WW2 German Armored Cars

Schwerer geländegängiger gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen, Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A (6 Rad) and B (4 Rad)

German Reich (1938-1945)
Armored Staff Car – 10 Ausf.A and 58 Ausf.B Built

The Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B were armored cross-country cars intended for transporting very senior German officers around safely, even on rough terrain. Due to the rising need for such an armored car that would be easy to build, a development already began in the early 1930s. Based on the chassis of an existing and very popular truck, the Kfz.69 and 70, the 6-wheeled Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was built. With only a few Ausf.A vehicles were ever completed, in 1941, the Ausf.B entered production with only 4 wheels but improved mobility. The Ausf.A and B were assigned to command and HQ units and later used as reconnaissance vehicles. Production was stopped in 1942 and, by 1943/1944, most Sd.Kfz.247s were lost.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A 6-wheeled armored cross-country car in 1938. Source: Panzer Tracts No. 13-1
Colorization of an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B 4-wheeled armored cross-country car in the Soviet Union in 1942. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Context and Development: Need for a Cross-Country Staff and Troop Car

In 1929, the company of Krupp designed a 3-axle cross-country artillery tractor that was meant to be able to tow anti-tank (AT) guns through rugged terrain. However, this vehicle was meant to not use tracks and stll perform better than a regular truck. The result was the Krupp L2 H43, which was a 6-wheeled (6×4) truck chassis that had a 4-cylinder boxer engine. This engine was installed to fulfill the requirements, which demanded a high ground clearance. The L2 H43 and the later H143 truck chassis were used on several different vehicles. One example was the Krupp Protze (Protze refers to the name Protzekraftwagen, which originated from its constructor), designated Kfz.69. Throughout the 1930s, this was Germany’s most produced light AT gun and artillery gun carrier.

The L2 H143 chassis of a Krupp Protze in 1937. Source: Bundesarchiv, 146-1993-039-10

Alongside the most well-known version, the Kfz.69, there were several other variants, each of which fulfilled a different role. In 1934, the German weapons design office demanded the development of a fast and mobile cross-country vehicle that was easy and cheap to produce for very high-ranking officers. This vehicle was intended to safely transport these officers to the front. Although there were already staff cars in service, the Kfz.21 was solely a 6×4 car which was limited in mobility. This limit came to show later in 1941, when many staff cars had trouble going through rugged terrain. Furthermore, they could not provide sufficient protection against even small arms fire. The new cross-country armored cars were to be organized within the HQ units of the divisional HQs and reconnaissance battalions.

Kfz.21 using the same 6-wheeled L2 H143 chassis. These vehicles were rather limited in mobility and their ability to maneuver through difficult terrain. Source: Collection of Henry Hoppe


In 1934, the prototype of the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was built on the chassis of a Krupp L2 H43. By January 1938, 10 vehicles had been completed. The production was carried out by Krupp and Daimler Benz.

In the same year, the contract for at least 58 new staff vehicles was given out to Daimler-Benz. These were to be built on an Einheitsfahrgestell (Eng. Unitary chassis). The unitary chassis was intended to be used for many vehicles to simplify production. These staff car variants had 4 wheels and would later be known as the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B.

Production was to start in October 1939, but design problems delayed the production. To resolve the problems, unlike all other 4-wheeled armored cars that used the Einheitsfahrgestell, the Ausf.B used the Einheitsfahrgestell II für schweren Pkw (Eng. unitary chassis for heavy personnel carrier), with a two-wheel drive instead of the intended 4. From July 1941 to January 1942, all 58 Ausf.Bs were completed.

Heavy cross-country truck of the SS towing a Pak 36 in 1941. Its chassis would later be used on the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B. Source: Wikiwand


The long name for the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B was Schwerer geländegängiger gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen, Sonderkraftfahrzeug 247 Ausführung A (6 Rad) und Ausführung B (4 Rad) mit Fahrgestell des leichten geländegängigen Lastkraftwagen, which translates to ‘heavy cross-country armored personnel carrier, special purpose vehicle 247 variant A (6-wheeled) and variant B (4-wheeled) on chassis of the light cross-country truck’. This designation was only used on paper and in factories. There was also an abbreviation for this long term: The troops would normally refer to it as schwerer gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen (Eng: heavy armored personnel carrier) or, if commanded by a general, schwerer gepanzerter Kommandatenwagen (Eng: heavy armored command vehicle). For the sake of simplicity, the article will use the term Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B.

Original color photo of an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B, part of the 3rd Motorcycle Battalion of the 3rd Panzer Division in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The Ausf.A was designed to be as cheap as possible whilst still being able to sustain fire with rifle caliber bullets. It would also maintain the style of German armored cars at that time, such as the Sd.Kfz.221 and 222. The Ausf.A was 6-wheeled and had an armored superstructure around the vehicle. The Ausf.B maintained the overall idea of the armored superstructure and only the number of wheels changed to 4.

Top: Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A with the L2 H143 chassis.
Bottom: Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B.
Source: Panzer Tracts No. 13-1

Hull, Superstructure, and Layout

The hull was built around the chassis of the vehicle. On top of the hull was the armored superstructure that went around the entire vehicle. The Ausf.A had an open top. Above the wheels were mudguards. At the front was the engine grill and two headlamps. On the left side, the Ausf.A had a spare wheel and other equipment, such as an ax and shovel. On the front and on the sides were visors, two on each side and two on the front. The visors on the front laid on another big visor which could be opened for a better view. On some vehicles, fake visors were painted on to confuse the enemy. The Ausf.A also had two exit doors on the sides and one at the rear. Some vehicles had a K-Rolle (Eng: wired barrier-roll), used for laying quick barriers, placed on the engine deck, on the front side.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in Germany 1938. Note the K-Rolle on the engine deck. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The Ausf.B also had a mostly open-topped superstructure, but the driver’s compartment was covered by a top metal plate. On some vehicles, a canvas was fastened above the crew compartment. It also had mudguards above the wheels, on which headlamps were placed. The engine grill was also at the front, with an access hatch to the engine on the engine deck at the front. The Ausf.B had three exit doors, one at the rear, one on the right, and one on the left side. On the rear door was the spare wheel. On its left side, the Ausf.B had a shovel, a storage box, a jack, and an access hatch to the crew compartment. On the right side, it had a fire extinguisher and the last access hatch. Visors were placed all around the vehicle, with three on each side and two at the front. Towing hooks were at the rear and on the front.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B seen from the side. Note the open hatch and storage box. Source:

The inner layout did not differ much between the two variants. There were two seats at the rear and a large two-man bench. On the inner sides of the superstructure was equipment for the crew, such as ammunition and the periscope, which was placed in the middle of the crew compartment. Two seats were at the front for the driver and co-driver.

View into the inside of the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A. Source: Collection Holger Erdmann

Suspension and Wheels

The Ausf.A had 4 driven wheels and 2 steering wheels. On the front side were the two steering wheels, which were sprung with leaf springs. At the back side were the four drive wheels, that were sprung by common coil springs. The Ausf.A had two different variants which differed in the distance between the rear axles. However, the versions are almost impossible to distinguish. The early Ausf.As received the L2 H43 chassis, whilst the late Ausf.As received the later L2 H143 chassis. There were also different tire types, but this had nothing to do with the different chassis types. One tire type was thicker and more resistant to difficult terrain.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in France 1940. This was the later L2 H143 chassis with more space between the rear axles. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A, part of an armored car company during a parade in 1938. This was the earlier L2 H43 with less space between the rear axles. This very vehicle is also said to be the very first Ausf.A ever built. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Initially, the Ausf.B was planned to have 4 driven wheels. All 4 wheels were individually suspended and coil spring-suspended. However, due to production issues, it only received the Einheitsfahrgestell II chassis, which had a 2-wheel drive.


Both variants had their engine at the front and access hatches above the engine compartment. The Ausf.A had a 65 hp @ 2,500 rpm Krupp 4-cylinder engine, which propelled it to a top speed of 70 km/h. The gearbox had 4 forward and 1 reverse gears. The 110 liters of gasoline were enough for 350 km on the road and around 240 km off-road.

The Ausf.B, on the other hand, was fitted with a more powerful 81 hp @ 3,600 rpm water-cooled Horch V-8, which performed better than the Krupp engine. Furthermore, the Ausf.B had a power-to-weight ratio of 18.1 hp/ton compared to the 12.4 hp/ton of the Ausf.A. This resulted in the Ausf.B generally performing better in terms of mobility than the Ausf.A. However, one factor for this performance increase was the weight being reduced by almost one tonne. The Horch gearbox had 5 forward and 1 reverse gears. The 120 liters of gasoline was enough for 400 km on the road and 270 km off-road.


Exact armor specifications are not known and range from 6-8 mm all around for both vehicles. The armor was sloped and angled to prevent penetration by 7.92 mm steel-cored bullets at ranges of over 30 m.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A as part of an army corps HQ unit in Poland, 1939. Note the angled armor. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B as part of a divisional HQ unit in Spring 1942. Note the angled armor. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


Officially, there was no primary armament on either the Ausf.A or B. For protection, the vehicle had to rely on the weapons of the crew and an MP 38/40 with 192 rounds kept within the compartment. However, crews quickly became aware of this lack of protection, mainly against air attacks, but also against ground targets. On some Ausf.As, an anti-aircraft (AA) MG 34 was mounted behind the periscope. Most of the Ausf.Bs received an AA MG 34 or MG 42 mounted on the front superstructure for use against infantry and one at the back against air attacks. Since these were field conversions, they did not have any protective shields. There was one exception from the LSSAH, when an Ausf.B featured a presumably self-made shield and an MG 34 mounted in the crew compartment.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in France, 1940, with an anti-aircraft MG 34 mounted in the crew compartment for protection. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B with an AA MG 34 mounted on top of the driver’s compartment in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B, part of the 10th SS Motorcycle Regiment of the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundberg, with an MG 42 mounted on top of the driver’s compartment. Normandy, 1944. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B with an improvised MG shield and MG 34, part of the LSSAH in the Soviet Union during winter 1941-1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


Communication between the vehicles had to be done with hand signals and flags, as no radio was fitted in the Ausf.A and B. However, similar to the armament, crews quickly adapted and refitted their cars with radios. It is unknown whether these conversions were authorized, but they all appear to be very similar. Vehicles were either refitted with a frame antenna going around the crew compartment or a star antenna (mostly on the Ausf.B). The radios were most likely FuG 5 or 8s.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A during the invasion of Poland in 1939. This vehicle already received a radio and frame antenna in 1939, which shows the desperate need for radios in the 247s. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B that was outfitted with a radio and a star antenna in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The crew in both variants was 6: one driver and five passengers. The driver sat on the right side in the driver’s compartment. Of the 5 passengers, 1 sat next to the driver (presumably the commander). The other 4, which included one adjutant or senior officer, sat in the crew compartment on two benches.

The crew members (one missing) of a Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in 1938. Source: ea-antik via Ebay

Organization and Doctrine

Although the vehicle was capable of driving through rugged terrain, it was somewhat limited due to its wheels. The drivers were therefore advised to stay on dirst tracks and roads and only drive off-road if needed.

Colorization of a reconnaissance battalion. In the lead is an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in three-tone camouflage. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital collection of Armin Freitag

In 1939, the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was organized within headquarters units of motorized infantry brigades, with one vehicle per unit. Before the war, some divisions had a motorized reconnaissance regiment instead of a battalion. These regiments had an approved strength of up to 6 Sd.Kfz.247s.

The regular battalions had a total of 3 within their HQ unit and in each armored car company. The independent recruitment reconnaissance battalion also had one within their HQ unit and armored car companies. This was a total of 4 Sd.Kfz.247s without the reconnaissance regiment and 7 with the reconnaissance regiment per motorized infantry division and tank division in 1939.

Regular non-motorized infantry divisions did not have any. The independent training reconnaissance battalion also had one within their HQ unit and armored car companies. The Waffen SS had one Sd.Kfz.247 per division within the HQ unit of their reconnaissance unit.

However, these were only theoretical numbers and the fact that only around 10 Ausf.As were ever built leads to the conclusion that most units did not receive any Sd.Kfz.247. Confirmed units that fielded Sd.Kfz.247s were the HQ units of the motorized reconnaissance regiments. The regular army corps HQ also had several vehicles on the adjutant level.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A during a parade, part of the 1st Battalion of the 6th Reconnaissance Regiments of the 1st Light Brigade. Source: Koelsch333 via Ebay
An adjutant (on the left) and his crew in their Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in Poland, 1939. Source: Engelbubu-Fotos via Ebay

In 1940, the organization did not change much. The Ausf.B was not yet in service, which meant that most divisions were still underequipped. The number of motorized reconnaissance units was reduced to a single regiment that had 4 Sd.Kfz.247s instead of 6. This meant each tank and motorized infantry division was meant to only have 4 Sd.Kfz.247s, one from the infantry brigade HQ and 3 from the reconnaissance battalion. The division with a sole reconnaissance regiment had 5. The SS fielded 2 vehicles per division.

One of the rare cases where an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was part of an armored car company’s HQ unit in France 1940. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

In 1941, the organization changed slightly, and more and more divisions actually received vehicles. These were mainly the new Ausf.Bs, which were delivered from July 1941 onwards. Each SS division still fielded 2 Sd.Kfz.247s Ausf.Bs within their reconnaissance battalion. The headquarters of a Panzer group now also fielded 247s on their adjutant level. The same applied to the motorized army corps. For regular motorized and tank divisions, the HQ unit of an infantry brigade had one and the reconnaissance battalion had 2. This resulted in a total number of up to 3 vehicles per division.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B during winter 1941. Note the flag and the symbol for reconnaissance battalions, which identifies this vehicle as a reconnaissance battalion HQ vehicle. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

In 1942, the Wehrmacht would change the way how reconnaissance was done. Instead of motorized reconnaissance battalions, there were two individual motorcycle battalions. One of the two was converted from the old reconnaissance battalion and was refitted with more motorcycles. This meant most Sd.Kfz.247s were moved over to the HQ units and armored car companies of the new motorcycle battalions. The headquarters unit of an infantry brigade still fielded their 247s. A total of 3 Sd.Kfz.247s were present in each division. The same changes applied for the Waffen SS, which was also given motorcycle battalions. The organization of the Independent and HQ units also changed. It was thought that the Sd.Kfz.247s were less effective as staff vehicles, but more important in the reconnaissance role and were therefore removed from army corps HQ. The training motorcycle battalion had one within their HQ unit.

An Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A that survived until 1942, as part of a motorcycle battalion. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.Bs as part of the Motorcycle Battalion Grossdeutschland’s Second Company in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

In 1943, although reconnaissance battalions were reintroduced, the Sd.Kfz.247s were removed from the Wehrmacht’s organizational lists. Only the Waffen SS continued to use them. This meant most Wehrmacht 247s were moved over to the Waffen SS. The SS had 2 per Division within their motorcycle HQ unit and reconnaissance HQ unit. However, some units simply kept their 247s and continued to use them. Two of these continued recorded cases were during the Battle of Normandy and the Invasion of Rhodes.

Number of Sd.Kfz.247 per Division from 1939 to 1943
Date Type of Division Number of Sd.Kfz.247
1.9.1939 motorized infantry and tank division 4, 7 (with reconnaissance regiment)
1.9.1939-1943 motorcycle and reconnaissance recruitment battalion 1
1.9.1939-1942 Army Corps HQ 1
1.9.1939 Waffen SS 1
10.5.1940 motorized infantry and tank division 4
10.5.1940-1944 Waffen SS 2
22.6.1941-1943 motorized infantry and tank division 3
22.6.1941 Tank Corps HQ 1


Before the Second World War, the Sd.Kfz.247 was often seen during big parades, when very high ranking officers were transported. These vehicles were therefore often photographed and played more of a propaganda role, in order to demonstrate how advanced the German command forces were, even though, in reality, most units did not even receive these vehicles.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A during a parade in 1939, after the invasion of Poland. Note the decorated crew of the vehicle, presumably part of a reconnaissance battalion HQ. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

During wartime, the vehicles were less effective than in their propaganda role and were mostly photographed because of their crew. They did not participate in any direct fighting and mainly were second in line on the frontlines. The later upgraded versions with radios and self-defense armament were used more often on the frontlines, especially within the motorized motorcycle battalions as reconnaissance vehicles and communication vehicles. Due to their speed and cross-country capabilities, they were popular as reconnaissance vehicles compared to other reconnaissance armored cars, such as the Sd.Kfz.222. However, these outshined the 247s because of their superior armament.

Colorization of a column of vehicles of the 7th Motorcycle Battalion of the 7th Panzer Division. In the front is an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B. 1942. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The vehicles saw service on almost all fronts, from the annexation of Austria, to the occupation of Czechoslovakia, to the Invasion of Poland. They went on to see service during the invasions of France and the Soviet Union. Although they did not see service in North Africa, some Ausf.Bs took part in the invasion of Italian-occupied Rhodes in 1943, as part of the 999. Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of Sturm Division Rhodos (Eng. Assault Division Rhodes).

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A as part of a reconnaissance battalion in Poland, 1939. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
One of the few Ausf.As that survived until the winter of 1941. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B as part of the 999. Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Rhodes in 1943. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


After the Sd.Kfz.247s were removed from the organizational lists, there was no demand for them, and the few vehicles that survived continued to see service. Due to only such a low number of vehicles being produced, most Sd.Kfz.247s were lost by 1944.

Destroyed Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A of an armored reconnaissance battalion in 1941-1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


There are no surviving Sd.Kfz.247s. However, the 247 proved to be a popular vehicle for reenactors over time. There are numerous reproductions and replicas owned by private collectors and reenactors. They are mostly used as HQ vehicles for the unit, but some are also lent for film production. The exact number of reproductions is not known and they all differ in historical accuracy. They all use different chassis of trucks and cars and the material used is also different.

One of the most accurate Sd.Kz. 247 replicas used by many reenactment groups. Source: Wikimedia
A replica Ausf.B which is decently accurate, excluding the wheels. Source: Flickr
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B replica which has the wrong wheels and is too short. Source: Flickr
Another accurate replica of the Ausf.B, excluding the wheels. It was used in numerous war films. Source: Wikimedia
A replica of the Ausf.B which is also decently accurate but has a too low silhouette and is too long. Source: Flickr
A historically inaccurate replica of the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B having the wrong mudguards, visors, equipment, and too high a silhouette. Source: Wikimedia
Another replica of the Ausf.B with a too high silhouette and overall wrong layout. Source: Wikimedia
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A replica. This one is one of the most accurate replicas of the Ausf.A, excluding the wheels. Source: Flickr
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A replica. This one, although it has the right shape, misses a lot of equipment and has some errors with the visors. Source: Flickr


The Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B were successful attempts at creating a mobile cross-country armored staff car that was superior in terms of mobility to the other staff cars but inferior to half-tracked vehicles. Although it might seem like the vehicle lacked armor protection and armament, this was not demanded by the weapons office. The vehicles delivered what they were intended for. However, the vehicles were built in too few numbers to actually have had an impact on the war and were less relevant to the German Army. They were replaced by more advanced half-tracked command vehicles.


Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in the France, 1940. Illustration made by Godzilla
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B in the Soviet Union, 1941. Illustration made by Godzilla
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B in the Soviet Union in Autumn 1942. Illustration made by David B.
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B as part of the 10th SS. Panzer Division in Normandy, 1944. Illustration made by David B.

Sd.Kfz.254 Ausf.A and B specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) Ausf.A: 5.2 x 1.9 x 1.7 m, Ausf.B: 5 x 2 x 1.8 m
Total Weight Ausf.A: 5,200 kg, Ausf.B: 4,460 kg
Crew (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) 6 (driver, 5 passengers)
Speed Ausf.A: on roads 70 km/h, off-road 31 km/h, Ausf.B: on roads 80 km/h, off-road 40 km/h
Range Ausf.A: 350 km, Ausf.B: 400 km
Secondary Armament (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) MP 38/40
Armor (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) 10 mm
Engine (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) Ausf.A: water-cooled Krupp 4-cylinder, Ausf.B: water-cooled Horch V-8 cylinder
Total Production Ausf.A: 10, Ausf.B: 58


Alexander Lüdeke, Panzer der Wehrmacht Band 2: Rad- und Halbkettenfahrzeuge 1939–1945. Motorbuch Verlag

Charles Lemons: Technical Manuals for German Vehicles, Volume 2, Sonderkraftfahrzeug

Peter Chamberlain and Hilary L. Doyle, Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 13 Panzerspähwagen

WW2 Peruvian Armor

Tanque Ligero 38/39M, Praga LTP in Peruvian Service

Peru (1938-1982)
Light Tank – 24 Imported

After a war with Colombia over a territorial dispute ending in a stalemate, Peru found itself weak. Even though the war was not lost, the High Command was disappointed with the army and, therefore, the need for a new weapon arose. Tanks and the concept of importing tanks had been just introduced to South America and the Peruvian Commission saw this as an opportunity to modernize their army. After a series of negotiations and tests, Peru acquired 24 Praga LTP light tanks which were used for the first time during the coup d’état in 1938. Later, in 1941, the vehicles saw their first combat action and were used with great success against Ecuador. They allegedly stayed in service all the way until the 1980s, when they were finally decommissioned after an illustrious career.

Colorization of a Praga LTP named “Junín” in front of the Czechoslovakian Praga factories. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

Context: Territorial Disputes and a Lost War to Colombia

After the war of independence in 1824, the nation of Peru was one of the many nations to rise from the Spanish colonial empire. Throughout the years, until the 1930s, South America was characterized by wars caused due to the expansion and exploration of the jungles further inland, where many different countries had claims on the same territories. One of these overlapping claims was around the regions of Amazon, Putumayo, Napo, and the Apaporis Rivers, between the nations of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Furthermore, after the Salomón–Lozano Treaty of 1922, when the important town of Leticia was given to Colombia, many Peruvians still felt right in their claim over this area.

The League of Nations failed to deescalate the mounting tensions between Colombia and Peru due to the interest of third parties wanting the dispute to escalate. One of these parties was Czechoslovakia, which sought to export armament. The dispute finally reached its zenith in September 1932, when 200 Peruvian soldiers crossed the border and captured the Colombian town of Leticia with next to no resistance. It is unknown whether the Peruvian government planned this attack, however, they used it as justification to go to war. The incident turned into a full-scale war, but a very slow one, as the war zone area was very remote. In order to get there, the soldiers had to go through difficult terrain, such as mountains and deep jungles. The Colombians, on the other hand, had the advantage of moving their troops on the Amazon River.

Peruvian troops arrived first and captured multiple towns, such as the port town of Tarapacá. However, Colombian gunships delayed the arrival of additional troops. The largest battle took place during the Colombian capture of the town of Güeppi, with over 100 Colombian soldiers and 30 Peruvian casualties. In April 1933, the president of Peru was assassinated and replaced by General Oscar Benavides, who was against continuing the war due to personal close relations with Colombia.

Before a potential large-scale battle could break out involving hundreds of troops on each side, the League of Nations successfully resolved the war in March 1933. The war ended in a status quo ante bellum (Everything is as it was before the war) and with only a few casualties on each side. Even though the strength in manpower was almost equal, Colombia had a superior air force and access to the area via the Amazon.

A map showing the disputed area between the two countries. Source: Wiki
Peruvians protesting against the ratification of the Salomón-Lozano Treaty and calling for the return of the city of Leticia. Source: Wiki

Tanks for Peru and the Peruvian Delegation in Europe

Although Peru had not lost the war, strictly speaking, they had not achieved their objectives. Following the war, the Peruvian Army searched for a new weapon that could be used to effectively penetrate enemy lines. A possible solution were tanks. However, Peru did not have the production capability or engineering skills to develop its own tank. Therefore, the purchase of export tanks was considered. Tanks had been used in the South American continent before the Peruvians thought about buying tanks, during the Brazilian revolutions and wars and the Chaco War involving Bolivia and Paraguay. However, the tanks used in these conflicts were used rather unsuccessfully and only employed in small numbers. Furthermore, one of the biggest problems with tanks in most parts of South America was the hostile environment. The thick jungles and, in Peru’s case, the mountains, were physical barriers for the tanks. This led to only a small number of possible tank candidates that were able to adapt to the environment.

Due to the rising tensions even after signing multiple treaties with neighboring countries, the Peruvian Army Purchasing Commission sent representatives to Europe with the hope of buying light or medium tanks from either Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, or the United Kingdom.

In 1936, the Czechoslovak firm Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk (ČKD) established contact with the Peruvians after hearing that the Peruvians were seeking to acquire tanks. ČKD suggested the Peruvian delegation took a look at their AH-IV tankettes and TNH tanks made for Iran, which they proposed for export. In October 1936, the Peruvian delegation visited the ČKD factories and the AH-IV and TNH tanks.

Following this, right after the visit in October 1936, the Arms Purchasing Commission provided the delegation with the requirements, which were: 36 tanks, 5-6 tonnes in weight, a speed of 20 km/h, and armed with a 37 mm gun and a 7.65 mm machine gun.

After another meeting in January 1937, in April, the Peruvian delegation watched the demonstration of the newest tank prototypes made by ČKD. The newly developed LTL for Lithuania met the requirements of the delegation.

The newly developed LTL for Lithuania. Source: Tank Archives

In September 1937, a letter was sent to the Peruvian Army Purchase Office, informing them about the high prices of the ball mount of the gun. The Office replied that the delegation had to renegotiate the price within a week and conclude the contract which, in the end, turned out in favor of the Peruvians. A month later, another meeting was held where the supply of 24 tanks was negotiated. Originally, they were to be armed with the Škoda A-7 and A-8 guns. However, due to Czechoslovak Army demands, these would not be available until 1939, which was not acceptable to the Peruvians. To speed up the process, ČKD instead proposed the A-3 37 mm vz. 34, as mounted in the LT vz. 35. This also could not be produced fast enough for the Peruvians’ liking either. After a meeting between the MNO (Ministry of Defense) and CKD, the Czechoslovak Army supplied 10 reserve A-3 guns and 14 guns from infantry anti-tank guns. ZB managed to provide the machine guns in time.

At the same time, Peru also showed interest in purchasing Italian tanks. However, the demonstration of the tanks was delayed and, therefore, the Peruvians continued with ČKD. One CV33 made it to Lima for demonstrations in November 1937, but it failed to meet the requirements.

In January 1938, ČKD received the 10 3.7 cm vz. 34 ÚV A-3 guns, of which three had been taken from Czechoslovakian light tank prototypes, such as the Š-II-a. The other guns were the 3.7 cm can. vz. 34 J, for which special cartridges had to be made. In the same month, the Peruvians finally decided to stick with the ČKD tanks. During a meeting in Paris with the chief of the ČKD firm and the Peruvian Commission, the technical specifications were discussed.

The final negotiations began on January 31, 1938. ČKD informed the Peruvians of an increase in weight from 5,600 kg to 6,600 kg, which was reviewed negatively by the Peruvians, who saw it as an inconsistency on the behalf of ČKD. Whilst the negotiations were nearing their conclusion by the second week of February, the contract discussion had to be put on hold since the leader of the Peruvian Commission got sick. On February 15, 1938, the leader of the Peruvian Commission, Colonel Martínez, and the representatives of ČKD were able to finalize the contract worth 24 million koruna (US$42,000 in 1938 and around US$900,000 in 2022) for 24 Praga LTL. Of the 24 million koruna, 14 million went to CKD, 9 million to Skoda, and 1.1 million to ZB Brno. CKD managed to gain a profit of around 2,287,000 koruna.

The final vehicle specifications in the contract were: 6,300 kg weight, 25 mm of armor, a 3.7 cm cannon, a ZB 53 heavy machine gun, a ZB 30 light machine gun, 40 km/h operational speed at 4,500 m above the sea level, and a crew of 3. The request also included 8,000 HE and 5,334 AT shells for the tanks.

During the same month, the Peruvian Commission requested a visit to the factories in Czechoslovakia. Their request was allowed and the Peruvians watched a demonstration of the TNH tanks and LT vz.34 and a mounting and dismounting of the 3.7 cm cannon on the LT vz.34.

Although the contract was agreed, the Czechoslovak Ministry of Defense would only approve the sale if its Peruvian counterpart offered credible assurances that they would not export it to third countries. The assurance was obtained on April 6, 1938, and the sale was agreed upon by the Czechoslovak government, which also made the guns available.

After the final hurdle was overcome, ČKD began construction of the prototype, which was designated Praga LTP, at the Liben factory almost immediately, on April 21, due to very little time available. From April to June 1938, the prototype was constructed in the presence of the Peruvian Commission. The Peruvian Commission was headed by Captain Hector Cornejo and also included Second Lieutenant Calindo and Sergeant Vargas, who had indegenous roots and became the center of attention in Prague. Vargas would later be the main mechanic responsible for the LTPs on the Peruvian side. On August 5, the prototype was accepted by the Commission. The vehicle was accepted with only an increase of weight of 1,000 kg.

The prototype, named “Lima” after the Peruvian capital, was sent to Peru without armament for testing. The main objective was to see how the LTP performed in the Peruvian high altitude. The average altitude in Peru is 1,555 m (5102 feet), but most of the populated areas are coastal. Large parts of the borders with Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador are mountainous though. If the vehicle completed all tests successfully, then serial production could commence.

“Lima” was sent in a wooden box through Poland to the port of Gdynia on August 4th, 1938, then on the steamer “Pilsudski” to New York where it arrived on August 20th. The vehicle, disguised as a tractor, was then transported on the ship “Frida” to the Peruvian port of Callao, where it arrived on September 13th, 1938. The next day, the tank was sent to the arsenal in Lima and prepared for test trials. It performed basic test drives for three days, before being sent via train to La Oroya, at 3,728 m above sea level in the central Peruvian Andes.

Prototype bearing the name “Lima” before being sent to Peru for trials. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via
Prototype LTP “Lima” being shipped to Peru in a wooden box for test trials without armament. It would later be sent back to Czechoslovakia for the mounting of the armament. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

“Lima” performed well in its tests in September 1938 and the Peruvians were satisfied. However, the representative of the French mission in Peru requested more challenges and tests that the tank should undergo. It should be noted that Peruvian military thinking at the time was heavily influenced by the French. In the end, even the French representatives in Peru were convinced and reported the results to Renault.

The tank could effectively drive at 33 km/h at 4,200 m above sea level and could drive up a 40º slope. Nonetheless, an accident occurred when the tank was tasked with driving up a curvy and unknown road at top speed. It was very windy that day and the tank’s driver lost control on a curve and fell 5 m. The tank itself sustained only minor damage, and the crew members were lightly hurt.

Photo showing the “Lima” tank incident. Note “Lima” on the left-hand side of the picture after it lost control on the curve and fell off the road. At this point, “Lima” has already been flipped to the side. Source: Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

“Lima” was repaired the following morning and returned to Lima on September 23. The commission who saw the rescue and repairs on the tank was satisfied and saw this as a learning opportunity in case it happened again. On October 3, the president of Peru inspected the tank and was also satisfied. The whole accident turned out positively for the Czechoslovaks in the end, as rumors spread in Lima that the tank had fallen from a height of 15 m sustaining no damage at all. Whilst sources mention that shooting tests were carried out next, the tank did not have any armament. This was either a mistake in the sources or possibly refers to the tank being shot at. The tank was also tested for driving through dunes, which it satisfactorily passed.

Production and Export

With the success of “Lima”, serial production in Czechoslovakia was authorized. The first 13 hulls, which would become the first series, were put under construction. However, the deadline of the contract was regarded as unrealistic by ČKD. The Peruvian Commission demanded that the prototype was to be sent for trial runs in Peru by summer 1938 and the remaining tanks were to be delivered by October 1938. Armor plates for the tanks were made in the Poldi factories and the guns were constructed by Skoda. ZB was responsible for the machine guns. It was Poldi that often delayed the construction of the tanks due to armor plate shortages.

Due to the Czechoslovakian mobilization in September 1938 following the German annexation of the Sudetenland, several tanks were taken over by the Czechoslovakian military. In case the Peruvians wanted their money back if they regarded the contract with ČKD as unfulfilled, the Czechoslovakian government would pay Skoda per tank. However, this whole affair is quite unclearly explained in the available secondary literature.

In October 1938, several armor pieces were completed and mechanical components were installed on 11 tanks. Of these, 4 already had engines. In November, 6 tanks were completed and sent to painting.

In the meantime, in Peru, the diplomatic representatives and two factory divers were training the first Peruvian tankers, 3 officers, and 7 NCOs. The training consisted of teaching the Peruvians not only to drive the tanks but also how to service them.

Demonstration and training were done on the prototype “Lima”. Training finished a day before the tanks arrived. Acceptance trials that took place between December 23 and 27 were performed by the new Peruvian tankers.

In December 1938, the other 17 vehicles were successfully tested in Czechoslovakia. After the mobilization was called off, on November 4, 1938, the first batch of 6 vehicles was sent to Hamburg. In Hamburg, the tanks were sent to Callao on board the ship “PATRIA”. On December 7, after arriving in Callao, during the process of unpacking the first four vehicles, another problem was observed. All unpainted surfaces, such as shafts connecting the engine and gearbox, levers, brakes, water pump, and exhaust pipes were rusting and all leather surfaces were molding. This was mainly the result of time limitations on the Czechoslovakian side, which meant the repairs had to be done by the mechanics in Peru. On some vehicles, such as No. 1, the brake could not be replaced. Bulletproof glass blocks and support rollers of the tracks had to be replaced on almost every vehicle. Furthermore, much to the dislike of the Peruvians, the heavy ZB machine guns had a defect. Additionally, some vehicles lacked specific parts which had to be replaced.

On January 5, 1939, the second batch of LTPs was sent through Poland to the harbor in Gdynia and then sent to New York on board the ship “BATORY”. The second batch, consisting of 9 tanks, arrived in Callao on February 14, 1939, on board the ship “LEILA”.

On January 13, 1939, the third and final batch of vehicles consisting of 8 tanks was sent through Poland to Gdynia and then to New York on the steamer “VIGILAND”. The tanks arrived in Callao on February 27, 1939, on board the ship “HELGA”. Afterward, the purchase of several radio telegraph instruments was approved.

The tanks of the second and third batches had some of the same defects as the first batch, such as a lack of bulletproof glass blocks, which was a problem on almost all LTPs. In January 1939, the glass blocks were sent from Czechoslovakia with the addition of other necessary parts. Additionally, 1,071 cases and 13,334 rounds for the LTP’s guns were sent. On March 3rd, 1939 the last tanks were accepted and were officially introduced to Peruvian service. In April, 14 boxes with additional spare parts for the LTPs were sent.

Colorization of LTP named “Callao”, one of the first production vehicles, before undergoing tests in 1938. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

Trials in Czechoslovakia

Before being sent to Peru, each serial-produced LTP (all vehicles except the first one) had to go through a test trial. This trial run consisted of a 150 km long route on roads and 3 hours on soft grass and stony areas. On the road, everything and every little aspect of the tank had to be tested, which included testing the brakes, steering, water crossing capabilities, trench crossing capability, and ability to climb and overcome obstacles.

LTP undergoing tests in an obstacle course. Note that the camouflage has not been applied yet. The photo also demonstrates how the suspension worked. Czechoslovakia, 1938. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

The contract also stipulated that one of the first ten (excluding the prototype) tanks had to pass a long test run overseen by the Peruvian Commission. This route had to be 1,000 km long, of which 100 km had to be sandy ground. In November 1938, the route and journey were recorded. The vehicle, presumably vehicle No. 2-7, was sent together with two crew members, a Czechoslovak driver and a Peruvian mechanic, a car, and a fuel transporter and was divided into 8 stages.

The 8 stages of the 1000 km test run of the LTP
Stage Information Results
1st stage Prague – Brno (227 km), 120 liters of fuel, 10 hours Good performance under perfect weather on the state roads
2nd stage Brno – Trenčín (139 km), 110 liters of fuel, 9 hours Steering brakes had to be adjusted -> same performance
3rd stage Trenčín – B. Bystrica (154 km), 131 liters of fuel, 8 hours Oil in the gearbox had to be changed, heavy fog, performed well
4th stage B. Bystrica – N. Smokovec (153 km), 150 liters of fuel, 7 hours No problems occurred
5th stage N. Smokovec – Ružomberok (98 km), 77 liters of fuel, 6 hours Icy and mountainous roads, some track pins had to be stripped
6th stage Ružomberok – Zlín (209 km), 138 liters of fuel, 9 hours Sunny weather, good overall performance, accident occurred when the tank had to break sharply, which slightly injured the Peruvian mechanic
7th stage Zlín – Jihlava (182 km), 138 liters of fuel, 10 hours Good performance, some rivets of the track pins broke
8th stage Jihlava – Prague (137 km), fuel consumption not measured, 6 hours Good performance
The entire route through Czechoslovakia. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

The Commission was satisfied with the results and considered the LTP a reliable vehicle. Except for the cases when track links became loose and rivets broke on the tracks, the tank sustained no damage. This problem was fixed by introducing a new bolt for the track links. The representative of the Commission who participated in the ride stated that the vehicle could be easily started every morning whilst being kept in a closed garage overnight. At an average speed of 25 km/h, the tank’s brakes, steering, engine, and transmission all performed excellently. The temperature inside the tank was around 21°C with an outside temperature of 6°C.

The LTP that underwent the long route during a break. Note the police license plate and one Czechoslovak and Peruvian mechanic driving the tank and the Peruvian Commission following them in a passenger car behind. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via
Test run LTP on its final stage. Note on the left side the Peruvian representative. In the background, both drivers of the tank (the right mechanic had Peruvian indegenous roots). On the right is the Czechoslovakian representative. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

The last tests were done in December 1938. All 17 tanks underwent shooting trials. However, this proved to be extremely difficult for the tanks, as the temperature reached -16°C.

The 17 LTPs on their way to the shooting trials in December 1938. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via


At first, the tanks were designated LTL which were originally intended for Lithuania. The original contract also included the name Praga LTL. “LT” stood for Lehký Tank (Eng. Light Tank) in Czech. The letter at the end denoted the export nation, “L” for Lithuania, “P” for Peru, and “H” for Helvetia (Switzerland). When the prototype entered construction, the tanks were renamed Praga LTP which means Lehký Tank Peru. In Peru, it was known as Tanque Ligero 38/39M (Eng. Light Tank Model 38/39).


The design of the LTP was very similar to that of the LT vz.38 TNH. It featured the same suspension and most of the drive, transmission, and suspension were unchanged. The vehicle had two machine guns and a 37 mm gun fitted in a turret that was redesigned from the turret of the LT vz.38.

Description of the Praga LTP’s components designated Tanque Ligero in Peru. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

Chassis and Suspension

The hull was an armored body divided into two compartments. The engine compartment, located at the back, had the engine and fuel tank. The crew compartment was separated from the engine compartment via a firewall. Only the driver was located in the hull.

The running gear was almost the same as the LT vz.38. The road wheels on the LTP were smaller compared to the LT vz. 38. The diameter of the road wheels of the LTP was around 675 mm whilst on the LT vz. 38 it was 775 mm. The running gear consisted of a front sprocket wheel, an idler wheel, four roadwheels, and three return rollers. The suspension was a leaf spring type. The rubber outlines of the roadwheels were a bit smaller than on the LT vz.38. Additionally, the contact length of the tracks with the ground was also shorter on the LTP. Track tension was handled by a tensioning crank and the idler wheel.

LTP named “Junín” in front of the Praga factories. Note the slightly smaller road wheels compared to the LT vz. 38. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks
LT vz. 38 right after being pressed into service with the German Army in 1938. Note the larger road wheels. Source: Worldwarphotos

The engine was located at the rear, in the separate engine compartment. All 24 Scania Vabis 1664 engines for the LTPs were built in Sweden. These were similar to the ones on the LT vz. 38, with some minor differences making it more suitable for the higher altitude in which the tanks had to operate. The maximum compression ratio was increased to 1:7.2. This was to prevent the compression from reaching its maximum capabilities already at low altitudes. A pressure-reducing flap was placed in the air chamber, between the carburetor and the oil cleaner. The flap was closed by a spring which was controlled by the driver according to a scale. At low altitudes, the spring closed the flap halfway, which prevented too much air from getting into the oil cleaner. The compression level was around 1:5.7. If the tank operated at high altitudes, then the flap could be opened more and let more air through, which achieved maximum cylinder filling. This resulted in a maximum compression ratio of 1:7.2. The carburetor was a special aviation type that allowed the addition of more air. This additional air came through an air intake and was then filtered by the carburetor diffuser. The fuel was fed via an AC pump. On the rear end side was a water radiator cooling air outlet grill for the engine. The engine propelled the vehicle up to a maximum speed of 40 km/h on roads and 33 km/h off-road. The drive shaft was connected to the front sprocket wheel, driving the tank. The engine’s power rotated the drive shaft, which powered the front-placed gearbox. The LTP’s gearbox had 5 forwards and one reverse gear.

Illustration of the water radiator cooling air outlet grill. This differed significantly from other tanks in the series. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks


The superstructure was built on top of the hull. On the rear side were the engine deck and a rear wall. On top of the engine was the grill for the air outlet and a towing cable. On the rear wall were the exhaust muffler, a red light, a pickaxe, and a shovel. On the left mudguard were spare tracks, a toolbox, and an ax. On both mudguards, on the front, were two white side lights. On the right mudguard were the jack, iron bars, and a sledgehammer. On the front side of the hull was a hatch for the driver and a vision port with three hatches with bulletproof glass which could be rotated. On the right side of the front plate was the light machine gun. Between the vision port and light machine gun was a removable headlamp. On the front and rear sides of the hull, two towing hooks capable of handling 5,000 kg were situated.

Top view of a LTP drawing. Note the cables for the lights and other equipment on the superstructure. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks
An LTP from the front. Note the headlamps and visors at the front. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks
An LTP from the rear. Note that the equipment has also been painted in camouflage. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks

Turret and Armament

The turret was similar to the LT vz.38. It had a small extension at the back, where equipment and ammunition for the machine gun were stored. There were two seats for the commander and gunner, connected to the turret ring. In order for the turret to be perfectly balanced, both crew members in the turret had to be seated. This also allowed for the best turning capabilities on larger slopes.

Whilst firing, the turret could be fixed with a brake to allow quick operation of the gun. On the turret roof, there were two hatches, one for the commander and one for the loader. There was also a cylindrical commander’s cupola on top of the commander’s hatch which was attached to the commander’s hatch. The observation cupola could be rotated freely 360° and had a bulletproof glass block for the commander, but could also be locked in position. Additionally, there were holes in the turret’s roof for signal flags and a periscope. On the turret’s sides were two pistol ports, and in the rear, a glass vision block that could be closed.

Drawing of the LTP’s turret and frontal superstructure. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks
LTP during water tests in Czechoslovakia. The vehicle was named “Callao”. Note the commander’s cupola and the gunner’s hatch. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks

The LTP had a main gun and two machine guns. The main gun mounted in the turret was the 37 mm ÚV vz. 34. The gun was the same as in the LT vz.34 and 35 and later also the German operated Panzer 35(t). Targets for the LTP’s gun were acquired using an angled aiming telescope. In terms of performance, the gun had a muzzle velocity of 675 m/s and could penetrate up to 35 mm of armor angled at 30º at a range of 100 m and up to 21 mm of similarly angled armor at a range of 1,000 m. This made the tank, for 1938, and especially in South America, very modern, as it would face no problems penetrating other export and rival tanks, such as the Vickers 6 ton and Renault FT.

Drawing of the 37 mm ÚV vz. 34 gun, as mounted in the LTP. The Peruvian designation appears to be Cañón de 3.7cm Mod.34.Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

The coaxial machine gun was the heavy air-cooled 7.92 mm ZB vz. 53.

The heavy air cooled 7.92 mm ZB. vz. 53 machine gun was the standard heavy machine gun of the Czechoslovak Army. Source: Wikimedia

The other machine gun was the light air-cooled 7.92 mm ZB vz. 30 mounted on the left side of the hull. It was manned by the gunner, who kneeled to operate it.

The light air cooled 7.92 mm ZB vz. 30 machine gun. It was the successor of the ZB vz. 26 and the standard light machine gun of the Czechoslovak Army. Source: Proxidbid

All weapons could be removed for maintenance. There were 53 rounds for the main gun, of which 18 were armor-piercing and 36 high explosives. They were stored at the bottom and left of the tank in tin packages.

The heavy machine gun had 2,200 rounds, of which some were armor-piercing, and the light machine gun had 500 rounds stored in the turret and bottom of the tank.

The armor was the same or similar as the LT vz.38 TNH except for the inner layout, observation devices, and turret. It could effectively protect the crew from armor-piercing bullets fired from regular caliber rifles and light machine guns from a distance of 75 m. The front side of the superstructure and hull were 15 to 25 mm thick. The sides of the superstructure were 15 mm thick and the rear was up to 12 mm thick. The engine deck was 10 mm thick. The turret front was 20 mm thick, and the rest, including the cupola, were 15 mm thick. Even though it was riveted and therefore offered less protection than welded armor, the rivets were reinforced and countersunk and therefore were relatively stable.


The crew consisted of 3: a commander tasked with overviewing the battlefield and giving orders to the crew, a driver, and a gunner, who operated the main gun and the coaxial heavy machine gun. The commander and gunner were housed in the turret, whereas the driver was positioned at the front of the vehicle. The crew for the prototype received training in Czechoslovakia and Peru directly from Czechoslovakian mechanics and tankers. After the first vehicles arrived, the first tank training school was opened, in which a Czechoslovakian tank instructor taught the crews. Unlike the Czechoslovakian tankers, who had trouble navigating and operating the tanks in such high altitudes, the Peruvians, who were used to the height, learned fast how to operate the tanks in mountainous regions.


Although radio receivers for the tanks were ordered, the tanks primarily relied on signal communication. Through the signal hatch on top of the turret, a red and green signal flag could be raised. During the night, electric lamps on the turret could give off a red and green color. Communication between driver and commander was done via light bulbs which the commander activated with buttons. The three light bulbs were in three different colors, creating different orders for the driver.

Organization and Doctrine

After an attempted coup d’etat in January 1938, the first Peruvian tank battalion was formed. It consisted of two companies with 12 tanks each. Additionally, there were support vehicles delivered in June 1939, which were a Praga AV command car and a two-tonne 6×4 Praga RV truck. The main positions of the tank battalion were occupied by Czechoslovak experts and mechanics.

Vehicles of the First Company in front of their barracks in 1939. On the right is the Second Platoon, in the middle the Third, and on the left the First Platoon. Note the mobile workshop and Czechoslovakian T-6 artillery tractor in the background, behind the two buses. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

The exact further organization is not known. However, photos reveal that the 12 LTPs in each company were divided into 3 platoons, each platoon identified by either a square, a triangle, or a circle. Platoon leaders had noncontinuous lines and regular vehicles had continuous lines. Each platoon had 4 vehicles. In several photos, which were all taken during the conflict with Ecuador in 1941, new markings appeared on the turret sides. One of these markings was an “R1”. Before the war, these markings did not appear and it is hard to deduce what the Czechoslovaks had in mind in terms of organization.

At some point during the 1960s, a new system was introduced with a three-digit turret number system.

First and Second platoon LTPs advancing through Ecuadorian territory in 1941 in their intended doctrinal formation. Note the vehicle in the foreground was the Second Platoon leader, “Ayacucho”. Guerre del 41 via Facebookerre del 41 via Facebook

The Czechoslovak military advisors and mechanics proposed their doctrine on how to use the tanks in combat. The doctrine was similar to the Czechoslovak tank doctrine and was not specialized for the Peruvians. The doctrine stated that the tanks were used only alongside the infantry. This meant that the tanks could not be as fast as designed, but the advancing infantry could keep up with them. Only in some cases were the tanks meant to advance faster than the infantry. The tanks were to advance in a line with normally 2 or 3 platoons at once, which meant the tanks advanced at a company level together. They would penetrate the enemy’s lines on a narrow front with infantry moving between the tanks.

LTP of the first platoon, possibly “Libertad”, supporting infantry during an advance through a river in 1941. Source: Guerre del 41 via Facebook

Camouflage and Markings

Each LTP had a unique camouflage pattern that theoretically could help identify a vehicle without seeing its name. The camouflage pattern was the standard Czechoslovakian three-tone pattern consisting of dark green, earth brown, and ochre yellow.

During the 1950s or 1960s, the vehicles were painted in dark olive green, as the Czechoslovaks did not supply any new paint after the vehicles arrived for the first time. Later, when 1 or 2 tanks were restored, a 4-tone camouflage was applied, consisting of black, beige, olive green, and brown.

Colorization of prototype “Lima” in Czechoslovakia in the Czechoslovakian three-tone pattern. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via
LTP during a parade in the 2000s in dark olive green camouflage. Source:
LTP restored by the army and painted in the new 4-tone camouflage. Source: carlos_mendoza

Each of the 24 tanks had a different name painted on the right side of the chassis in white letters. Most names were the names of cities, regions, and counties of Peru.

The tactical markings were painted in most likely either signal yellow or white on the right side of the turret and the rear. Only 12 of the 24 tanks were ever sent to combat against Ecuador, which means the other 12 most likely did not participate and therefore had no tactical markings.

The 1st LTP was the prototype named “Lima”, after the capital city of Peru. It had a distinctive pattern that differed greatly from the other patterns applied to the tanks. “Lima” was also the vehicle that underwent the test trials in Peru. “Lima” was also used for testing the armor thickness against rifles and machine guns.

Of the first batch of vehicles, numbers 2 to 7, the names were not noted down and therefore can only be deduced from photos.

Number Name Namesake Other Notes
1 “Lima” Capital city of Peru First prototype, different style of camouflage pattern
2 “Callao” Historical port city in which the tanks arrived It had a small Peruvian flag on the side
of the turret painted by the factory
3 “Arequipa” Region in the south of Peru It did not have a white circle but an “R1”,
but can be seen together with other 1st Platoon vehicles
4 “Tacna” Region in the very south of Peru It had a white square on its turret
5 “Loreto” Region in the south of Peru This area was part of the disputed area with Ecuador
and one of the reasons why war broke out in 1941
6 “Piura” Region in the north of Peru
7 “Lambayeque” Region in the north of Peru
8 “Cuzco” Region in the southeast of Peru It had a white square on its turret
9 “Ayacucho” Region in the south of Peru It had a white square on its turret
10 “Junin” Region in the central of Peru It had a white circle on its turret
11 “Libertad” Region in the north of Peru, but also the word freedom in Spanish It had a white circle with a dot
in the middle on the right and rear turret side
12 “Ica” Region in the west of Peru It had a white square on its turret
13 “Tumbes” Region in the northwest of Peru
14 “Amazonas” Region in the north of Peru named after the Amazon River
15 “Ancash” Region in the central of Peru on the coastline
16 “Cajamarca” Region in the north of Peru It had a white triangle on its turret
17 “Madre De Dios” Region in the east of Peru which translates
as “Mother of God”
It had a white triangle on its turret
18 “Apurímac” Region in the south of Peru
19 San Martin Region in the central north of Peru
20 “Tarata” City in Tacna region in Peru.
21 “Huánuco” Region in the central of Peru
22 “Huancavelica” Region in the central south Peru
23 “Moquegua” Region in the south of Peru It had a white circle upon the war’s start
24 “Puno” Region in the very southeast, to the border with Bolivia “Puno” was selected for shooting
tests in May 1939 and it was revealed
that the heavy machine gun had problems that could later be fixed.
“Puno” had a white triangle on its turret
LTP named “Moquegua”, platoon leader of the First Platoon going into a river during the war with Ecuador in 1941. Source: Guerre del 41 via Facebook
LTP named “Loreto” of the Third Platoon in 1939 in front of the barracks. Guerre del 41 via Facebook
LTP named “Arequipa”, presumably the First Platoon, with the “R1” markings on the turret in 1941. Guerre del 41 via Facebook

Service Use

The 1939 Failed Coup Attempt

The first action and use of the LTPs was in February 1939. On February 19th, 1939, at a time of internal turmoil in Peru, General Antonio Rodríguez Ramírez, who was also Second Deputy President, carried out a palace coup against President Óscar R. Benavides, who at the time was away on an excursion. However, this was very short-lived, and Gen. Rodríguez Ramírez was shot by a policeman. The other conspirators saw the writing on the wall and lay down their arms.

In the aftermath of the failed coup, President Óscar R. Benavides was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the 7 tanks (the second and third batch were still on their way) were readied. He also proposed the purchase of armored cars to deal with the insurgents. It is unknown how the tanks were used, but it is assumed they did not fire a shot and were used more as a deterrent.

In July 1939, the tanks were demonstrated to the public for the first time, without any harmful intent, as part of a large military parade.

The War of 41

When Ecuador gained its independence from Gran Colombia in 1830, it gained a large number of territories that were previously disputed between Colombia and Peru. This led to a number of small border clashes between Ecuador and Peru and a number of unsatisfactory accords and protocols. An agreement was settled in 1936 with the Ulloa-Viteri Accord, which gave Peru its desired territories. However, most Ecuadorians were not satisfied with the agreement as a lot of Ecuadorian lands were lost. This led to further border clashes. Peru accused Ecuador of crossing the border and occupying Peruvian towns. It is important to note that even to this day, the war, and especially the build-up to it, are poorly documented and most sources take a chauvinistic line.

In 1940, the border clashes escalated in the Peruvian border town of Loreta. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, aware of the state of his army, knew that, if a war were to break out, his country would fall, similar to France in 1940. In October 1940, he defused the situation slightly by opening negotiations between the two countries. He also tried to find international support to scare Peru off. Although the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister tried to reopen negotiations multiple times, his Peruvian counterpart did not reciprocate. This is, by some, often considered as the Peruvians wanting the war at all costs and continuing to search for a justification.

In March 1941, the USA and several other South American nations suggested mediating the dispute between both countries. This was seen as a great opportunity for the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, but the Peruvian Foreign Minister once again ignored this.

Map of the disputed areas between Ecuador and Peru. Note that the disputed area is as large as Ecuador itself Source:

Ecuador fielded next to no real organized army. Around 750 soldiers and 30 officers were on the frontline, along with an additional 650, most of whom were in paramilitary units and volunteers, in reserve. A total of 8 outdated Krupp artillery pieces left over from the wars fought by Gran Colombia were also in service, along with 2 to 4 47 mm guns, and around ten 20 mm Breda anti-aircraft guns. For motorized vehicles, the Ecuadorians only had civilian ones that quickly ran out of fuel.

One of the Ecuadorian 20 mm Breda guns. This gun would also later deal the only damage ever done to the LTPs. Source: Guerre del 41 via Facebook

Peru, on the other hand, fielded a much larger army, consisting of an estimated 11,000 to 13,000 men. In 1940, the Agrupamiento del Norte (Eng. Northern Army Grouping) was created. This was organized into the Group Headquarters, two light infantry divisions, and two army detachments. The two army detachments consisted of a special force for fighting in the jungles and the 33rd Infantry Battalion fighting in the northeast. The Group Headquarters had the 5th and 6th Cavalry Regiments, the 6th Artillery Group consisting of 8 105 mm guns, and the Army Tank Detachment consisting of the 1st Company of LTPs.

Solely based on photographic evidence, in combat against the Ecuadorians, the first company of tanks was employed and consisted of:

1st Platoon (white circle): “Moquegua” (platoon leader), “Libertad”, “Junín”, “Arequipa”
2nd Platoon (white square): Ayacucho (platoon leader), Ica, Tacna, Cuzco
3rd Platoon (white triangle): Puno (platoon leader), Madre De Dios, Cajamarca, Loreto (assumption)

The 1st Light Infantry Division fielded multiple infantry battalions, anti-aircraft, engineer, and artillery groups. The same organization was used for the other light infantry division. The rest of the Peruvian Army, including the other 12 tanks, were stationed on the other borders, such as with Bolivia.

Peruvian Czechoslovak artillery piece during the war against Ecuador in 1941. Guerre del 41 via Facebook
Colorization of LTP named “Tacna” of the Second Platoon in 1939 in front of the barracks. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

On July 5th, 1941, negotiations broke down between Ecuador and Peru and the dispute finally escalated into a full-blown war. However, at the start, it was only a minor border clash. It is unknown which side shot the first bullet and accusations remain to this day, but it started out between two border patrols in the Ecuadorian town of Huaquillas on the Zarumilla River, near the coast. The Ecuadorian troops managed to capture Peruvian border posts in the Aguas Verdes district on the Peruvian side of the Zarumilla River. The Peruvians responded on the next day by bombing Ecuadorian border towns and pushed the Ecuadorians to the other side of the river using a much larger force.

The first major battle of the war was the Battle of Zarumilla, fought between July 23rd and 31st. This battle was fought in the air, on land, and in the river mouth with submarines and small warships. Peruvian forces managed to overwhelm the Ecuadorian Army with superior strength, making them flee.

Peru attacked the Ecuadorian port town of Puerto Bolívar with ships on July 29th. Ecuadorian President, Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río, ordered a unilateral ceasefire, resulting in the ire of many Ecuadorians, military and civilian. Before the ceasefire went into effect at 18:00 on July 31st, a final attack was conducted by the Peruvians. Peruvian paratroopers conducted the first ever parachute operation in the Americas to capture Puerto Bolívar.

Colorization of the First Company’s First Platoon moving through an Ecuadorian village supported by motorcyclists and infantry. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Guerre del 41 via Facebookerre del 41 via Facebook

In spite of the ceasefire, Peru launched a new attack to the east, in the Amazon jungles of south-central Ecuador between July 31st and August 1st. Fighting in this area lasted until August 11th when Peru gained control of the Yaupi and Santiago rivers.

The Peruvian LTP tanks also supported attacks in the east during August and September 1941, in which Peru managed to capture a large number of territories. On August 31st, Peru began the blockade of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s main maritime port and base of its fleet.

The Peruvian advance was slowed down when Argentina, Brazil, and the US demanded an end to the war. By October 6th, offensive operations ended and an international mediation was formed to try and resolve the war. Although representatives tried to support Ecuador, the Peruvians stood by their claims, and by 1942, the US had greater problems to deal with.

On January 29th, 1942, the Rio Protocol was signed which resulted in Ecuador giving up its claim on Peruvian land and the border between the two countries finally being agreed upon. However, this would not be the final peace treaty, as war broke out again in 1981 and 1995. Only in 1998 was a final peace agreement between the two countries reached.

LTP “Madre de Dios” and “Puno” (platoon leader) of the Third Platoon advancing through Ecuadorian territory in August 1941. Guerre del 41 via Facebook

The Peruvian LTP tanks were widely used on the coastline on the western side, due to most of the fighting happening there. On several occasions, the Czechoslovakian T-6 artillery tractor, with its superior tracked suspension, towed the motorized units out of the mud and through rivers. The tanks also supported infantry, advancing in the way the doctrine intended. On one occasion, the tanks crossed a river and protected the infantry, which could move safely over the river.

Peruvian T-6 artillery tractor towing the RV truck out of the mud, 1941. Guerre del 41 via Facebookerre del 41 via Facebook

The LTP performed excellently due to the almost non-existent anti-tank capabilities of the Ecuadorian forces. The vehicles advanced at a fast pace supported by motorized units and motorcycle infantry. They encountered no trouble advancing through mountainous regions and the rainforest and, if minor mechanical problems occurred, the trained Peruvian tankers and the Czechoslovak mechanics could solve the problem. At some point, the LTPs advanced at such a high pace that the rest of the army could not keep up.

LTP of the second platoon in 1941 during the war with Ecuador. Source: Praga Export Light Tanks

It was only due to the lacking Ecuadorian anti-tank capabilities that the tanks managed to survive in many instances. The only possible threat was posed by the Ecuadorian artillery, which was also one of the reasons why the Bolivians lost their tanks to the Paraguayans in the 1932 Chaco War. However, the Ecuadorian artillery, only available in small numbers, lacked coordination and experience, which resulted in its ineffective use.

Only in one case did an Ecuadorian 20 mm Breda gun manage to slightly damage the turret front of a vehicle during the attack on Huabillos. The AP rounds of the 37 mm gun were not used often, as the tanks encountered nothing to penetrate. The HE rounds, on the other hand, were used, dealing damage to the already few machine gun nests and bunker positions.

Close-up showing the damaged LTP, presumably “Cajamarca” or “Loreto” of the Third Platoon. The round hit the tank on its gun barrel. Source: Guerre del 41
Colorization of the tank “Moquegua” with its commander, Manuel Salazar Vásquez, during the Peru-Ecuador War. Note the platoon markings are not yet applied. Colorization by Johannes Dorn Guerre del 41 via Facebook

Post-War of 41 Service

In 1947, even though through the Lend-Lease Act, the United States had provided Peru with 30 M3 Stuart tanks, the Peruvians favored the LTP tanks, and a request for 20 additional vehicles was put forward to ČKD. The Peruvians were unhappy with the M3 Stuarts, as they were less reliable compared to the LTPs, which had now been in service for 5 years without any major issues. Negotiations started, with the Peruvians requesting upgraded light tanks from ČKD. The upgraded tank would have had welded armor, an upgraded 37 mm Skoda A-7 gun, and a diesel engine.

However, in 1951, the new Czechoslovakian Communist government ended the negotiations, as in their eyes, and those of Moscow, Peru was a mere vassal of American imperialism. ČKD could only send spare parts with a value of US$53,735 on April 5, 1950, which arrived in 1951. Throughout the years, many of the 24 tanks were cannibalized for parts that were used to repair other LTPs.

LTPs during a parade in 1956. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

Two vehicles in running condition but without paint and ammunition, located in the Real Felipe fortress in Callao, were spotted in 1987 and were allegedly still used to fight Shining Path terrorists.

The LTPs were eventually replaced by the much more advanced AMX-13 and T-54/55 tanks.

One of these two vehicles from Callao was restored in 2015 by the Military History Institute and was named “Junín” and gifted to the Czech Republic. The other exists in its old form in front of the fortress. However, it is assumed that more vehicles exist, either broken down in army storage or as monuments in barracks or public places. In the 2000s, 1 or 2 vehicles were also restored by the Army and have been used during parades.

LTP located at the Real Felipe fortress in Callao. Source:
Restored LTP named “Junín” in the Military History Institute Prague. Source:

Support Vehicles for the LTP

Due to the need for repairs and tank maintenance coming up during the discussion of the original contract, a mobile workshop trailer was designed. The trailer had four wheels and carried spare parts and tools for the tanks. It was to be towed by a T-6 artillery tractor and only one was sent to Peru. In February 1939, the mobile workshop arrived together with a Praga T-6 artillery tractor.

The mobile workshop for the LTP. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via
The ammunition trailer prototype drawings. Source: Jaroslav Špitálský via

Conclusion – South America’s Greatest Tank during WW2?

The choice to purchase tanks from Czechoslovakia had proven to be the right one for Peru, as the Praga LTP fulfilled all the requirements demanded by the Peruvian Army. The only exceptions being some minor mistakes, small shortcomings, and increased weight. The ultimate test for the tank would be the participation during the Peru-Ecuador War of 1941, where they performed exceptionally well against the Ecuadorian Army, suffering from next to no breakdowns or mechanical issues. They even outperformed the later arriving M3 Stuarts. In service until the 1980s, the Tanque Ligero 38/39M was one of the tanks with the longest service life in the world.

The question of if the Tanque Ligero 38/39M was South America’s best tank during WW2 remains unanswered, as no conflicts between any other nations happened. However, assumptions can be made from similar vehicles or comparing gun penetration with specifications of other export or South American tanks.

A tank comparable to the Praga LTP which saw wide service was the LT vz.38, designated Panzer 38(t) in the German Army. Although the Panzer 38(t) fielded an upgraded gun, it had almost the exact same propulsion and armor protection. During the Polish campaign, the Panzer 38(t), although in small numbers, encountered the British Vickers 6-ton export tank and French Renault FT in Polish service. Both vehicles were also exported to South America. The Renault FT was present in relatively larger numbers in the Brazilian Army and the Vickers 6 ton (although out of service by 1941), in the Bolivian Army. Both tanks could be easily penetrated by the Panzer 38(t) and therefore also by the Praga LTP.

Furthermore, the armor provided sufficient protection against the 47 mm of the Vickers. Chile fielded several Carden Loyd tankettes armed with 20 mm anti-tank guns. However, it is not known how these guns performed.

Chilean Carden Loyd tankette with a 20 mm anti-tank gun in 1939. Source: Familia Acorazada Del Ejército De Chile

In 1941 and 1942, the first Lend-Lease vehicles arrived, not just in Peru, but the entirety of South America. Although the M3 Stuart would, in theory, be equal to the LTP, the state in which most M3 Stuarts arrived was terrible, resulting in poor performance. The only tank that could have posed a serious threat was the M4 Sherman sent to Brazil as part of the Lend-Lease Act, which outshone the Praga LTP in most factors. There was also the Nahuel DL.43, which was essentially an Argentine medium tank similar to the M4 Sherman. This tank would also outperform the LTP.

A tank comparable to the LTP, the Panzer 38(t), saw wide service in the German Army during the early Second World War. Source:
LTP during examination in an Ecuadorian village. This was the vehicle that was damaged by the 20 mm Breda. Guerre del 41 via Facebook


LTP prototype “Lima” in full camouflage. Note the different style of camouflage pattern compared to other LTPs.
LTP designated “Puno”, platoon leader of the Third Platoon in 1941 during the war with Ecuador
LTP presumably “Libertad” during a parade in 1956. Note the new full green camouflage. All illustrations by Ardhya ‘Vesp’ Anargha

Tanque Ligero 38/39M specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.1 x 1.95 x 2.16 m
Total Weight 7,325 kg
Crew 3 (Driver, commander, loader/gunner)
Speed Cross-country: 33km/h, roads: 41 km/h
Range 187 km
Armament 37 mm UV vz. 34 canon, heavy ZB vz. 53 (turret), light ZB vz. 30 (hull)
Ammunition 54 rounds for the gun (18 armor piercing, 36 HE rounds), 2,700 rounds for both MGs
Armor 8-25 mm
Engine Scania Vabis 1664
Total Production/Export 24


Chilean armor, Familia Acorazada Del Ejército De Chile

Vladimír Francev, Export Praga light tanks, Tanque 39, Pzw. 39, LT-40

Vladimír Francev, Charles K. Kliment Praga LT vz.38 MBI

Vladimír Francev, Charles K. Kliment Czechoslovakian Armored Fighting Vehicles from 1918 to 1948

Jaroslav Špitálský,

WW2 German Other Vehicles

Brückenleger I

German Reich (1939-1941)
Engineering Tank – At Least 8 Built

Deemed obsolete in 1939, the Panzer I chassis was reused for many roles and purposes, creating new variants of the Panzer I. One of these new variants was the Panzer I bridge layer. Using the Panzer I Ausf.A chassis, the engineer battalion of the 2nd Panzer Division converted two of their tanks into bridge layers before the Invasion of Poland in September 1939. During the Polish campaign, more Panzer I bridge layers entered service and these vehicles also took part in the Invasion of France in May 1940. Their service life ended at some point in 1941, during Operation Barbarossa, due to the Panzer I chassis not being able to carry the bridge reliably. Furthermore, the production of Bridge layers on more modern chassis and with greater capacity had already begun in 1940, which replaced the Panzer I bridge layer, the Brückenleger I.

Colorization of two Brückenleger Is in Poland, 1939. This was the second variant that carried three bridges. Note that these bridges are a relatively crude affair made from baulks of timber. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Context: Mobile Bridges for the Wehrmacht

The Panzer I was initially planned as a frontline and stopgap tank for the Panzerwaffe (English: tank force) in case of enemy aggression. However, as more and more modern tanks entered production and the Panzer I, with its thin armor and armed only with machine guns, was outdated as a frontline tank. However, rather than simply scrapping the vehicles, many Panzer I chassis of the Ausf.A and B variants were reused in new roles.

By 1939, the Waffenamt (English: Weapons office) had realized the need for motorizing bridge layers and engineering equipment in general. Normally, engineer bridges would have been carried by engineers, cars, or horses. Motorizing these bridges meant that they could be deployed almost immediately and could then support the advancing tank forces.


The exact production numbers and dates for the Brückenleger are not known. The first 2 Bridge layers were built before the Invasion of Poland in September 1939. These tanks were not simple field conversions carried out by the troops but conversions demanded by the Weapons Office. Alongside the 2 Panzer Is, multiple Panzer IIs were also converted into bridge layers. The conversions were most likely carried out by Krupp or Henschel, since these two companies were the leading companies in Panzer I production. The vehicle had its turret removed and a scaffold built around it, on which the bridge was fitted.

During the Invasion of Poland, an additional unknown number of Panzer I Ausf.As were converted into bridge layers. At least 2 vehicles can be seen with their entire superstructure removed. This would lead to the possibility that these vehicles were field conversions of Fahrschulwagen (Engish: training tanks) carried out by the 2nd Panzer Division’s engineer battalion.

At some point in September 1939, an unknown quantity of Panzer Is (Ausf.As and Bs) were also converted into bridge layers. Photos suggest that at least four additional vehicles (2 Ausf.As. and 2 Ausf.Bs) were built. However, this last variant differed greatly from the previous two bridge layer types. They featured a new bridge and still had their turret mounted. They all participated during the Invasion of Poland and later in France. It is unknown if any further vehicles were converted after 1940.

Two late version Brückenleger Is supporting a Panzer II Ausf.C during the Polish campaign. Note the weight of the Panzer II was just enough for the Brückenleger I to carry. Source: Armed


Officially, there is no record of the vehicle being referred to as Brückenleger I (English: Bridge layer I). However, this is the term the troops used to refer it to. Additionally, the later bridge layer on Panzer II and IV chassis was referred to as “Brückenleger”. Therefore, it can be presumed that this vehicle would have a similar name.



The first two bridge layers used the chassis of the Panzer I Ausf.A. Other than the removal of the turret, no changes were made. On the second version, again two Panzers I Ausf.A chassis were used. On the last version, both Ausf.A and B chassis were used.

Late version Brückenleger I on Panzer I Ausf.B chassis. Note this vehicle is carrying all three bridges. Source: Armed


Other than the mounting of support beams for the bridge, the superstructure was left unchanged on the first version. On the second version, the entire superstructure appears to be removed or was never mounted, as these vehicles could have been maintenance or training tanks on Panzer I chassis which both featured no real superstructure. Across the mudguards, two wooden beams for holding the bridge were mounted on the rear and front sides. The last version had an unchanged superstructure of the Ausf.A and B. However, multiple iron beams appear to be bolted into the front part of the hull for a bridge support. Furthermore, two iron bars were bolted onto the side of the superstructure on each side.

Brückenleger I early version with the static bridge in Poland, 1939. Note the wooden support beams carrying the wooden deck. Source: Armed


The suspension of the Ausf.A and B was left unchanged in all parts. It was still the same leaf spring suspension type with the road, idler, frontal wheels, and return rollers. This would later turn out to be a problem, as the already stressed chassis of the Ausf.A and B had problems successfully carrying the bridge in steep areas.

Brückenleger I in France, 1940. Note the suspension of the Panzer I Ausf.B. Source: Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection


On the Brückenleger I mounted on the Ausf.A and B chassis, two different engines were installed. The bridge layer vehicle on the Ausf.A chassis used the Krupp M 305 4-cylinder air-cooled engine, which was very loud and noisy and could barely handle the Panzer Is lone weight. Adding a heavy bridge and even other tanks could lead to engine breakdowns. Vehicles on the Ausf.B chassis had the new Maybach NL 38 TL 6 cylinder water-cooled installed, which improved the Panzer I’s performance greatly.


On the first two versions, the turret was removed due to an unknown reason. This was presumably done in order for the first bridge type to fit the tank. The last version still mounted the Ausf.A or B turret in its entirety.

Late version Brückenleger I without the additional bridge parts and just the deck. Note that the turret is still fitted on this version. Source: Armed

Three Different Bridges

Generally, the bridge layers differed mainly in what bridges they were mounting and were all rather primitive in terms of technology. The first version mounted two removable bridge ramps that could be used either as a ramp or additional length for the tank driving onto it. The deck could be removed, but it was not intended to be in combat. The bridge was made out of wooden beams bolted and held together via iron corner brackets. The deck rested on a wooden supporting skeleton mounted around the superstructure, which in turn was attached to the hull and superstructure by wooden beams. In total, the two bridge ramps had a length of 4 meters and a maximum load capacity of around 7 tonnes.

Colorization of the first version of the Brückenleger I with another Panzer I Ausf.A on top. This photo was taken during the test trials shortly before the war. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Ebay via Koelsch333

The second version can be seen as more of a bridge carrier and looked rather rudimentary. In photos, the two vehicles seem to be carrying three independent bridging sections which could all be removed easily. They laid on two wooden beams which in turn laid on the mudguards. Not much is known about their load capacity but, due to them solely being made out of wood, without any trace of metal support brackets, it is questionable if these 4-meter-long bridges could carry more than 7 tonnes.

The last version was technically the most advanced and looked more like the later bridge layers, such as the bridge layer IV. It featured three parts. One part could be put behind the tank so another tank could drive onto it. Once again, the deck acted as a part of the bridge itself and the front part would be extended either upwards or downwards. This bridge, although mainly being made out of wood, featured more metal parts that supported the bridge. This upgrade led to an estimated load capacity of around 8 tonnes and the three parts could cover a length of up to 15 meters. However, a new problem occurred. The bridge was now less stable, and rigidity was decreased. The deck was now a single piece with no hole between the tank itself and the bridge. Furthermore, it was now steep and permanently fixed and could not be removed without removing the bolts. Two large iron beams bolted into the hull supported the front part of the deck. Two smaller iron bars were bolted to the side of the superstructure and to the bridge on each side. Lastly, there was an iron bar hanging above the front hull between the turret and the front support beams which held two (presumably) concrete cubes in place, which acted as counterweights for the extended front bridge. The concrete cubes were connected to the extended front bridge via a large iron bar. To elevate the extended front bridge, the concrete cubes could be dismounted from the middle iron bar and moved from the level of the superstructure to a level above the bridge. If the concrete cubes were at the level of the superstructure, the extended front bridge would be pointing upwards. If the concrete cubes were above the deck, the extended front bridge would be pointing downwards. In some photos, the concrete cubes seem to be missing for unknown reasons.

Brückenleger I with the latest version bridge. Note the two large concrete cubes, the middle iron bar, two big support beams, and two side support beams. France, 1940. Source: Armed
Late version Brückenleger I on a trailer. Note the concrete cubes now above the bridge, whilst the bridge is facing downwards.

This is what the bridge layer was intended to look like. However, since there were no official regulations for the Brückenleger I, many crews changed the type of bridge that they were carrying or mounted further bridges on it. In some photos, Brückenleger Is with a full metal bridge can be seen or with another type of bridge which was much more narrow and normally mounted on the Sd.Kfz.251 engineer variant.

Late version Brückenleger Is on Ausf.B chassis as part of the 2nd Panzer Division. Note the different types of bridges it is carrying and the Ladungsleger I tanks in the background. Poland 1939. Source: Armed


There is no record of any changes to the armor and the wooden bridge would not upgrade the armor overall. Therefore, the side, frontal and rear armor was still around 13 mm of steel. The turret, if mounted, was also up to 13 mm.

A knocked-out Brückenleger I (late version) in France, 1940. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection


Armament was removed in the early versions due to the absence of the turret. The machine guns presumably would be carried with the rest of the crew in a separate vehicle. In the later version, both machine guns, the MG 13 k, were mounted.


All three versions had a crew of 2. The commander/gunner was relieved of his task of operating the machine guns in the early versions. On the later versions with turrets, the commander was also operating the weapons. The driver would only drive the vehicle. The rest of the crew responsible for managing the bridge would drive alongside in a truck, car, or half-track and deploy if the bridge was needed. The exact number of how many people were needed to deploy the bridge is not known. In multiple photos, more than 3 people are shown (two of these are the actual crew members). This means at least one additional member was needed.

Organization and Doctrine

At first, the bridge layers were organized into the engineer battalions of Panzer Divisions, since the term tank engineer battalions did not exist yet. In 1939, officially, there were no armored bridge laying tanks, these were only unofficially part of the engineer companies. Starting in March 1940, the third company of every Pionier-Abteilung (English: engineer battalion) of all 10 panzer divisions was renamed into Panzer-Pionier-Kompanien (English: tank engineer companies). Within these Companies, there was the bridge platoon. This platoon would have 4 Brückenleger. Officially, these Brückenleger were based on the Panzer II and IV chassis, however, as the photos suggest, the Brückenleger Is were also fitted in these divisions. This also explains why the bridge layers participating in the Polish campaign only feature the tactical symbol for tank battalions and not that of the tank engineer battalions. At some point, an improvised ‘P’ was painted next to the tank battalion’s rhomboid, standing for Pionier (English: Engineer).

Late version Brückenleger I part of the 7th Panzer Division. Note the unusual metal cover for the bridge, as seen on later bridge laying tanks. France 1940. Source: Armed

Although the bridge layers were superior in terms of mobility in comparison to their counterparts on foot, they were limited in the capacity and length of the bridge that they were carrying. This meant they could only be deployed in specific situations. The bridge layers were used when an obstacle, such as a small valley, trenches, or ditches not crossable by tanks, stood in the way of the advancing forces. The first two versions were able to clear 4-meter-long obstacles. Since their entire hull acted as a part of the bridge, the vehicle would drive into the ditch or trench, and then other tanks could drive over it. However, the bridge layers would always act together, meaning on one bridge layer the ramps were removed and used for additional length on the other one. On the second version, the bridges could be removed completely. On the later version, similar to the previous ones, the other tanks would drive over it but now the length of the covered area was much longer. Furthermore, the bridge (without the support platform) could be removed and used in other places.

Two early-version Brückenleger Is during the Polish campaign in 1939. Note the two parts of the bridge deck of the vehicle on top of the other one are used to drive onto the other tank and that both vehicles have had their turrets removed. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Service Life/Test Results

The bridge layers which participated during the invasion of Poland were part of the 38th Engineer Battalion of the 2nd Panzer Division. No information exists on where and how effectively the bridge layers were used. However, one can assume that they were used during the crossing of the river Dunajec and river San in some way or another.

During the Invasion of France, the bridge layers were divided into three possible engineer battalions. Engineer Battalion 38 of the 2nd Panzer Division kept its old bridge layers, whilst Engineer Battalion 58 of the 7th Panzer Division was equipped with new bridge layers. The last potential battalion was Engineer Battalion 39 of the 3rd Panzer Division, however, this is solely a possibility with no photographic evidence.

Brückenleger I alongside other Panzer Is crossing a bridge in the Ardenne forest. 1940. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Although very likely, it is unknown if the vehicles stayed in their battalions during Operation Barbarossa. Some Brückenleger Is can be seen in deep snow. The photos show the later versions with the large bridge.

Late version Brückenleger I in the Soviet Union, Winter 1941. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Before the Invasion of Poland, tests were done to test the weight-carrying capability of the Brückenleger. During the tests, the Brückenleger was driven into a trench and another Panzer I would drive over it in the same manner as the later and better known ‘ARK’ type tanks. The bridge could successfully carry up to 8 tonnes, which was enough for the Panzer I. However, due to the bridge being made out of wood, stability and rigidity was reduced. This led to the tests turning out rather disappointing for the troops. Nonetheless, the vehicles were sent to the frontlines. It is unknown if any further tests were done on the later models. In theory, wooden bridges could turn out to be quite useful, as they were easier to produce, quieter, and are less slippery in wet conditions.

Another view of the Brückenleger I being used as a bridge during test trials. Source: Ebay via Koelsch333

The Practicality of such a Conversion

Being only able to carry very few tanks of the German Army, the bridge layer I would turn out to be useless in its task of carrying tanks once the Panzer I was put out of service. However, during the first years of the war and especially during the Polish campaign, a large proportion of the German tank force consisted of Panzer Is.

Furthermore, one could argue that the bridge rigidity was insufficient when tanks drove over it and that it could only be deployed in very specific areas. But these were areas in which tanks performed much better than motorized vehicles and the bridge layer I could effectively sustain the weight of German trucks and cars, which could therefore transfer through difficult terrain.

Lastly, the Panzer I was available in large quantities around 1939, whilst heavier tanks, such as the Panzer IV, were not yet available in large numbers and, if available, were used as combat tanks and not engineer tanks. This task could be performed by the already obsolete Panzer I. Like many other conversions, the Panzer I could be made useful again in another role, from which the Army could benefit again.

Late version Brückenleger I, its crew, and the crew from other vehicles. Note the soldier on the left is a motorcyclist. Poland, 1939. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Other Brückenleger Is

The following vehicles were all based on the Panzer I chassis, but do not have anything in common with the initial development of the real Brückenleger I.

The first odd bridge layer appears to be a training tank on the Ausf.B chassis mounting a very small bridge above its crew compartment.

Fahrschulwagen I (English: training tank) mounting a much smaller bridge. Germany, 1938. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

The second vehicle is a Panzer I Ausf.A chassis without a turret but with a bridge put across the tank. It was used to demonstrate a motorcycle driving up steep obstacles during a parade.

The Panzer I Ausf.A chassis used as a ramp and bridge to demonstrate the performance of a motorcycle. Germany, 1936. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Another bridge layer variant was the Panzer I Ausf.A with fascines. This one was not as much of a bridge layer as the other ones, but still has the same general purpose. It was a regular Panzer I Ausf.A mounting iron support beams. Across the support beams, fascines would be laid. The fascines would be used to support infantry walking across unstable ground, such as mud. If tanks could have used these fascines is questionable. Based on photos, at least one vehicle was converted. This one took part during the Invasion of Poland in 1939 as part of Panzer Regiment 35 within the 4th Panzer Division and was destroyed during that time.

Panzer I Ausf.A with supports for carrying fascines in Poland, 1939. Source: Militärphotosfan23 via Ebay
Another photo of the Panzer I with fascines, this time still carrying the fascines. Poland, 1939. Source: Militärphotosfan23 via Ebay


The exact fate of these vehicles is not known, but photos show the vehicles during the winter of 1941. After the winter, no photos exist. Therefore, it can be assumed that the vehicles were either lost or pulled off the front because of their obsolescence.


Although the idea of having a mobile and armored bridge-laying vehicle had proven to be successful, the Panzer I was not the right choice for the chassis. It was severely limited with regards to which vehicles it could carry and how long its bridge could be. The later bridge layers, such as the bridge layer IV, were much better fitted for the role. Furthermore, the need for mobile bridges slowly decreased from 1943 onwards, as the Wehrmacht suffered more and more defeats and was on the retreat. However, the Brückenleger I could effectively carry trucks and other motorized vehicles and the obsolete Panzer I was fitted with a new role.

Brückenleger I with folded bridge. Done by Bryan Gaydos.
Second variant of Brückenleger I with three crude bridges. Illustrated by Bryan Gaydos.
Brückenleger I with unfolded bridge. Done by Bryan Gaydos.
Brückenleger I with unfolded bridge. Illustrated by Bryan Gaydos.
Second variant of Brückenleger I with three crude bridges. Done by Bryan Gaydos.
Brückenleger I with folded bridge. Illustrated by Bryan Gaydos.

Brückenleger I specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) Early version: 4.02 x 2.06 x 1.5 m, Late version: 4.02-44 (extended bridge 15) x 2.06 x 1.90 m
Total Weight Early version: 6.4 tonnes (bridge load: 7 tonnes), Late version: 7 tonnes (bridge load: 8 tonnes)
Crew At least 3 (commander/gunner, driver, bridge operator)
Elevation -10° to +20°
Gunsight T.Z.F.2.
Speed Ausf.A: max.: 32 km/h, Ausf.B: 35 km/h
Range roads: 140 km
Armament (if turret mounted) 2x 7.92 mm MG 13/MG 13k
Ammunition 2250 7.92 mm S.m.K. in 25 magazines
Armor 8-14.5 mm
Engine Ausf.A: Krupp M 305 4-cylinder air-cooled, Ausf.B: Maybach NL 38 TL 6 cylinder water-cooled
Communication FuG 2 receiver
Total Production At least 8 built


Janusz Ledwoch, Vol. XI PzKpfw I vol. I (Tank Power)

Lucas Molina Franco, Panzer I The beginning of a dynasty

Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Louis Doyle, Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, No. 14 Gepanzerte Pionierfahrzeuge (Armored Combat Engineer Vehicles) (Panzer Tracts)

WW2 German Other Vehicles

Leichter und Mittlerer Entgiftungskraftwagen (Sd.Kfz.10/2 and Sd.Kfz.11/2)

German Reich (1938-1944)
Decontamination Vehicle – 60-70 le. Entg. and 392 m. Entg. Built

After the experiences of the First World War, which saw the introduction of poisonous gas, many countries assumed that, even though banned through the 1925 Geneva Protocol, that gas would be continued to be used. Therefore, many of these countries experimented with new poison gasses, but also new ways of decontamination. In Germany, the gas warfare doctrine was to be included in the general doctrine which was combined with mobile arms warfare. The idea was to have a mobile task force with three different vehicle types. One of these vehicle types was the Entgiftungskraftwagen (Eng: Decontamination vehicle). They were based on the Sd.Kfz.10 and 11. It would have been used to decontaminate an area where soldiers would advance. However, gas was never used in large amounts during the Second World War. Therefore, the decontamination vehicles were not used in their intended role and alternative uses were found, such as carriers for artillery shells, throughout the war. Its service life ended in 1944 after production had stopped and the last vehicles were destroyed or lost.

Colorization of several Sd.Kfz.10/2s and Sd.Kfz.11/2s during the early stages of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Context: German use of Poisonous Gas during the First World War

During the First World War, poisonous gas was used for the first time in combat to inflict huge casualties and spread fear amongst the enemy. After the German Army had been halted on its advance in the winter of 1914-1915, the frontlines started to solidify and both sides dug themselves into trenches. Both sides could not break the other line or, if broken through, only captured small bits of land. Therefore, the German High Command demanded a new weapon to break the frontlines. German chemical companies had been producing chlorine as a side product. Together with these companies, Fritz Haber worked on a way to weaponize this.

In April 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, chlorine was first used by the Germans. The gas worked effectively, and the British and French forces suffered huge casualties. However, the chlorine was uncontrollable and could not be removed after the attack. Therefore, the Germans did not gain much land. Later, as gas masks were introduced on both sides, the Germans abandoned chlorine gas. This was due to chlorine gas being water-soluble, which meant its effects could be reduced by holding a wet cloth or rag to the mouth and nose. Furthermore, it could be easily identified due to its color.

Phosgene was the next gas used by the Germans, presumably first used at Ypres. It was less easy to detect and was much more deadly than chlorine. However, its symptoms took a long time to appear. This was due to the (in comparison) minimal immediate effects of lachrymatory. Only after several hours did the effects of liquids in the lung cause death.

However, the most commonly used gas, even though it was technically a liquid, was mustard gas, first used in 1917. It had a yellow mustard-like color and smelled like garlic. The initial contact was symptomless, but once skin irritation occurred, blisters and biological burns appeared. Although the mortality rate was low, the long-term effects were respiratory problems and burns. The role of mustard gas was not to directly kill the other soldiers but to cause severe pain and disable them from participating in battle. Furthermore, the fear factor was an important element.


The Sd.Kfz.10 was originally planned to be a half-tracked towing vehicle for light artillery, anti-air, and anti-tank guns. Due to the need for a small and light but very fast and mobile half-track, the Demag half-track was developed. Initially, it was only meant to tow artillery guns and ammunition carriers but, during the construction of the first vehicles, it was desired that some of these vehicles would be used for gas warfare and within the Nebeltruppen (Eng. smoke troops, a code name for the German gas warfare units). After numerous Demag prototype vehicles, the D 7 variant went into serial production. However, before that, some D 6 vehicles were used to test the decontamination doctrine.

Regular Sd.Kfz.10 in the Soviet Union, winter 1942-1943. Source: Bundesarchiv, 101l-031-2406-19

Sd.Kfz.10/2 Leichter Entgiftungskraftwagen

During the Interwar, the German Army continued to use (in theory) mustard gas and intended to use it for their gas warfare units. But after contaminating an area with the liquid, the German soldiers needed a way through the contaminated area to advance. A decontamination vehicle alongside the contamination vehicle was needed.

In 1936, the Nebeltruppen first showed interest in acquiring light and small half-tracks to mobilize their units. The commander of the Nebeltruppen stated that a Demag vehicle should be tested, ideally in the role of both contamination and decontamination.

In July 1937, the firm of Büssing NAG received a contract for the production of 300 vehicles with a modified transmission that would be able to carry equipment for gas warfare.

Factory new Sd.Kfz.10/2 in Germany, 1938. Source: Panzer Tracts


Exact production numbers are unknown, but the estimated number ranges from 60 to 70 vehicles completed between 1938 and 1939. The production stopped in June 1939, after the bigger 3t Sd.Kfz.11 was favored and the need for the light Demag decontamination vehicles was dropped.

Sd.Kfz.10/2 during training, Germany, 1938. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The Sd.Kfz.10/2 was a half-track based on the chassis of the Demag 7 or later Sd.Kfz.10 Bauart 1939 (Eng. version 1939). It had a superstructure that carried the decontamination chemicals and a spreader for said chemicals.

Colorization of a Sd.Kfz.10/2 in Germany, 1938. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The chassis used were 300 ordered D7 chassis with an auxiliary drive in the transmission to be able to carry equipment. In addition to the regular Sd.Kfz.10 chassis, two fuel tanks were placed behind the driver’s seat, whilst the left fuel tank had a shaft connected to the spreader’s driveshaft. No other changes were made, which means the vehicle had an interleaved suspension with 5 road wheels, an idler wheel, and a front sprocket wheel which was powered by the transmission.


The superstructure consisted of a spreader and a platform. On the platform’s backside, the 8 drums of chemicals would be placed together with rails for extra stability and safety. A canvas was put above the entire crew and chemical compartments and fastened on the windshield and spreader on the backside. The canvas could be rolled up and stored in the back and was extended only in heavy weather situations, as the canvas placement was low and the crew had less space to work with. The front seat bench, where the driver and co-driver sat, was not changed and was directly in front of the drums. In front of the crew was the engine. Just in front of the spreader in the rear was an additional bench for two crew members.

Colorization of the same Sd.Kfz.10/2 as above. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The exact number of crew members is unknown but, in most photos, there appear to be at least three: driver, co-driver, and an operator for the spreader. However, the additional bench in the rear is for two-member and would therefore get the number up to 4.

Sd.Kfz.10/2 and the rest of the decontamination battery. Unknown date and location. Source: BUYMUC via Ebay


The Sd.Kfz.10/2 had the same Maybach NL 38/HL42 TRKM engine as the regular Sd.Kfz.10. However, due to the extra weight of the spreader and chemicals, the overall capabilities of the vehicle mobility-wise were reduced. The engine could give the vehicle a top speed of 65 km/h on roads and about 50 km/h off-road. During usage, crews were instructed never to exceed speeds of 20 km/h on roads and 10 km/h off-road. The fuel tanks held 86 liters of fuel. In the end, it did not matter that the speed was reduced, as the vehicle had to drive at marching infantry speed in combat situations.

Spreader and Chemicals

The spreader was used to spread the chemicals onto the desired area. It was mounted on the rear side and could hold 200 kg of chemicals at once. The Streuvorrichtung (Eng. Spreader) had smooth rollers inside of it to spread the chemicals and a rubber sheet that prevented the wind from blowing the chemicals away. It also had a screen that prevented large clumps from falling down. The spreader and rollers were powered via the left driveshaft, which was connected to the engine under the vehicle. The amount of chemicals spread was controlled by the distance of the smooth rollers inside the spreader. The crew could control this via a lever located at the spreader itself. The dial numbers ranged from 0-9 and were usually set to 3 or 4, which spread about 300 g/m².

The decontamination chemicals were stored in eight drums (4 placed in a row on each side), weighing 480 kg. A singular drum with 50 kg could cover an area of 1 m width by 160 m long. All of the chemicals could cover an area of 1 m by 1,300 m.

Sd.Kfz.10/2 passing a column of trucks, presumably also part of the decontamination battery. Note the spreader on the rear. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The tools were the standard equipment for German AFVs. The vehicle had a long ax, pickaxe, crowbar, and a spate. Rifles were stored lined up behind the driver’s seat and crew baggage under the bench seat.


The Sd.Kfz.11’s history started when the German Army searched for a new way to tow their artillery guns. After several ways were tested to tow the guns, it was settled on a half-track design, since these were easy to produce, cost-efficient, and reliable.

In 1934, development began with the German firm of Hansa Lloyd (later Borgward). Like the Sd.Kfz.10, the 11 had multiple prototypes, which included variants from the H. kl. 2 to the H. kl. 6. The H. kl 6 chassis would later be the production variant and chassis for most variants of the Sd.Kfz.11. It was later renamed to Leichter Zugkraftwagen 3t. (Eng. light towing vehicle 3t.) as production was transferred to Hanomag.

A regular Sd.Kfz.11 in its intended role, towing a 10.5 cm field howitzer in the Soviet Union in 1941. Source: Bundesarchiv, 101l-290-1116-07

Sd.Kfz.11/2 Mittlerer Engiftungskraftwagen

During demonstration trials in 1937, it was revealed that due to an overall delay concerning the Demag 7 vehicles, an alternative vehicle for decontamination had to be used. The Sd.Kfz.11 was able to carry more decontamination chemicals and could save on the overall number of vehicles used within a battery. However, there were some negative aspects too, such as the vehicle being bigger and less narrow and therefore easier to spot and harder to drive through narrow ways and roads.

The Sd.Kfz.11/2 was a medium decontamination vehicle based on the Sd.Kfz.11 chassis carrying chemicals for decontamination and was meant to replace the smaller Sd.Kfz.10/2.

Sd.Kfz.11/2 during maneuvers in 1939, Germany. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


Two different models of the Sd.Kfz.11/2 existed. The Bauart 1938 and Bauart 1939 (Eng. Model 1938 and 1939) differed in the number of chemicals carried and the width and height of the big cabin. The superstructure, cabin, driver’s compartment, and spreader were built by Peter Bauer Köln (a German vehicle factory in Cologne) and mounted on the chassis. The chassis of the Sd.Kfz.11 was provided by Borgward. The chemicals were most likely produced by the I.G. Farbenindustrie AG.

Before May 1937, 34 vehicles and one prototype vehicle were ordered by the OKH (Oberkommando Herr, Eng. High Command of the Army). Eighteen vehicles were enough to fill the first Entgiftungs Batterie (Eng. Decontamination Battery) for trials and demonstrations. In 1938, the OKH planned to produce enough Sd.Kfz.11/2s to fill all Nebel Abteilungen (Eng. smoke battalions) until March 1939. The model 1938 was built between the span of 1938 to the first half of 1939, which means a total amount of 68 vehicles built. After that, the model 1939 was introduced and produced until the end of the vehicle’s life. In June 1939, the Waffenamt (Eng. Weapons Apartment) demanded the production of 138 new vehicles by October 1939 to fill the newly created Nebel Abteilungen. Production would continue, with 18 vehicles completed by April 1940 and 180 after October 1940. However, in December 1939, the Nebeltruppen (Eng. smoke troops) requested the production of another 200 Sd.Kfz.11/2s and, after that, at a rate of 10 vehicles per month. In June 1940, 600 new vehicles were needed. However, due to the irrelevance of the decontamination vehicles after the Nebeltruppen were repurposed, the production order was canceled but the production was not stopped due to the vehicles being needed in other roles. In 1940, the Nebeltruppen had been diverted from poisonous gas warfare to smoke troops featuring the 15 cm Nebelwerfer.

However, these were only demands and orders. The exact production numbers between the time span of March 1938 and 1941 are not known due to Borgward not reporting the production. In 1941, around 234 vehicles were built (in the estimation of the vehicles needed to fill the existing Nebel Abteilungen). In 1942, 50 vehicles were made. In 1943, 75 vehicles were constructed and another 33 by March 1944.

Estimated production numbers of the Sd.Kfz.11/2
Date Number of Sd.Kfz.11/2
1937 34+1 prototype
March 1938-June 1939 68
June 1939-1941 140
1942 50
1943 75
1944 33
Sd.Kfz.11/2 driving through a small pond during maneuvers in Germany, 1939. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


Based on the Sd.Kfz.11 chassis, the 11/2 had a new platform on the rear, which featured the chemicals and the spreader. The driver’s compartment was similar but some parts were changed. Separating both compartments was a large storage cabin that carried the equipment of the crew. In front of the driver’s compartment was the engine.

Colorization of a factory-new Sd.Kfz.11/2 in Germany, 1939. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The chassis was the same unchanged Sd.Kfz.11 H kl 6 chassis with an auxiliary drive, like the Sd.Kfz.10/2, connecting the spreader with the engine. It had an interleaved suspension with a front sprocket wheel connected to the transmission and drive. Steering could be performed by both the two front wheels and by the tracks.

Some of the first Sd.Kfz.11/2s (Bauart 1938) in Germany in 1938, still in three-tone camouflage. Source: Crainsmilitaria via Ebay
Sd.Kfz.11/2 in the interwar three-tone camouflage. Source: Joschi_12 via Ebay


The superstructure consisted of a driver’s compartment, a large storage cabin, and a rear platform with the spreader and chemicals. The driver’s compartment had a two-crew bench seat and was open-top. A canvas could be fastened above the entire vehicle’s crew compartment and, if not mounted, stored in the back. A large storage cabin was placed between the driver’s compartment and the rear platform. On the early model 1938, the cabin was rather tall and narrow, and on the later model 1939, wider and smaller. There were rails to stabilize the chemical barrels on both sides of the platform and, at the rear end, was the spreader. Due to the resizing of the cabin, the model 1939 also featured smaller and shorter rails.

A top view of the Sd.Kfz.11/2. Note two barrels appear to be missing. Germany 1939. Source: Panzer Tracts


The Sd.Kfz.11/2 had 4 crew members. Two, driver and co-driver, sat on the bench in the driver’s compartment. The other two, tasked with operating the spreader, sat on two folding seats located on each end of the platform.

Sd.Kfz.11/2 with its crew members as part of the 1st. Panzer Army. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The engine was the same Maybach NL 38/HL 42 giving out 100 hp. This could propel the vehicle up to 50 km/h on roads and 40 km/h off roads. Like the Sd.Kfz.10/2, during usage, crews were instructed only to drive at about 20 km/h on roads and 10 km/h off-road. Like the Sd.Kfz.10/2, the reduced and slow speed was not relevant, as it was meant to match infantry marching speed. The vehicle had 110 liters of fuel and a maximum range of 275 km on roads and 150 km off-road.

Spreader and Chemicals

On the model 1938, two different spreaders existed. A taller bin with a different drive and the smaller standard spreader was also featured on the model 1939. The model 1939 only had one spreader. The spreader worked in the exact same way as the one on the Sd.Kfz.10/2, with the difference that these ones were bigger and wider, with 400 kg of load capacity. This meant there were also rollers inside the spreader and a rubber sheet spreading the chemicals. There was also an auxiliary drive powering the rollers. The amount of chemicals spread was also controlled by a lever and the distance between the rollers. Regularly, it would have been positioned at levels 1-6 (out of 0-9).

The chemicals were stored in drums and small tin cans. The model 1938 had 14 drums weighing 840 kg and the model 1939 had 12 drums weighing 720 kg and 16 small tin cans weighing 160 kg. A total of 50 kg of pure chemicals could cover an area of 1.7 m in width by 300 m in length. The entire load (on model 1939) of 728 kg of pure chemicals (not counting the weight of the drums themselves) could cover an area of 1.7 m in width by 4,350 m in length. For the model 1938, it would have been around 4,200 m in length. The cans were stored eight per side on the rear side of the storage cabin.

Sd.Kfz.11/2 in the winter of 1941. Note the spreader. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


Unlike the Sd.Kfz.10, the Sd.Kfz.11 got its tools located in the Gerätekasten (Eng. equipment cabinet). In there, there were:
-1x spare wheel
-1x hand crank
-4x zeltbahnen (tents)
-2x working suit (protective suit)
-4x winter coats
-4x clothes bags
-4x carrying bags for working suits
-4x cooking equipment
Additionally placed around the chassis and superstructure were the standard tools, such as the large ax, shovel, and crowbar pickaxe. The 4 rifles of the crew members were located 2 on each side of the bench.

Entgiftungsstoff “Losantin”

The decontamination chemicals were the Entgiftungsstoff Losantin (Eng. Decontamination substance Losantin). Losantin, or scientifically named calcium hypochlorite, is the calcium salt of the hypochlorous acid. In an approximately 10% aqueous solution, it can be used to decontaminate the skin. It was already in service with the German Army during WW1 to decontaminate Gelbkreuzgiftgase (Eng. yellow cross poisonous gas) or skin poisonous gas, such as mustard gas or Lewesit. Because the German Army intended the continued usage of mustard gas for an upcoming war, Losantin was used as the decontaminating counterpart. The word Losantin can be seen written on the barrels themselves.

These small boxes would be carried with decontamination units and would have been applied to the skin of the individual soldier. Source:
Sd.Kfz.11/2 presented in the Tank Museum Munster in Germany. Note the Losantin barrels. Source: Flickriver

Entgiftungspflug 41

During test trials for a new decontamination plow in October 1941, the possibility was revealed that this plow could be used to dig a trench and therefore make way for soldiers to advance without using chemicals. The OKH allowed the usage of this plow and the Sd.Kfz.11/2 was to be the vehicle towing the plow. The Entgiftungspflug 41 (Eng. Decontamination plow 41) was a trench plow with a single axle chassis.

Sd.Kfz.11/2 with an Entgiftungspflug 41. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Organization and Doctrine

The Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 were part of the Nebeltruppen (Eng. smoke troops). The Nebeltruppen were an independent branch using terms from the artillery and was the branch intended for gas warfare. The Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 were both organized into Entgiftungs Batterien (Eng. decontamination batteries) within Entgiftungs Abteilung (Eng. decontamination battalions).

In October 1937, a single Nebel-Abteilung had a HQ staff unit, three Nebel-Batterien (Eng. smoke batteries) and three Entgiftungs Batterien. Each Nebel-Batterie had 8 10 cm Nebelwerfer towed by Sd.Kfz.10s. Each Entgiftungs Batterie had 6 Gasspürer Sd.Kfz.10/1 (Eng. gas detection vehicle), 6 Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 6 Sd.Kfz.11/2. There was also Nebel-Gerät-Kolonne (Eng. smoke device column), which was the codename for a contamination battery equipped with 18 Sd.Kfz.10/3 and 18 Sd.Kfz.11/3 (contamination vehicles). This contamination unit changed places with the decontamination unit in the case it was needed. However, if not enough 10/2s existed, they could be replaced by spare 11/2s.

In 1938, it was decided to split the Nebel-Abteilung into Nebel-Werfer-Abteilungen and Entgiftungsableitungen, separating decontamination and contamination into two different battalions during war time.

In 1939, the organization was changed. Each Entgiftungs Abteilung had three Entgiftungsbatterien with 6 Sd.Kfz.10/1 and 12 Sd.Kfz.11/2 each, since the Sd.Kfz.10/2 was removed and replaced by the Sd.Kfz.11/2. However, many units kept their 10/2s.

There were also so-called Straßen-Entgiftungs-Abteilungen (Eng. street decontaminating battalions) responsible for decontaminating streets after a possible bombing run with poisonous gas. These had at first 3 Sd.Kfz.10/2 and later 6 Sd.Kfz.11/2 within 1 battery, bringing the total number up to 18. In 1941, 3 street decontamination battalions were in service with 54 Sd.Kfz.11/2 and 9 Sd.Kfz.10/2.

Number of Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2s in a single Entg. Abt. per year after official regulations
Date Number of Sd.Kfz.10/2s Number of Sd.Kfz.11/2s
October 1937 18 18
1939 0 (some were kept in service) 36
1941 0 36
1941 (For street decon. battalion) 9 18
An Entgiftungs-Batterie column with a Sd.Kfz.11/2 in the lead during the invasion of France, 1940. Source: Unknown seller, Ebay

The decontamination vehicles were a part of the German gas warfare doctrine developed in 1936. This doctrine states that, during combat, a single contamination half-track contaminated an area. In turn, later, the Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 would drive through and spread the chemicals with the desired length and density. Closely following the decontamination half-track would be infantry soldiers, mostly on foot, equipped with gas masks. Since the mustard gas spread by the contamination half-tracks was a liquid, it would stay on the ground and the soldiers could move safely on the decontaminated strip. It is not known on which occasions or circumstances or when the German Army had planned to use this doctrine. However, one can presume it would have been used in situations where the enemy was entrenched. To save on chemicals, the Entgiftungspflug 41 was planned to be towed by the 11/2. In reality, in some photos, the plow can be seen used to dig fast and provisional trenches for soldiers.

There was also the possibility that the enemy contaminated an area. In this case, the half-track would have been used in the same way. However, this action would only be useful when the enemy also used liquid mustard gas or any other Lost gas, since Losantin only worked for this type of chemical. There were specialized vehicles for the decontamination of other gasses, but these were mostly trucks and cars and could only decontaminate individual soldiers.

The intended use of the Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2. Source: Author
Colorization of a Sd.Kfz.11/2 during winter training in 1940. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Tactical Symbols

The Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 both had the tactical symbol for the Entgiftungs-Batterie (mot) (Eng. decontamination battery motorized) which was a rectangle (standing for an infantry or artillery branch unit) together with two circles (for wheels) under the rectangle. The letters “Eg” were inside the rectangle, standing for Entgiftung (Eng. decontamination). The Sd.Kfz.11/2 presented in the Tank Museum in Munster has an incorrect symbol.

Tactical symbol for a Entgiftungs-Batterie. Source: Panzer Tracts
The wrong tactical symbol on the Sd.Kfz.11/2 in the tank museum in Munster. Source: Wikimedia


There were several trials and demonstrations in which an entire decontamination battery was used. In 1938, the first trials took place with the Sd.Kfz.10/2, which turned out rather positive. However, it was decided to use the Sd.Kfz.11/2 due to its larger storage capacity. Both vehicles not only went through obstacle courses during trials but also had to demonstrate how the unit worked. This included a full run-through of the gas warfare doctrine but in miniature size.

Sd.Kfz.10/2 during a demonstration or maneuver around 1938. Note the soldiers with gas masks. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freita

Combat Results

In 1940, there were three Entgiftungs Abteilungen (101, 102, and 105). In 1941, this number would be expanded to five (with the addition of 103 and 104).

There are not many recorded events or times when the Sd.Kfz.10/2 or 11/2 were used in their intended role. The first time was during the invasion of France within Entgfitungs Abteilung 102’s 2nd battery, when 22 Sd.Kfz.10/2s and 14 Sd.Kfz.11/2s participated in battle. However, the vehicles were not used as decontamination vehicles, since poisonous gas and the gas spreader vehicles were not used on the German side in battles. They presumably moved alongside their unit and the division and were on standby.

Most units realized that the vehicles had no use and could be used in a better way. After 1940, when it was officially announced that the Nebeltruppen were diverted from gas warfare, the units removed the chemicals and barrels and used them to carry rockets for the German rocket launchers. However, some vehicles appear to have continued in their role as decontamination vehicles, carrying the chemicals throughout the first years of Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and 1942. This was probably due to the fear amongst the German units that Soviet troops might use poisonous gas at some point. This, in turn, was also the reason why the Sd.Kfz.11/2 was produced until 1944, as a safety precaution in case of an enemy gas attack.

In 1942, all three street decontamination battalions and decontamination battalions 101, 102, and 103 were converted into Schwere Wurfgerät Abteilungen (Eng. heavy launcher battalion) which carried the rockets for the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer. Battalion 104 was converted into Gebirgs Werfer Abteilung 10 and 105 into Werfer Regiment 70.

Information about each Ent. Abt.
Entgiftungs-Abteilung (mot.) Service life Converted into
Entgiftungs-Abteilung 1 (later renamed to 101) Established: September 1939, served: France, Soviet Union Schweres Werfer-Regiment 3
Entgiftungs-Abteilung 2 (later renamed to 102) Established: September 1939, served: France, Soviet Union schwere Werfer-Abteilung 102
Entgiftungs-Abteilung 103 Established: June 1940, served: Soviet Union schwere Werfer-Abteilung 103
Entgiftungs-Abteilung 104 Established: May 1940, served: Soviet Union Gebirgs-Werfer-Abteilung 10
Entgiftungs-Abteilung 5 (later renamed to 105) Established: November 1939, served: France, Soviet Union Werfer-Regiment 70
Sd.Kfz.11/2 being used to transport all kinds of equipment. Soviet Union winter. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.11/2 which kept its chemicals all the way until the winter of 1942-1943. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Very late war (relatively) Sd.Kfz.11/2 in the Soviet Union in 1943. Note the late war camouflage pattern applied. Source: Hannover09 via Ebay

Carrier for Rockets

Some vehicles were converted into carriers for the German rocket launchers. These were the 10, 15, and 21 cm Nebelwerfer (Eng. smoke launcher), and 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41. The vehicles carried the Wurfkörper (Eng. rocket body), meaning the wooden cartridge with the 28/32 cm rocket inside and the steel cartridges for the smaller rockets.

Sd.Kfz.11/2 carrying wooden cartridges or frames for the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41 as part of a Schwere Wurfgerät Abteilung. Soviet Union, winter 1943. Source: Panzer Tracts
Presumably one of the most well-known photos of a Sd.Kfz.11/2 repurposed into carrying wooden cartridges or frames for the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41. Soviet Union 1942/1943. Source: Bundesarchiv, 1011-040-0177-27
Sd.Kfz.11/2 carrying WG 40 steel frames for rocket launchers in the Soviet Union in 1942. Note the absence of the engine, possibly for maintenance reasons. Source: Koelsch333 via Ebay
Sd.Kfz.11/2 carrying WG 40 steel frames for rockets. Soviet Union 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Two Sd.Kfz.11/2s, one carrying the wooden frames and one carrying the steel frames for the rocket launchers. Source: Hannover09 via Ebay

Surviving Vehicles

A singular Sd.Kfz.11/2 Bauart 1939 survived until today. Displayed in the tank museum in Munster, the vehicle can be seen still in its original role as a decontamination vehicle loaded with Losantin barrels. This specific example is one of the last to be ever produced by Borgward in 1944, with chassis number 324482 and is still in running condition.

Sd.Kfz.11/2 presented in the Tank Museum Munster. Note the incorrect tactical symbol on the right. Source: The Shadock Free


The leichter und mittlerer Entgiftungskraftwagen auf Sd.Kfz.10 and 11 were the first successful attempts at mobilizing the decontamination troops. In theory, these could provide a path through a contaminated area, allowing troops to march through. However, due to weak armor and no armament in close combat situations, the vehicles would need much protection from other vehicles or tanks. After several tests, the Sd.Kfz.11/2 proved to be the more effective vehicle. In the end, the decontamination vehicles’ fate was sealed due to their irrelevance on the battlefield. Gas warfare was not needed for the German Army and the vehicles were converted into other roles.

Sd.Kfz.10/2 in 1938. Illustration by Godzilla, based on work by David Bocquelet
Sd.Kfz.11/2 in 1938. Illustration by Godzilla, based on work by David Bocquelet

Sd.Kfz.10/2, Sd.Kfz.11/2 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) (10/2), (11/2) 10/2: 4.8 x 1.9 x 1.95 m, 11/2: 5.8 x 2 x 2.4 m
Total Weight (10/2), (11/2) 10/2: 4770 kg , 11/2: 6740 kg
Crew (10/2) and (11/2) 4 (Driver, crew members/spreader operators)
Speed 10/2: 65 km/h on roads and 40 km/h off roads, 11/2: 50 km/h on roads and 40 km/h off roads
Range 10/2: 250 km on roads, 125 km off-roads, 11/2: 275 km on roads, 150 km off-road
Armament (10/2) and (11/2) 4x 7.92 mm Kar 98 k
Armor (10/2) and (11/2) 1-5 mm
Engine (10/2) and (11/2) Maybach NL 38/HL42
Total Production 10/2: 60-70, 11/2: 392


Janusz Ledwoch, Tank Power Sd.Kfz.10/4

Joachim Engelmann, German Rocket Launchers

John Milsom, German Halftracked-Vehicles of WW2, Unarmored Support Vehicles from 1933-1945

Walter J. Spielberger, Motorbuch Verlag, Die Halbketten Fahrzeuge Des Deutschen Heeres 1909-1945

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 22-1 Leichter Zugkraftwagen 1 t (Sd.Kfz.10) Ausf.A und B and Variants

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 22-2 Leichter Zugkraftwagen 3 t (Sd.Kfz.11 and Variants)

Walter E. Seifert, Waffen-Arsenal Die Zugkraftwagen der deutschen Wehrmacht

WW2 German Panzer I

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf.B (Sd.Kfz.101)

German Reich (1936-1941)
Light Tank – 399 Built + 147 Converted

The Panzer I Ausf.B can be seen as a direct improvement to its predecessor, the Ausf.A, featuring a water-cooled engine, an upgraded suspension, and a modified rear. The Ausf.Bs shared a similar fate and combat history as the Ausf.A, seeing service in Spain, Poland, France, and lastly, the USSR, where their participation in combat ended. After that, along with its previous version, the Ausf.B was used for garrison roles and training purposes.

Colorization of a Panzer I Ausf.B in North Africa in 1941. Note this vehicle is an Umsetzfahrzeug, which means it has a Ausf.A turret on a Ausf.B chassis. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source:

Context: Urgently Needed Upgrades for the Ausf.A

The main reason why an upgrade was needed was the Ausf.A’s weak engine, which often could not effectively power the tank. Suffering from breakdowns, not being able to climb up steep hills or reaching a specific speed, the Krupp air-cooled 4-cylinder model 1931 engine was only adequate for a short time. Hence, in 1932, after the first La.S. prototypes left the factories, Wa. Prüf. 6 (Waffen Prüfamt 6) (English: Weapons Ordinance Department), which was responsible for all tank designs, demanded an increase in engine power.

As a result, 5 different engines were proposed and all went through testing. The first engine was a 4-cylinder water-cooled N.A.G. Typ G, which ended up being too heavy and therefore not increasing the speed, but rather reducing it to 28 km/h. After the first one failed the testing, an air-cooled Krupp V8 engine was installed. Like the first one, it was too big and therefore the suspension and superstructure had to be modified, which was not viewed well by Wa. Prüf. 6. Two other engines by Adler (air-cooled 80 hp) and N.A.G. (water-cooled 80 hp) were tested. Both performed better than the previous two versions but eventually ended up in a dead-end and the concept was canceled.

The initial winner was the Maybach 100 hp NL 38 Tr. Maybach itself had been producing artillery tractors and was to design a new engine for a 5-tonne light tank. Although the exact reasons why this engine was picked are not known, it is highly likely that it was due to it being cheaper than the others while still producing more horsepower and being a water-cooled engine. In fact, after the installation of the Maybach engine in the Ausf.B, almost all other tanks, trucks, and half-tracks which came after the Panzer I featured a Maybach engine.

Colorization of a Panzer I Ausf.B in the Soviet Union in 1943. Note this vehicle is also an Umsetzfahrzeug. (English: converted vehicle).Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source:


In January 1936, a contract was given out to all assembly firms (Daimler Benz, Henschel, M.A.N., Grusonwerk) for 1,500 Panzer Is. Out of these 1,500 tanks, 325 should be the new Panzer I Ausf.B or at that time named “Panzerkampfwagen I (MG) with Maybach motor”. Seventy-two of those 325 were only chassis and later used for the new series of “Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen” (English: small command tank).

The 5a. Serie /La.S. (English: 5a. Series/agricultural tractor) was the first batch of Panzer I Ausf.Bs, with the first vehicle being completed in July 1936. Due to the small amount of Ausf.Bs in contract, another contract was given to the assembly firms for the 6a. Serie/La.S. of 150 tanks. 4 out of these were used to build Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen.

By May 1937, 340 Panzer I Ausf.Bs had been produced and, by the end of the year, 399 Panzer I Ausf.Bs were built.

Serie Assembly Firm Numbers produced Total Production
5a. Serie / La. S. (Panzer I Aufs. B) Daimler Benz, Henschel, M.A.N. (Maschinen Fabrik Augsburg), Grusonwerk (part of Krupp) 30, 107, 66, 50 253
6a. Serie / La. S. (Panzer I Aufs. B) Daimler Benz, Henschel, M.A.N. (Maschinen Fabrik Augsburg), Grusonwerk (part of Krupp) 30, 48, 34, 34 146
7c. Serie / La. S. (Umsetzfahzeug, only chassis built and turrets taken from the Aufs. A) Grusonwerk (part of Krupp) 52 52
8c. Serie / La. S. (Umsetzfahzeug, only chassis built and turrets taken from the Aufs. A) Henschel, Grusonwerk (part of Krupp) 9, 86 95

Production numbers for the Panzer I Ausf.B including the Umsetzfahrzeuge. Source: Panzer Tracts


The Panzer I Ausf.B used the same design and was more a modification of the already existing Ausf.A design. It used the same superstructure, hull, and turret design. Only the suspension and engine were significantly different.

Panzer I Ausf.B, unknown date and location, presumably after 1939. Source: Militärphotofan 23 via Ebay

Hull and Superstructure

Whilst the front hull did not change and was left identical to the previous version, the rear hull was extended to be able to fit the new suspension and larger engine. Furthermore, the extension allowed for additional space for cooling air and the tow coupling to be relocated to the rear. Additional ports were also placed under the hull for draining oil, coolant, and fuel, making servicing of the vehicle easier.

Furthermore, the rear armor cover was redesigned to fit the new engine. It was stepped up at the rear for the air intake to cool the engine. The air was drawn through the radiator and blown out of a grill placed at the rear right-hand side of the engine deck. A new split hatch was placed above the engine for easy access. Furthermore, a new smaller rectangular hatch was placed above the radiator fan drive. Lastly, the two exhaust pipes, which on the Ausf.A were located on the mudguards, were removed and now a single muffler with extra armor protection was fixed to the rear side.

On the front, the driver’s visor was changed. Three conical-headed bolts were placed on the visor to better support the glass.

During production, starting with the 5a. Serie/La.S., a reinforcing pipe was placed across the rear hull, supporting the two idler wheels.

One of the most notable modifications after the vehicles entered service was the addition of a Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung (N.K.A.V.) (English: rack to deploy five smoke grenades). Furthermore, some vehicles received another support beam for the reinforcing pipe, as it tended to crack in combat situations. Lastly, starting with the 5b./6a.Serie, a new 5.5-liter radiator was added instead of the old 3.5-liter one, along with an upgraded cooling fan.

Panzer I Ausf.B rear engine deck. Source: Panzer Tracts

Suspension and Transmission

The suspension upgrade is probably the most iconic change from the Ausf.A to Ausf.B and is often used to distinguish between them. The reason for these changes was to upgrade the overall mobility and mainly the steering. With the Ausf.A, the tank, whenever it was being steered, had to also move the idler wheels, which inhibited and slowed down the steering process. This would also increase the chance of the tank throwing a track. Furthermore, a new lengthened suspension would help with a more stable ride and more stability whilst firing.

Therefore, for the Ausf.B, a fifth road wheel and a fourth return roller were added. The connection between the fourth road wheel and the idler wheel was cut and the fourth wheel was connected in a pair to the new fifth road wheel. The second and third were also connected in a pair, whilst the first one was independent.

The idler wheel was raised and its crank arm was mounted in a housing. Track tension was done by rotating the idler wheel’s crank arm.

The driveshaft for the transmission transferred torque from the engine through the main clutch. Like on the Ausf.A, the clutch, transmission, and steering unit were connected by flanges to form a single unit.

Panzer I Ausf.B suspension. Note the five road wheels and four return rollers. Source: Panzer Tracts
Panzer I Ausf.B during pre-war maneuvers in 1936. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection


The turret on the Ausf.B was almost identical to that of the Ausf.A, with the commander still having four visors and the two machine guns. However, all three lifting hooks were relocated from the sides of the turret to the top. This change improved the overall armor protection of the turret, as this meant fewer bolts on the turret sides.

Colorization of a Panzer I Ausf.B in France, 1940. Note the missing turret hooks, which are now on the turret. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Panzer Tracts.


The new water-cooled Maybach NL 38 Tr was able to supply 100 hp at 3,000 rpm, which was a great improvement from the old Krupp air-cooled M305 engine. The tank could now drive up to 40 km/h and could successfully climb most hills. Furthermore, due to the water cooling system, the engine was less likely to overheat in hot climates, such as Spain or later, North Africa.

The 6 cylinders of the engine were cooled by circulating water and placed in a row. For cooling water circulation, a centrifugal pump was driven by a pulley and belt drive which also drove the electric generator. To ensure that there would not be any problems whilst cooling when tilted at any angle, the upper water box directed water into the hoses and was connected to the water discharge ports. An overhead cam controlled the valves and drove the oil pump, tachometer drive, and magneto. Additionally, a fan was placed in the ventilation system next to the engine and pulled by a pulley and belt from the crankshaft.

The fuel was located in two tanks, with one holding 82 liters and the other 62 liters, both on the right side, separated from the crew compartment.

The water-cooled Maybach NL 38 Tr mounted in the Panzer I Ausf.B. Source: Fahrzeuge der Wehrmacht


In terms of armor protection, there were not many changes. The rear side and superstructure were still 13 mm thick steel with a Brinell Hardness of 530. The new rear engine deck was 8 mm thick. The thickest part was at 15 mm on the MG mount of the tank. This armor protection was adequate for protecting against small arms fire from smK-type ammunition (English. steel cored) bullets at a range of 30 meters.

Armor specifications of Panzer I Ausf.B. Source: Panzer Tracts


Like the Ausf.A, the Panzer I Ausf.B featured two MG 13 Kurz (English: short) machine-guns. There were also cases of the Ausf.B mounting the regular MG 13. It was operated by the commander and both machine guns could be removed. Whilst the right MG was easier to move around and dismount and mainly used for shooting the actual target, the left one was used for more static combat and cover fire. The MG 13 was the standard machine gun for the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht in 1933-1934. Although available in greater numbers at this point, the MG 34 was not used due to being more expensive and overheating faster.

The MG 13 k. Source: Bodenfunde und Originale


The Ausf.B also had two crew members, a driver and a commander. The driver sat on the left side and was tasked with driving the tank. He had an escape hatch above him and two visors to look out. The commander was situated in the turret and was tasked with operating the machine guns, the radio, observing the battlefield, and giving orders to the driver.

Colorization of a Panzer I Ausf.B getting towed out of a mud pit after an accident. Presumably 1939, before the war. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Collection of Christian Ankerstjerne

How to Differentiate between the Ausf.A and B

From behind, the two variants can be easily told apart. The Ausf.A has two mufflers on the mudguards left and right, whilst the Ausf.B only has one placed at the rear end. On the Ausf.B, an air intake was placed at the rear end of the crew compartment. On the lower hull, the Ausf.B has a reinforcing pipe between the two idler wheels. Note some very early models of the 5a.Serie of the Ausf.B may not have this pipe.

Left: Panzer I Ausf.A
Right Panzer I Ausf.B
Source: Panzer Tracts
Example: An Ausf.B (note the rear exhaust muffler and air intakes) but without the reinforcing pipe, meaning this vehicle was one of the first Ausf.Bs to be completed of the 5a.Serie. (Source: Panzer Tracts)

From the sides, the variants are told apart from the suspension. The Ausf.A only had 4 road wheels whilst the Ausf.B had 5. Furthermore, the Ausf.A only had 3 return rollers, whilst the Ausf.B had 4. The idler wheel has been raised off the ground and was not connected to the last road wheel on the Ausf.B.

Left: Panzer I Ausf.A
Right Panzer I Ausf.B
Source: Panzer Tracts

Lastly, the two variants can be differentiated by looking at the turret. Normally, the Ausf.B had its three towing hooks placed on top of the turret, while the Ausf.A had the hooks on the side. However, due to the Umsetzfahrzeuge using the Ausf.A turret, some Ausf.B variants (Umesetzfahrzeug) had their hooks on the side. This means, if only the turret is visible and the hooks are located on the side (hinting for an Ausf.A), the tank can also be an Ausf.B.

Left: Panzer I Ausf.A
Right Panzer I Ausf.B
Source: Panzer Tracts

From the front, the variants can only be told apart by looking at the driver’s visor. The Ausf.B, unlike the Ausf.A, had three conical-headed bolts supporting the glass behind. However, there are also cases of the Ausf.B featuring the old Ausf.A visor.

Left: Panzer I Ausf.A
Right Panzer I Ausf.B
Source: Panzer Tracts


The first Panzer I Ausf.Bs were painted in the standard three-tone camouflage painted on vehicles during the time span of 1932-1937. The pattern was called the Buntfarbenanstrich (Eng. Multi-colored-pattern) featuring color patches in yellow, green, and brown.

The three colors (from left to right): Erdgelb (Eng: earth yellow), Matt Braun (Eng: matt brown), and Matt Grün (Eng. matt green).

In June 1937, the order was given to paint all newly produced vehicles in dark gray with brown patches. In 1938 all vehicles even the existing ones had to be repainted. Throughout the Poland campaign and the early stages of the 1940 Invasion of France, the tanks stayed in that two-tone camouflage.

From left to right: Dunkelbraun (Eng: dark brown) and Dunkelgrau (Eng: dark gray)

After the Invasion, to save paint the brown patches were removed and all vehicles were painted in dark gray.

Dunkelgrau (dark gray) Ral 7021

Those Panzer I Ausf.Bs sent to North Africa, received the colors of the Afrika Korps which were a base layer of yellow and yellow-greenish patches

From left to right: Gelbbraun (Eng: yellow brown) Ral 8000 and Graugrün (Eng: gray-green) Ral 7008

From 1943 onwards, the order was given to paint all vehicles in dark yellow. This included some of the surviving Ausf.Bs.

Dunkelgelb (Eng: dark yellow) Ral 7028.
Note the color is not perfect, since the original pallet for Ral 7028 was lost during the war.

Organization and Doctrine

The general organization and doctrine were completely the same with the Ausf.B as for the Ausf.A.

At first, all Panzer I tanks were organized into regiments and independent battalions and later into Panzer Divisions. These “independent battalions” were tasked with different roles, such as signal battalions or engineer battalions, and could be attached to any Panzer Division. Whilst the first few regiments only consisted of the Ausf.A, after the first production series of Ausf.Bs were delivered, the regiments were mixed with Ausf.A and Bs.

Panzer Regiments/Battalions Number of Panzer Is
Panzer Regiment 1 171
Panzer Regiment 2 132
Panzer Regiment 3 131
Panzer Regiment 4 160
Panzer Regiment 5 130
Panzer Regiment 6 99
Panzer Regiment 7 151
Panzer Regiment 8 117
Nachrichten-Abteilung 37 (Signal Battalion) 1
Nachrichten-Abteilung 37 (Signal Battalion) 1
Nachrichten-Abteilung 37 (Signal Battalion) 1
KKS Kraftfahr Lehr Abteilung (Driving School Training Battalion> 7
Schiesslehrgang (Shooting Training School) 8

Organization of all Panzer Is in 1937. Note the table includes the Ausf.A and B.

Panzer Regiments/Battalions Number of Panzer Is
Panzer Regiment 1 48
Panzer Regiment 2 63
Panzer Regiment 3 84
Panzer Regiment 4 84
Panzer Regiment 5 84
Panzer Regiment 6 84
Panzer Regiment 7 84
Panzer Regiment 8 84
Panzer Regiment 11 84
Panzer Regiment 15 84
Panzer Regiment 31 84
Panzer Regiment 35 102
Panzer Regiment 36 101
I./Panzer Regiment 25 (Regiment HQ) 39
I./Panzer Regiment 23 40
I./Panzer Regiment 10 41
Panzer Regiment 33 (Panzer Battalion) 54
Panzer Regiment 65 53
Panzer Regiment 66 54
Panzer Regiment 67 50
Panzer Lehr Abteilung (Training Tank Battalion) 18
Schiesslehrgang (Shooting Training School) 8
Technischer Unteroffizier Lehrgang (Technical Sergent Training School 2
Pioner Battalion 38 (Pioneer Battalion) 8
Pioner Battalion 62 7
Pioner Lehr Versorgungs Battalion (Engineer Training and Supply Battalion) 1

Organization of all Panzer Is in March 1939. Note the table includes the Ausf.A and B.

Like its previous version, the Ausf.B was not intended as a training tank but as a stopgap for the Panzer III and IV.

During wartime, the Panzer I would act as a support tank against soft targets such as trucks and infantry, supporting the Panzer IIIs and IVs. Furthermore, the Panzer I Ausf.B could be used for reconnaissance purposes due to their increased performance mobility-wise. The Panzer I was used in combat in the combined arms doctrine. Combined arms warfare was the standard tank doctrine for the German Army during the early wars. It consisted of all tanks advancing in a spearhead together with air support and motorized infantry.

Colorization of a column of Panzer I Ausf.As and Bs in Germany, 1937. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Operational Service

The Panzer I Ausf.B between 1936 and 1938


Just like the Ausf.A, the Panzer I Ausf.B saw its first service during the Spanish Civil War on the Nationalist side. However, unlike the Ausf.A, the Ausf.B was sent in lesser numbers. After German military advisors arrived in Spain, they reported the success of German fighters in Spain. Once Walter Warliomnt (German representative for the Nationalists) was in Germany again, he requested more equipment for the Nationalists.

On October 25th 1936, 21 Panzer I Ausf.Bs arrived in Sevilla, days after the first batch of Panzer I Ausf.As had arrived from the 3rd Panzer Division. Their main task was to train the Spanish crews in repairing and operating the Panzer Is. Although the Nationalists would continue to request Panzers armed with 20 mm guns, they did not receive any.

In Spain, the Panzer I would be mainly used as an infantry support vehicle. Furthermore, the machine guns were not capable of penetrating the Soviet T-26 tanks at combat ranges and, therefore, the Nationalists lost many of their Panzer I tanks. This changed as more and more T-26 tanks were captured by the Nationalist forces and reused.

Panzer I Ausf.B of the 3rd Company of the Carros nacional in May 1937. Source: Biblioteca Nacional

Although the Panzer I proved to be more robust to the Spanish environment than the Soviet vehicles, it often suffered from engine overheating and track damage. The engine overheating and track damage was fixed with the Ausf.B’s water-cooled engine and the work of Spanish and German engineers.

Moreover, the Panzer I was not used in its intended doctrine, which meant it could not profit from the advantages of combined arms warfare. Nevertheless, in some cases, the Panzer I was used in a kind of combined arms warfare.

In conclusion, the Panzer I Ausf.B performed better than the Ausf.A due to its water cooled-engine. However, it still had the same problems of being used incorrectly and being inadequately protected.

Panzer I Ausf.B in Nationalist service. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Austria and Czechoslovakia

Together with its older brother, the Ausf.A, the Ausf.B took part in the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Not much is known about their performance in general and it is unclear whether the Ausf.B’s superior mobility and reliability were reflected in the campaign.

The Invasion of Poland – 1939

During the invasion of Poland, all available Panzer Is were sent to the front. This was due to an insufficient number of medium tanks, such as the Panzer III and IV. Out of 3,472 tanks in total, 1,445 were Panzer Is. Out of this number, at least 400 vehicles were Ausf.Bs. In Poland, the Ausf.B encountered the Polish 7TP and Vickers 6-ton tanks, but also the TKS. These vehicles could not be penetrated by the Panzer I at ranges of more than 30 meters. However, the most dangerous enemies of the Panzer I were the Polish anti-tank guns, which could successfully deal with all German armored vehicles. Only with combined arms tactics and air support did the Panzer I perform well.

Panzer I Ausf.B number 622 in Poland, 1939. Source:

War in the West – 1940

The Polish campaign, although successful, resulted in the loss of many German tanks, including Ausf.Bs. Therefore, a great number of Panzer Is were pulled off the front, not least due to the rising production of medium tanks and Czech light tanks which replaced the Panzer I.

Colorization of a destroyed Panzer I Ausf.B during the Polish campaign, September 1939. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Tank Archives

On April 9th 1940, Panzer Abteilung z.b. 40 was sent to Denmark to participate in the Invasion and later to Norway, where it would see service together with Panzer IIIs and the Neubaufahrzeug. In Norway and Denmark, the Ausf.B did not encounter many dangers, as both Norway and Denmark had next to no anti-tank capabilities and most vehicles were lost due to attrition. This unit, equipped with Ausf.B and A tanks, would later be stationed in Norway and participate in the Invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 through the Lappland region, together with Finnish troops.

Original color photo of two Panzer I Ausf.Bs in Copenhagen in Denmark on April 9th 1940, as part of Panzer Abteilung z.b. 40’s first battalion. Source: Bundesarchiv via

At the start of Fall Gelb (English: Case Yellow – the invasion of the Benelux countries), 554 Panzer Is took part in the invasion, most of them Ausf.Bs. In France, the Ausf.B suffered many losses. The French and British anti-tank guns could penetrate the Panzer I without any problem. French light tanks, such as the R.35 and FCM 36, were immune to the machine guns of the Panzer I. Medium tanks, such as the S.35, and the heavy Char B1 could destroy entire battalions of Panzer Is. British tanks performed similarly against the Panzer I. However, since the Panzer I never attacked alone, these situations were rather rare. Furthermore, due to close coordination between the ground forces and the Luftwaffe, the experience gained from Poland, and the coordination between ground units, such as anti-tank guns and motorized infantry via radios, the Panzers were able to push back the Allied forces.

War on Several Fronts – 1941

Alongside some Ausf.As, 15 Panzer I Ausf.B tanks were sent to North Africa to support the Afrika Korps. Those Panzer Is were the Tropen (English: tropical) variant, which had an improved cooling system. The tanks themselves did not see much combat in North Africa and were used for garrison purposes.

In spring 1941, the Panzer I Ausf.B, although in very small numbers, participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece. Neither country had much of a tank force. Whilst Yugoslavia possessed a handful of R-35 tanks which could threaten the Panzer I, like in Poland, the terrain and enemy anti-tank guns were a much bigger problem. After the invasion, some additional Panzer Is were sent as garrison vehicles.

The last major offensive the Panzer I Ausf.B took part in was the invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. In total, 337 Panzer I tanks, most of them Ausf.B, were sent alongside the invading forces. In the time between June and December of 1941, the number of Ausf.Bs decreased greatly. The Ausf.B alone posed no danger to Soviet tanks. During the mud season, the Ausf.B’s weak tracks could not handle the situation even with the improved engine. Furthermore, because no new Panzer Is were built, spare parts were becoming more and more scarce. By 1942, most vehicles were pulled off the front. Those which stayed were slowly lost to attrition.

Panzer I Ausf.B as part of the 7th Panzer Division and the 2nd Panzer Gruppe. Soviet Union, 1941. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Most of the Panzer Is which were pulled off the front served as policing, garrison, or anti-partisan vehicles in the regions occupied by Germany. Furthermore, many were converted or reused to one of the many variants and field conversions built later in the war.

Colorization of a Panzer I Ausf.B in the Soviet Union in 1941. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Combat Results of the Ausf.B

In direct combat against any Allied tank, the Panzer I Ausf.B, like its brother, would be inferior in terms of armament and armor protection. However, in most cases, the Panzer I would not fight alone. It would always be supported by heavier tanks, such as the Panzer II or III. They would advance together and, whilst the heavier tanks dealt direct damage towards enemy tanks, the Panzer I would deal damage indirectly by using its machine guns. The machine guns could successfully deal with soft skin vehicles, such as trucks and even very lightly armored tanks and, most notably, infantry. It could suppress enemy anti-tank guns, machine-gun nests, and infantry in general, whilst the infantry or tanks could advance. Furthermore, the Ausf.B, whilst rather weak in its hard factors (armament, armor protection), could shine with its soft factors. These included the coordination between units via a radio receiver, the improved crew comfort, and lastly, the easy-to-repair aspect and the experience the crews gained during pre-war training. Within the units, the Ausf.B was more popular than the Ausf.A due to its upgraded engine and mobility.

Panzer I Ausf.B in the Soviet Union, 1941. Note the muddy tracks. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Furthermore, the Panzer I was the first German tank to enter serial production and was also the first tank constructed by many German companies. This experience would turn out to be very useful later during the war. Additionally, whilst the Ausf.A trained the factories in constructing tanks in general, the Ausf.B trained them in modifying their production lines.

The Ausf.B not only trained the factory workers, but it also helped to gain experience within the German design office, which learned to deal with mistakes and how to effectively modify a tank to be better.

Lastly, the Ausf.B was, like its older brother, successful in preparing and training thousands of German tankers for the war due to their intensive training during maneuvers.

Colorization of a column of Panzer I Ausf.As and Bs in Germany, 1940. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection
Panzer I Ausf.B during Operation Sealion training in Holland, 1940. Source: Wolrdwarphotos

Other Operators

Soviet Union

An unknown number of Panzer Is were in service with the Red Army in 1941. These tanks were designated T-1 but no photos of them are known to exist and captured during the first months of Operation Barbarossa in 1941.


By 1942, the Panzer I was no longer suitable for frontline service due to its inadequate armor and firepower, and because of this, many of them were pulled off the front and reused. Hungary had 8 Panzer I tanks as of 1942, after Germany sold them to become part of the 1st Cavalry Division.

Post-Spanish Civil War Spanish Service

After the Spanish Civil War had ended, the new government under Franco was excluded by many international organizations including the purchase of new arms and tanks. Therefore it had to make use of the vehicles gained during the war. This resulted in the Spanish Arsenal still consisting of 84 Panzer Is. Although some continued to be used as training vehicles, during the 1950s the Panzer Is were replaced by newer tanks such as the M24 Chaffee.

Vehicles Based on the Panzer I Ausf.B Chassis


After a number of Panzer I Ausf.As were converted into Fahrschulfahrzeuge (English: Training school vehicles) by removing the superstructure and turrets), a stockpile of leftover Panzer I Ausf.A turrets started to grow. To make use of these, it was decided to build another series of Panzer I Ausf.Bs. The 7c. and 8c /La.S. were regular Fahrschulfahrzeuge on the Ausf.B chassis with upgraded rear armor and a Drehüberträger (English: Slip string contacts, responsible for transporting electricity to a potential turret).

Later, spare or old Ausf.A or B turrets were placed on top. These Umsetzfahrzeuge (English: Converted vehicles) were in most cases a Fahrschulfarzeug using the Panzer I Ausf.B chassis and superstructure with an Ausf.A turret. Contracts for the chassis were given to Grusonwerk (Krupp) and later to Henschel in 1937. Grusonwerk could deliver 52 7c.Serie/La.S. and 9 8c.Serie/La.S., whilst Henschel delivered 86 8c.Serie/La.S. In 1940, 64 Umsetzfahrzeuge had been completed and took part in the Invasion of France acting as regular Panzer I tanks. By 1941, all 147 were completed.

Colorization of an Umsetzfahrzeug during pre-war training. Note the three-tone camouflage. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source:

Panzer I Ausf.B Tr.

Due to the extreme temperatures in the desert, those Panzer I Ausf.Bs which were sent to Libya with the Afrika Korps received an upgraded cooling system and a new specification: Panzer I Ausf.B Tr (Tr: Tropen, English: tropical). The ventilation system was exchanged, along with the installation of a new fan and increasing the size of the air inlet and outlet. About 20 vehicles from the 6a. Serie were converted.


After the introduction of the tank in 1916, many countries wanted to also acquire these new machines. However, most of them could not afford to develop and build their own tanks. Therefore, many of the Great Powers sold their tanks to these smaller countries. The companies made huge profits selling tanks like the Vickers 6-ton or Renault FT. Seeing this, Krupp also wanted to participate in this global market and get Germany started on exporting tanks.

The first plans included the L.K.A. (Light tank for export), which used the turret and superstructure of the Panzer I Ausf.A. However, only one was ever completed and Krupp already started on the next project. The L.K.B. (Light tank for Bulgaria), was intended for Bulgaria, as the Bulgarians showed great interest in buying German tanks. The first L.K.B. was a regular Panzer I Ausf.A featuring a new diesel engine.

The second one consisted of a singular Panzer I Ausf.B chassis and the turret and most of the superstructure from the first L.K.B. The last L.K.B. was only a Panzer I Ausf.B chassis without superstructure but with test weight and a new engine. Due to overall shortages of tanks in 1939, it was decided to cancel the project and all the traces of the L.K.B. were lost.

L.K.B.2 photographed with the superstructure and turret of L.K.B.1. Source: Panzer Tracts

The Panzer I ‘Lanzallamas

The Panzer I in Spain suffered from a weak armament that was not able to fight effectively against Soviet tanks. Therefore, two Panzer Is (one Ausf.A and one Ausf.B) were converted into flamethrower tanks. The Panzer I ‘Lanzallamas on Ausf.B chassis was equipped with a short Flammenwerfer 35. However, due to a very short range of 30 meters, the project was abandoned and no further conversions took place.

Panzer I Ausf.B mounting the Flammenwerfer 35. Source: Private collection of Ruy Aballe

Up-gunned Panzer I Ausf.Bs

Like its previous version, the Ausf.B was upgunned many times. In 1936, Heinz Guderian realized that the German Army needed a mobile tank destroyer, as the Panzer III and IV lacked anti-tank power. In March 1940, the idea of having a separate tank mounting an anti-tank gun was put in action. The Panzerjäger I (English: tank hunter I) was an Ausf.B chassis mounting a Czech 4.7 cm Pak (t). The first conversions were done by Alkett, which provided the chassis, and Škoda, which provided the guns. They saw service during the invasion of France, in North Africa, and the invasion of the Soviet Union. The vehicles proved adequate at dealing with most Allied tanks during the early stages of the war, but often failed at penetrating the Soviet medium and heavy tanks.

Alkett Panzerjäger I in France, 1940. Source:

In 1939, the Wehrmacht realized that the heavy 15 cm sIG (Sturm Infanterie Geschütze, English: infantry assault guns) could not keep up with the advancing tank forces because of their weight and the way these guns were transported. Therefore, before the invasion of France, several 15 cm sIG 33s were put on Panzer I Ausf.B chassis because of the Ausf.A could not carry the weight. Later, a shield was added to protect the crew. The Sturmpanzer Is (English: Assault tank I) were organized into heavy infantry assault gun companies. However, even the upgraded Ausf.B chassis could not handle the weight of the gun and the tank broke down often. Therefore development began for a new way to mobilize the sIG 33. In the end, 38 vehicles were converted by Alkett and stayed in service until 1943.

Colorized photo of a Sturmpanzer I on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1942. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Original Source: Bundesarchiv via

There were also several field conversions, with the idea of converting an outdated chassis into a tank destroyer. An obscure field conversion is the Panzer I Ausf.B mounting a 50 mm Pak 38. No information exists on who carried out the conversion, where it was used, and when. In the only photo available the backside of the PaK 38 shield can be seen.

The Panzer I Ausf.B with 50 mm Pak 38. Unknown location and date. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

One of the most well-known upgunned Ausf.B field conversions was the Panzer I Ausf.B with 75 mm StuK (Sturmkanone, English: Assault cannon). This vehicle-mounted a 75 mm StuK 40 L/48, possibly taken from a StuG III. The tank served during the battle of Berlin and it is unknown who carried out this conversion. The conversion seemed to be done in a rather rudimentary fashion, by removing the turret and mounting the gun on the superstructure. An additional shield was put in front of the gun to protect the crew.

Panzer I Ausf.B with a 75 mm StuK 40 L/48 in Berlin, 1945. Source: Bundesarchiv via

Brückenleger I

In 1939, the Wehrmacht and its engineers faced a shortage of mobile and armored bridge-laying vehicles. Before the war had started, the 7th Panzer Division converted two of their Panzer I Ausf.As into bridge layers. In the following months, new Panzer I chassis were converted into bridge layers. These also included some Ausf.B chassis. The Brückenleger I on Ausf.B chassis had an 11-meter long bridge on top of the superstructure whilst the turret was still in place. Eventually, due to the Panzer I chassis not being adequate for the task, it was replaced by the bridge layer on the Panzer II chassis.

Panzer I Brückenleger in Germany, 1940. Source: Armed Conflicts

Ammunition Carrier on Ausf.B

The first ammunition carriers on Panzer I chassis were tasked with carrying ammunition safely to the front lines. In 1939, these vehicles were mostly based on the Ausf.A chassis. This changed in 1941, when most Panzer Is were pulled off the front and were converted into more useful vehicles. One of these conversions was the Ammunition carrier on Ausf.B. These vehicles received a wooden superstructure and were allocated to Panzer Jäger Abteilungen (English: tank destroyer battalions).

Colorization of an ammunition carrier on Ausf.B chassis with the superstructure. Note this vehicle was exhibited in the Gorky Park in Moscow, Winter of 1945. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Flakpanzer I Field Conversions

Unlike the Ausf.A, the Ausf.B chassis was never used for the original Flakpanzer I featuring the 2 cm Flak. However, multiple photos show some Ausf.B chassis used for mounting anti-aircraft guns. The first one shows an Ausf.B chassis mounting an MG 151 Drilling (English: triple MG). Not much is known about the vehicle itself other than that it was employed late in the war as a last-ditch effort to up-gun the Panzer I.

Soviet soldiers inspect the Panzer I Ausf.B with MG 151. Source:

The second photo shows an Ausf.B chassis mounting a 37 mm Flak but with the actual cannon missing and only the mount visible.

The Panzer I with 37 mm Flak mount. The surrounding area gives the impression of a repair station, therefore the gun was presumably removed for maintenance. Source: Armed Conflicts

Ambulance Vehicles on the Ausf.B

After the invasion of Poland, the German army realized that they had no way of transporting doctors and medics safely to the front and transporting the wounded back to safety. To resolve this problem, many vehicles were converted into medical support vehicles. There were two kinds of medical vehicles. The first variant transported doctors and medical supplies to the front lines, whilst the second variant often transported wounded soldiers away from the front lines. These would be primarily reserved for NCOs and officers. The second variant had stretchers for the wounded on the engine deck. Both variants had their armament removed and had giant red crosses and flags painted on them to ensure that the enemy would not shoot them. In France, almost all vehicles were part of the 4th Panzer Division. They went on to serve on the Eastern Front and North Africa.

Before the invasion of France, several Kleine Panzer Befehlswagen were converted into transport vehicles for doctors and medics.

A Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen converted into a medic and doctor transport vehicle. France, 1940. Note the Red Cross flag. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Next to the Kleine PanzerBefehlswagen, there were also several Panzer I Ausf.B chassis converted into medical vehicles. These were regular Ausf.B chassis with a protective shield. It is unknown from which vehicles these conversions originated, but it is assumed that they were converted from either Fahrschulwagen or engineering vehicles. This variant also had stretchers on its engine deck.

The second variant of ambulance vehicles on Ausf.B chassis. This one was part of the 4th Panzer Division. Note the stretcher on the back and the visors in the front. France, 1940. Source: Kurmark-Antik
Colorized photo of the second variant of the Ambulance Panzer I crossing a bridge next to French POWs. France, 1940. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Original Source: Bundesarchiv

Due to a shortage of medical vehicles, an unknown number of regular Panzer I Ausf.Bs were also converted. Photographic evidence shows only a single Ausf.B. Visually, the tank does not seem to differ from regular Panzer Is except for the mounting of the stretcher and removal of the machine guns.

The Ambulance Panzer I Ausf.B. Note the stretcher on the engine deck. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Engineering Vehicles

To further upgrade the Pionier Kompanien (English: Engineer companies), they were equipped with new Pionier Fahrzeuge (English: Engineer vehicles). These were vehicles intended to remove any obstacles and barricades. The first variant was called the Panzer I mit Abwurfvorrichtung (English: Panzer I with explosive charge dropping device). The Abwurfvorrichtung variant transported a 50 kg explosive charge which would then be dropped from an extended arm onto the target. At first, these were only used by Panzer Battalion 38 but, in 1940, a production order for 100 additional vehicles was given. These would be issued to the newly formed Panzer Pionier Kompanien (English: tank engineer companies) in specialized Zerstörungszüge (English: Destruction platoons) with 5 vehicles each. They participated in the invasion of France, where their performance was adequate for their intended role.

Colorization of a Panzer I mit Abwurfvorrichtung. France 1940. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Original Source: Ebay via

In March 1940, an order was given for a new explosive charge-laying vehicle. This time, the Panzer I would be able to carry a 75 kg explosive charge. Unlike the previous version, the Ladungsleger I (English. Charge dropping vehicle I) carried its charge above the engine deck, on a ramp that would be used to drop the charge. The exact number of vehicles built is unknown, however, at least two participated during the invasion of France together with Panzer Pionier Battalions 39 and 58, together with the Abwurfvorrichtung vehicles. In 1941, the vehicles were given a new role, mounting and being able to shoot 28 cm rockets.

Ladungsleger in France, 1940, as part of the 5th Panzer Division. Source:

Multiple photos show Ladungsleger vehicles outfitted with 28 cm rockets in the Soviet Union in 1941. In photos, the vehicle still seems to be mounting the explosive charge. These were similar to Sdkfz. 251 halftracks mounting the same rockets. The Stuka zu Fuß halftracks (English: Stuka on Foot) were used by the Nebeltruppen (English: Fog troops), which were a part of the artillery and deployed the Nebelwerfer (English: fog thrower). However, it is unknown if the Panzer I Ausf.B with 28 cm rockets were used by the Nebeltruppen or remained in service with the Panzer Pionier Kompanien. The reason behind this conversion is most likely that the task of a charge-laying vehicle was not needed anymore in 1941.

A Ladungsleger I featuring 28 cm rockets in the Soviet Union, 1941. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Similarly, there was also an unknown number of Panzer I mit Abwurfvorrichtung outfitted with flamethrowers.

Panzer I mit Abwurfvorrichtung featuring a flamethrower. Soviet Union, 1941. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

As the first Panzer Is entered service, they proved to be vulnerable in stressful situations and difficult terrain and therefore tended to break down. First introduced on the chassis of the Panzer I Ausf.A, the Instandsetzungskraftwagen (English: Maintenance tank) was responsible for maintaining tanks and carrying the equipment for maintenance and spare parts. Later, more and more Ausf.B chassis were converted into maintenance vehicles. The first version based on the Ausf.B chassis was a simple Panzer I Ausf.B without superstructure and new storage spaces for tools and equipment. A canvas could be stretched around the iron bars. The second version simply saw the removal of the turret, but with the superstructure remaining. This version was often a field conversion carried out by the troops on the front later in the war. The last version had a completely new superstructure, some of it armored and some of it soft skin. The Instandsetzungskraftwagen stayed in service until 1945. An unknown number of Instandsetzungskraftwagen were also reused for carrying fuel, towing artillery guns, and used by the engineers.

An early version of Instandsetzungskraftwagen in the Soviet Union, 1941. Note the spare wheels for Panzer Is, added windshield, and the cart it is towing. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection
The last version of the Instandsetzungskraftwagen in the Soviet Union, winter 1942. This superstructure on this vehicle is most likely soft skin and can only protect the equipment from getting wet. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

An unknown number of Panzer I Ausf.B chassis were converted into engineering vehicles. These vehicles were tasked with carrying equipment for engineers, but also wooden planks for building bridges. It is confirmed that at least three Panzer I Ausf.Bs were used as engineering vehicles.

Three Panzer I Ausf.Bs used as engineering vehicles. Note the tactical symbol identifies that this tank is part of a Panzer Pionier Kompanie (English: tank engineer company) of the Panzer Pionier Battalion 13 of the 14th Panzer Division. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Schwimmpanzer I

Not much is known about this vehicle and information can only be taken from photos and a short paragraph from the Kubinka Tank Museum. In one photo, the Panzer I with swimming equipment seems to be part of a reconnaissance battalion in the Soviet Union in 1941 or 1942. Because the Schwimmpanzer II (Panzer II with swimming equipment) was originally intended for ‘Operation Seelöwe’ (English: Sealion, the German Operation for invading the United Kingdom), one can assume that the Schwimpanzer I would have been used for a similar role. However, the equipment is very different from the Schwimmpanzer II. The Schwimmpanzer I had a pontoon hanging on each mudguard. This would result in the tank only being able to float and not swim. One example was captured by Soviet Forces in 1942 and was sent back to Moscow for further examination. This vehicle was also an Umsetzfahrzeug and was presented to the public during the Gorky Park exhibition after the war. For unknown reasons, the side pontoons had been removed and only the extended mudguards were visible during the exhibition. After that, its trace was lost.

Colorization of a Schwimmpanzer I on display in Gorky Park. Note the pontoons have already been removed but the mounts for the pontoons are still visible. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection
Another view of the Schwimmpanzer in the Gorky Park in Moscow. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection
Last known photo of the Schwimmpanzer I with pontoons in service with the Wehrmacht in 1942 in the Soviet Union. The surrounding vehicles are part of a reconnaissance unit and therefore the Schwimmpanzer might be too. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Command Tanks

After the success of the first command tank variant, the Funkpanzerwagen built on the Ausf.A chassis, development began in 1935 for a new command tank based on the Ausf.B chassis. In 1936, contracts were awarded for 72 new kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen (Sd.Kfz.265) (English: small command tank). In total, 184 Befehlswagen were built. There were three different versions, all of them different in the commander’s cupola. The first version of Befehlswagen had no cupola, whilst the second one mounted a cupola. The third one had a slightly modified cupola.

At the start of the war, each company was issued one Befehlswagen. However, this turned out to be insufficient, as many Befehlswagen were lost during the early campaign. In 1941, most Befehlswagen I were replaced by Befehlswagen based on the Panzer III. They were reorganized into the artillery branch as auxiliary vehicles. Even before the war, some vehicles received a frame antenna and had no armament due to difficulties with producing the ball mounts. Furthermore, several Befehlswagen had additional armor plates bolted onto the superstructure for extra protection.

Some Befehlswagen were reused as mobile command stations for steering mine clearing vehicles and explosive charge laying vehicles, such as the Sd.Kfz.303

Sd.Kfz.265 Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen with no cupola, frame antenna, glass block, and a three-tone camouflage. Germany 1937. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection
Sd.Kfz.265 Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen with the late cupola in the Soviet Union in 1941. This vehicle is already part of the artillery. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Due to a shortage of command tanks, many improvised command tanks entered service around 1938. These included regular Panzer I Ausf.B tanks fitted with a frame antenna and a new radio.

A Panzer I Ausf.B with Rahmenantenne (Eng. frame antenna) behind a regular Befehlswagen with no cupola and a frame antenna. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

There are also several photos of an improvised Befeshlwagen on Ausf.A and B chassis. Although no information is available, photographic evidence supports the theory that these strange Panzer Befehlswagen were some early prototypes or improvised vehicles. They differ from the placements of visors and which antenna type they mount. They had a different superstructure, no armament, and only one entrance on the front side. Photos show that these vehicles shared a similar life to the regular Befehlswagen.

A strange Befehlswagen with checkerboard pattern. The purpose of the patterning is unknown but it is assumed that these vehicles were command vehicles. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Training Tanks

As with the Panzer I Ausf.A, there were also training tanks on the Ausf.B chassis. These Fahrschulwagen (English: Driving school vehicles) were issued to each company and to the driver’s schools. There were many different versions and variants of this, based on where and when they were used.

The regular Fahrschulwagen were taken from the production line and had no superstructure mounted on them, but often support bars for the driver. Starting in 1937, companies were allowed to convert two more of their Panzer I tanks in stockpile into Fahrschulwagen.

During the war, as the situation for Germany was getting more and more desperate, most Panzer I tanks in reserve were converted into training tanks. These conversions also included the mounting of a charcoal engine to save fuel.

Fahrschulpanzer on Ausf.B chassis. Note the support bars for students. Source: Koelsch333
Fahrschulpanzer I on Ausf.B chassis fitted with a wood gas unit that ran of charcoal. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Unknown Field Conversions

There are a number of obscure Panzer I Ausf.B variants about which there is no information at this moment and which are only known from photos. The following vehicles are unknown field conversions and their purpose can only be speculated.

A Panzer I Ausf.B featuring a Beobachtungskuppel (English: observation turret). These Beaobachtungskuppeln were also fixed to a large number of Panzer IIs. The Panzer IIs acted as reconnaissance vehicles. Therefore, the same can be said about this Panzer I. Soviet Union, Winter 1941. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection
Another obscure Panzer I variant, part of the 7th Panzer Division. This one seems to have only one machine gun mount and an unknown support bar. Some Panzer I turrets that have been placed in fortifications also feature only one machine gun mount. However, no connections between these two can be drawn. France 1940. Source: Panzer Tracts
Probably the most unusual Panzer I variant is shown in this photo. The vehicle appears to have a different front wheel, which raises the question of whether a different drive, engine, or transmission is mounted in this vehicle. There is also a number plate of the Wehrmacht present. Normally, number plates on tanks either hint towards a factory/prototype, private, or training school vehicle. However, since the first number is a 0, this vehicle is a prototype and factory vehicle. Furthermore, the number plate reveals that this vehicle was registered in Berlin and therefore could be part of the Alkett factory. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection
Panzer I Ausf.B with dummy guns, presumably in 1938, Germany. Source: Ebay, courtesy of Armin Freitag’s digital collection

Surviving Vehicles

Panzer I Ausf.B captured in 1943. The vehicle is an Umsetzfahrzeug. Note the towing hooks at the side of the turret Source:
Panzer I Ausf.B used by the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War, located in Madrid, Spain. Note the dark gray camouflage is inaccurate, as all Panzer Is arriving in Spain were repainted. Source:
Panzer I Ausf.B presented in the Russian Military Technical Museum in Chernogolovka. The vehicle was previously in a private collection around Moscow. This vehicle is also an Umsetzfahrzeug. Source:
Panzer I Ausf.B in the US Army Ordnance Museum in Fort Lee. The tank was recovered from Libya and was one of the first 60 vehicles sent to Fort Lee. Source:


The Panzer I Ausf.B was the result of the Army requesting an urgently needed upgrade to the Ausf.A due to the tank not being able to work properly in stressful situations, even during maneuvers. The Ausf.B delivered this upgrade and showed great improvement mobility-wise compared to its predecessor. However, this only solved one problem, leaving the problems with the vulnerable armor and light armament. In the end, the Ausf.B was also badly needed by the Wehrmacht during the early years of the war and, in combined arms warfare, performed fairly well. It would continue to see service as a garrison and training vehicle until the end of the war.


Panzer 1 Ausf.B light tank of the III Corps, IV Panzer Division, Lillehammer, Norway, February 1940. (Note it has five road wheels)
Panzer I Ausf.B light tank of the II Panzer Division, Belgium, May 1940. (Note it has five road wheels)
A kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen with the early cupola. Based on Ausf.B hulls, around 200 of these high profile, fast command tanks were built. They led Panzer Is in Poland, France, the Balkans, Africa, and Russia. The last were still in use in 1943 for urban police duties in many European cities
Alkett Panzerjäger I of the Panzerjäger Abteilung 521, France, May 1940. It was part of the only eighteen vehicles ready in time to take part in the opening hours of the operations. The other companies were still training and would be engaged later in the campaign.
15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen I Ausf.B (Bison) Sd.Kfz.101 of the schwere Infanteriegeschütz-Kompanie 701, France, May 1940.
Panzer I Ausf.B ‘Lanzallamas’. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf.B specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.42 x 2.06 x 1.72 m
Total Weight 5.8 tonnes
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Engine Maybach NL 38 TL 6 cylinder water-cooled petrol
Speed 40 km/h, roads: 25 km/h, cross-country: 15 km/h
Range roads: 170 km, cross-country: 115 km
Gunsight T.Z.F.2
Traverse 360°
Elevation -10° to +20°
Armament 2 x 7.92 mm MG 13 k
Ammunition 2,250 7.92 mm S.m.K. in 25 magazines
Trench crossing capability 1.40 m
Communication FuG 2 receiver
Power-to-weight ratio 17.25 hp/ton
Armor 8-14.5 mm
Total Production 399 built, 147 converted


Walter J. Spielberger Die Panzerkampfwagen I und II und ihre Abarten Einschließlich den Entwicklungen der Reichswehr.

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 1-1 Panzerkampfwagen I, Kleintraktor to Ausf.B

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 1-2 Panzerkampfwagen I, Kl. Pz. Bef. Wg. to VK. 18.01

Horst Scheibert, Uwe Feist, Mike Dario, Waffenarsenal Panzer I

Lucas Molina Franco, Panzer I The beginning of a dynasty

Thomas Anderson, The History of the Panzerwaffe

Janusz Ledwoch, Tank Power Vol. XI PzKpfw I vol. I

Paul Thomas, Images of War, Hitler’s Light tanks 1935-1943

Bryan Perrett, Osprey Vanguard, German Light Panzers 1932-1942

Frank V. De Sisto, Armor at War Series, German Leichte Panzer at war

Bob Carruthers, Hitler’s War machine, Panzer I & II Germany’s light tanks

WW2 German Panzer I

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf.A (Sd.Kfz.101)

German Reich (1934-1936)
Light Tank – 1,190 Built

Even though it was not the first tank of the German Army, the Panzer I Ausf.A was the first German tank to enter serial production and the first German tank to see combat in large numbers. It is one of the most nondescript but also one of the most important German tanks, with over 1,190 built between late 1934 and early 1936. Although not the most effective in tank versus tank combat, it played an important role in training a new generation of German tank crew members and in spurring further tank development. Furthermore, it was highly important during the early phases of the Second World War. The Panzer I Ausf.A first saw action during the Spanish Civil War and in the Second Sino-Japanese War, being Germany’s first true export tank. Its frontline service life ended in 1941, by which point the Panzer I was considered unsuitable even in the reconnaissance role, though it continued to see service as a training and auxiliary tank.

Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A in Germany in 1936. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: World War photos

Context: Development of a Light Armored Machine Gun Tank

World War I ended for Germany with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which, among many other things, restricted the country from constructing and designing any tanks. But, since the newly formed Weimar Republic did not want to be left behind in terms of tank development, the Reichswehr, the army of the Weimar Republic, secretly trained with dummy tanks, which were either bicycles or cars disguised as tanks. Later, when a secret treaty which involved the sharing of technology and trading of resources was signed with the Soviet Union, Germany started to design new tanks and could test these safely in the Soviet Union. The two most notable tanks of the Weimar Republic were the Großtraktor (Eng: Big Tractor) and Leichttraktor (Eng: Light Tractor), but both were only prototypes manufactured in very small numbers.

After the Nazis took over in Germany, all secret projects with the Soviet Union were scrapped, as was the training school in Kazan. Hitler’s new regime ignored the Versailles restrictions and pushed on with the development of new tanks since the old Leichtraktor and Großtraktor were considered unfit for purpose.

When developing the future doctrine for tanks, two factions stood against each other. The first one, under General Guderian, wanted to quickly equip the German Army with tanks as a stopgap until the arrival of what would become the Panzer III and IV. The other one, under General Beck, was against the idea of having a stopgap tank because it believed all production capability should be put into the creation of the eventual Panzer III and IV. In the end, Wa. Prüf. 6 (Waffen Prüfamt 6, Eng: German Weapons Design and Ordnance Department responsible for the development of military vehicles) agreed with Guderian’s idea, even though a light machine gun tank would not fit the German Army’s criteria of having a tank that would be able to attack alongside infantry and have at least some anti-tank capability. Guderian felt that a small tank that did not cost too many resources would make a good transition model.

In 1930, Wa. Prüf. 6 turned to Krupp and requested the design of a new tank using the suspension of the previously purchased light tracked tractor from Vickers Armstrong. Krupp developed the Kleintraktor (Eng: Small Tractor) which, after three failed prototypes, was already very similar to the Panzer I.

In 1933, Krupp was given the first production contract for 135 vehicles codenamed 1. Serie La.S. (Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper, Eng: Agricultural Tractor) or later Krupp-Traktor (Eng: Krupp Tractor). An additional contract for 3 vehicles, each based on Krupp’s Kleintraktor, was given to five different companies: Krupp Großen Werk (Großen Werk was the part of Krupp responsible for manufacturing in the 1930s), Daimler-Benz, Rheinmetall-Borsig, Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN), and Henschel.

Unlike other countries’ design firms, the German design office often gave contracts to different firms which would then create only one part of the tank. Krupp and Daimler Benz were both tasked with the creation of a turret and a hull, while the other firms were tasked with only creating a hull.

After a series of evaluations of different prototypes, which all visually looked very similar to the Kleintraktor, Krupp’s hull and the Daimler-Benz turret and superstructure won. Whilst evaluating the different prototypes, the first series (only chassis without turrets and superstructures) was already ordered from Krupp and built, creating the future training school vehicles. But Wa. Prüf. 6 was not pleased with the finished product and Krupp had to redesign the whole tank. This new design would later become the Panzer I Ausf.A.

Colorized photo of a 1. Serie La.S. with a Daimler-Benz turret. These were made from a 1. Serie La.S. chassis and a turret and superstructure developed by Daimler-Benz. These were the first “Panzer Is” to receive armament. Later, they were used by the Luftwaffe for testing the effects of 50 kg bombs on tanks. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: Panzer Tracts
1. Serie La.S. with an improvised Krupp turret without any armament and an improvised superstructure. These were made because Krupp already finished some of its chassis, but Daimler Benz had not completed any turrets at this point. About 20 tanks with these improvised turrets were deployed during the German Army’s first tank parade in 1935. – Source: IIRC


The first official designation was La.S., which is an abbreviation for the German words Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper (Eng: Agricultural Vehicle). This was chosen due to the Treaty of Versailles still affecting Germany’s tank production and to deceive enemy intelligence. The designation 1-4. Serie denotes the production series of La.S. and when the tanks were built. When, in 1939, it was made obvious to the entire world that Germany was rearming, the official name changed to the better-known Panzer I Ausf.A. designation, which, in full, was Sd.Kfz.101 Panzerkampfwagen I Ausführung A. Training schools kept calling them the 2-4. Serie/Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper. Sd.Kfz. (Sonderkraftfahrzeug, Eng: special purpose vehicle) was a classification system used by Wa. Prüf. 6 to identify all German military vehicles, while Panzer/Panzerkampfwagen I was generally used by the troops.

Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A with only one machine gun mounted. Germany, 1938. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Source: Waffenarsenal


In 1933, Krupp won the competition to produce the hull and Daimler-Benz the superstructure and turret for the La.S.

Initially, it was planned that Krupp would produce 150 2. Serie La.S and Daimler-Benz 300 superstructures and turret sets. However, this was never achieved and, in the end, it was agreed on a final figure of 200 finished tanks.

In a meeting with Krupp, Wa. Prüf. 6, and the other firms in February 1934, it was discussed who should produce what. Krupp was tasked with providing updated blueprints with the changes from the old 1. Serie La.S. Krupp was then to provide these new designs and 10 engines to the other firms: (Henschel, Grusonwerk (part of Krupp), MAN, Daimler Benz, Rheinmetall). In turn, these companies were to construct 30 hulls each and Krupp 50. The production deadline was for February 1935.

Colorized photo of a Fahrschulwagen I using a 2. Serie La.S. chassis, winter 1938. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: World War photos

When the first vehicles were delivered to the troops, they were unsatisfied due to the engine being too weak to perform on an obstacle course. As a result, General Lutz turned to Wa. Prüf. 6 and demanded that the production of La.S. should stop after the 2. Series and only be restarted if imminent war became a possibility. However, the La.S.’ successor, the La.S. 100 (later the Panzer II), was still in development and could not be completed until 1936.

As a result, Krupp’s order for La.S. was increased to 1,000 vehicles shortly thereafter. Krupp was also tasked with providing over 650 engines. Krupp did not have the production capability to keep up with this contract and therefore considered outsourcing the order to even more outside firms.

In the end, the Reichswehrminister (Eng: Minister of Defense) demanded that all production capability should be going into the La.S., with over 1,000 vehicles to be completed and handed over to the troops by July 1935. Krupp was to produce 215 chassis, while the other firms were to produce the rest. In August 1935, after over 600 tanks were already completed, an order was issued that 150 chassis should be used as training school tanks. Therefore, production of a third series (the 3. Serie/La.S.) with only minor modifications was started by Krupp. Because the Panzer I only had a radio receiver and was not able to send out messages, a new command tank was designed using the chassis of the 2. Serie/La.S., with 15 built. The last 175 tanks from the planned 1,000 tanks were called the 4. Serie/La.S.. In the end, 1,190 Panzer I Ausf.As were built.

Production of all Panzer I Ausf.A series and the previous Krupp Traktors. – Source: Panzer Tracts
Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A during a training exercise in 1935. Note the chessboard-like pattern on the turret, which indicates the tank belonged to either a company or platoon commander. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original source: Panzer Tracts


After the failed project of the first series of La.S., a second series was started in February 1934. Although it resembled the previous versions, almost all of its components had to be redesigned. These changes mainly included the enlargement of the return rollers, bigger fuel tanks, and the increase of the hull height by 50 mm. Additionally, for the first time, Wa. Prüf. 6 wanted a radio set inside the tank to improve communication. Therefore, a more powerful electric generator had to be fitted inside the rear. Later, the proposed increase in the hull height was canceled. Before entering production, a new cooling system was implemented. It consisted of two air filters and air intakes which greatly improved the cooling of the engine.

Panzer I Ausf.A in the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. – Source: World War photos

Hull and Superstructure

The hull was the main component that supported the drivetrain. It was made out of several armor plates welded together, with a firewall separating the engine compartment and the crew compartment. Three strong steel strips were bolted to the upper edge of the hull to support the superstructure. Multiple hatches and ports on the hull could be unbolted to access different parts of either the engine or drivetrain. The tank had two tow shackles for towing the tank at the front and two aluminum mudguards.

Mounted on the hull was the superstructure, which was designed by Daimler-Benz. It was designed in order for a two-man crew to fit inside the tank and was equipped with a short-wave radio receiver set and two gas masks, since the tank had no other protection against poison gas.

The superstructure was separated into two parts: the front section and the rear section. The front section protected the crew compartment and could only be removed after the removal of the rear section. The rear section protected the engine compartment and had thinner armor. It could be removed much easier in order to access the engine.

While it may not seem very impressive by modern standards, the Panzer I was the first German serial production tank to receive vision slits and bulletproof glass, so the crew would be better protected whilst looking out. The vision ports were located all around the superstructure, with one each on the back and front and one on each side. Two access hatches were located on the superstructure. The driver’s hatch was located on the left side, while the commander’s hatch was on the turret.

Top view of the superstructure without the engine deck. – Source: Panzer Tracts


Like the other components of the Panzer I, the turret’s origin can be traced to the development of the Kleintraktor, when Daimler-Benz was tasked with providing a turret for the series. It was a success and only small modifications on the inside had to be made, making the Panzer I turret visually almost identical to the first turret of the Krupptraktor. The turret could be fully rotated, mounted on a ball-bearing race, and armed with two MG 13s which could be aimed with a telescopic sight. There were two visors with vision slits on the back, two without vision slits on the sides, and a commander’s hatch on top. Furthermore, there were two visors that could be opened directly in front of the machine guns.

Inside view of the turret. – Source: Panzer Tracts

Suspension and Transmission

The suspension consisted of one front sprocket wheel, three return rollers, one idler wheel, and four road wheels on each side. While the first/front road wheel was a single wheel, the second and third road wheels were paired in a leaf spring suspension. The fourth road wheel was also mounted on a suspension cradle connected to the idler wheel. The idler wheel was partially connected to the fourth road wheel and touched the ground, which would later turn out to be a significant problem, as the steering of the tank was severely impaired.

The Panzer I Ausf.A had a transmission, clutch steering unit, and final drive. The transmission was a five-speed gearbox with synchronization for the first four gears.

The connection between the last road wheel and idler wheel of the Panzer I. – Source: Panzer Tracts
Side View of the Panzer I Ausf.A suspension. This one is the 2.Series. – Source: Panzer Tracts


One of the main problems with the Ausf.A was its engine. The air-cooled 4-cylinder Krupp M305 proved to be very loud when starting and made the tank extremely noisy. In his diary, a soldier wrote that the troops would jump-start the engine, creating a very loud sound that would wake up the whole platoon. This was overdone to such an extent that the Panzer I manual specifically prohibited this course of action.

The engine could propel the tank to a maximum speed of 37 km/h, giving out 60 hp at 2,500 rpm. Next to the engine, located at the rear side of the hull, was an electric generator and two Solex carburetors. The engine also had a cooling fan, cooling-oil, and oil-filter.

The air-cooled 4-cylinder Krupp M305 from a Panzer I Ausf.A in the Bovington Tank
Museum – Source: Maquet Land
The air-cooled 4-cylinder Krupp M305 from a Panzer I Ausf.A in the Bovington Tank Museum – Source: Maquet Land


The armor was made of rolled homogenous hardened plates with a Brinell hardness of 850. It was welded and formed the body of the superstructure and hull. Although not protected from even small caliber anti-tank guns, it could provide protection against small arms fire and SmK bullets (steel-cored rifle bullets). At the front, the thickest part was at 15 mm on the MG mount of the turret, whilst the superstructure front was up to 8-13 mm. The sides were protected by 14.5 mm at the thickest point under the driver’s hatch. Lastly, the rear hull and engine deck were protected by 8-13 mm of armor.

An illustration showing the armor thickness around the tank. (Source: Panzer Tracts)
Colorized photo of Panzer I Ausf.A driving through a wall during maneuvers in 1938. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original source: Panzer Tracts


The Panzer I Ausf.A turret-mounted two MG 13 machine guns. The MG 13 was the standard machine gun of the Reichswehr and the German Army for the first years of the war. A total of 2,250 rounds of 7.92 mm SmK (steel-cored) bullets were packed in 25 magazines, with 61 additional magazines stored in racks inside the tank. The machine guns were both operated by the commander and fired by cables connected to the triggers. While the left MG was fired by a handgrip on the elevating mechanism, the right one was fired by a handgrip on the traversing mechanism. Both could be disconnected and fired directly by the commander for better aiming. Later, the MG 13 k (the k meaning “kurz”, Eng: short), a shortened version of its predecessor, replaced the MG 13.

Colorized photo of two German Soldiers with an MG 13 in 1934. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: Wiki


Two crew members operated the Panzer I Ausf.A: a driver and a gunner/commander. The commander was situated in the turret and tasked with operating the machine guns, the radio and giving orders to the driver. The driver was situated on the left side of the hull. Communication between the driver and commander was via speaking tubes. Many of the crews who operated the Panzer I Ausf.A were intensively trained, having participated in many maneuvers prior to the outbreak of the war.

Panzer I Ausf.A during a parade in 1935. Note the death skull flag indicating that this tank belonged to Sonderabteilung Nürnberg (Eng: Special Battalion Nürnberg). Nürnberg is a city in southern Germany. – Source: Waffenarsenal


In 1932, the first Panzer I prototypes, the 1. Serie/La.S. and Kleintraktor, were painted in “Feldgrau” (Eng: field gray). This specific camouflage was put on all military vehicles to disguise them as commercial vehicles.

Feldgrau (Field gray)

Later during the same year, the first ‘real’ Panzer Is received the Buntfarbenanstrich (Eng: multi-colored-camouflage). This was a three-tone camouflage consisting of earth-yellow, matt green, and matt brown. The pattern was to be applied in random patches and could either be feathered or separated by thin black lines.

Colorization of a Panzer I Ausf.A in front of the barracks in 1936. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: Ebay
Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A with Bunfarbenanstrich in 1935, undergoing tests in deep snow. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original source: Waffenarsenal
The three colors (from left to right): Erdgelb (Eng: earth yellow), Matt Braun (Eng: matt brown), and Matt Grün (Eng. matt green).

In July 1937, an order was given to stop painting all tanks in Buntfarbenanstrich. Tanks would now be painted in dark gray and dark brown. The base color was gray, with patches of brown applied randomly but not overlapping the gray. The order only applied initially to newly produced tanks. Tanks with the old camouflage would only be repainted if necessary due to damage to the old pattern. Tools and equipment stayed in the old camouflage. In November 1938, the order was given to paint every tank in the new pattern, with ⅔ of the tank covered in gray and ⅓ in brown. Although the reason why this new pattern was introduced is unknown, it is highly likely that it was because the gray and brown paints were much cheaper. Furthermore, gray has the effect of blending in with the surroundings over long ranges, making it a fairly effective camouflage pattern.

From left to right: Dunkelbraun (Eng: dark brown) and Dunkelgrau (Eng: dark gray)

To save paint, in June 1940, the order was given to stop buying paint directly from suppliers and obtain it through the Ordnance Department. A month later, it was ordered that all vehicles would only be painted in dark gray.

Dunkelgrau (dark gray) Ral 7021

For the Afrika Korps, a special camouflage pattern was issued. In March 1941, when the first tanks arrived in Libya, the order was given to paint all equipment and vehicles in Gelbbraun (Eng: yellow-brown) with Graugrün (Eng: gray-green) patches. This pattern would be applied in the same way as brown and gray: ⅔ of the tank in yellow-brown and ⅓ in gray-green. Unlike the brown and gray pattern, the edges would not be sharply defined but rather feathered together.

From left to right: Gelbbraun (Eng: yellow brown) Ral 8000 and Graugrün (Eng: gray-green) Ral 7008

In March 1942, the camouflage for all vehicles in the Afrika Korps was changed to a base brown (⅔) and light gray patches (⅓). Before applying the new pattern, all old paint supplies had to be used up.

From left to right: Sandbraun (Eng: sand brown) Ral 8020 and Hellgrau (Eng: light gray) Ral 7027

On 18th February 1943, the order was given to paint all vehicles and larger equipment in Dunkelgelb (Eng: dark yellow). Olive-green and red-brown would act as camouflage stripes, which could be acquired through normal supply channels. The application of olive-green and red-brown was made optional, since not all units, especially on the Eastern Front, had access to these paints. Note that by this point, all Panzer Is had been pulled out of frontline service. Panzer Is that continued service as training tanks were painted in dark yellow.

Dunkelgelb (Eng: dark yellow) Ral 7028. Note the color is not perfect, since the original pallet for Ral 7028 was lost during the war.

Organization and Doctrine

The first 318 Panzer Is were organized into Panzer-Regiments in August 1935. However, there were not enough Panzer Is to fill the 6 regiments, so early Panzer I prototypes were used to make up the numbers. Around 1936, two additional regiments would be added. In 1937, this number had not changed, but there were more Panzer Is in each regiment. Furthermore, there were separate battalions with special tasks, such as the Nachrichten-Abteilung (Eng: signals battalion) and Kraftfahr Lehr Abteilung (Eng: driving school battalion) equipped with Panzer Is. By March 1939, the last pre-war modifications to the organization were done, which mainly saw the addition of more regiments with less Panzer Is in them. This was due to the increasing number of other tanks, such as the Panzer II and IV. Furthermore, new ‘independent’ battalions were added, which could be attached to any division or used in any role. The signals battalions no longer contained any Panzer Is.

Organization of all Panzer Is in 1937. Note the table includes the Ausf.A and B.
Organization of all Panzer Is in March 1939. Note the table includes the Ausf.A and B.
Colorized photo of Panzer I Ausf.As in 1935. These tanks were part of Sonderabteilung Nürnberg. Note that, in many photos, the Panzer Is can be seen without armament. During nighttime and when not in use, the machine guns were removed for better maintenance. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: Collection of Christian Ankerstjerne

At the start of the war, the Panzer I regiments were organized into Panzer Divisions, which were an organic part of the Heer (Eng: German Army). A German Panzer Division in 1939 consisted of one motorized infantry regiment, two Panzer brigades, one reconnaissance battalion, one artillery battalion, one engineer battalion, one anti-tank battalion, and one signal squadron. Each Panzer brigade consisted of two regiments, each consisting of two battalions. Each battalion had up to 34 Panzer Is and 33 Panzer IIs placed in a Leichter Kompanie (Eng: Light Company). There were also 5 Panzer III and 6 Panzer IVs which formed the Mittlere Kompanie (Eng: Medium Company). Each platoon had 2 Panzer Is and 3 Panzer IIs. Together, up to 272 Panzer Is were allocated for each Panzer Division, but this number often varied, with some tanks staying in reserve or acting as replacements for other tanks. Furthermore, each regiment and later even company received a single Panzer Befehlswagen (Eng: Command Tank) based on the Panzer I hull.

Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A in Poland 1939. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: World War Photos

A year later, in 1940, the organization changed, with the Panzer Is slowly being replaced by medium tanks, such as the Panzer III and IV.

By 1941, the Panzer Is were officially removed from frontline combat service but continued to see service as replacement and reconnaissance tanks.

It is a common myth that the Panzer I Ausf.A and its successors were intended as training tanks, but this was not true. The Panzer I already had a designated training vehicle variant, the Fahrschulwagen I. Furthermore, if intended as a training tank, it would not have been equipped with two machine guns and also not armored with expensive nickel. From the start, the Panzer I was intended for combat, but only as a stopgap until the later Panzer III and IV entered service.

The Panzer I was to be used in combined arms warfare and never alone. Combined arms warfare was the combination of all aspects of the military. These were the Stukas acting as close air support, the Panzers acting as the spearhead, and artillery and motorized infantry close behind in support. The intended doctrine for the German tank arm only included the Panzer III and IV working together, where the Panzer III would deal with other tanks and the Panzer IV with infantry and fortifications. The Panzer I was either used as a fast tank that supported the advancing forces with its machine guns against infantry or used as a reconnaissance tank that drove ahead of the Panzer III and IV.

Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A during the Invasion of Poland, 1939. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original source: World War photos

Divisional Insignias and Emblems

Before national identification marks, such as the Balkenkreuz, were painted on the tank and any kind of numbering system was introduced, Panzer I tanks, and also tanks of other nations, such as France, used playing card symbols for identification. This was only experimental for the first maneuvers and parades of the first newly created Panzer Division from 1935 to 1937. After that, the Panzer I received a new system, consisting of a combination of numbers, colors, and shapes stenciled onto the front driver’s plate and in the form of placards on the rear side. The system was used until the invasion of Poland, but many units did not follow this order and only used the stenciled three-digit number system which would eventually replace the placards system completely. During maneuvers, a chess board-like ring was painted around the turret. This was used to identify the platoon or company commander. There were many more such unique symbols with unknown purposes during the first years of the Panzer Divisions.

The first view of Panzer I Ausf.As during training. The right one has the chessboard pattern applied indicating that it belongs to a platoon or company commander. – Source: Panzer I, The Beginning of a Dynasty

The placard was located at the rear side of the turret or engine deck. It was a light gray square, 420 mm long x 240 mm high, with two smaller symbols in the center. On the right, there was always a rhomboid in a specific color with a specific number and on the left was either two stripes or a circle only for company and platoon leaders.

Platoon leader of the 1. Company of the 1. Battalion of Panzer Regiment 4.

Two red stripes identify a platoon leader; One red circle identifies a company leader, a solid white square identifies a Panzer from the 1. Platoon, two solid white stripes identify a Panzer from the 2. Platoon, a triangle identifies Panzers from the 3. Platoon. The small number identifies the regiment. The rhomboid’s filler color identifies the company: white 1./5. Company, red 2./6. Company, yellow 3./7. Company, and light blue 4./8. Company. Other than the filler color, the rhomboid could also be either a completely solid color (like in the photo) identifying the I. Abteilung (1. Battalion) or have a black stripe identifying the II. Abteilung (2. Battalion).

Panzer I Ausf.As during a parade on Adolf Hitler’s birthday in 1935. The vehicle in the foreground is from the 2. Platoon (two white stripes) of either the 1./5. Company (white filler color of the rhomboid) of the 1. Battalion (solid color in rhomboid) from Panzer Regiment 5 (white number). – Source: Panzer I dynasty

The three-digit system was located either at the sides or front of the superstructure. This system was much more complicated before the war. During wartime, the system was simplified to a point where enemy anti-tank guns and tanks had no problems figuring out which vehicle was the platoon leader and would shoot it first. This would eventually lead to its downfall, with many units making up their own system.

Platoon leader of the 3. Platoon of the 8. Company of the 2. Battalion of Panzer Regiment 3.

The small number identifies the regiment. The filler color identifies the battalion: Red= 2. Battalion, White= 1. Battalion
Instead of a 0, this system used a dot. Later, it would be replaced by a regular 0. The right digit identifies the individual tank in the platoon. Sometimes, this digit would not be present, then the tank was either part of a Leichte Zug (Eng: light platoon: a platoon of tanks supporting the HQ command) or the Stab (Eng: staff).
The middle digit identifies the platoon. The left digit identifies the company. It could also have a triangle or square (either red= 2. Battalion or white= 1. Battalion). These were used to identify HQ battalion command vehicles.

Since the system proved to be too complicated, a new simplified system was introduced and used throughout the war. It kept the simple idea of a three-digit system with company, platoon, and individual tanks. Information about the regiment was put in a separate (now only white) rhomboid.

Panzer I Ausf.As during a maneuver. The vehicle in the foreground is a Fahrschulpanzer I based on an Ausf.B hull. Note that, although this is presumably a training exercise, the tanks already have the simplified numbering system, marking the date around 1939-1940. – Source: World War photos

In order to standardize and clarify the German identification markings, an order was given shortly before the outbreak of the war to paint solid white Balkenkreuze (Eng: beam crosses) on the tanks. If the tank did not have this Balkenkreuz, it was identified as an enemy tank. The Balkenkreuz would be painted on the turret front, rear, and both sides. Furthermore, a white square would be painted on the engine deck for identification for fighter planes. This would later be removed due to the tanks being exposed to enemy aircraft too, but then added again in form of the famous Fliegertuch (Eng: Fighter Cloth), which was essentially a regular Nazi Germany flag with the same purpose, mainly used on the Eastern Front and in North Africa.

One of the problems with this solid white Balkenkreuz was that it proved to be a very good aiming spot for enemy tanks and anti-tank guns. This was such a big problem that many crews intentionally covered the Balkenkreuz with mud or, in some other cases, painted it yellow.

Panzer I Ausf.Bs in Poland in 1939 with mud on their white Balkenkreuze. – Source: Bundesarchiv

To fix this problem, in October 1939, the order was given to paint a Balkenkreuz with an open center on the rear and sides of the superstructure of the tank.

Panzer I Ausf.A with the open Balkenkreuz. Note the armament of the tank was removed when the tank was unused for a while. – Source: Private Collection of Christian Ankerstjerne

Later, between 1940 and 1941, the Balkenkreuze received a black stripe in the center to further conceal them.

After the war’s outbreak, Panzers started being organized into panzer divisions and not regiments. Therefore, new insignias were introduced for each panzer division. These symbols were stenciled in yellow on all armored and motorized vehicles. There was no mention of a specific area where these should be applied, but High Command gave orders on how they would look for each panzer division in service at that time. Throughout the war, new symbols were added for new divisions and old ones were replaced in an attempt to disguise their identity.

The list presented by the OKH (Oberkommando des Heer, Eng: Army High Command) to German field units. Immediately after the order, changes were made, such as the 4. Panzer Division using an encircled tree. – Source: Panzer Tracts

Operational Service

The Panzer I Ausf.A between 1936 and 1938


The Panzer I first saw combat in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, which ranged from 1936 to 1939. After the outbreak of the war, many countries, including Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union, initially signed the Non-Intervention Pact, which prohibited involvement in the civil war. Nonetheless, throughout the conflict, to different degrees, Italy and Germany supported the Rebel or Nationalist side, and the Soviet Union sent military equipment and military advisors/political commissars to the Republic.

Walter Warliomnt, the German representative in Rebel Spain, traveled back to Germany on September 12th, 1936, a few months after the beginning of the conflict, to inform the German High Command of the success of the German aircraft used up to then, but also with the warning that if the Rebels were to win, they would need more materiel support from Germany.

On September 20th, the majority of the officers and troops of Panzer-Regiment 6 of the 3rd Panzer Division volunteered to fight in an undisclosed location. On September 28th, 267 men, 41 Panzer I Ausf.As, 24 3.7 cm Pak 36s, and around 100 other logistical vehicles set sail for Spain, arriving in Sevilla on October 7th, from where they were then transported by train to Cáceres to instruct Spanish crews on how to use their tanks. An additional 21 Panzer I Ausf.Bs arrived in Sevilla on October 25th. By the end of 1936, the German tank unit, the Panzergruppe Drohne, was made up of three tank companies. Its main task was instruction, not just in tanks, but also anti-tank guns, tank transporters and flamethrowers, and repairing damaged vehicles. Although German crews were instructed not to crew the tanks in combat, there are some recorded instances of this occurring early in the war. To fill in for damaged or lost tanks, an additional 10 Panzer Is were sent to Spain in early 1937, the last to be sent directly by Germany through the Condor Legion.

A Panzer I being unloaded from a train in Cáceres so it could be used to instruct Spanish crews in the use of such weapons – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 75

Additional tanks, replacement parts, and other vehicles were processed and delivered through Sociedad Hispano-Marroquí de Transportes (HISMA), a dummy company set up by Germany to make deals with Spain. Whilst the Nationalists continually asked for a tank armed with at least a 20 mm cannon to be able to effectively confront the Republican T-26s, none would arrive. The Nationalists instead had to be content with additional Panzer Is. The first request was sent on July 13th, 1937, and 18 Panzer I Ausf.As arrived in El Ferrol on August 25th and 12 in Sevilla on August 30th. The second order was sent on November 12th, 1938, with 20 Panzer Is arriving on January 20th, 1939. It should be noted that these two orders required a great deal of insistence from Spanish authorities and German Condor Legion officers. This, alongside the hesitance to deliver anything more modern than a Panzer I, may be indicative of a German reluctance to fully commit to Spain to the same extent as Italy did, at least regarding land forces.

In total, Germany supplied 96 Panzer I Ausf.A and 21 Ausf.B, 4 Panzerbefehlswagen I Ausf.B (Panzer I command tanks), and one Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf.A (ohne Aufbau) (a turretless training tank).

Table showing the total amount of Panzer Is sent to Spain – Source: TE
A Panzer I Ausf.A driving on a mountain road in Vizcaya in spring 1937 – source: Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 95

When in combat, the Panzer Is mostly acted as an infantry support vehicle, as were most vehicles during the conflict. During their first engagement with Soviet T-26 tanks, fighting in Ciudad Universitaria on the Madrid front in November 1936, the Rebels were held back, with over 15 Panzer I tanks destroyed. This was due to the Panzer Is and Italian tanks not being able to penetrate the Soviet T-26 unless at very close ranges.

A knocked-out Panzer I is used as cover during the fighting around Aravaca at the end of 1936 – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 131

As the Nationalists started to turn the tide and began to capture huge numbers of equipment and Soviet tanks, the anti-tank problem was fixed by giving each company of Panzer Is one T-26 and several 37 mm German anti-tank guns. The Panzer I, although it could not outclass the Soviet T-26 and BA-6 armored cars, was much more robust and reliable in the Spanish environment. This was aided in large part by the excellent maintenance work carried out by German and Spanish engineers.

However, there were many cases of the engine overheating in the hot climate, which would later be fixed by installing the water-cooled engine in the Ausf.B. Furthermore, cases of detracking occurred and the armor protection on the visors proved to be too thin to stop armor-piercing rifle bullets. The Spanish terrain was often very rough and next to no infrastructure existed, which compounded the situation.

Furthermore, the Panzer I was in most cases not used in a combined arms doctrine, with artillery, planes, or other tank support, and the crews were often Spanish personnel, who were less trained than German tank crews. The Panzer Is were used mostly as mobile machine gun nests, advancing into defended towns, which was not how they were intended to be used.

However, there were several instances of them being used differently, with a number of Panzer Is being amassed and used to penetrate a weak point in the enemy’s defense line to overwhelm the front. The first notable example came in the Nationalist counter-offensive during the Battle of Brunete on July 18th, 1937. Condor Legion ground commander, Wilhelm von Thoma, was able to persuade General Valera to employ their Panzer Is together, rather than dispersing them among the infantry. This succeeded until the intense heat and general exhaustion slowed down the advance.

Another example of this combined arms warfare-like employment of Panzer Is during the Spanish Civil War came during the Catalan Offensive at the beginning of 1939. The Nationalist offensive to capture the remaining parts of Catalonia had begun on December 23rd, 1938, but the Republican defense was solid. On January 3rd, Panzer Is and other Nationalist tanks were amassed and broke the front in the province of Lleida, leading the way to the eventual fall of Barcelona.

A column of four Panzer Is getting ready for the Aragón Offensive. Note that vehicle at the rear is armed with a 20 mm Breda gun – source: Mortera Pérez (2011b), p. 5

The Panzer Is fought on almost all fronts of the Spanish Civil War. According to data compiled at the end of the conflict, from its foundation in 1936, the Agrupación de Carros de Combate (Eng. Tank Grouping), where the majority of Panzer Is were, had participated in 904 combats.

Spanish Republican Service?

The Rebels/Nationalist were renowned for capturing and putting to use Soviet/Republican vehicles. What is less known, but also far less common, was that the Republican side also captured a number of Italian and German vehicles in Rebel/Nationalist service.

Photographic evidence shows at least three Panzer Is in Madrid being shown to a crowd of curious onlookers. The vehicles were repaired and cleaned before the exhibition. The vehicles were given new numbers, though they can only be distinguished in two, numbers “31” and “33”. The purpose of these numbers is unknown. Number “31” had a banner reading “todos contra el invasor” (Eng. All together fight the invader) and the one where the number can not be identified had a large banner celebrating the heroics of a certain Corporal García. The original machine guns on these vehicles are missing, and were replaced by dummies and Hotchkiss 7 mm ones.

The three Panzer Is exhibited by the Republican authorities in Madrid. Note the numbers on the side hatch and the large banner celebrating Corporal García’s heroics at the forefront – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 133

There is another photo showing a lone Panzer I in the field. This vehicle, with camouflage applied, has a small red flag with a yellow hammer and sickle on the right mudguard. There is no information available about when or where this photo was taken and it is hard to tell if this was an isolated case.

The only photo of the lone Panzer I Ausf.A on the field with a small Communist flag – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 133


In September 1936, 15 Panzer I Ausf.As were sold to China for 1.03 million Reichsmark. Together with the tanks, a representative of Krupp, Habermaas, came to China to evaluate their performance. Habermaas stated that, upon arrival, the Panzer Is were in a poor condition due to insufficient packaging. Parts of the tanks, such as the machine gun mounts, brakes, and telescopes, were heavily rusted. Additional equipment, such as manuals and toolboxes, were damaged or lost due to the salt and water that had corroded the tanks. Lastly, the electrical parts were damaged due to the moist air, which also included the electrical fans, resulting in the tank overheating up to 60°C. The Chinese government falsely accused the Germans of sending them used tanks instead of new ones, but the bad state of the Panzers was due to the bad organization of the Chinese Ordnance Department and poor packaging by the Germans.

Another problem of the Panzer I in China was the suspension. Chinese infrastructure was even worse than in Spain, resulting in even worse results. The only terrain through which the Panzer I could drive was the rice fields, where the Panzer I had just enough ground clearance to be able to carefully drive through. Getting over the dikes between the rice fields proved to be impossible for the Panzers. The only other way of driving these tanks was in Nanking on dry rice fields. The tanks could only carefully drive on these still muddy grounds or else the chance of losing a track was increased. The Vickers 6-ton and Carden-Loyd, which were also exported to China at that time, were superior to the Panzer I in terms of mobility. The other main problem that the Chinese pointed out was the weak armament in comparison to the Vickers 6-ton.

In theory, the Panzer I was relatively comfortable, especially for Chinese soldiers, who were generally shorter than German soldiers. However, in practice, the tank heated up very fast and all visors and hatches had to be opened, exposing the crew to enemy small arms fire. Notwithstanding these points, the Panzer I proved to be adequate for the Chinese Army.

In the end, the tanks did not participate during the Defense of Shanghai. They fought in the Defense of Nanking, where all 15 tanks were captured by Japanese troops and sent for evaluation to Japan.

Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A in Chinese service captured by Japanese troops after the battle of Nanking. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: World War photos

Similar to the Panzer Is in Spain, their poor performance can be traced back to the fact that they were not built for the difficult terrain and hot climate of China. Furthermore, like in Spain, the Panzer Is were not used in their intended combat role by the Chinese and quickly fell victim to the environment of China and Japanese troops.

Austria and Czechoslovakia

In 1938, the Panzer I was present during the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Even though no fighting occurred, the tanks had to drive a long distance to the annexed countries and the Panzers often broke down. This was not a problem unique to the Panzer I, as the Panzer II, III, and IV also broke down with similar frequency.

Panzer I Ausf.A in 1938 getting washed by firefighters in order for them to look clean when entering the newly annexed Sudetenland. – Source: Waffenarsenal

The Invasion of Poland – 1939

At the start of the Second World War, on 1st September 1939, 973 Panzer Is participated in the invasion of Poland, making up about 40% of the German tanks deployed during the invasion. The other 260 Panzer Is stayed in reserve. With the loss of over 819 tanks, of which 320 were Panzer Is, the Polish campaign proved to be extremely costly for the German Army, contrary to the common misconception. Later, the number of Panzer Is which were either completely lost or needed major repairs was reduced to 89 tanks.

Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A transporting Polish prisoners of war after the Invasion of Poland in 1939. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original source: Panzer DB
Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A during the invasion of Poland in 1939. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original source: Waffenarsenal

War in the West – 1940

As Panzer II, III, and IV production had drastically increased by 1940, more and more Panzer Is were withdrawn from frontline service. Furthermore, the Polish campaign demonstrated that the German Army still needed to improve its combined arms tactics. One of the greatest drawbacks of German armor during the 1939 campaign was the lack of communication between the Luftwaffe (Eng: Airforce) and Heer and their lack of armor protection. Even the small number of Polish tankettes equipped with anti-tank guns and 7TP tanks had no problem knocking-out the German tanks. This was not just a problem for the Panzer I, since the Panzer III and IV also had thin armor.

Before the invasion of France, 29 Panzer Is, part of Panzer Abteilung 40, were sent to Denmark and later Norway in April 1940. The Danish and Norwegian armies fielded no active tanks and only had a small number of anti-tank guns, resulting in no Panzer Is lost in combat, though mechanical attrition in the harsh territory of Norway did take its toll.

At the start of Fall Gelb (Eng: Case Yellow, the invasion of the Benelux and France), 554 Panzer Is took part in the invasion. Similar to the Polish campaign, the French campaign was extremely costly for the Panzer Is and the German Army in general. Over 182 Panzer Is were completely lost, which was 26% of the total number of Panzer Is deployed.

The invasion of France was the most costly invasion up to that point, specifically in terms of tanks lost to enemy tanks. The much heavier and better armored French tanks, such as the H39, R40, Somua S35, and Char B1 faced no problem penetrating German tanks, but, on the other hand, the German tanks struggled to penetrate their armor. Even the earlier R35 and FCM 36 tanks, although with a very poor armament that was not adequate for dealing with tanks, had superior armor protection. However, French tanks and the entire army lacked effective communication, still relying predominantly on hand signals and flags. The Ausf.A did not field a full radio either, but the radio receiver was enough for the officer or general to give orders from his radio half-track to the command tank, which then gave the orders to the platoon leader and then to the individual tanks. This gave the German Panzers the advantage of coordination, allowing them to cut off French supply lines or encircle their armies. British tanks, such as the Matilda, which was a slow infantry tank with thick armor, were often picked off by bigger guns, such as the famous 88 mm Flak 36. One of the main aspects of the German success was due to their combined arms doctrine, with other parts of the army, such as the artillery, anti-tank guns, and the Luftwaffe working together with the tanks. The fact that the Panzer I had such a weak armament was not very relevant, since only in the rarest cases did a Panzer I actually engage in combat against another tank. Most of the time, French tanks faced multiple Panzer Is supported by Panzer IIs, IIIs, and IVs.

War on Several Fronts – 1941

In March 1941, 25 Panzer I Ausf.As were sent to North Africa as part of Panzer Regiment 5 of the Afrika Korps. Later, an additional 25 Ausf.As were sent as replacements. If no modifications had been made, the Panzer I Ausf.A, with its overheating problems and air-cooled engine, would subject its crew to inhuman temperatures inside the tank. Therefore, all Panzer Is were modified into Tropen (Eng: Tropical) variants (Panzer I Tp), which received better cooling and more air filters.

In North Africa, the Panzer Is suffered from low supplies of fuel and spare parts that plagued the entire Afrika Korps. Furthermore, the Panzer Is were not used as frontline tanks anymore, meaning they would get the least amount of fuel allocation. Their purpose was acting as reserve tanks and policing vehicles, since the General Staff of the Afrika Korps knew from the experiences in France that the Panzer I was not capable of fighting against Allied tanks.

During the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941, only 18 Panzer Is took part in Panzer Regiments 31 and 33. In the Balkans, the Panzer Is did not encounter many tanks. The Yugoslavian tank force, although fielding a number of Renault FT and R35 tanks, did not pose much of a threat to the Panzer Is, since these were present only in small numbers and were dealt with by other German tanks and aircraft. However, anti-tank rifles and guns were a great threat to the small tanks, as in Poland. The very bad terrain made it hard for the Panzer Divisions to advance in the first few days.

Later, the Panzer I Ausf.A would see service in the Balkans, both in Yugoslavia and Greece, in anti-partisan duties. There, they proved fairly effective with their bulletproof armor and machine guns.

At the start of Operation Barbarossa, 337 Panzer I tanks were available, divided into 17 panzer divisions. Over the period of the first month of fighting, 172 Panzer Is were lost. The rest were slowly lost due to attrition and other factors. Since no new Panzer Is had been produced after 1936, most tanks were either lost or converted into self-propelled guns or other variants by 1943. In this form, some of the Panzer Is continued to soldier on until 1945, by which time they were thoroughly obsolete.

Colorized Photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A in the Soviet Union belonging to the 2nd Panzerarmee in June 1941. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. (Original Source: World War Photos)
Panzer I Ausf.As next to a Panzer III (3.7 cm) in the Soviet Union in the winter of 1941. – Source: Waffenarsenal
Panzer I Ausf.A in the Soviet Union in the summer of 1942, acting as a security vehicle against partisans. – Source: Waffenarsenal

The Panzer I Ausf.A’s Combat Performance

The Panzer I and its machine guns could effectively destroy soft targets. It was fast and small and could therefore be extremely dangerous to any infantry. But the Ausf.A was extremely loud due to its air-cooled engine. Furthermore, the commander was overwhelmed with his tasks of observing the battlefield, giving orders to the driver, operating the radio, and operating the machine guns. Additionally, if the tank was driven at a high speed, it would sometimes pitch violently.

Panzer I Ausf.A stuck in the mud. This happened often during the first manoeuvers in 1935-1936. Although the engine was generally sufficient, sometimes it was not powerful enough for the tank to be able to drive out of the mud. – Source: World War photos

However, the Panzer I Ausf.A played a big role for propaganda purposes. With the public used to the small Reichswehr, mostly equipped with cavalry, the large numbers for that time period of new tanks driven by a new generation of tankers dressed in black uniforms with skulls, representing the old skull hussars of Prussian times, had an enormous effect on the population. Therefore, many young people decided to also join the tank arm. Furthermore, the arrival of these small tanks in a city during a parade was always highly celebrated by the public. The tanks were often presented on Adolf Hitler’s birthday and on German Thanksgiving (a harvest festival) in 1935.

A young German woman giving flowers to the commander of a Panzer I Ausf.A. in Erfurth, 1935. – Source: Waffenarsenal

Furthermore, an often-ignored fact is that the Panzer I Ausf.A was the first German tank to enter serial production, with many different firms working on the production. For many of these firms, it was their first time mass-producing military vehicles. Despite their inexperience, they managed to produce a large number of the Panzer I Ausf.As at a rapid pace. The experience gained by these firms, for example, MAN and Henschel, would later contribute greatly to the production of tanks such as the Panther and the Tiger.

Lastly, although it was not the vehicle’s main task, the Panzer I Ausf.A was indirectly responsible for training an entire new generation of tank crews who would later become the first crews of the more advanced Panzer IIIs and IVs. Due to their extensive training during maneuvers and exercises, their performance was often superior to other tank crewmen at the start of the war. For instance many famous tank aces started training on a Panzer I

Colorized photo of a Panzer I Ausf.A during training in 1936. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Original Source: World War Photos

Service With Other Nations

Soviet Union

Although not known which variants, a report of the Red Army in 1941, stated that 5-6 T-1 tanks are in service with the Red Army. The T-1 was the Soviet name for the Panzer I. However there is no photographic evidence to support this.

NDH Service

The independent state of Croatia, a puppet regime of Nazi Germany, successfully purchased 4 Panzer I Ausf.A tanks in 1941. These were used as garrison vehicles against the partisans.

Panzer I in Domobranska Service – Source:

Post-Spanish Civil War Spanish Service

The Spanish Civil War was won by the Rebel/Nationalist side and resulted in General Franco’s 36-year long dictatorship. Due to Spain’s support for Italy and Germany during the Second World War, in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, Spain was excluded from the new international organizations, such as the United Nation, and many states closed diplomatic relations. In military terms, this meant Spain had to make use of the vehicles which had survived the Spanish Civil War.

At the end of the Spanish Civil War, there were still 84 operational Panzer Is. This means that throughout the war, only 38 vehicles were fully lost. By 1942, there were still 144 Panzer Is and CV-33s and CV-35s in the Spanish Army and they equipped all five tank regiments of the Spanish Army. Whilst the passing of the years took a toll on the tanks, they were only replaced when US tanks, M24 Chaffees and M41 Walker Bulldogs, made available through the changing geopolitical world situation, arrived in Spain in the mid to late 1950s. Even then, some continued to be used for training.

A Panzer I Ausf.A in post-war service in Madrid 1944. – Source: Unknown

Footage of the Panzer I Ausf.A

WW2 Panzer I Ausf A footage – Source: Panzer Insight

Vehicles Based on the Panzer I Ausf.A Chassis

L.K.A. and L.K.B

After the First World War and the introduction of armored warfare many countries wanted to acquire tanks but could not develop them on their own. Therefore many of the great powers such as France and the UK exported tanks and made huge profits. As a result, the company of Krupp also wanted to participate in this global market. In 1936, Krupp decided to create an export tank based on the Panzer I Ausf.A.

The L.K.A. (Light Tank for Export) was built using the Panzer I turret, a modified superstructure, and a different suspension. Although the L.K.A. visually resembled the Panzer I Ausf.A, it had nothing to do in regards to its initial development. This common misconception exists due to a British reporter claiming the L.K.A. to be the first Panzer I prototype. However, this is false, as the L.K.A. was developed in 1936, by which time the Ausf.A had been in production for almost 2 years.

A similar story regards the L.K.B., with the difference that the L.K.B. used the exact same turret, suspension, and superstructure. Unlike the Ausf.A, the L.K.B. ran on a different diesel engine and was designed and built for export.

Krupp’s L.K.A. in 1938. – Source: Panzer Tracts
L.K.B. in 1938. – Source: Panzer Tracts

The Panzer I “Lanzallamas” and the Panzer I “Breda”

During the Spanish Civil War, the Panzer I was ill equipped to fight against the Soviet T-26 tanks and plans were made to carry out modifications to be able to properly confront them. The first plan involved adding flamethrowers to Panzer Is, colloquially known as Panzer I “Lanzallamas”. During the early years of the Spanish Civil War, probably in October 1936, two Panzer Is (an Ausf.A and an Ausf.B) had their armament changed to a long Flammenwerfer 35 on the Ausf.A and a much shorter Flammenwerfer 35 on the Ausf.B. Their effective combat range could only reach up to 30 meters, which made the tanks rather impractical and therefore the project was not continued. It is unknown if the vehicles were ever used in combat or just for training.

Panzer I Ausf.A ‘Lanzallamas’ during training at Cubas de la Sagra, 1937. – Source: RTVE

The best-known modification on a Panzer I in the Spanish Civil War is the Panzer I Breda, which was first introduced in September 1937 when the Soviets started supplying even more tanks to the Republicans. The new design had a modified turret to be armed with the Italian 20 mm Breda gun. At least four were modified this way by Spanish mechanics in the Fábrica de Armas (Eng. Weapons Factory) in Seville. This design was prefered to the slightly earlier attempt to arm an Italian CV-35 with the same gun, and after successful test, more were ordered for conversion.

In spite of its apparent benefits, the Panzer I Breda project was dealt a fatal blow upon the condemnation from Condor Legion ground forces commander Wilhelm von Thoma. Von Thoma was strongly opposed to the conversion because of the poor crew safety resulting from an unarmored viewport created to aim the new gun, and as a result, he was able to convince the Cuartel General del Generalissimo (Eng. the Generalissimo’s Headquarters) to cancel the order for more vehicles.

Nonetheless, the four vehicles were assigned to units and saw combat, though details are scarce. One was struck by an enemy projectile in the Battle of the Ebro, the Breda gun of another malfunctioned and required replacing, and a third caught fire.

Panzer I Breda “351” of the 3a Compañia [Eng. 3rd Company, Command]. Undated, unlocated – source: unknown
The Nationalists devised plans to upgun other Panzer Is with 37 mm and 45 mm guns, but these did not materialize. Furthermore, other Nationalist war tank developments, such as the Carro de Combate de Infanteria tipo 1937. (CCI tipo 1937) and the Verdeja nº1, and post-war Spanish vehicles, such as the Tractor Ligero SECN, took inspiration from the Panzer I and the knowledge gained from using and maintaining them.

Up Gunned Panzer I Ausf.As

Besides the 2 cm Breda Panzer I conversion carried out by the Nationalists, an unknown number of vehicles were later upgunned by German forces before the invasion of France with a 37 mm anti-tank gun, which was the standard anti-tank gun of Germany during the early war. The conversion removed the turret and placed the gun on top of the superstructure. Furthermore, the 3.7 cm PaK received an extended shield. The vehicle was used by Panzerjäger Abteilung 521, which was also equipped with Panzerjäger Is, a tank destroyer based on the Panzer I Ausf.B chassis.

Colorized Panzer I with a 3.7 cm anti-tank gun. Note the extended shield. The dark gray camouflage and open Balkenkreuz indicate a date around 1940. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Source: Ebay

Brückenleger I

In an attempt to make use of the outdated Panzer I chassis, an unknown number of Panzer I Ausf.As were converted into bridge laying tanks. Some of them had their turrets removed, while on some tanks the turrets were retained. An 11 meter-long bridge, which was able to carry up to 12 tonnes, was placed on top of the tank. These tanks turned out to be ineffective, as they could only carry a very light bridge and the weight was too much for them. Furthermore, development of the Panzer II bridge layer had already begun.

One Brückenleger I (Eng: Bridge Layer I) on top of another one. Unknown date and time. – Source: Valka

Ammunition Panzer I Ausf.As

Supplying ammunition was always a big problem, since there were no armored ammunition vehicles at first, only trucks, which were not protected against even small arms fire. As a solution, during the Polish campaign in 1939, over 51 Panzer Is were converted into ammunition carriers called Munitionsschlepper I (Eng: Ammunition carrier I) or Versorgungspanzer (Eng: Supply tanks). This was done by removing the turret and replacing it with a two part hatch.

In 1942, when many of the Panzer Is were pulled off the front, another variant was built, on which another superstructure was placed on top of the tank. Its main task was supplying ammunition to Panzer Jäger Abteilungen (Eng: tank destroyer battalions). These were independent battalions with anti-tank equipment, such as towed anti-tank guns and anti-tank rifles, but also Panzerjäger Is (Panzer I Ausf.B with a 4.7 cm anti-tank gun).

Colorized photo of a Munitionsschlepper I in the Soviet Union, 1941. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Source: Flickr
Munitionsschlepper I, as part of the 1. Panzer Armee in 1941. Note the K stands for Kleist who was the commander of the 1st Panzer Army. – Source: Kurmark-Anti

Flakpanzer I and Other Anti-Aircraft Vehicles

On 27 March 1941, the Munitions Transport Abteilung 610 (Eng. Ammunition Transport Battalion) was converted into an anti-aircraft unit known as Flak Battalion 614. In order to motorise some of its 2cm Flak guns, the unit mounted some of them on Munitionsschlepper I Ausf.As that it had inherited from its time as an ammunition transport unit. This was done by removing the turret and mounting a 2 cm Flak 38 onto a modified superstructure. The Flakpanzer I was issued to the ammunition carrier companies. Additionally, there was another ammunition carrier vehicle based on the Panzer I Ausf.A, with the task of carrying the crew and ammunition for the Flakpanzer I.

A Flakpanzer I with a folding side platform, which was raised during marches. – Source: Pinterest

Before the war had even started, there was a need for training crews for the anti-aircraft role. Therefore, a couple of Fahrschulwagen Is were converted into training Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns (SPAAGs). The modifications included the addition of a twin MG 34 mount, the Zwillingssockel 36. Another modification included one MG 34 with an improvised mount. The backside of the only known photo reveals that the photo was a postcard sent by a soldier to his wife, demonstrating its instructional use.

Fahrschulwagen I with Zwillingssockel 36 and two MG 34s. – Source: valka
Fahrschulwagen I with a single MG 34 in an improvised MG mount. – Source: Format72
Fahrschulwagen I with a twin MG 42 mount. – Source: Ebay

Sanitätspanzer I

Some Panzer Is, including a number of the ammunition carriers, were later used as medical vehicles. Unofficially named the Sanitätspanzer I (Eng: Medic tank I), these saw service mainly on the Eastern Front. All of them appear to have been field conversions that used superstructures of various designs.

Engineering Vehicles

Because the first Panzer Is tended to break down under stressful situations, they often needed repairs in the field and during maneuvers, but many times it was too hard to drive or tow the broken tank into the garage. For maintaining these tanks a new variant of the Panzer I was introduced using the Ausf.A and Ausf.B chassis. The Instandsetzungskraftwagen (Eng. Maintenance tank) was an open top Panzer I chassis tasked with carrying equipment for maintenance crews and repair tools. On photos, those vehicles can be differenced by looking at the equipment inside the tank. Instandsetzungskraftwagen often carried spare road wheels around. At first only one Instandsetzungskraftwagen was issued to each company. These early versions, were repurposed Fahrschulwagen with iron bars. Around these iron bars, for protecting the equipement against weather, a canva could be placed. Eventually it turened out that one Instandsetzungskraftwagen was not enough for each company. Therefore due to a lack of Fahrschulwagen, regualr Panzer Is were used as Instandsetzungswagen. This conversion was done by removing the turret. The last version featured a windshield or a completly new soft skin superstructure. The vehicles stayed in service until the end of the Panzer I on the battlefield.

An Instandsetzungskraftwagen I with a canvas cover. – Source: Ebay
Instandsetzungskraftwagen with the turret removed. Note the spare road wheels. – Source: Ebay
The last version with a new superstructure and windows. – Source: Tusslamabad

Due to increasing demand for engineering and pioneering vehicles, a number of Panzer I Ausf.As were converted for these roles. One of these variants was a Panzer I Ausf.A with two large metal support beams which would then be loaded with fascines that could be used to fill in ditches or gaps.

Panzer I Ausf.A with supports for carrying fascines in Poland, 1939. – Source: Ebay

An unknown number of vehicles based on the Fahrschulwagen I chassis were converted into cable laying vehicles and were used by the pioneers and engineers. The vehicle’s main task was laying cables for antennas and telephone communication.

A Farschulwagen I adapted to lay cables in 1939, before the war. – Source: Format72/Ebay

Command Tanks

Because the standard Panzer I Ausf.A was only equipped with a radio receiver, a command tank had to be developed. There appear to have been several experiments involving the fitting of extra radios into Panzer Is before the creation of a standardized Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen (Eng: Small Command Tank).

On this variant, the turret was removed and replaced by a fixed superstructure without any armament. The crew was increased to 3, with a separate radio operator. Each Panzer company received at least one vehicle.

A Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen during a parade in 1935. – Source: Panzer Tracts
A Fahrschulwagen I converted into a Funkpanzer (Eng. Radio tank). These Funkpanzers were desperatly needed and therefore other vehicles were often reused. – Source: Ebay

There are also several photos of an unusual variant of the Panzer I Ausf.A and Ausf.B that appears to have been used for command purposes, but unfortunately next to nothing is available on its history. On this variant, the turret and upper superstructure were removed and replaced with a new superstructure constructed from straight steel plates. This superstructure appears to have varied on each vehicle, but usually had a large hatch in the front right and multiple visors all around. No armament was fitted to this Panzer I variant, but several photos show it equipped with radio antennas suggesting that it must have carried extra radios.

One of the photos shows the vehicle with a checkerboard pattern around the superstructure. This means the vehicles were around before 1937 but the exact date of their creation is unknown. It is unclear whether this variant was purpose-built at the factory or converted after manufacture, though the lack of documentation and the wide variety in construction suggest the latter may be more likely. It is possible that this variant was an early stand-in for the later Befehlswagen (Eng: Command tank) versions of the Panzer I or that it was used to fill gaps in units lacking such vehicles before the war. Alternatively, they could have been created for some other purpose of command and control, as at least one tank appears to have the markings of an artillery battery and it is known that Befehlswagens were later used for this purpose. Furthermore, one vehicle was spotted at a collection point in France in 1940 as part of the 2nd Artillery Regiment.

Colorized photo of this very rare Panzer I variant, presumably in a training school in 1939. Note the white uniform indicating a young tank school student and the antenna on the top. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. – Source: Ebay
The very rare Panzer I variant in around 1938 as the tank is already painted in dark grey. Note the missing visors and the Rahmenantenne (Eng: Frame antenna) which goes all around the tank. – Source: Ebay

At least one regular Panzer I Ausf.A was fitted with an extra radio and a frame antenna. It is possible that this was an experimental vehicle used to test the concept of a command vehicle or it may have been converted to fill in the gaps caused by a shortage of Panzebefehlswagen.

A Panzer I Ausf.A with Rahmenantenne. – Source: Panzer Pixel

Training Tanks

At the same time as the creation of the Panzer I Ausf.A, a training variant was introduced. The Fahrschulwagen I (Eng: Driving school vehicle I) was meant to train new tank drivers. The conversion of a Panzer I to a Fahrschulwagen was rather simple, done by removing the superstructure. Some of the Panzer I prototypes and Kleintraktoren were used as “Fahrschulwagen”. They stayed in service until the war’s end, meaning that almost every tank driver was trained on the Fahrschulwagen I at least at some point during his career.

Next to the regular Fahrschulwagen without the superstructure and turret, there were also other variants, such as a training vehicle powered by charcoal gas. This was done due to the decreasing fuel reserves of Germany during the late war. A variant mounting a Panzer III turret, used for training in a three man turret, also existed. A similar variant that instead had a superstructure and turret representing a Sherman tank was used by the Volkssturm for target practice during the lead up to the Battle of Berlin in 1945.

1.Serie/La. S. converted into a Fahrschulwagen, used for training during the war. Note the license plate. – Source: Panzer Tracts
A charcoal/wood gas-powered Panzer I Ausf.A used for training Volkssturm units in Berlin, 1945. – Source: Armed Conflicts
Panzer I Ausf.A with a Panzer III turret (3.7 cm) used as a training tank. Unknown date and location. – Source: Armed Conflicts
A Panzer I representing a Sherman tank used for target practice in Berlin, 1945. – Source: Armed Conflicts

Unknown Field Conversions

The following vehicles are all vehicles based on the chassis of the Panzer I Ausf.A. These are either field modifications or unknown variants. These vehicles are so arare that only photos and rarely any information on them exists. Therefore their purpose can only be speculated.

A possible Befehlswagen similar to the other existing command tanks. – Source: Unknown
A Panzer I Ausf.A chassis with superstructure without the turret and armament. The turret seemed to be replaced by a fixed turret with visors all around it, hinting towards an observation vehicle. – Source: Ebay
A possible ammunition carrier featuring a mounted MG 34. The photo was taken before 1938 due to the vehicle still having the 3 tone camouflage applied. – Source: Ebay
Panzer I Ausf.A with a 25 mm Hotchkiss Anti-tank gun mounted on top of the superstructure. – Source: Ebay
Another unknown variant on the Ausf.A chassis. This one seemed to have a totally new superstructure possibly hinting towards an Instandsetzungskraftwagen. – Source: Ebay

Surviving Vehicles

Even though many Panzer Is were lost during the early years of the war, today, a surprising amount of vehicles still exist. This is partially due to the tanks being pulled off the front and used as training vehicles, minimizing their casualties. Note this list only includes Ausf.A tanks. There are also a number of Ausf.B tanks around that might be confused with them.

A Panzer I Ausf.A in the Forsvarsmuseet in Oslo, Norway. This tank was left behind during the invasion and then used as a garrison and policing vehicle. – Source:
Panzer I Ausf.A in running condition in the Arsenalen Tank Museum in Strängnäs, Sweden. The tank was bought from Norway after the war. – Source:
Another Panzer I Ausf.A in running condition from the Panzer Museum Munster in Northern Germany. This tank was found beside a road next to a training school in Bavaria. – Source:
Panzer I Ausf.A with incorrect camouflage used during the Spanish Civil War and that later remained in Spanish service in the Museo de los Medios Acorazados in El Goloso, northern Madrid. Note this tank has a much larger M113 track on the right side. – Source:
Panzer I Ausf.A, Collings Foundation, Stow, MA, USA. The tank was previously part of the Canadian War Museum and then restored to running condition – Source:
Panzer I Ausf.A restoration project in France. – Source:
There are a large number of Panzer I turrets that were used in bunkers (similar to the photo, this one is located in Denmark) all around Europe, mostly as part of the Westwall. Three turrets are in Norway, one in Denmark, two in Greece, and one in France. The turret in the photo is one that was modified to fit only one machine gun. – Source:


Although rather lacking in technical terms, in the end, the Panzer I Ausf.A and its successors were effective in their role of preparing thousands of new tankers who would later become the core of the Panzer arm of the Wehrmacht and go on to operate much more combat effective vehicles. Put into the large context of the early war, the Panzer I was the most important tank in regards to training and was crucial in building up the first Panzer Divisions, making it the best tank which the German Army could produce at that time. If used in a combined arms doctrine, the Panzer I’s drawbacks were attenuated and its strengths could shine. After all, the Panzer I was designed in 1930, for which time the armor protection and armament seemed adequate, and it was also only meant to act as a stopgap to be slowly replaced by the Panzer III and IV. However, by 1939, there simply were not enough of these Panzers to be able to equip the Heer, so the German Army had to rely on these small Panzer Is, which contributed to the great victories of the first years of the war.

One of the early production Panzer I Ausf.A light tanks in 1936, with the original tri-tone camouflage
Panzer I Ausf.A in Poland 1939. (Note it only has four road wheels)
One of the very first Panzer I Ausf.A light tanks that landed with the Afrika Korps, in January 1941. It is a late production Ausf.A from the XXIst Panzer Division. Notice the uniform beige low quality paint, already damaged by sand, and the large identifications numbers still over the original European Panzergrau tone. (Note it only has four road wheels)
Panzer I Ausf.A in KMT service, Battle of Nanjing, 1937. The vehicles would have been sent in tri-color camouflage, but photos show that the paint appears to have faded.
Panzer I Ausf A. ‘Lanzallamas’, illustrated in a Buntfarbenanstrich camouflage
scheme – the color all Panzers would have been supplied to the Nationalists.
Panzer I Breda of the 4ª Compañia with a Cruz de Borgoña. The other side of the vehicle is shown in photos to have the Cruz, but it is possible that this side also had one. The camouflage scheme appears to be a locally painted amoeba pattern on the turret, painted over the original Buntfarbenanstrich, still visible in photos on the hull.
Flakpanzer I, Flak Abteilung 614, Stalingrad sector, Ukraine, January 1942.
Fahrschulpanzer I based on the 1.Serie/La.S., petrol powered
Fahrschulpanzer I petrol powered tank with raised rear for students
Fahrschulpanzer I Holzgas with a mock-up turret. It was meant to simulate an enemy tank during the training of Volkssturm troops

Panzer I Ausf.A specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.02 x 2.06 x 1.72 m
Weight 5.4 tonnes
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Traverse 360°
Elevation -10° to +20°
Gunsight T.Z.F.2.
Speed max.: 37.5 km/h, roads: 20 km/h, cross-country: 12 km/h
Range roads: 140 km, cross-country: 93 km
Armament 2x 7.92 mm MG 13/MG 13k
Ammunition 2250 7.92 mm S.m.K. in 25 magazines
Armor 8-13 mm
Engine Krupp M 305 4-cylinder air-cooled
Ground Clearance 29.5 cm
Power-to-weight ratio 11.1 hp/ton
Communication FuG 2 receiver
Total Production 1,190


Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Andalucía y Centro 36/39 (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2009)

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Aragón, Cataluña Y Levante 36/39 Parte I (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2011)

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Aragón, Cataluña Y Levante 36/39 Parte II (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2011)

Bob Carruthers, Panzer I & II Germany’s light tanks, (Hitlers War machine)

Bryan Perrett, German Light Panzers 1932-1942 (Osprey Vanguard)

Francisco Marín Gutiérrez & José Mª Mata Duaso, Carros de Combate y Vehículos de Cadenas del Ejército Español: Un Siglo de Historia (Vol. I) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 2004)

Francisco Marín Gutiérrez & José Mª Mata Duaso, Carros de Combate y Vehículos de Cadenas del Ejército Español: Un Siglo de Historia (Vol. II) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 2005)

Frank V. De Sisto, German Leichte Panzer at war, (Armor at War Series)

Horst Scheibert, Uwe Feist, Mike Dario, Panzer I (Waffenarsenal)

Janusz Ledwoch, Vol. XI PzKpfw I vol. I (Tank Power)

Lucas Molina Franco & José Mª Manrique García, Blindados Alemanes en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939) (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2008)

Lucas Molina Franco, Panzer I The beginning of a dynasty

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, No. 1-1 Panzerkampfwagen I, Kleintraktor to Ausf.B (Panzer Tracts)

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, No. 1-2 Panzerkampfwagen I, Kl. Pz. Bef. Wg. to VK. 18.01 (Panzer Tracts)

Paul Thomas, Hitler’s Light tanks 1935-1943 (Images of War)

Thomas Anderson, The History of the Panzerwaffe Volume 1

Walter J. Spielberger Die Panzerkampfwagen I und II und ihre Abarten Einschließlich den Entwicklungen der Reichswehr.

Has Own Video WW2 German Flame Tanks

Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. (F) ‘Flamingo’ (Sd.Kfz.122)

German Reich (1940-1942)
Flamethrower Tank – 151 Built + 1 Prototype

A couple of months before the beginning of the Second World War, the HWA (“Heereswaffenamt”, Eng: Army Ordnance Department) requested the construction of a flamethrower tank to support the infantry fight against heavily fortified positions. The first vehicles (named Flammpanzer II or “Flamingo”) were ready after the Fall of France and participated, along with other newly made Flamingos, in Operation Barbarossa. In combat, these tanks performed rather poorly due to their thin armor. Ultimately, all of them were pulled out of service and converted into Marder II tank destroyers.

Destroyed Flammpanzer II Flamingo 211 from Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 in the USSR, Summer 1941. (Colorization by Smargd123) (Original source: Worldwarphotos)

History of the Flamethrower Tank

The origin of the Flammpanzer can be traced back to the First World War, when the German Army started using the flamethrower as an assault weapon against infantry in close-range combat situations. These flamethrowers were carried by specially trained soldiers and were highly effective when assaulting a trench line. Their task was to pin down the enemy while friendly forces advanced into the enemy’s lines. They were not only effective as combat weapons, but also had a great psychological impact. The only major downsides were the fact that the flamethrower operators were unprotected from any kind of projectiles and had to carry a lot of heavy equipment.

Seeing their effectiveness, many nations experimented with their own flamethrowers. Another new type of weapon that saw great success during the First World War was the tank and combining these two inventions made a vehicle that could bring fear into the enemy while still being protected. After the end of the First World War, many Europeans and veterans immigrated to South America. This led to the creation of the first flamethrower tank to be ever used in combat. The so-called F-1 was a field-improvised tracked agricultural tractor with added armor protection and a flamethrower. It was used by the São Paulo Public Police Force during the Brazilian Revolution of 1932. The “tank” performed excellently against the Brazilian Army, which did not have tanks or enough anti-tank capabilities in the area where the F-1 was used. It proved to be most effective as a weapon of terror against the Brazilian infantry, but still lacked mobility and was too cramped for the crew.

The first serially constructed flamethrower tanks were the Soviet OT-26, developed from 1931, and the Japanese Sōkō Sagyō Ki, introduced in 1931. These tanks shared differences, but also had things in common. Both used an already existing tank chassis and the main armament was removed. The OT-26 was based on the twin turret T-26 variant. One of the turrets was removed while the other had its gun exchanged with a flamethrower. Although the T-26 chassis was reliable, the flamethrower was ineffective due to its short-range.

The Sōkō Sagyō Ki was based on the Type 89 I-Go chassis. Additionally, the turret was removed and replaced with a commander’s cupola. Unlike the OT-26 or previous flamethrower tanks, the Sōkō Sagyō Ki was not just a flamethrower tank. It was equipped with multiple flamethrowers, two claws in front of the tank for mine cleaning, and a winch to grab heavy objects. These tanks were made for the engineer battalions in order to destroy enemy fortified positions.

The Soviet OT-26 flamethrower tank. (Source: Pinterest)
The Japanese Sōkō Sagyō Ki flamethrower pioneer vehicle. (Source: ww2history)

Italian and German Flamethrower Use

The Italian tank fleet was very weak in the 1930s in terms of firepower. To increase this, flamethrowers were mounted on Italian tanks. The first tanks to receive this upgrade were the Fiat 3000 and the Fiat Ansaldo CV.35. After the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the Italians sent military aid to the Spanish Nationalists in 1936, including flamethrower equipped CV.35s. During the conflict, a new way of flamethrower tank combat was invented, which involved attacking the enemy tanks from behind and burning the crew alive. The small size of the CV.35 was perfect for sneaking up to the enemy. However, because of the thin armor, the tanks were only protected against small-arms fire and were vulnerable against enemy tanks like the BT-5 or T-26.

Furthermore a small number of Panzer I’s sent to Spain were converted into flamethrower tanks. These were less effective than their Italian counterparts and were generally vulnerable against any enemy tank fire. The flamethrower’s range was also not effective as it could only reach up to 25 m.

Italian CV.33 LF during training. (Source: ww2incolor)

Flamingo Flammpanzer

In winter 1939, the German weapons department ordered the creation of a flamethrower tank using an already existing chassis, with the idea of having a flamethrower tank to support the infantry in assaulting heavily fortified positions.

Flammpanzer II Flamingo Ausf.A No. 235 of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 in the USSR, 1941. (Source: Panzer DB)


The official designation for this tank was Sd.Kfz.122 Pz.Kpfw. II (F) Ausf.A/B. The (F) should not be confused with the later Panzer II Ausf.F version. The (F) stands for (Flamm) or (Flammpanzerwagen), which would translate to (flame) or (flamethrower tank). This is why most people refer to it as the Flammpanzerwagen II or “Flamingo”.

The name “Flamingo” (which has the same meaning in German and English) would be similar to the “animal names” given to the Panzer V and VI. This was also the first “animal name” that was given to a German tank. The reason for the naming is unknown, but it was likely chosen because “FLAMingo” is similar to the word FLAMmpanzer. For the sake of simplicity, the article is going to use the term “Flamingo”.

Flammpanzer II Flamingo Ausf.A in the USSR, late 1941 (Source: wolrdwarphotos)

Production (Ausf.A and B)

Since the Panzer I did not fulfill the criteria, the HWA decided to use the Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.D variant, originally a light tank made for cavalry support and independent light tank divisions. But, since this was never implemented, the Panzer II Ausf.D had no specific use. The Flamingo tank had two sub-variants, the Ausführung (variant) A and B. Ausf.A tanks were all vehicles built before the summer of 1941 and based on the Panzer II Ausf.D1 and E chassis, while the Ausf.B was built from June 1941 until March 1942 on the Panzer II Ausf.D2 chassis. While the D1 variant had a sprocket wheel with 11 spokes, the D2 chassis had only 8 spokes. The Ausf.E had changes made to the front and idler wheel and had lubricated tracks but only 7 Ausf.E chassis were made and all were converted into Ausf.A Flamingos.

Top picture: The suspension of the Flamingo Ausf.A based on the Panzer II Ausf.D1 chassis.
Middle picture: The suspension of the Flamingo Ausf.A based on the Panzer II Ausf.E chassis.
Down picture: The suspension of the Flamingo Ausf.B based on the Panzer II Ausf.D2 chassis.
(Source: Panzer Tracts)

The Panzer II manufacturing companies, MAN and Daimler-Benz, were approached by the HWA to design the hull and turret respectively.

From April to September of 1939, 46 chassis of the Panzer II Ausf.D1 were taken off the normal production line and rebuilt by MAN. 1 prototype vehicle was already finished in July 1939 made out of carbon steel (also known as soft- or mild steel). Later, in the Winter of 1940, all of them were converted to flamethrowers by Wegmann & Co. in Kassel. In addition to the construction of new tanks, 43 already completed Panzer II Ausf.D were taken from the 7th and 8th Panzerdivision. In May 1940, the production was halted and all completed vehicles were sent back for modifications. The original order demanded the production of a 0-series with 90 Flamingo tanks by October 1940. This deadline was achieved with the delayed production of only 3 tanks which were completed in February 1941 due to a lack of Panzer II chassis. Additionally, an order for 150 new Flamingos was given in April, which were to be produced at a rate of 30 per month. Production started in August 1941 but, due to a shortage of chassis for the Flamingos and the fact that some of the available chassis were not in a usable state, only 62 could be completed until March 1942. After that date, the conversion order for Flamingo tanks was stopped. The rest of the 150 tank order were normal Panzer II Ausf.Ds.

The table shows the production numbers of the Flamingos (Source: Panzer Tracts 23)


The Flamingo used the same engine as the Panzer II Ausf.D, which was the 6-cylinder Maybach HL62 TRM 140 hp gasoline engine. Since the original role of the Panzer II Ausf.D was to support the cavalry, it had to keep up with the horses. Therefore, a more powerful engine had to be built in comparison to the regular Panzer IIs. This speed was transferred to the Flamingo, making it a very fast vehicle with a maximum speed of 55 km/h. Although the weight was raised from 11 to 12 tons, the vehicle showed no changes mobility-wise.

Flamingo during a training exercise. France 1940. (Source: World war photos)


Both the Flamingo Ausf.A and B used the unchanged suspension of the Panzer II Ausf.D and E. Since the Panzer II Ausf.D requirements were for a better engine, the running wheels had to be upgraded too. They were given a completely new running gear, using four large all-rubber wheels sprung on torsion bars, which made the return rollers of the Ausf.C superfluous. Furthermore, all 7 vehicles were based on the Panzer II Ausf.E chassis had different front and back wheels which adapted to the new lubricated tracks on the Ausf.E.

Flamingo No. 311 captured by the Red Army in November 1941. Note the track type that was based on the Panzer II Ausf.E. (Source: wolrdwarphotos)

Hull and superstructure

The lower hull was completely identical to the Panzer II Ausf.D and E. The superstructure was also very similar. On the front of the tank were two escape hatches for the driver and radio operator. Two armored boxes were placed on the left and right mudguards, which consisted of the fuel tanks for the flamethrowers, which could be accessed by opening the top. On each Flamethrower turret, there were small hatches to access the flamethrowers if repair was needed. To reach the engine, which was separated from the crew compartment, a hatch was put on the rear top of the tank. Additionally, storage boxes and the standard tank equipment were placed on the superstructure. Some of the Ausf.A Flamingos had a spare track and idler wheel on the backside.

Destroyed Flamingo No. 124 of the 1st Regiment of the 18. Panzerdivision of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100. Note the opened hatches for the engine. (Source Worldwarphotos)
Top view blueprint of a Flamingo. (Source: Blueprints)
Top view of a Flamingo. Note the access hatches on the flamethrower turrets and fuel tanks. (Source: Panzer Tracts 2-3)


The turret was completely different from the one used on the previous Panzer II variants and was smaller. It had a hexagonal shape and an armored vision slit on each side. The front side had a MG fitted in a “Kugelblende”. Additionally, there was a hatch located on the top for the commander.

Top view of the Flamingo Turret. (Source: Blueprints)


One of the main flaws of the Flamingo was its weak armament. The two flamethrower turrets, called “Spritzköpfe” (meaning Spray heads), were equipped with two standard flamethrowers that could be moved 180°. The turrets were located on the front, on the left and right, on the mudguards. The fuel was stored in separate fuel tanks behind the turrets, running along the sides above the tracks. They could be refilled by opening the top of the armored box. Each of the two fuel tanks included 160 liters of flamethrower oil, a mixture of gasoline and oil, and were “shot” with the help of pressurized nitrogen stored in six pressurized tanks. The oil was then ignited by an acetylene lighter. The Flamingo could shoot 80 bursts for 5 seconds each at a maximum range of 35 meters. This range proved to be very weak and not enough for effective use. Additionally, there was a 7.92 mm MG 34 fitted in the turret with 1800 rounds available and a K.Z.F.2 (1,75 x 18°) as a gunsight with a range of 200 meters. Behind the turret on the backside, two pairs of three small “Nebelwerferanlagen” (smoke grenade throwers) were fitted, which could create a smoke wall to support infantry advance or help the tank retreat in dangerous situations.

Flamingo No. 311 was captured by the Red Army. Note the visible armament. October 1941. (Source: Worldwarphotos)
Flamingo during tests in Germany, 1940. (Source: Achtungpanzer)
A Flamingo shooting the flame oil would then be ignited by the acetylene lighter. (Source: Valka)


Another drawback of the Flamingo was its light armor. The turret was relatively well armored in relation to the hull, with 20-30 mm of thickness. The hull and superstructure had 14.5-30 mm of armor. The frontal armor plates provided effective protection against anti-tank rifles at most ranges. The side armor, on the other hand, could only protect against small arms fire and proved to be extremely dangerous for the fuel tanks of the flamethrowers.

Colorized photo of destroyed Flamingo No. 114 on the Eastern Front. Note the exposed fuel tank on the side, showing how thin the armor on the sides was. (Source: Worldwarphotos)


Flamingo tanks had a crew of 3 men (radio operator, driver, commander). The commander was situated in the turret. His tasks were commanding the crew, operating both flamethrowers and the machine gun in the turret. The small flamethrower turrets were moved by an electrical transmission located in the main turret. The radio operator was situated on the right side and operated the radio (FuG 2), while the driver sat on the left side.

A Flamingo and its crew in the USSR, June 1941. (Source: Flickr)

Operation Sea Lion

Flamingos were organized into Abteilungen (eng: Battalions) which served in Panzer Divisions together with the “Panzergrenadiere”. From the 1st to the 4th March 1940, two Panzer Abteilungen (Tank Battalions) were formed. These were Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 and, a few days later, 101. Another flamethrower unit was Panzer Abteilung (F) 102, but this battalion consisted of “Flammenwerfer Beutepanzer” (captured tanks that were converted into flamethrowers). Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 used a “Wolfsangel” (Wolf fishing rod) as their unit emblem, while 101 first used crossed flamethrowers in light green paint and, after 1941, a multi-colored flame.

Flamingo Ausf.A of Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 with its visible unit emblem (multi-colored flame) on the rear turret side in the USSR, 1941. (Source: Panzer Tracts)
“Wolfsangel” Emblem of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 on the left side. The symbol on the right represents the 1st regiment. (Source: worldwarphotos)

Although they were ready for the invasion of France, there was only a small number built at this point. Before the invasion of France, both battalions were located at training schools in “Wehrkreis III” (Army Circle 3). Furthermore, the OKH (German Army High Command) delayed the production to July 1940. After the invasion, they were stationed in northern France and prepared for the planned Operation Sea Lion (amphibious invasion of Great Britain). Many photos show the tanks during exercises, being loaded and unloaded from transport ships and rafts.

A column of Flamingos (No. 315, 312, 316 Panzer Abteilung (F) 100) getting transported across a river in preparation for Operation Sea Lion. Northern France, summer 1940. (Source: Wolrdwarphotos)
Flamingo Ausf.A No. 313 driving onto a transport ship, France 1940. Note the small protection shield, protecting the Nebelwerfer from getting wet. (Source: World war photos)

Flamethrower combat tactics

In September 1940, a manual for “Panzerflammabteilungen” (Flamethrower Tank Battalions) was created. This manual reveals the tactical doctrine and the flamethrower´s intended combat role. Their main task was to support the “Panzertruppe” (tank force) or “Panzergrenadiere” (tank grenadiers) by eliminating threats which other tanks or the infantry could not. Furthermore, the flamethrower had a huge demoralizing effect on the enemy. While the flamethrowers were to be used at an effective range of 30 meters, the machine gun was used for longer ranges, up to 400 meters.

The manual covered three different methods of engaging enemy positions. The first method showed how to deal with enemy infantry on flat terrain. The flamethrower turrets were to be set at an 0° elevation angle and sprayed in discharging bursts. Furthermore, by traversing the turrets whilst driving, an area about 50 meters could be covered. The second method showed how to engage opponents in field fortifications, woods, buildings or machine-gun nests. This could be achieved by shooting out short bursts, demoralizing and driving out the enemy, so they could be eliminated with other weapons. The last method dealt with entrenched enemies or enemies in bunkers and log bunkers. By shooting out cold oil and covering the area then igniting it with a single burst, the area could be set on fire for a longer duration.

In terms of pushing forward, the flamethrower tanks were always to advance with cover fire from either the artillery or other tanks. Additionally, at close ranges, the regular Panzer IIs provided cover fire. During combat, all three flamethrower tank companies were to be deployed and were only allowed to advance with a Panzerdivision.

Furthermore, the Flamingo could create a smoke cloud whilst shooting the flamethrowers and using the “Nebelwerfer”. This could be used to close in on enemies or retreat safely. If supply vehicles managed to reach the Flamingos, the whole battalion could be refilled and rearmed in one hour.

A Flamingo Ausf.A shooting and revealing the amount of smoke that was created whilst shooting. Germany, Winter 1940 (Source: US Official)

Combat results on the Eastern Front

Since the invasion of Britain was never initiated, all 90 Flamingos were transported to the Warsaw area for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union. There, Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 was attached to the 19. Panzer Division in the XLVII Panzerkorps (47. Tank Corps) and Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 to the 7th Panzer Division as part of the 2. “Panzergruppe” (2. Tank Group). Both battalions were part of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Center). Each battalion had a Staff and Staffcompany, 3 armored flamethrower companies, 1 reserve squadron, 1 light tank platoon (with 5 Panzer II light tanks) and a workshop company. The armored flamethrower companies each consisted of 1 staff platoon with two Panzer II Ausf.C or D light tanks, three flamethrower tank platoons with 4 Flamingos each and a single light tank platoon with 5 Panzer II Ausf.C or D. The reserve squadron held a reserve of 2 Panzer II light tanks and 6 Flamingo tanks. In practice, these reserves did not last long.

Starting in August 1941, the first new Ausf.B Flamingos arrived, which were highly needed due to tank losses. They were put into the already existing battalions. After seeing how vulnerable the battalion was against enemy armor, the OKH demanded the addition of a Panzer III (5cm) platoon for extra anti-tank capability. There was also one single Pz. Bef. Wg. III added, which was a command tank variant of the regular Panzer III (5cm) but was fitted with a “Rahmenantenne” (cage antenna) and had the main armament removed. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, both battalions consisted of 24 regular Panzer IIs (2cm), 42 Flamingo tanks, 5 Panzer IIIs (5cm) and 1 Pz. Bef. Wg. III.

Fieldpostnumbers and organisation of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100. (Source: Lexikon der Wehrmacht)
Fieldpostnumbers and organisation of Panzer Abteilung 101. (Source: Lexikon der Wehrmacht)

Panzer-Abteilung (F) 100 first saw action in the area of Legi, beyond Warsaw, when the tanks drove over the Legi bridge. Only a few days later, the battalion reached Minsk and a month later participated in the battle of Smolensk. Instead of advancing to Moscow, the battalion was sent south and almost reached Kursk. This order was canceled and the tanks were ordered to support the advance on Moscow. Their final advance was to the area of Orel (350 km south of Moscow), where they were stopped. Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 followed a similar route as 100 and also got put out of service around the same date. In early November 1941, both battalions were pulled off the front and only left the regular Panzer II (2cm) and Panzer III (5cm) tanks behind, which were transferred into the 18. Panzer Division.

The advance of Panzer-Abteilung 100 from 23.6.1941 until 11.10.1941. Note Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 followed almost the same route (Source: Lexikon der Wehrmacht)

Unlike Panzer Abteilung (F) 100, 101 offers a detailed rare after-action combat report from the 26th June 1941. On the 26th of June 1941, near Stonim in Belarus, Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 and Panzer Regiment 25 supported the attack of “Schützenregiment 7” (7th Infantry regiment) against an enemy who held a position 2 km wide and deep. At 6 am, the battalion attacked. The 3rd Company attacked from the right side, while the 1st and 2nd attacked from the left. Due to terrain difficulties which included driving over multiple gullies, the advance had to be done on a narrow front. The Soviet infantry, which had only used small arms fire at this point, though the presence of anti-tank guns and heavy machine guns were suspected, had positioned itself in brush-covered woods.

Shortly after the tanks reached the forest, it turned out that the woods were impenetrable by tanks. The infantry, which advanced alone into the forest, was met with heavy machine gun fire. After the commander failed to direct the battalion around the forest, due to difficult terrain, the 2nd and 3rd Companies started to burn down the brushland with Panzer III (5cm) support. The advance through the woods was slow because many Soviet soldiers were shooting from hidden spots and therefore the German infantry could not advance forwards. The Flamingos burned down the Brush Piles, one after another, and captured soldiers who were struck by fear. With the support of the 1st Company, the woods and nearby cornfields could be secured by 11 am. At 12:30 am, Panzer Abteilung (F) 101, which had already retreated from the area, received a message from Schützenregiment 7 that they were under attack from all sides. The commander of Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 (Major Mast) sent the 1st Company for support but, upon arriving, this support was no longer needed, since the infantry had successfully defeated the enemy.

In the end, the battalion managed to destroy several light machine guns, 11 heavy machine guns, 1 mortar, 2 cars, 3 trucks, and one tank. Furthermore, the battalion claimed to have destroyed 1 heavy tank and 2 artillery pieces, but this number could not be verified. Around 100-150 Soviet soldiers were killed by either the machine guns or flamethrowers. Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 reported no casualties, vehicle- and men wise.

Flamingo Ausf.A in the USSR, December 1941. Note how the tank is being used as a transport vehicle for various equipment. (Source: Worldwarphotos)
Destroyed Flamingo Ausf.A No. 311 of Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 being inspected by Red Army soldiers. Winter 1941. (Source: Worldwarphotos)

Like many other German early war tanks, the performance of the Flamingo on the Eastern Front was rather weak. Due to their thin armor, Soviet anti-tank rifles and guns faced no problem penetrating the sides of the Flamingo at most combat ranges. Another downside was that the Flamingo, like many pre and early WW2 tanks, had a one-man turret. The commander of the Flamingo was overwhelmed with his tasks of observing the battlefield, giving orders to the crew, and operating the flamethrowers and the machine gun. Lastly, the flamethrower’s short-range made the tank even more vulnerable, since it had to approach the enemy very closely.

Both battalions suffered from huge losses, as seen in Tables 2 and 3. Almost the entirety of the time, the battalions had no command tank and only little medium tank support. Additionally, in the first few days, both battalions lost almost half of their Flamingo tanks. These problems continued throughout the invasion and the battalions were only at half of their strength for the most time. When the order arrived to pull the Flamingos back from the front, Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 and 101 together had only 12 operational Flamingo tanks. On the other hand, unlike the early Panzer II variants which had problems with their leaf spring suspension in the Russian mud, the Flamingo and its larger wheels performed excellently.

This Table shows the Operational Status Reports from Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 from June till October 1941. Note Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 ended up with similar results. (Source: Flammpanzer, German Flamethrowers 1941-1945)
This Table shows the Operational Status Reports from Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 in November 1941. (Source: Flammpanzer, German Flamethrowers 1941-1945)


After their last deployment, the Flamingos were pulled off the front by mid-November 1941. All surviving vehicles, including the regular Panzer II Ausf.Ds were converted into Marder II tank destroyers. The flamethrower tank project was canceled and production stopped, until 1943, when the Germans started introducing a new flamethrower tank, the Flammpanzer III. Meanwhile, Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 was renamed Panzer Regiment 100 and was reorganized and equipped with standard medium and light tanks. Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 experienced the same fate when they were renamed the 24th Panzer Regiment. Both regiments saw action again in the summer offensive of 1942. The flamethrowers were given to the pioneers and the MG turrets were built in coastal defenses in Norway as a part of the Atlantic Wall. Since all Flamingos got converted, only the turrets can be seen nowadays.

Picture of the Sd.Kfz.132 with the 7.62 cm(r) gun on a D2 chassis. Note only the chassis and tracks were transferred from the Flamingo to the Marder. (Source: Kfz der Wehrmacht)
Flamingo turret as part of a defensive line near Kviljo. This turret is no longer present since 2012 (Source: Bunkersite)


In the end, the Flamingo was a well-thought-out first attempt at creating an armored flamethrower to attack bunker positions, supporting the infantry, and performing tasks that other tanks, such as the Panzer III or IV, could not achieve. The idea behind it was fairly good and, at that time, the armor and armament seemed good enough to fight the opponents. Furthermore, its original role was not to engage enemy tanks, but rather infantry and bunker positions. Additionally, the combination of speed and the fear factor from the flamethrowers made a fairly effective anti-infantry vehicle.

Panzer II (Flamm) Ausf.A (Sd.Kfz.122) flamethrower built on Panzer II Ausf.D1 hull. Illustration by David Bocquelet.

Flammpanzer II Flamingo specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.30 x 2.124 x 1.85 m
Total Weight, Battle Ready 12 tonnes
Crew 3 (commander, radio operator, and driver)
Speed 55 km/h, roads: 40 km/h, cross-country: 20 km/h
Range roads: 250 km, cross-country: 125 km
Armament 2x flamethrowers & 7.92 mm MG 34
gunsight K.Z.F.2 (1.75 x 18°) 200 m range
ammmunition 320 liters falmeoil & 1,800 rounds/td>
Elevation -10° to +20°
Traverse Turret 360°, Flamethrower turrets 180°
Engine Maybach HL 62 TRM / 6-cylinder / 140hp
Armor 5-30 mm 90°-30°
Ground clearance 0.34 m
Power-to-weight ratio 11.7 hp/ton
Trench crossing capability 1.70 m
Communication FuG 2 or 5
Total Production Ausf.A: 89, Ausf.B: 62


Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 2-3 Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.D, E, and F development and production from 1937 to 1942

Thomas L. Jentz, Hilary Louis Doyle and Peter Sarson, New Vanguard 15 Flammpanzers, German flamethrowers 1941-1945

Michael Sawodny, Waffen Arsenal Deutsche Panzer Raritäten 1939-1945 Band 77

Article on the OT-26

Article on the Sōkō Sagyō Ki

Article on Panzer Abteilung 100

Article on Panzer Abteilung 101


Has Own Video WW2 German Light Prototypes

Krupp Light Export Tank L.K.A. and L.K.B.

German Reich (1936-1938)
Light Tank – 4 Prototypes Built + 1 Incomplete Prototype

After World War I, senior tank companies, such as Renault and Vickers-Armstrong, began selling tanks and other military materiel to smaller countries that could not afford their own tank production. Seeing this, Krupp decided that Germany needed to export tanks too. In 1935, the first proposals and component drawings for a 5 tonnes light tank were completed, with the addition of light tanks based on the Panzer I chassis and a V8 air-cooled engine specifically designed for Bulgaria. These were the L.K.A. (Light Tank Export) and L.K.B. (Light Tank Bulgaria).

Colorized photo of the L.K.A. undergoing trials. Germany, 1938. (Original source: Panzer Tracts)

Export Tanks: a New Marketing Strategy

The idea of exporting tanks is as old as the introduction of tanks themselves. The Renault FT light tank and Mark IV heavy tank were the first tanks to be built in large numbers and also the first tanks to be either donated or sold to other countries. Sold to over 20 different countries, the Renault FT was one of the most influential tanks ever. In addition, it was the first tank for countries including the US, Italy, and the Soviet Union, which later created their own designs based on the Renault FT. The other Great War tank that was exported was the Mark IV or V heavy tank. Seeing service during the Great War, both tanks were exported after the war to countries that were still involved in the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War. Nations such as Poland, but also smaller nations, such as Estonia, received some tanks in order to stop the Red Army from advancing any further.

Polish Renault FTs before an attack on Daugavpils in 1920. (Source: Janusz Magnuski)

During the interwar years, the company of Vickers-Armstrong introduced a new light tank, the Mark E Type A and B, intended solely as an export tank and not for the British Army. It had a great impact on tank building and influenced many nations’ tanks, most notably the Soviet T-26 and Polish 7TP.

The Mark E had two different types. The Type A had two turrets armed with machine guns and was intended to be a trench sweeper, showing that the idea of trench warfare was still relevant in Great Britain at that time. The Type B was its successor which mounted only one turret, armed with a 47 mm gun against enemy tanks. The first nation to acquire this tank was Greece in 1931, followed by Bolivia, which used its tanks during the Chaco War in 1932. At the same time, Vickers-Armstrong introduced much lighter tanks primarily armed with a machine gun. The Vickers 4-ton tank (also named “commercial tank”) could be exported to countries that did not want to buy the Vickers 6-ton, as either they did not need the anti-tank capability or could not spend large sums of money on tanks. With the introduction of this tank, a new concept was also introduced to tank export.

Customers could customize the tanks that they bought. As an example, the customers could decide what armament the tank should have or whether it should have a radio. In the case of the Vickers 4-ton, the customers could decide that the tank should mount an anti-tank gun instead of a machine gun. A close partner of Vickers was Carden, which helped in the construction of the Vickers 6-ton. During the 1920s, Carden-Loyd mainly focused on developing a one-man tankette. Later, this would evolve into a two-man tankette, culminating in the Carden-Loyd Mark VI tankette. It was a huge success for the company, which sold over 450 units to other nations.

Vickers 6-ton Mark E in Kuomintang service in 1938. (Source: Tank Archives)

The first Soviet tanks were captured Mark IVs and Renault FTs from the White Army during the Russian Civil War. Later, the Soviet Union purchased new tanks from the United Kingdom, such as the Vickers Mark E and Carden-Loyd Mk. IV. The T-26, the most mass-produced Soviet tank in 1940, was based around the Mark E and was later the Soviet Union’s export tank. Being sold to the Republic during the Spanish Civil War and to the Chinese during the Japanese Invasion, it also saw wide use in foreign armies and could effectively stand its ground against most enemy tanks at that time.

T-26 during the Winter War against Finland. (Source: Wiki)

Only becoming independent after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the end of the Russian Civil War, the Czechoslovak Republic started to invest in the development of tanks for its army, which would later also become export tanks. The leading tank manufacturing companies, such as Praga and ČKD-Škoda, were especially interested in providing tanks for foreign countries, as well as for the Czechoslovak Army. One of the first countries to buy Czech tanks was the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which showed great interest in acquiring light tanks. Furthermore, many other Balkan countries, such as Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, sought to buy the Czech LT vz. 35. Countries outside of Europe also showed interest in Czech tanks, with both Peru and Iran buying CKD TNH light tanks that proved to be very effective for their small armies.

Iranian Praga TNH. (Source: War spot)

Export Tanks Made in Germany

During the time of the Weimar Republic (1920-1933), Germany was restrained from building and therefore also exporting tanks due to the Treaty of Versailles. After 1933, when the Nazis took over, the restrictions of Versailles started being ignored by Germany (although some development had taken place beforehand as well). As a result, the German company Krupp started to invest in the idea of export tanks. Krupp was one of the first German companies to be involved in tank development. In 1930, Krupp was tasked with creating a new light tank for the German Army, known as the Kleintraktor (ENG: small tractor), and later developed the 1. Serie/La. S. (abbreviation for Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper, ENG: agricultural tractor). This tank was based on the Vickers Carden Loyd suspension, of which one vehicle was exported from the UK to Germany. Both tanks would later lead to the creation of the Panzer I.


The first concept for an export tank made by Krupp was discussed in a meeting in 1935. It was made as a counterpart to the La. S., later known as the Panzer I Ausf.A. Krupp chose to develop a light tank because the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty made it very hard to export heavy and medium tanks. In 1936, the first concept drawings were discussed by Krupp, which showed that the tank could only weigh up to 4 tonnes and, therefore, the dimensions had to be as small as possible. The L.K.A. is often confused with Krupp’s prototype for the Panzer I competition. It is believed that Krupp made this tank during the development of the La.S. (later known as the Panzer I). However, this is not the case, since Krupp’s Panzer I prototype differed greatly from the L.K.A.. Furthermore, the L.K.A. entered development years after the La.S. project was finished and hundreds of Panzer I tanks were already completed. It is, however, true that the L.K.A. was influenced by the Panzer I.


L.K.A. is an abbreviation for the German words Leichter Kampfwagen Ausland, which would translate to Light Tank for Export. Later, the name would change to MG K.A. which would translate to Machine Gun Tank for Export.

Restrictions from the German Design Office

To prevent the copying of components of the tank by other countries, Wa. Prüf. 6 (German Tank Design Office) restricted the use of any modern German components in the tank. In 1937, when the first plans were completed by Krupp, the Waffenamt (Weapons Ordnance Department) sent a list of these restrictions to Krupp.

1. The tank can only mount a straight fixed telescope and non-removable periscope.
2. The turret can use slip rings for electricity.
3. Visors cannot have overlapping edges and additional locks.
4. Protective glass for vision slits can only be 12 mm thick and 5.5 mm wide.
5. The use of armor plates for vision slits is prohibited.
6. The design of the gun mantlet can be copied from the Panzer I but must be shown for approval and only be used on a case-by-case basis.
7. The tank can use simple rod antennas, without frame antennas.
8. A radio can use expanding rubber strips.
9. Hinges are to be made out of normal steel not armor.
10. The tank can use the traversing gear of the Panzer I with steel cables as connecting linkage for the machine guns.
11. The turret can only be mounted on a ball-bearing race.
12. The usage of any type of bolts except normal-headed and countersunk bolts is prohibited.
13. The design of the turret can only be rounded at a 10 degrees angle or a truncated pyramid shape.
14. The usage of the German mounting for an anti-aircraft machine gun is not allowed.

L.K.A. undergoing trials. Note the open visor and visible driver. During the trials, the machine guns were removed. (Source: Panzer Tracts)


Production of the first and only prototype began in February 1937, when Krupp promised a complete first model by April the same year. The tank was to be able to fit a water-cooled engine, instead of an air-cooled engine, if requested by the customer. Due to problems with the engine not being able to fit inside the compartment, the first vehicle, named L.K.A. 1 Versuchsfahrzeug (Eng: test vehicle), was completed a year later, in February 1938. After a series of test trials taking place over a range of 6,000 meters, the L.K.A. 1 would officially be up for commercial use and was demonstrated to multiple representatives of other countries.

The only L.K.A. during trials. It was created with Krupp’s own funds. (Source: Panzer Tracts)


In July 1936, the design deadline of the L.K.A. was set to October 1936, though, by this point, the design was almost completely finished. Already during the development, great importance had to be laid on the limitations imposed by Wa. Prüf. 6, because even the smallest factor could lead to the entire project being aborted and the tank not being available for export. The tank would weigh (with equipment and crew) only 4.5 tonnes, making it an exceptionally light vehicle. The initial design was highly influenced by the Panzer I Ausf.A. Similarities included the same steering, suspension system, turret, superstructure and tracks.

L.K.A. in Krupp´s testing facility in Essen. (Source: Armed Conflicts)


The chassis was made out of multiple steel plates welded together, with an extra firewall protecting the crew. The superstructure was the connector between the chassis and turret. It had an octagonal shape with a removable armored engine cover on the back. Over the tracks, track guards were built. Exhaust pipes and air intakes were placed on the rear mudguards. On the front side was one vision port and also two on the diagonal sides. Additional equipment on the tank consisted of two lights on the track guards and the standard German tools, such as a hatchet and shovel. Furthermore, towing hooks were located at the back and front for towing the vehicle. On top of the superstructure was a driver’s hatch and, on the back, a hatch to access the engine.

Panzer I Ausf.A.
L.K.A. from the rear. Note the difference in the heavily modified rear deck (Source: Armed Conflicts)


The drive train was located in the hull, with a forward steering unit connected to the engine, transmission, and a clutch-brake steering system. The L.K.A. had front drive sprockets and an external suspension, similar to the Panzer I. Four rubber tire road wheels with two return rollers were located on each side, connected in pairs to a leaf spring suspension. The drive sprocket was at the front, while a pretty low idler was present at the rear. On a good hard road, the idler did not touch the ground. The transmission had two reverse and five forward gears. Furthermore, it was supposedly easy to use, so crews with next to no training could successfully drive the tank.

Comparison between the suspension of a Panzer I Ausf.A (top) and L.K.A.(bottom). (Source: Panzer Tracts)


The engine was a Krupp M311 V8 air-cooled motor running on gasoline. With 85 hp at 2,500 rpm, the L.K.A. could achieve a maximum speed of 50 km/h, making it faster than all German fully tracked vehicles at that time. It was cooled through an external bulletproof air intake on the rear side and started by an electric motor. Since the tank was made for export purposes and some of the countries that were potentially interested were located in hot climates, the cooling fan was able to work in high temperatures. 160 liters of gasoline were stored in two fuel tanks at the back and could be refilled from outside.


Next to no information is available about the L.K.A.’s armor protection. Test results showed that it was bulletproof at a range of 30 m against 7.92 mm steel cored armor-piercing bullets. However, it is very likely that the armor was not thicker than the Panzer I, presumably even thinner due to the lighter weight. In that case, the armor would be below 13 mm.


The L.K.A. mounted 2 machine guns which, due to the restrictions of Wa. Prüf. 6, had to originate from a foreign country. However, this could never be achieved and the only prototype ever completed of the L.K.A. mounted two M.G. 13s with 2,000 rounds of 7.92 mm bullets in 25 magazines. The MG 13 was the standard machine gun of the Reichswehr (ENG: Empire protection force) during the time of the Weimar Republic. Although outdated, it continued to see service throughout the first years of the Second World War, being mounted on early Panzer I variants and Kfz. 13 armored cars. Additionally, the MG 13 was also issued to some German infantry platoons.

M.G. 13, like the ones mounted in the L.K.A. and L.K.B. (Source: Wiki)


The L.K.A. had a crew of 2. This included the driver, who sat on the left side in the hull, and the commander, located in the turret. The driver had two vision ports (one to the front and one to the left) that could be opened. Whilst driving in combat, the driver could observe the battlefield through an optical device. The commander would operate the machine guns and if requested by the customer, a radio. Three vision ports were allocated for him, with one on each side and one on the back. Furthermore, a telescope was available to view the front. The commander could access the tank through the commander’s hatch on top of the turret, while the driver could enter through a hatch on the superstructure.

The driver coming out of his hatch on the superstructure. Note the two vision ports for the commander (Source: Panzer Tracts)

L.K.A. 2cm

There is also a common misconception around the L.K.A. 2cm. Similar to the L.K.A., it is believed that the L.K.A. 2cm was Krupp´s proposal for the next generation of light tanks, the Panzer II. This was not the case, since the Panzer II had already gone into production by the time the L.K.A. 2cm was designed in 1936. The L.K.A. 2cm was designed after Krupp had planned to produce a M.K.A. (medium tank for export) with a 2cm gun. Krupp saw that the L.K.A.´s armament was weak compared to the rival export tanks, the Vickers 6-ton and Czech export tanks. As a solution, Krupp proposed arming the L.K.A. with a 2 cm fully automatic gun. Wa. Prüf. 6 did not object, with the exception that a periscopic sight had to be used and not a telescope. Of course, all restrictions placed on the L.K.A. were also applied to the L.K.A. 2cm. After trying to find a good periscope, which eventually failed, a much simpler version was mounted.

The gun was the 2 cm KwK 30 which would also be mounted in the Panzer II series. In order to fit this gun, the turret had to be changed a little. Due to the small turret, no ammunition could be fitted inside, and all 150 rounds had to be stored in the hull. In order for the tank to be able to engage in tank combat, armor-piercing shells were needed. Additionally, Krupp decided to use the self-loading 2 cm KwK 30, which is the one used in the Panzer II. The Pz. Gra. mit Leuchtspur (tank shell with tracer) 0.145 kg round, with a muzzle velocity of 850 m/s, was the main ammunition type. During development, extra attention had to be paid to the stabilization of the gun, since an electric stabilization system could not be fitted inside the tank.

In May 1938, the first and only prototype was completed and demonstrated for sales. The only existing photo was destroyed by British intelligence after they created an illustration of the L.K.A. 2cm which was mentioned in a report. The report falsely stated that the presented tank was the first prototype for the Panzer II, hence the misconception.

The only known image of L.K.A. 2 cm was destroyed by British Intelligence and this illustration was created. (Source: Panzer Tracts)

K.A.v. 2cm

Later, in 1937, there was a sub-proposal for the L.K.A. 2cm named K.A.v. 2cm (Eng: Export Tank Upgraded). Krupp wanted to upgrade the armor of the L.K.A. 2cm, resulting in the development of the K.A.v. 2cm. The weight would increase up to 7 tons and the frontal armor up to 30 mm. In the end, the project was abandoned and the development of the M.K.A. (medium tank for export) was started out of the idea of having a much heavier and better-armored vehicle.


Almost simultaneously with the development of the L.K.A., Krupp started working on a new export light tank, specifically made for Bulgaria, named L.K.B. (abbreviation for the German words Leichter Kampfwagen Bulgarien, Light tank for Bulgaria). Although next to no information is available, it is highly likely that Bulgaria showed great interest in the development of German light tanks, as it was looking to acquire light tanks for its forces. However, the L.K.B. was available for any other interested customers as well.

Krupp completed the first drawings of the L.K.B., which used the suspension of the Panzer I Ausf.B and a new Krupp 8-cylinder engine. One test vehicle featuring this new engine was made available by Krupp in the Kummersdorf testing facility. The vehicle was sent into test trials with a similar tank featuring the 6-cylinder Maybach engine. However, this test vehicle was not a L.K.B., but rather a test vehicle to investigate if the Panzer I chassis would be able to fit a Krupp 6-cylinder engine. Wa. Prüf. 6 took the test vehicle and compared it to a Panzer I using the normal Maybach engine. The vehicle was then returned to Krupp and could be used again.

Krupp´s advertisement for the L.K.B. in a brochure. (Source. Panzer Tracts)

Three Different Prototypes

In total, 3 prototypes were built, with one of them incomplete. Although not differing greatly, each tank had changes made to either the superstructure or the suspension system.

After Krupp had seen the results from the test vehicle fitted with the Krupp engine competing against the Panzer I with the Maybach engine, it was decided to start the construction of the first L.K.B., called L.K.B.1. In November 1936, Krupp asked for a single chassis from the old La.S. (Panzer I Ausf.B) and a turret from the current production line, to finish the prototype. Wa. Prüf. 6 could only provide a turret initially. Later, in December, a chassis could be spared. This chassis was a Panzer I Ausf.A with four roadwheels. This was not planned by Krupp, as it originally wanted a Panzer I Ausf.B featuring 5 road wheels. The turret and superstructure were both taken from a Panzer I Ausf.B. In order for the new air-cooled Krupp M311 V-8 gasoline engine to fit, the rear deck had to be modified. In March 1937, the vehicle was completed and, after being sent to Grusonwerk and Altengrabow (both testing facilities in eastern Germany), the vehicle was sent to Essen, where it was presented and offered for export.

L.K.B.1 with the suspension of the Panzer I Ausf.A. Note the idler wheel touching the ground. (Source: Panzer Tracts)

Already in February 1937, Krupp had planned the construction of a second vehicle. L.K.B.2 would have the lengthened suspension of the Panzer I Ausf.B, as originally intended by Krupp. Additionally, the new suspension would have the idler wheel raised and not touching the ground. This was to improve mobility and help stabilize the tank whilst firing. After showing the plans for this vehicle to Wa. Prüf. 6, it was decided to use the L.K.B.2 for export purposes at a price of 6,100 RM (Reichsmark). In order to fit the new suspension and new Krupp engine, modifications had to be made, such as the addition of an oil cooler and the exchange of different engine components. In March 1937, Wa. Prüf. 6 gave permission for the creation of an advertising brochure for foreign countries. The United Kingdom, France, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, and the Soviet Union were excluded from this advertisement campaign, as they were either potential threats or rivals which also exported tanks. In February 1938, Krupp reported the status of L.K.B.2. The vehicle was completed with the exception of the engine, superstructure and turret. Therefore, L.K.B.1 was scrapped and the turret, superstructure and engine were used for the completion of L.K.B.2, which was later photographed and advertised.

L.K.B.2 photographed with the superstructure and turret of L.K.B.1. (Source: Panzer Tracts)

The last version, the L.K.B.3, was created when Sweden requested a single Panzer I Schulfahrzeug (training vehicle) for their troops. Wa. Prüf. 6 requested from Krupp a calculation of cost for converting a normal Panzer I Ausf.B Schulfahrzeug into a L.K.B. without the superstructure and turret and the cost of replacing this vehicle. Construction of the L.K.B.3 for Sweden was to be completed in September 1937. For the conversion, Krupp was allowed to use a single Panzer I Ausf.B Schulfahrzeug located in Kummersdorf, with the only objection that Krupp had to provide a replacement Panzer I Schulfahrzeug with the Maybach engine. After the completed conversion of the Panzer I Schulfahrzeug into the L.K.B.3 Schulfahrzeug, Sweden rejected the deal and Krupp sent the vehicle to the Waffenamt. Since the vehicle was never exported, Krupp did not have to produce a replacement vehicle. Similar to the other L.K.Bs, this tank featured the air-cooled Krupp M311 engine.

L.K.B.3 being tested in Kummersdorf testing facility (Source: Panzer Tracts)

L.K.B. 2cm

Similar to the L.K.A. 2cm, the L.K.B. 2cm was an additional option for customers that wanted their tanks to have better anti-tank capability. Blueprints reveal that this turret mounting the 2 cm KwK 30 was identical to that of the L.K.A. 2cm. However, the project never left the drawing board.

Potential Export Countries

In 1941, a list showing potential trading partners for German tanks was prepared by Krupp, but it is unclear if any of the German export tanks were ever sold. However, this is highly unlikely due to the fact that only 5 prototypes were ever built.

Representatives of Siam (nowadays Thailand) were the first that saw the L.K.A. in October 1936. However, this offer failed because the representatives were not pleased with the results.

During the same year, Switzerland was looking for new tanks to replace their old Vickers 4 tons. Representatives visited Landsverk in Sweden and Krupp in Germany, but were displeased with the capabilities of the German tanks, as they were looking for a tank mounting a more powerful gun. As a solution, they bought the Czech CKD LTL.

Turkey was the third country to which Krupp tried to sell their tanks. However, the sale failed and Turkey turned to the Soviet Union, which sold them the T-26 light tanks, which were clearly superior to the L.K.A.. Later, during the Second World War, Germany would export around 100 Panzer III and IVs to Turkey in the hopes that they would join the war on their side.

The newly formed Kingdom of Afghanistan was looking to buy tanks for their new army. In 1936, they showed interest in buying the German tanks, however, the transaction failed because Krupp could not provide the tanks. As a result, Afghanistan bought the Italian CV-35.

Bulgaria was the country that showed the most interest in the German export tanks. Being a small country surrounded by hostile Balkan neighbors, Bulgaria also wanted to acquire tanks. The L.K.B. was specially designed for Bulgaria, as the L.K.A. was not available at that time. In the end, none were exported to Bulgaria.

In early 1937, Uruguay showed interest in buying German tanks. Some sources claim they wanted to buy 36 L.K.B. tanks at a price of 82,689 Reichsmark each.

As a large trading partner, it is no surprise that Sweden would eventually gain an interest in buying German tanks. 50 tanks and 1 prototype, at a price of 82,689 Reichsmark each, were promised to the Swedes. However, since Krupp could not provide any tanks, Sweden turned to Czechoslovakia.

After a great defeat during the Leticia Incident (Peru-Colombia War) in 1933, Peru sought to upgrade its army. Peru realized that tanks were needed by its armored forces. Furthermore, Brazil and Bolivia, both neighboring countries, had at that time the biggest tank arms on the continent. In 1937, Peruvian government representatives visited Europe with the goal of acquiring new tanks. They also turned to Germany, where they saw an advertisement for the new L.K.B. for a similar price as the Uruguayans were offered. They were never bought because Krupp could not provide any and the Peruvians were not satisfied with them. As a result, they later bought 12 CKD LTPs from Czechoslovakia.

Although victorious during the Gran Chaco War (Bolivia-Paraguay War 1932-1934), Paraguay sought to acquire their first tanks, mainly due to the Bolivians using a small number of Vickers 6-ton tanks. In the end, only some Italian CV-35s were bought.

One of the last nations to show interest in German export tanks was Japan, around the time when the export tank project was being canceled. As an ally of Germany, Japan looked at Germany’s export tanks but was dissatisfied with the results.


In the end, the project failed due to Germany needing the tanks themselves, even though the advertisement for German tanks was still present until 1941. Krupp was not given a contract to produce any more of the export tanks. As a replacement for the L.K.A. and B, Germany sold numerous Panzer Is to China and Nationalist Spain instead. Although a well thought out first attempt by Krupp to invest in the global market, Germany was not able to spare any tanks for export, as they were all badly needed in the army, even the Panzer I tanks. If any tanks had been exported, they would have been inferior to most other export tanks, such as the Vickers 6-ton, Renault R35 or CKD LTLs.

Krupp’s L.K.A. in 1938.
Panzer I Ausf.A as a comparison. Libya, January 1941

Specifications L.K.A. and L.K.B.

Dimensions L.K.A. (L-W-H) 3.80 x 1.90 x 1.65 m
Dimensions L.K.B. (L-W-H) 4.40 x 2 x 1.72 m
Total Weight L.K.A. 4.5 tonnes
Total Weight L.K.B. 5.4 tonnes
Crew 2 (commander, driver)
Engine air-cooled Krupp M311 V8 gasoline engine
Speed L.K.A. 50 km/h
Speed L.K.B. 43 km/h
Range Unknown
Armament 2x 7.92 mm MG 13
Armor 16 mm
Elevation -10° +20°
Traverse Turret 360°
Gunsight straight telescope
Ammunition 2,000 rounds
Power-to-weight ratio L.K.A 18.9 hp/ton
Power-to-weight ratio L.K.B 15.2 hp/ton
Communication L.K.A.: none, L.K.B.: receiver set
Total Production 1x L.K.A., 1x L.K.A. 2cm, 3x L.K.B. built with one incomplete


Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 1-2 Panzerkampfwagen I, Kl. Pz. Bef. Wg. to VK. 18.01

Walter J.Spielberger, Panzerkampfwagen I und II und Ihre Abarten, Einschließlich der Panzerentwicklungen der Reichswehr

Article on the CKD Czech export tank

Article on the Vickers 6-ton and other export tanks


Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 1-2 Panzerkampfwagen I, Kl. Pz. Bef. Wg. to VK. 18.01