the same year was about 5 firearm killings per 100,000 people, according to a 2011 U.N. report.

Unlike some other heavily armed nations, Switzerland’s gun ownership is deeply rooted in a sense of patriotic duty and national identity. Weapons are kept at home because of the long-held belief that enemies could invade tiny Switzerland quickly, so every soldier had to be able to fight his way to his regiment’s assembly point. (Switzerland was at risk of being invaded by Germany during World War II but was spared, historians say, because every Swiss man was armed and trained to shoot.)

But the “gun in every closet” tradition was challenged in 2001, after a disgruntled citizen opened fire with his army rifle inside a regional parliament, killing 14 and injuring 14 others — the only mass shooting in Switzerland’s recent history. The subsequent opposition to widespread gun ownership spearheaded a push for stricter arms legislation. The government and pro-gun groups argued, however, that the country’s existing laws regulating the sale, ownership and licensing of private guns, which includes a ban on carrying concealed weapons, are stringent enough. The law allows citizens or legal residents over the age of 18, who have obtained a permit from the government and who have no criminal record or history of mental illness, to buy up to three weapons from an authorized dealer, with the exception of automatic firearms and selective fire weapons, which are banned. Semiautomatics, which have caused havoc in the U.S., can be legally purchased.

The authorities made one concession, though: since 2008, all military — but not private — ammunition must be stored in central arsenals rather than in soldiers’ homes. The debate culminated in a nationwide referendum last year, when 56% of voters rejected the proposal initiated by anti-gun organizations to ban army rifles from homes altogether.

Although guns are responsible for between 200 and 300 suicides each year in Switzerland, Pro-Tell’s Suter says these statistics have to be put in a wider perspective. He points out that the bullets used in suicides are only a tiny fraction of the 75 million rounds of ammunition that are fired each year in Switzerland during military and civilian target practice.

One of the reasons the crime rate in Switzerland is low despite the prevalence of weapons — and also why the Swiss mentality can’t be transposed to the current American reality — is the culture of responsibility and safety that is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation. Kids as young as 12 belong to gun groups in their local communities, where they learn sharpshooting. The Swiss Shooting Sports Association runs about 3,000 clubs and has 150,000 members, including a youth section. Many members keep their guns and ammunition at home, while others choose to leave them at the club. And yet, despite such easy access to pistols and rifles, “no members have ever used their guns for criminal purposes,” says Max Flueckiger, the association’s spokesperson.

“Social conditions are fundamental in deterring crime,” says Peter Squires, professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Brighton in Great Britain, who has studied gun violence in different countries and concluded that a “culture of support” rather than focus on individualism, can deter mass killings.

“If people have a responsible, disciplined and organized introduction into an activity like shooting, there will be less risk of gun violence,” he tells TIME.

That sense of social and civic responsibility is one of the reasons the Swiss have never allowed their guns to come under fire.

19th Century

Napoleon Bonaparte had offered to pay 12,000 francs (the equivalent of today’s $250,000) to the person who could come up with the best way to pickle and preserve food for his troops. In 1809, French chef and confectioner Nicolas Appert, won the competition with a key insight: If he placed food in a bottle and removed all the air before sealing it, he could boil the bottle and preserve its contents. Using glass containers sealed with cork and wax, Appert was able to preserve not only vegetables and fruits, but also jellies, syrups, soups and dairy products.

Early in the 1850s, the Scottish chemist James Young patented paraffin wax, which created a better seal in jars used to preserve food. Then in 1858, John Mason of Philadelphia patented the first Mason jar, made from a heavyweight glass that could withstand high temperatures during the canning process. Mason’s patent expired in 1879, but manufacturers of similar jars continued to use the Mason name.

At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, “Pickle King” H.J. Heinz dispatched a few local boys to tempt fairgoers with a 𠇏ree gift” if they visited Heinz’s out-of-the-way booth and tasted his wares. By the end of the fair, Heinz had given out some 1 million “pickle pins,” launching one of the most successful marketing gambits in U.S. history. H.J. Heinz Company, Inc. repeated the pickle pin promotion at the World’s Fairs of 1896, 1898 and 1939. Heinz’s dark-green pickle pins can still be bought today, joined by spin-offs like the ketchup pin and the golden pickle pin.

Did you know? Henry Heinz lobbied for new food safety regulations so his competitors could no longer sell similar products with dangerous additives, even sending his son to meet lawmakers in Washington, D.C. His efforts were instrumental in the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act which passed on June 23, 1906, and eventually the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.

Women bottling pickles at the H.J. Heinz Company factory in the 19th century. 

Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

African American Leaders Dialed Up the Pressure

On March 22, 1948, Truman met with Black leaders to discuss segregation. “I can tell you the mood among Negroes of this country is that they will never bear arms again until all forms of bias and discrimination are abolished,” A. Phillip Randolph, the pioneering union organizer and civil rights leader, told the president.

At a hearing nine days later before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Randolph said, “I personally will advise Negroes to refuse to fight as slaves for a democracy they cannot possess and cannot enjoy.”

In a celebrated case taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union, Winfrid Lynn, a Black landscape gardener from New York, went to jail after he told his local draft board he would “not be compelled to serve in a unit undemocratically selected as a Negro.”

That June, Randolph informed President Truman that if he didn’t issue an executive order ending segregation in the armed forces, African Americans would resist the draft.

A month later, with an election looming and under intense pressure from civil rights leaders, Truman signed Executive Order 9981𠅊nd created the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces, popularly known as the Fahy Committee, to oversee the process.

Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail | Nebraska

Length: 195 miles
Connecting the northern towns of Valentine and Norfolk, the Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail may eventually extend another 126 miles and become the world's longest rail trail. Riders following this former agricultural rail route get a true sense of the Nebraskan countryside, passing through farmland, native prairie, and the grassy dunes of Sandhill country.

The trail passes over more than 200 bridges, including a trestle 150 feet above the Niobrara National Scenic River. If you have time, the Niobrara is a lovely spot for tubing, kayaking, or canoeing with one of the area's outfitters.

7 / 21

The 10 Strongest Military Forces In The Middle East

The Middle East and North Africa are generally seen as one of the least stable parts of the world. Indeed, the Institute for Economics and Peace ranks it the most violent region in its annual Global Peace Index.

That’s not surprising, given the civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, as well as the insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, intermittent violence in Israel and the neighboring Palestinian Territories, plus the occasional flare-ups in Iran and Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Many of the larger conflicts have become venues for proxy wars in which regional powers are testing the abilities of their rivals. In Yemen for example, a coalition involving Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others is fighting to reinstate the government of president Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi while Iran has been providing support to the main opposition group, known as the Houthi rebels. In Syria, elements of the armed forces of Iran, Turkey and others have been heavily involved alongside myriad rebel groups.

Such involvement requires heavy investment and Middle East governments have been spending huge amounts to sustain their armed forces, with the Gulf countries in particular involved in an expensive arms race. By far the biggest spender is Saudi Arabia. Last year, Riyadh's defence budget was more than next five biggest spenders in the region combined (Iraq, Israel, Iran, Algeria, Oman), according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Money is not the only criteria for judging the capabilities of a country’s military forces though. The quality and quantity of weaponry and training are also key elements, as are the number of soldiers, sailors and pilots that can be called on in an emergency. The Global Firepower (GFP) index weighs up more than 50 such factors, including the range of weapons in the arsenal, the amount of available manpower and the abilities of the local defence industry, to come up with its rankings of the most effective fighting forces globally.

Lower scores are best in the GFP index. There is a theoretical perfect score of 0.0000, although the closest any country comes to that is the U.S., which tops the rankings with a score of 0.0857. Within the Middle East, there is a wide range of results, with Mauritania the worst performer by some distance, with a score of 4.2664 which is the fourth worst out of the 130 countries ranked globally. Further up the rankings, but still not high enough to make the cut for the regional top ten despite huge investments in recent years, is Qatar, with a score of 1.8943. Also missing out from the higher echelons is Jordan, whose armed forces have often been thought of as among the most capable in the region. It is ranked at 13 in the MENA region, with a score of 1.2024.

Here though are the countries that do make it into the top ten, in reverse order.

10) United Arab Emirates

With a GFP score of 0.9087, the UAE is ranked well ahead of most of its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) neighbours, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. The IISS reckons the country’s forces to be “arguably the best trained and most capable among the GCC states”. They have gained valuable front-line experience in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen in recent years and the country’s special forces impressed many observers with their amphibious assault to capture the Yemeni port city of Aden in July 2015. However, the UAE’s armed forces remain relatively small, with 63,000 active service personnel.

A local man watches as an aircraft of the UAE Air Force's Al Fursan aerobatics display team performs . [+] at the Dubai Airshow, on November 13 2017 (Photo: Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images)

Iraq has the second highest known budget of any country in the region, although this is still a long way behind Saudi Arabia’s spending levels. The country’s armed forces have made significant gains in recent years in battles against Islamic State militants, recapturing the city of Mosul in October 2017 and driving them out of other areas of the country since then. They have been helped in that task by assistance from the US and other Western powers, as well as military advice from Iran’s Al Quds brigade. Questions remain about the long-term shape of Iraq’s armed forces post-conflict, particularly its Shia-dominated Popular Mobilisation Units (Al Hashd al Shaabi) and the role of Kurdish forces. Under the GFP index, Iraq’s military scores 0.8961.

Members of the Iraqi army, police force and Al Hashd al Shaabi militia stage a military parade as . [+] part of the victory over Islamic State terrorists, in Baghdad, Iraq on December 10, 2017. (Photo: Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Morocco has the fifth largest armed forces in the region, with 175,000 army personnel and a further 13,000 in the air force and 7,800 in the navy. However, it also has one of the lowest budgets, at just $3.5bn in 2017. Despite that, it gains a GFP score of 0.8702. The country’s forces have gained useful experience as a result of political instability in its neighbourhood, in particular the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the south, as well as more limited experience further afield, including as part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. Greater investment in its military forces is expected in the coming years, helped by support from Saudi Arabia.

More than six years of fighting has left Syria’s military machine badly damaged but also battle-hardened. The IISS says the army currently has some 105,000 serving members but is short of personnel, leading to increased efforts at conscription, which many do their best to avoid. Allied militias fighting alongside conventional forces have played an important role in keeping the regime of Bashir al Assad from being toppled. The GFP index gives Syria’s armed forces a score of 0.7603.

With the best equipped forces in North Africa – much of it sourced from Russia and, to a lesser extent, China – Algeria’s military has a score of 0.4366 in the GFP index. The country has had to battle domestic Islamist extremists for many years and faces troublesome border areas with neighbours including Libya and Mali, not to mention playing a role in supporting the Western Saharan independence movement the Polisario Front.

5) Saudi Arabia

The regional giant, at least in terms of its military budget which easily outpaces any other rival, Saudi Arabia’s GFP score of 0.4302 puts it in fifth place overall in the region. The huge amount of money being spent by Riyadh each year means the country has the best equipped armed forces in the region with the exception of Israel. Its involvement in the Yemen civil war over the past three years has given its forces valuable frontline experience, but its failure to defeat its Houthi opponents there has also raised questions about how effective a fighting force the Saudi military really is.

A Saudi F-15 fighter jet landing at the Khamis Mushayt military airbase, as part of ongoing . [+] operations in Yemen, on November 16, 2015.(Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran has more men under arms than any other country in the region, with 350,000 in the army, 18,000 in the navy, 30,000 serving in the air force and a further 125,000 in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). Years of international sanctions have meant it has been unable to source many weapons systems from abroad, forcing it to improvise and develop a substantial home-grown defence industry. Its armed forces are also seen as particular strong in asymmetric warfare. Iranian forces, particularly the elite Al Quds unit of the IRGC, have played a key role in the fighting in both Syria and Iraq and Tehran has also provided support to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran’s GFP score of 0.3933 puts it ahead of any of its immediate neighbours.

With numerous hostile neighbours to contend with, Israel has always felt the need to ensure its armed forces are clearly superior to anything they might have to face in battle. The Israel Defence Forces are the best equipped, best trained and most capable of any in the region according to the IISS, not least because of continued massive support from the US. However, the country’s GFP index score of 0.3476 still places it behind two others in the region.

With a former general now in charge of the country – Abdel el Sisi – it is unsurprising that Egypt’s army is in a powerful position in the domestic political arena. The defence forces are currently in the midst of an equipment recapitalisation programme, with new fighter aircraft, attack helicopters and surface-to-air missiles all being bought in. However, the country has struggled to deal with the challenge posed by insurgent, terrorist groups in the northern Sinai Peninsula for the past few years. With a GFP score of 0.2676, Egypt is seen as having the second strongest armed forces in the region and the tenth strongest in the world overall, ahead of the likes of Italy and Pakistan.

Viewed by the GFP as the most powerful in the MENA region with a score of 0.2491, Turkey’s armed forces have faced a turbulent few years, with many officers purged from the services following a failed coup in July 2016. Since then the country has become ever more heavily involved in the war in neighbouring Syria, culminating in the Afrin campaign launched in January 2018. The country also has important overseas military ties with Qatar and Somalia, basing troops in both countries. Not only is it seen as the strongest military force in the MENA region, it is ranked in eighth place globally, just ahead of Germany and one place below Japan.

Turkish soldiers parade during the celebrations for the 94th anniversary of Republic Day in . [+] Istanbul, Turkey, on October 29, 2017. (Photo: Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A new way to travel across the US

Stretching an extraordinary 3,700 miles from Washington DC to the Pacific Ocean, an ambitious new bike trail is aiming to be “America’s Main Street”.

Ryan Gardill used to love backpacking. Getting into the outdoors and covering ground was one of the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native&rsquos favourite things to do. But as the 29-year-old former US Marine&rsquos joints and back began struggling to carry the weight of a backpack, he decided it was time to get on a bike.

That opened up a whole new world.

&ldquoI&rsquod always dreamed of doing a thru-hike or bike,&rdquo he said. &ldquoA guy from work talked about a trail going from Pittsburgh to DC. I said: &lsquoThat sounds awesome!&rsquo.&rdquo

So, in August, Gardill and his colleague embarked on a 350-mile journey, pedalling across converted railroad trails from western Pennsylvania to Washington DC.

The Great American Rail-Trail is the most ambitious biking initiative the country has ever seen

Passing through Pennsylvania, Maryland and DC, Gardill&rsquos trip may seem like a major undertaking. Yet it&rsquos just a small fraction of an unprecedented new scenic pathway aiming to traverse the United States from coast to coast.

The Great American Rail-Trail is the most ambitious biking initiative the country has ever seen. Stretching an extraordinary 3,700 miles from the nation&rsquos capital across 12 states to the Pacific Ocean, west of Seattle, it&rsquos an idea that&rsquos been ruminating for 50 years. The Rail-Trail will connect more than 125 existing multi-use paths, greenways, trails and towpaths. An official route was announced to the public in May 2019 by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), the Washington DC-based non-profit leading the effort, when the trail was already more than half completed.

&ldquoDetermining the route was a 30-year journey,&rdquo said Brandi Horton, vice-president of communications at the RTC.

The trail is largely built atop or next to abandoned railway lines (hence the name) with surfaces ranging from crushed stone to smooth asphalt. These railbanks &ndash abandoned railway corridors converted into trails &ndash account for more than 24,000 miles of multi-use trails crisscrossing the US.

Once it is fully completed &ndash estimated to be before 2040 &ndash almost one in six Americans will live within 50 miles of the route, and it will offer an unparalleled experience of the country people can&rsquot see from 36,000ft or through a car window.

The timing couldn&rsquot be better. According to an RTC study, in spring, trail use across the US spiked by 200%, in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic. With team sports and gyms mostly off people&rsquos minds now and for the foreseeable future, the boom in outdoor, physically distanced activities such as cycling and hiking is expected to last for years.

I want rail-trails to be America&rsquos Main Street

&ldquoI think [the pandemic] demonstrated to a lot of officials that access to the outdoors actually is key. Creating these connections is really critical,&rdquo said Horton.

Yet, the vision for the coast-to-coast trail isn&rsquot just utilitarian it&rsquos a way to reveal how the US&rsquo diverse tapestry of communities fit together, and how the country&rsquos past connects to its present.

&ldquoI want rail-trails to be America&rsquos Main Street,&rdquo the RTC&rsquos co-founder David Burwell said back in 2006. Biking or hiking slowly across cities, towns and rural landscapes not only gives travellers a deeper understanding of local communities and cultures, but it also helps reveal the little-known histories that have contributed to the country&rsquos identity.

On the East Coast, the trail starts in downtown DC, passing a stone&rsquos throw from the Smithsonian Museums and the National Mall before heading north-west across Maryland. There, hikers and cyclists can overnight at a series of 19th-Century lockhouses along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, an Industrial Revolution marvel that played a pivotal role in providing troops&rsquo supplies during the US Civil War. In the 1800s, these buildings were home to lockkeepers who collected canal tolls on the Appalachian lumber and coal that helped fuel the US&rsquo westward expansion.

Most of the towns on the trail were once important areas to the future of America, only to be forgotten in time

According to Gardill, there are also dozens of open-ground camping &ldquocut-outs&rdquo that have water wells and toilets along the rural sections of the C&O Canal&rsquos Towpath, which runs 184.5 miles between DC&rsquos Georgetown neighbourhood and Cumberland, Maryland.

For Gardill and his cycling buddy, a day on the trail would start at around 07:00 with coffee and breakfast. They&rsquod then ride until 11:00, pedal into a local town and get some lunch. &ldquoWe&rsquod never pass up an opportunity for a beer, so we ended up stopping at five breweries,&rdquo he said. They&rsquod get back on the trail and cycle until four in the afternoon before stopping, setting up camp and settling in for a night under the stars.

Gardill&rsquos expedition saw him cross the Eastern Continental Divide close to the 3,118ft-long Paw Paw Canal Tunnel in Allegany County, Maryland. Eighty miles west, on the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers that cut through the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the steep, cobblestoned town of Harper&rsquos Ferry, West Virginia, where abolitionist John Brown famously attempted to start a slave revolt in 1859. &ldquoIt&rsquos absolutely beautiful. It&rsquos like time has not touched the town since the 1700s,&rdquo he said.

&ldquoThe trail connected me to [the US&rsquo] revolutionary and industrial history, as every town is filled with historical areas,&rdquo Gardill added. &ldquoMost of the towns on the trail were once important areas to the future of America, only to be forgotten in time.&rdquo

For him, part of the attraction of thru-biking is its simplicity. As well as a tent and sleeping bag, Gardill packed a portable burner to cook dehydrated meals, water bottles and water purifiers. &ldquoIf you have a tent and a sleeping bag and a bike, you&rsquore really set,&rdquo he said. He also recommends bringing along spare bike tubes, patch kits and a bike tool kit.

For those heading west, the trail passes through the heart of Ohio&rsquos Swartzentruber Amish country, a community that completely eschews modern technology and continues to speak Pennsylvania German as their first language. In hollowed-out Rust Belt towns fighting to get back on their feet, the echoes of thriving manufacturing communities once linked by rail in south-west Pennsylvania and Indiana tell the story of boom-and-bust capitalism. Further west, the trail crosses the Mississippi River that famously inspired Mark Twain and has long shaped the US&rsquo history and culture at Moline, Illinois, before spanning the Continental Divide in Montana. In Idaho, encounters with moose and other wildlife aren&rsquot uncommon along the historic Coeur d&rsquoAlene trail that was carved out of mountainous rock by gold prospectors seeking their fortune in the mid-19th Century.

Nearing the route&rsquos end, the ferry trip crossing the Puget Sound in Seattle is another highlight, as travellers pass through a region once home to thriving Suquamish, Duwamish, Nisqually, Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot Native American settlements before skirting the northern fringes of Olympic National Park, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the country. The lapping waters of the Pacific Ocean greet you at La Push, Washington.

While the broader health benefits of spending time outdoors are well-documented, trails along the &ldquoGreat American&rdquo, as it&rsquos known, are already playing a key role in helping revitalise economies in dozens of post-industrial towns across the US Heartland: Steubenville and Dayton in Ohio Muncie, Indiana and Joliet, Illinois, all have burgeoning brewery scenes situated close to the trail. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy estimates the trail could generate as much as $138bn for communities that build campsites, eateries and water and other adventure companies along the route.

Perry, Iowa, population 7,676, is one such place. Built around a rail route that opened in 1869 and closed less than a century later, its railway line has since been repurposed for recreational hiking and biking. With the Great American now passing through the heart of town and future sections connecting it with neighbouring Illinois and Nebraska, locals are hoping it can contribute to a revival.

&ldquoIt is a huge thing and will bring many more people to Perry,&rdquo said Betsy Peterson, who runs an art and pottery business a five-minute walk from the trail.

Down the street, the historical Hotel Pattee, Perry&rsquos landmark building, offers an indoor bike storage area as well as a repair station out front. &ldquoWhen people are out on a bike trip, it&rsquos important they have some down time. I think Perry is a great place to stop and have a beer or a meal and relax,&rdquo added Peterson.

Embarking on such a major undertaking, however, hasn&rsquot been easy. Large sections of the trail, particularly across Wyoming, where only 2% is currently completed, are yet to be built or mapped out. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has taken on the mammoth task of working with trail planners, local and state agencies, elected officials and governors&rsquo offices along the route that has involved 250 meetings held over 18 months in 2018 and 2019. About 300 trail plans were studied to determine the route.

&ldquoWe wanted to be sure that the route would meet local and state needs, but that it would actually connect,&rdquo said Horton. &ldquoIt was definitely a labour of love.&rdquo

Still, while some western states have work to do, in places such as DC, Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania, more than 86% of the route is already open.

It was on these quiet, forested trails where Gardill averaged 60 miles a day on his bike. Five days and two hours after setting off, he reached the National Mall in downtown DC.

&ldquoRiding this trail has shown me that America is filled with the kindest people you can hope to meet,&rdquo he said. &ldquoYou are always only a few miles from a good meal and a conversation.&rdquo

His next step? Doing it all over again.

After all, he said, &ldquoI couldn&rsquot just do it once.&rdquo

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Harper&rsquos Ferry was the furthest point north reached by Confederate forces during the Civil War. This has now been amended.

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When the slave power extended its tentacles into the North with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Tubman relocated to Canada along with thousands of other black refugees. Tubman risked her freedom again and again, not just by returning to the North, but also with missions into the Slave South. Her activities became even more notorious when Tubman became a staunch supporter of John Brown, who called her “General Tubman” long before Lincoln began handing out commissions.

Early in the war, Tubman informally attached herself to the military. Benjamin Butler, a Democrat, had been a member of the Massachusetts delegation to Congress and made a name for himself in the Union Army. A tough opportunist, Butler was often underestimated until his bully tactics began to pay off. Commissioned a brigadier general, Butler led his men into Maryland, where he threatened to arrest any legislator who attempted to vote for secession.

Trailing along with Butler’s all-white troops in May 1861, Tubman arrived at the camps near Fort Monroe, Va. The large fort and the nearby tent city of troops soon became a major magnet for escaped slaves. Tubman found herself in familiar territory.

How Harriet Tubman's military service added up to $20 — a month

Her experience during the Civil War is a bona fide part of her legacy.

By March 1862, the Union had conquered enough territory that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton designated Georgia, Florida and South Carolina as the Department of the South. Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, a staunch abolitionist, asked Tubman to join the contingent of his state’s volunteers heading for South Carolina, and promised his sponsorship. Andrew also obtained military passage for Tubman on USS Atlantic.

The Union troops along the coast of South Carolina were in a precarious position. They were essentially encircled, with Confederates on three sides and the ocean on the fourth. Nevertheless, Maj. Gen. David Hunter, the newly appointed Union commander of the region, had ambitious ideas about how to expand Northern control.

In November 1862, Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson arrived with the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, and Colonel James Montgomery and the 2nd South Carolina were in the area by early 1863. Escaped slaves filled both regiments, and Higginson and Montgomery both knew Tubman from before the war. In those men, both abolitionists, Tubman had gained influential friends and advocates, and they suggested that a spy network be established in the region.

Tubman had spent 10 months as a nurse ministering to the sick of those regiments, and by early 1863 she was ready for a more active role. She was given the authority to line up a roster of scouts, to infiltrate and map out the interior. Several were trusted boat pilots, like Solomon Gregory, who knew the local waterways very well and could travel on them undetected. Her closely knit band included men named Mott Blake, Peter Burns, Gabriel Cahern, George Chisholm, Isaac Hayward, Walter Plowden, Charles Simmons and Sandy Suffum, and they became an official scouting service for the Department of the South.

/>Harriet Tubman launched an illustrious career as a member of the Underground Railroad. Tubman was the “Great Emancipator,” leading scores of escaping African Americans to freedom, often all the way to Canada. She built up a network of supporters and admirers, including William Lloyd Garrison and William Seward, to name but two who lauded her efforts. (Library of Congress)

Tubman’s espionage operation was under the direction of Stanton, who considered her the commander of her men. Tubman passed along information directly to either Hunter or Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton. In March 1863, Saxton wrote confidently to Stanton concerning a planned assault on Jacksonville, Fla.: “I have reliable information that there are large numbers of able bodied Negroes in that vicinity who are watching for an opportunity to join us.”

Based on the information procured by Tubman’s agents, Colonel Montgomery led a successful expedition to capture the town. Tubman’s crucial intelligence and Montgomery’s bravado convinced commanders that other extensive guerrilla operations were feasible.

Their confidence led to the Combahee River Raid in June 1863 — a military operation that marked a turning point in Tubman’s career. Until then, all of her attacks upon the Confederacy had been purposefully clandestine. But she did not remain anonymous with her prominent role in that military operation.

South Carolina’s lowcountry rice plantations sat alongside tidal rivers that fanned inland from the Atlantic and that had some of the South’s richest land and largest slave populations. Federal commanders wanted to move up the rivers to destroy plantations and liberate slaves in order to recruit more black regiments.

The raid up the Combahee River, a twisting waterway approximately 10 miles north of Beaufort where Tubman and her comrades were stationed, commenced when the Federal gunboats Harriet A. Weed and John Adams steamed into the river shortly before midnight on the evening of June 2, 1863. Tubman accompanied 150 African-American troops from the 2nd South Carolina Infantry and their white officers aboard John Adams. The black soldiers were particularly relieved that their lives had been entrusted not only to Colonel Montgomery but also to the famed “Moses.”

Tubman had been informed of the location of Rebel torpedoes — floating mines planted below the surface of the water — in the river and served as a lookout for the Union pilots, allowing them to guide their boats around the explosives unharmed. By 3 a.m., the expedition had reached Fields Point, and Montgomery sent a squad ashore to drive off Confederate pickets, who withdrew but sent comrades to warn fellow troops at Chisholmville, 10 miles upriver.

Meanwhile, a company of the 2nd South Carolina under Captain Carver landed and deployed at Tar Bluff, two miles north of Fields Point. The two ships steamed upriver to the Nichols Plantation, where Harriet A. Weed anchored. She also guided the boats and men to designated shoreline spots where scores of fugitive slaves were hiding out. Once the “all clear” was given, the slaves scrambled onto the vessels.

“I never saw such a sight,” Tubman described of the scene. “Sometimes the women would come with twins hanging around their necks it appears I never saw so many twins in my life bags on their shoulders, baskets on their heads, and young ones tagging along behind, all loaded pigs squealing, chickens screaming, young ones squealing.”

According to one Confederate onlooker, “[Tubman] passed safely the point where the torpedoes were placed and finally reached the … ferry, which they immediately commenced cutting way, landed to all appearances a group at Mr. Middleton’s and in a few minutes his buildings were in flames.”

Robbing warehouses and torching planter homes was an added bonus for the black troops, striking hard and deep at the proud master class. The horror of this attack on the prestigious Middleton estate drove the point home. Dixie might fall at the hands of their former slaves. The Confederates reportedly stopped only one lone slave from escaping — shooting her in flight.

Hard charging to the water’s edge, the Confederate commander could catch only a glimpse of escaping gunboats, pale in the morning light. In a fury, Confederate Major William P. Emmanuel pushed his men into pursuit — and got trapped between the riverbank and Union snipers.

In the heat of skirmish, Emmanuel’s gunners were able to fire off only four rounds, booming shots that plunked harmlessly into the water. Frustrated, the Confederate commander cut his losses after one of his men was wounded and ordered his troops to pull back. More than 750 slaves would be freed in the overnight operation on the Combahee.

The Union invaders had despoiled the estates of the Heywards, the Middletons, the Lowndes, and other South Carolina dynasties. Tubman’s plan was successful. The official Confederate report concluded: “The enemy seems to have been well posted as to the character and capacity of our troops and their small chance of encountering opposition, and to have been well guided by persons thoroughly acquainted with the river and country.”

Federal commanders came to depend on her, but kept her name out of official military documents. As a black and a woman she became doubly invisible. This invisibility aided her when Union commanders sent her as far south as Fernandina, Fla., to assist Union soldiers dropping like flies from fevers and fatigue.

Robbing the “Cradle of Secession” was a grand theatrical gesture, a headline-grabbing strategy that won plaudits from government, military and civilian leaders throughout the North. After the Combahee River Raid, critics North and South could no longer pretend that blacks were unfit for military service, as this was a well-executed, spectacularly successful operation.

Flushed with triumph, Hunter wrote jubilantly to Secretary of War Stanton on June 3, boasting that Combahee was only the beginning. He also wrote to Governor Andrew, promising that Union operations would “desolate” Confederate slaveholders “by carrying away their slaves, thus rapidly filling up the South Carolina regiments of which there are now four.” Andrew had been a champion of black soldiers, a steadfast supporter of Hunter’s campaign to put ex-slaves in uniform.

The Confederacy discovered overnight what it took the Union’s Department of the South over a year to find out — Harriet Tubman was a formidable secret weapon whose gifts should never be underestimated. Federal commanders came to depend on her, but kept her name out of official military documents. As a black and a woman she became doubly invisible. This invisibility aided her when Union commanders sent her as far south as Fernandina, Fla., to assist Union soldiers dropping like flies from fevers and fatigue.

Tubman’s own health faltered during the summer of 1864, and she returned north for a furlough. She was making her way back South in early 1865 when peace intervened, so she returned to Auburn, where she had settled her parents, and made a home. Postwar, Tubman often lived hand to mouth, doing odd jobs and domestic service to earn her living, but she also collected money for charity. She sought patrons to realize her dream of establishing a home for blacks in her hometown—for the indigent, the disabled, the veteran and the homeless.

“It seems strange that one who has done so much for her country and been in the thick of the battles with shots falling all about her, should never have had recognition from the Government in a substantial way,” chided the writers of a July 1896 article in The Chautauquan. Tubman echoed that lament: “You wouldn’t think that after I served the flag so faithfully I should come to want under its folds.”

In 1897 a petition requesting that Congressman Sereno E. Payne of New York “bring up the matter [of Tubman’s military pension] again and press it to a final and successful termination” was circulated and endorsed by Auburn’s most influential citizens. Payne’s new bill proposed that Congress grant Tubman a “military pension” of $25 per month — the exact amount received by surviving soldiers.

A National Archives staffer who later conducted research on this claim suggested there was no extant evidence in government records to support Tubman’s claim that she had been working under the direction of the secretary of war. Some on the committee believed that Tubman’s service as a spy and scout, supported by valid documentation, justified such a pension. Others suggested that the matter of a soldier’s pension should be dropped, as she could more legitimately be pensioned as a nurse.

One member of the committee, W. Jasper Talbert of South Carolina, possibly blocked Tubman’s pension vindictively — it was a point of honor to this white Southern statesman that a black woman not be given her due.

Regardless, a compromise was finally achieved, decades after she had first applied for a pension based on her service. In 1888, Tubman had been granted a widow’s pension of $8 a month, based on the death of her second husband, USCT veteran Nelson Davis. The compromise granted an increase “on account of special circumstances.” The House authorized raising the amount to $25 (the exact amount for surviving soldiers), while the Senate amended with an increase to only $20 — which was finally passed by both houses.

President William McKinley signed the pension into law in February 1899. After 30 years of struggle, Tubman’s sense of victory was tremendous. Not only would the money secure her an income and allow her to continue her philanthropic activities, her military role was finally validated. Details of Tubman’s wartime service became part of the Congressional Record, with the recognition that “in view of her personal services to the Government, Congress is amply justified in increasing that pension.”

Tubman’s heroic role in the Civil War is finally being highlighted and appreciated for what it was, part of a long life of struggling for freedom, risking personal liberty for patriotic sacrifice.

NATO Military Map Symbols

All armies use a system of codified symbols to enable command staffs to mark paper maps, sand tray mock-ups and computer displays to be marked in such a way as to show what military forces are doing at the moment, what has been planned for them to do or if a particular event has happened, such as a nuclear explosion or a unit's movement (1).

Move of Fourteenth Mechanised Infantry Brigade to a new location

They can also show some basic information about the forces themselves, such as a unit's location, ID, role, type and size (2) or a weapon's type, caliber and location (3, 4).

Location of the main HQ for the Third Infantry Division

Heavy Mortar (140mm caliber)

An armoured car with cross-country capability

The most common system is that developed by the NATO alliance, and used by its member states, the states that have joined the Partnership for Peace and an increasing number of non-member states, such as Australia and New Zealand. The second most widely used system is that of the Russian Army, employed by a number of the former Soviet states and Warsaw Pact countries. Most other countries use nationally-developed systems. Many of these share symbols that are quite close, while others are completely different (5). In addition, by using the same system of tactical symbols, the hierarchical organisation of a particular unit can be shown, in a sort of family tree style (6).

In NATO, friendly forces are in BLUE or BLACK, while enemy forces are in RED. In Russia, friendly forces are in RED, while enemy forces are in BLUE.

Depicts a mechanised infantry brigade with three mechanised infantry battalions (far left), one take battalion (second from left), a mechanised artillery battalion (second from right) and an engineer company (far right)

As such, displays that include a great deal of information can be built up using this relatively simple method. While this sort of symbology is obviously used a great deal in today's armed forces, it can also be seen in the wargaming and simulation arena, not so much in the traditional miniatures wargames, which represent military units by actual figures (if infantry of cavalry) or models (if artillery or AFVs), but in board and computer wargames. Board wargames, from companies such as SPI, Avalon Hill, Decision Games, Victory Games and 3W, represent a particular conflict, campaign or battle on a 2D representation of the battlefield that shows important terrain details such as topography, the road and rail infrastructure, built-up areas, rivers, swamps and marshland and are vaguely similar to an Ordnance Survey map, but usually stylised and incorporate a hex grid to regulate movement and combat. The military units are represented by cardboard counters that often have the NATO symbols on them to let the player know what the unit is, as well as having numeric qualities, such as 'attack strength', 'defence strength' and 'movement allowance' in order to govern how the unit performs in the game. The same is true for slightly older computer wargames (and true military simulations), but the more modern computer wargames such as Blitzkrieg, Codename Panzers, Combat Mission and Soldiers: Heroes of World War II follow the 'Command and Conquer' pattern of having 3D battlefields and units represented by 3D figures, being almost a computer miniatures wargame.

The basic unit symbol is a rectangle, with the lengths of the horizontal and vertical lines having a ratio of approximately 3:2 (7). A variation on this is the symbol for a headquarters unit (8) that has a vertical line dropping down from the left corner (so it looks a bit like a flag). Other basic symbols include an equilateral triangle with the point upwards for an observation post (9), an equilateral triangle with the point downwards for an electronic unit (10) and a circle for a logistics / administrative unit (11).

Unit size details are usually placed on top of the rectangle and are represented by a series of dots and vertical lines (12) for units that are of regimental-size or below, or crosses (13) for units that are of brigade-size or above.

For certain arms of service, the particular term for the size of unit differs from that used in the infantry, such as armoured or cavalry units, where a platoon-sized unit is often referred to as a troop and a company-sized unit is often referred to as a squadron. Also, the term 'regiment' can refer to three different types of unit. It can refer to what used to be horse-equipped (i.e. non-infantry) battalion-sized units, such as an armoured, cavalry or artillery unit, for example, 40th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery or 35e Regiment Artillerie Parachutiste. Alternatively, it can refer to a tactical infantry unit made up of between two and five battalions but without the same level of supporting arms as is usually associated with a brigade. An example of this is a US Marine Corps Infantry Regiment that contains three Marine Infantry Battalions but becomes a Marine Amphibious Brigade when it is allocated supporting assets. Both the brigade and regiment can be used to form a division, for example, through much of the Cold War, countries within the NATO Alliance tended to use brigades as sub-components of their divisions, whereas members of the Warsaw Pact tended to use regiments. Lastly, some armies have the regiment as an administrative organisation, which is responsible for organisation, manning, personnel matters, welfare and traditions (such as the British Army), but which does not itself go to war - the individual battalions go into the field. A brigade is usually a direct sub-unit of a division that is self-sufficient unit with infantry, armour, artillery, engineers and army aviation (obviously one arm will dominate depending on the exact type of brigade it is) with its own logistics and administrative units. In some armies however, a brigade is a temporary unit, formed from divisional assets to perform a specific mission.

Within the rectangle, is shown the unit (14a) or weapon (14b) type, the three basic symbols being the infantry (a diagonal cross representing their webbing cross-straps), tank or armoured (a stretched circle representing the caterpillar tread) and artillery (a circle representing a cannon ball). Many of the unit symbols available are variants of these, although a number of additional symbols are used as well. For example, mechanised infantry is represented by a combination of the infantry and armour symbols, whereas parachute infantry often have the infantry symbol with an additional 'bird' symbol underneath.

A unit's location is usually assumed to be at the centre of the lower edge of the symbol, or sometimes a line can be drawn from the centre of the lower edge to where the unit is if its necessary to offset the symbol (15).

The location of the HQ, 5th Infantry Division, and the 1st Infantry Division in Bremen

Also, if a unit is spread out and covering a larger area than normal, its area can be indicated by drawing a 'blob' with the unit symbol at the centre (16).

In NATO, the designation of friendly units is indicated by them being blue (17), while enemy forces are red (18).

If its on a monochrome display, friendly forces are indicated by a single-lined symbol (19) and enemy forces by a double-lined symbol (20).

If indicating a unit in its current position, the unit is shown with solid lines, if it is showing a future position, the lines are broken (21).

The unit title is usually placed on the left-hand side, either in the centre or at the bottom corner and must agree with the unit type and size symbols (22).

The Fifth Infantry Division

In addition, the identification of higher formations can also be placed on the symbol, on the right-hand side, either in the centre or at the bottom corner (23).

This is the 3rd Infantry Battalion, from the 4th Brigade of the 5th Division. '0' indicates that there is no regimental-level (as in the British Army, for example).

The higher formations are listed in the order of battalion, brigade, regiment, division, corps and army, separated by a '/'. If it is necessary to show the time, a date / time group (DTG) is placed at the top left-hand corner of the symbol and consists of up to six figures and three or four letters (24).

Indicates the location of the 4th Infantry Brigade as of 13.20 on 5th June

The first two numbers show the date (prefixed with a 0 if between 1 and 9), the next four numbers show the time (using the 24-hour clock), this is then followed (if necessary) by a letter denoting the time zone and finally, three letters indicating the month. The DTG on its own is used to denote the time and date that the unit was known to be at that location. It may also be prefixed by the letters 'NMB' (No Move Before), or possibly the length of stay by having 'From (DTG)' on one line, followed by 'To (DTG)' on a second line. If necessary, a mobility indicator can be placed beneath a unit to show the the type of mobility the unit has i.e. wheeled, tracked or ski.

In some instances, a boundary can be shown between units, for example, if units are tightly packed covering a common frontage (25). This is more common for maps and diagrams covering higher-level formations, such as one depicting corps and army level formations on the Eastern Front during the Second World War or in Germany on NATO's Central Front during the Cold War. Where a boundary separates two units of different size, the symbol for the larger unit will ordinarily be shown. The exception is where a unit rear boundary is shown that will show the size symbol of the unit concerned and not the symbol of the larger unit.

In drawing such maps, left and right are always defined when facing the enemy, boundaries are referred to by the senior unit to which they apply, for example, the boundary between the divisions in two separate corps is referred to as the inter-corps boundary. Finally, the nationalities of NATO countries is designated by a two-letter group and many non-NATO countries are designated using a three-letter group. For example, United Kingdom - UK, United States - US, Turkey - TU, Greece - GR, Spain - SP, Portugal - PO, Norway - NO, Netherlands - NL, Luxembourg - LU, Italy - IT, Germany - GE, France - FR, Denmark - DK, Canada - CA and Belgium - BE.


'Basic Military Map Symbols' in Lee, U. The Employment of Negro Troops, Center of Military History, US Army, Washington DC, 1966, CMH Pub 11-4, p. 715. Also available at http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/11-4/symbols.htm as of 17 May 2006.

Military Map Symbols Webpage, part of the HyperWar Website, currently located at http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/maps/MapSym.html as of 17 May 2006.

Miller, D. NATO Military Map Symbols Handbook, International Defence Review Quarterly Report, Number 1, Jane's Information Group, 1996.

Watch the video: Rail Bike (June 2022).


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