I discover many remarkable and peculiar concepts while conducting my research, two of which are outlined below, but few are as colourful as the ‘Nuclear Legion’. This was a 1959 proposal by a Colonel in the REME for the radical recasting of the Army structure. It was a simple organisation that would allow combat units to fight effectively with a nuclear potential without the need to rely on complex administrative and supply echelons, which many officers thought would become vulnerable to atomisation in a nuclear ground war.
Essentially, the Nuclear Legion would consist of three main elements – a combined tank and self-propelled gun called Romulus, an all-purpose carrier called Remus, and a helicopter. The vital statistics were as follows:
Weight: 26-28 tons.
Armour: Equal to a conventional heavy tank (of the Centurion type).
Gun: Calibre and chamber pressure at a minimum to allow it to fire nuclear shells.
Ammunition: HE for tank and conventional roles. Nuclear for assault and ‘annihilation’ roles.
Weight: 8 tons.
Protection: Shell burst and nuclear.
Payload: 2 crew, 10 personnel.
Trailer: 10 personnel or equivalent load.
Since the entire Legion would be carried by either Romulus or Remus, it would have no other type of vehicle in its first echelon, and therefore, would be completely mobile and independent of all roads and would be air supplied in combat by helicopters. The sharp end of the Legion would consist of 20 Romulus and a 132 man infantry company mounted in 11 Remus. Considering each Romulus could carry a number of 15kt nuclear shells, this formation could pack a serious punch. If that wasn’t enough, heavy nuclear support in the megaton range would be provided by tactical air. In war, the simple aim of the Nuclear Legion was ‘to defeat and destroy completely the enemy army in the theatre of war’. To achieve this it would ‘encircle the enemy, destroy his command and communications and then manoeuvre him into a position where he can be annihilated by nuclear firepower’. There is no doubt the Legion would be extremely adept in this role. Its drawback would probably be that it would destroy the theatre of operations along with the enemy army that was unfortunate enough to be caught in it.