Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

Flakpanzer T-34 (r) (2cm Flak 38 Flakvierling)

German tanks ww2 Germany (May/June-August 1944)
Improvised self-propelled anti-aircraft gun – 1 converted

The Germans armed forces made wide use of captured equipment during the Second World War, particularly the ground forces of the Wehrmacht, the Heer. Following the conquests of 1939 to 1942, thousands of armored vehicles were left behind German lines, sometimes lightly damaged or even intact. Efforts would be undertaken to field these vehicles, both by frontline German units seeking to strengthen their numbers and by rear-line security units seeking armor to fight against partisans and resistance movements in Europe. These are known as Beutepanzers (captured/trophy tanks).

As one of the most produced tanks of the war, and one fielded by the Soviets during the great German offensives in 1941-1942, large numbers of T-34s fell into German hands. Designated T-34 747 (r) (German Beutepanzer designations used a three-digit system in which the first number would designate the type of vehicle, if starting with 7, a tank; the (r) would indicate the Soviet (Russland) origin of the vehicle), the vehicle would be widely used by German formations. Large number of local field modifications would be undertaken by the Germans, often consisting of fitting German equipment into their T-34s to ease their operations. However, the vehicles would sometimes operate in an entirely different role as to what they were originally intended for. The hull of the T-34 was fairly commonly used without its turret as a Bergepanzer (armored recovery vehicle), with the lack of such vehicles being a chronic issue within the German army. In 1944, it would appear that one of these Bergepanzer T-34s was modified by the field workshop of Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 on the Eastern front, being turned into a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun armed with a Flakvierling quadruple mount for the 2 cm Flak 38 autocannon.

The Conversion

Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 was a heavy tank destroyer battalion, operating mostly the Elefant (formerly known as Ferdinand) tank destroyer. By 1944, two of the battalion’s three companies were deployed on the Eastern Front, around North-Western Ukraine, while the other company was deployed in Italy.

Though the Elefant was the unit’s standard combat vehicle, it appears a number of other armored vehicles were present in the unit’s inventory, including some Bergepanzer T-34(r). One of these would undergo a conversion into a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This was performed by the maintenance company of the battalion, Werkstattkompanie 653. The conversion appears to have dated from May or June 1944. Interestingly enough, a similar conversion on the hull of a Bergepanther is also reported to have existed within the same unit in the summer of 1944, though there are no known photos of it.

The armament of the vehicle was a 2 cm Flakvierling 38 mounting four 20 mm autocannons. This quadruple mount was introduced in May of 1940. As well as combining the four guns, it included collapsible seats and folding handles. In the field configuration, it could elevate to up to +100°. Each of the individual 2 cm Flak 38 guns had a cyclic rate of fire of 450 rounds per minute, which would result in a massive 1,800 20 mm rounds sent downrange per minute on the Flakvierling, though in practice, due to operations such as reloading the gun, as well as minimizing overheating, the practical rate of fire would be around 800 rounds per minute, which was still massive for 20 mm ammunition. The rounds fired by the Flak 38 included SprGr.Patr.L/Spur (HE), Pzgr Patr 40 L/Spur (AP penetrating 40 mm at 100 meters) and Pzgr Patr L/pur m Zerlegung (AP/HE incendiary). Muzzle velocity varied from 830 to 900 m/s depending on which type of ammunition was used. The Flakvierling would weigh around 1,520 kg in operation, though the additional armor plates found on the Flakpanzer T-34’s armament make its weight hard to estimate.

The hull on which this was mounted was a T-34, the production factory and year not being known. This was the standard Soviet medium tank, which used a welded hull with both sloped front and sides, armored at 45 mm (not accounting for the angling). The engine was a V-2-34 V12 diesel engine producing 500 hp in theory, though in practice the output was typically lesser due to issues with air filters quality.

A rear view of the Flakpanzer T-34, along with a StuG III. The vehicle’s turret was fully open to the rear. Source: beutepanzer.ru

On the Flakpanzer T-34, this Flakvierling mount was given what could be described as the intermediate between a gun shield and a fully rotatable turret. The armor protection, though from the front it may appear as comprising all sides but the top, as it would be on a Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind, was actually fully open at the rear, with only the front and sides being given armor. The armor plates were reportedly taken from disabled German half-tracks (likely Sd.Kfz.251s), which would give them a thickness of either 8 mm or 14.5 mm, most likely the lighter option (the lighter weight would have eased rotation of the mount, and there was a greater quantity of lighter plates to salvage from German half-tracks). These plates appear to have been welded together. The turret is at its highest at the front, with the front plates being fairly similar in shape to what could be found on the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind. The height of the armor plates declined progressively over the sides.

The Flakpanzer T-34, likely in July 1944. This photo gives a good view of the general architecture of the turret, but also of the armored collar installed along the turret race, and the large ammunition rack installed on the rear-right of the hull. Source: beutepanzer.ru

Outside of these additional armored plates, a large armor-plated collar was installed around the turret race, likely intended as protection to this very vulnerable part of the vehicle. Further modifications were undertaken to fulfill the vehicle’s role as an anti-aircraft weapon by adding a large ammunition container rack on the right rear of the hull, holding a number of stowage boxes for 20 mm ammunition. Spare track links were also present on the hull’s sides. The hull machine gun appears to have been retained.

Operation

The nature of the Flakpanzer T-34 crew’s composition is not known. In the field, a Flakvierling 38 would have a large crew of eight, but this was obviously not a possibility for a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun on a tank chassis, which could not transport such a high crew complement. A crew composition similar to the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind, with the radio operator ditched due to seating for only one crewman existing inside the T-34 hull itself, may have been adopted: this would have left the Flakpanzer T-34 with a crew of four. It would consist of a driver, a commander/gunner and two loaders. A photo of the vehicle in operation does show four servicemen posing on it, which would perhaps support this theory but is not deep, tangible evidence.

This photo, taken likely the same day as the previous one, shows four German servicemen posing on the Flakpanzer T-34. They may be the operators of the vehicle, with a four-man crew seeming to be the most practical and in line with more standard-issue German Flakpanzers. Source: beutepanzer.ru

The vehicle was operated by an anti-aircraft detachment that would have covered Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 on the Eastern Front. The vehicle is known to have been operated in July of 1944. This would be smack in the middle of Operation Bagration, the massive Soviet 1944 summer offensive. While no report of the Flakpanzer T-34’s combat record has surfaced, it is as such very likely the vehicle would have been engaged in combat during this time.

The battalion the Flakpanzer T-34 was operated in would be removed from the front on the 3rd of August 1944 for re-equipment and rest, after having been battered by weeks of fighting. Crucially, while twelve Elefants remained, no mention of the Flakpanzer T-34 exists after this point, and it appears the vehicle was not present as the unit was patched up, which suggests it was likely lost in July or very early August 1944. The exact causes of this loss are unknown. The vehicle may merely have been lost in combat, or have suffered a breakdown that could not have been solved due to lack of Soviet spare parts or advancing Soviet forces. The precise fate of the vehicle is in any case unknown, with all known views of it showing it during its short time in service of Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653.

Conclusion – The only confirmed Flakpanzer T-34

The Flakpanzer T-34 has, over the years, gathered some considerable interest from Second World War armor enthusiasts. The vehicle has been upheld as an impressive example of the various field conversions and modifications that were often fielded during the conflict, particularly within the German armored forces. Indeed, the vehicle can be described as seemingly rather formidable for a field conversion. Though obviously some very important aspects of it, such as for example the rotation speed of its turret or even confirmation of its crew layout or armor thickness, are not known, the Flakvierling 38 was a deadly anti-aircraft system and the Flakpanzer T-34 would likely have far superior anti-aircraft performances than what would typically be expected of a captured tank hull modified for such duties in a field workshop.

The Flakvierling armed vehicle is not the only Flakpanzer T-34 claimed to have existed. Two other models have popped up in Internet rumors, but none are confirmed to have existed – one is fairly likely but the other not so much. The less likely one was that a T-34 was refitted with a much larger 8.8 cm Flak gun around the turret race and used in combat, reportedly in April 1945 in Saxonia. A photo manipulation has been circulated around showing a T-34 hull fitted with such a gun, the original photo instead showing a standard T-34-85. The more likely conversion would be a T-34 refitted with the triple MG 151/20 Drilling mounting featured in some anti-aircraft German half-tracks, a much lighter main armament which would likely have been far less problematic to install. A photomanipulation of this vehicle also circulates around, based on a photo originally showing a Bergepanzer T-34. A unit has reportedly been mentioned for this conversion, Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 561, but its existence remains to be proven and it is best described as a rumor as of now. The Flakvierling-armed vehicle, as such, remains the only confirmed Flakpanzer T-34.

The Flakpanzer T-34 behind a Kübelwagen during its service, likely in Western Ukraine or Galicia, summer 1944. Source: beutepanzer.ru
Illustration of the Flakpanzer T-34(r) (2cm Flak 38 Flakvierling), created by Pavel “Carpaticus” Alexe on the basis of work by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Flakpanzer T-34 (r) (2cm Flak 38 Flakvierling)

Weight Likely around 30 tons
Engine V-2-34 V12 diesel engine producing 500 hp (theoretical)
Crew Likely 4 (possibly commander/gunner, driver and two loaders)
Armament 2 cm Flakvierling 38
Hull armor Maximum 45mm
Turret armor Likely either 14.5 mm or 8 mm
Converted vehicles 1

Sources

Panzerkampfwagen T 34- 747 (r) , The Soviet T-34 Tank as Beutepanzer and Panzeraatrappe in German Wehrmacht Service 1941-1945, Jochen Vollert, Tankograd publishing
https://www.axishistory.com/books/153-germany-heer/heer-other-units/4497-schwere-panzerjaeger-abteilung-653
Beutepanzer.ru

Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f)

german tanks of ww2 Germany (1940-45?)
Improvised Light Tank – 1 built

The German occupation troops in the Balkans and in the rest of Europe did not have the first pick when it came to equipment. They usually received obsolete hand-me-downs from more important units of the army or captured vehicles that no one else wanted. Thus, these troops, which were fighting against determined and organized resistance movements, were forced to improvise and improve what they had within their means.

Such might have been the case for a curious vehicle that recently appeared in a number of photographs online. This vehicle consists of a German Panzer I turret mounted on top of the cargo area of a French Lorraine 37L armored supply tractor. Unfortunately, no information is available regarding this vehicle, its role, or its usage, but it can be hypothesized that it was meant as an escort vehicle against partisan attacks or maybe for training.

The Lorraine 37L

During WW1, the armies involved on the Western Front needed a way to transport ammunition and supplies to the front line. Men and horses were getting killed and injured from small arms fire and exploding shell fragments. For this reason, tracked armored supply vehicles were designed. The Tracteur de ravitaillement pour chars 1937 L armored tracked supply vehicle, better known as the Lorraine 37L, was developed by the Lorraine Company in 1937. It was meant to supply the cavalry units of the French army, being larger and faster than the Renault UE that was meant to supply the infantry units. The Lorraine 37L could transport a heavier load and keep up with the fast cavalry divisions. Production began in January 1939.

Lorraine 37L tractor
Lorraine 37L tractor towing a tracked fuel trailer in muddy conditions. Source: Wikimedia Commons

By the time of the armistice in 1940, a total of 432 Lorraine 37L armored supply tractors had been produced. The victorious German forces captured many Lorraine 37L vehicles, of which 300 to 360 (depending on the source) were repaired and pressed back into service. They used them in their original role as Gefechtsfeld-Versorgungsfahrzeug (Eng: supply carriers) and Munitionstransportkraftwagen (Eng: ammunition carriers). After finding out that the suspension system was robust and reliable, many were also converted into 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 Marder I tank destroyers or self-propelled artillery guns.

The regular version of the Lorraine 37L had six large road wheels in three pairs of bogies on each side. This gave the vehicle a low ground pressure and good weight distribution. Each bogie could move up and down independently. It was sprung by an inverted leaf spring system located just below the upper track run: three assemblies were placed between the four top rollers. The tracks were 22 cm wide and it was powered by a 70 hp Delahaye type 135 engine. The transmission was in the front of the vehicle driving the tracks via the drive sprockets located at the front.
The driver and commander sat in the middle of the vehicle, having all-around protection from most rifle-caliber weaponry due to the 6 to 12 mm of armor. At the back, there was a small open-topped cargo space.

Lorraine 37L armored tracto
Lorraine 37L armored tractor towing a tracked fuel trailer. Source M.I.10

Panzer I turret

Work on what would become the Panzer I tank started in 1930, 3 years before the rise of Hitler to power and while the Treaty of Versailles was still officially observed by the German government.

As produced, the Panzer I mounted a single-man turret sporting two coaxial 7.92 mm magazine-fed MG13 machine-guns. Aiming was done using a telescopic sight between the two machine-guns or could be done by eye through two apertures that could be covered by armored shutter when not in use.

Details of the Panzer I turret
Details of the Panzer I turret. Source: Panzer Tracts 1-1

A large forward-opening hatch on top of the turret allowed access for the commander and also allowed him to observe his surroundings while not under fire. Four more shutters were available around the turret sides, two of which had slits built into them. These could be used for observation or used as pistol ports in case enemy infantry got too close. The armor ranged from 7 to 15 mm. Traverse of the turret was done by hand using a gear drive. This drive could also be decoupled and the turret could then be turned by the commander physically rotating it using his body.

Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f)

Photographs have been found showing that a Lorraine 37L armored supply tractor was modified into a light tank by fitting a Panzer I tank turret over the cargo bay at the rear of the vehicle. The turret is missing its main armament in two of the photos available, while in the third one it is hard to judge if the armament is present.

In two of the photos, the vehicle seems to be undergoing mobility tests going up and down an embankment, with various military officials and civilians watching the trials. In one of these, an Italian TL-37 artillery tractor is in the foreground with a German soldier on the back appearing to take a photo or some kind of measurements. The presence of the Italian truck under German control means that these photographs were taken after the September 1943 Italian Armistice and were probably taken somewhere in Yugoslavia.

In the last photo, the vehicle is part of a military column along with two passenger cars and a truck. The forward-most passenger car has a Wehrmacht identification plate.

The crew consisted of three men, a commander in the turret in the new combat compartment, and two men in the front of the vehicle, one being the driver of the vehicle. The vehicle is painted in a single color scheme with a single Balkenkreuz visible on the transmission housing at the front.

Given the low height of the cargo space, it is likely that anyone in the turret would have to be sat in the cargo space in order to be ‘closed-down’ in the turret. This would have seriously hampered any combat ability of the vehicle, especially when it comes to traversing the turret and firing. It is notable that in the known pictures of the vehicle the turret is always facing ahead. Further, two of the three images show a man standing in the turret, and, from his height, the ‘floor’ level of the cargo bay can be ascertained.

Operational Role

Unfortunately, the few photos available do not allow identification of the location this vehicle was used in, as they could be anywhere in Europe. In the lack of new evidence, the best hope to find the location would probably be to identify the buildings visible in one of the photos. Commentators online have claimed that this vehicle was used in Croatia or that it was built by Baukommando Becker (Eng: Construction Unit Becker, responsible for many conversions of the Lorraine 37L, such as the Marder I) in France. However, neither of these hypotheses is supported by any concrete evidence.

The role this vehicle was meant to fulfill is also unknown. It is possible that this vehicle might have been meant to be used as a tank against the resistance forces which would generally lack any anti-armor armament that could take it out. Its twin machine-guns would be enough firepower for such a task. If this vehicle was indeed meant to be used in combat, its performance would have been poor at the very least. The armament would have been restricted in depression over the forward firing arc, as the hull itself would have come in the way. Also, due to the low height of the combat compartment and lack of a turret basket, rotating the turret would have been difficult if not dangerous. Further, there was a significant distance between the gunner in the turret and the driver in the front compartment, making communication and coordination between them difficult. For combat purposes, the vehicle would probably have been little less than a mobile machine-gun nest able to protect static major objectives and to intimidate enemies that were lacking anti-tank firepower.

Alternatively, it could also have been meant to be used for escorting supply columns from the hit-and-run attacks of resistance forces. However, in this case, the slower nature of the tracked Lorraine 37L tractor (not taking into account the extra weight of the turret) would either have severely restricted the speed of the convoy or would have made the vehicle incapable of keeping up.

It is also possible that this vehicle might have been meant as a training vehicle, helping to train drivers, gunners, and vehicle commanders, which might explain the lack of armament. Finally, it might have been used to familiarize infantry with tanks and how to deal with them.

However, without further information being obtained, there is no way to say for certain where this vehicle was built, with what intent, and how it was used.

Conclusion

The Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f) is a mystery vehicle that is known only from a couple of photographs. It is not known where it was built or for what purpose. Only one was probably converted. It is not known what happened to it during or after the war. It was most probably cut up for scrap metal.

The Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f)
The Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f) undergoing trials. (photo source unknown)
The Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f)
The Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f) undergoing trials. (photo original source unknown)
he Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f)
The Panzer I Turm auf Lorraine Schlepper(f) as part of a military column. (photo source unknown)
This peculiar improvised vehicle featured a Panzer I turret on of a Lorraine 37L tractor. Illustration by David Bocquelet.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.2 m x 1.57 m x 2 m
13ft 9in x 5ft 2in x 6ft 7in
Total weight, battle-ready 8 tonnes
Crew 3
Propulsion Type 135 Delahaye 6 cylinder inline petrol/gasoline 70 hp
Max. Road Speed 37 km/h (23 mph)
Max. Range road 137 km (85 miles)
Secondary Armament Possibly two 7.92mm M.G.13 machine guns
Armor 9 mm – 13 mm
Total Built 1

Sources

The three available photographs
F.Vauvillier, JM Touraine, L’Automobile sous Uniforme 1939-40
Panzer Tracts 1-1: Panzerkampfwagen I, Kleintraktor to Ausf.B

Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo

Nazi Germany
Improvised Light Tank – 1 Built

Despite being famous for its tanks during World War II, Germany never had enough of them to go around. Less important units, such as those fighting partisans in the Balkans had a very low priority as far as Armored Fighting Vehicle allocation was concerned. They received old, obsolete or captured vehicles that the main units deemed useless.

This led some of the units in the theater to get creative, as was probably the case with the Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank.

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank was probably used to provide protection from partisan attacks. Notice the armored louvered grill at the front of the extended engine compartment. Photo source unknown

Design

Three photographs have shown that at least one Famo Boxer was converted into a light tank. It is not known by whom or the exact dates involved. The engine was protected by armor plate and the front section elongated to act as a counterweight. It had an armored louvered grill at the front to assist ventilation and help protect the engine and radiator. The lower glacis plate was angled to help it slide up muddy slopes.

The rear of the tractor was extended so the commander had somewhere to stand. In front of him was the driver. Both crewmen were protected by an armored superstructure. The thickness of the armor is not known but it would have been thin and only stopped small arms fire. It was angled and the domed turret was curved which would have helped with bullet deflection.

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank. There are two supports at the rear of the tractor that hold up a platform for the commander to stand on behind the driver’s seat. The armored superstructure wraps around both crewmen. Photo source unknown

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo (Light tracked tractor built by Famo) improvised tank was built on an agricultural tracked tractor. It was armed with a 7.92 mm machine-gun in a 360-degree rotating turret. It had a 5.0 liter 4-cylinder 45 hp engine. The transmission had three forward gears and one reverse.

It is believed to have been operated in the Independent State of Croatia and used in a security role to prevent attacks by partisans. It does not display the Croatian Army markings of a red and white checkerboard shield. It has the German Army Balkenkreuz cross on the side. Therefore, it may be assumed that the vehicle was operated by a German Army tank crew in Croatia.

The tractor, on which this vehicle was based, was produced in 1932 and called the LHB Boxer. In 1934, Linke-Hofmann-Busch Werke AG was divided into several companies. On 15th November 1935, the vehicle manufacturing part of the company was taken over by Junkers. It continued to build wheeled and tracked tractors plus diesel engines under the new name Fahrzeug und Motoren-Werke GmbH (FAMO). They also developed and manufactured the very large heavy 18 ton half-track vehicle (Sd. Kfz. 9) for the Wehrmacht.

FAMO continued the production of the LHB Boxer but it was now advertised for sale as the FAMO Boxer. The German Wehrmacht purchased them for use as towing vehicles. Their official designation was Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo, Typ Boxer.

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank. The engine was protected by armor plate and the front section was elongated to act as a counterweight. The lower glacis plate was angled to help it slide up muddy slopes. Photo source unknown

Service

The operational history of this vehicle is, sadly, unknown. It is also not known what happened to the vehicle. It is possible it was destroyed by the partisans, captured after the war and scrapped or simply dismantled and returned to its role as a tractor.

A Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo, Typ Boxer being used in Norway.


Illustration of the Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) N/A
Total weight, battle-ready N/A
Armament 7.92mm Machine Gun
Armor 10mm Aprx.
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion 5.0 litre 4-cylinder 42 hp
Speed N/A
Operational N/A
Vehicles Built 1
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links & Resources

Traktore Schlepper Jahrbuch – Das Schlepperjahrbuch by Gerhard Siem
Legendary Farm Tractors by Andrew Morland
German Army Manuals of World War II by Charles Lemon
Kfz. der Wehremacht


Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs WW2 Yugoslavian Armor

Sd.Kfz.250 mit 5 cm PaK 38

Nazi Germany/Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1943-54)
Self Propelled Gun – 1 Built

During the Second World War, across the battlefields of Europe and North Africa, the German forces often made field modifications in the hope of improving their existing equipment or simply salvaging damaged ones. These modifications were often simple constructions consisting of putting different weapon systems on a tank or half-track. Examples of which include the “Oswald” and a Pzkpfw. KV-1B fitted with a 7.5 cm KwK 40.
Another such modification was the merging an Sd.Kfz.250 half-track troop carrier with a 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank gun.

History

Historically, this vehicle is a mystery and unfortunately, there is no information about it available. Various sources, mostly on the internet, offer different interpretations of who built this and where the vehicle was used. These range from it being used on the Eastern Front to it seeing action during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. However, most of these versions are incorrect or misinterpreted.
Thanks to Dr. Mirko Peković (Museum Advisor), we know that the Belgrade Military Museum received this vehicle in 1954 from a military post, from Kragujevac (a city in Serbia). Unfortunately, the Museum does not possess information on its origin. It is known that the vehicle was captured by Partisans during the German withdrawal from Greece. More precise information is difficult to find as the Partisans kept poor records of most captured vehicles and weapons during the WW2. It is also not known what the Partisans (and later the JNA-Yugoslav People’s Army) did with this vehicle.
Thanks to its preservation at the Museum, the construction can be analyzed in detail. The first thing of notice is that this is a combination of a German Sd.Kfz.250 half-track and a 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank weapon.


This vehicle can be seen at the Belgrade Military Museum located near the city center. Photo: Wikimedia


A fully restored and operational Sd.Kfz. 250 (Austria). On this photo, we can see the original appearance of the rear of this vehicle. Photo: SOURCE

Leihter Gepanzerter Mannschaftskraftwagen Sd. Kfz. 250

In 1939, the German Army made a request for a new light half-track troop carrier similar to the larger Sd.Kfz.251. The development of this project was handed over to Bussing-Nag (for the design of the main armored body) and Demag (for developing the chassis). For this purpose, the D7p chassis was used, a truncated version of the Sd.Kfz.10’s D7 chassis that featured only four road wheels on either side, instead of five. Due to many reasons (priority being given to the larger Sd.Kfz.251, slow adaptation for production, insufficient materials etc.), the development process and production were slow. The first production vehicles were not ready until 1941. From 1943 onwards, a new simplified armored body was used in the hope of speeding up the production. These were designated the Ausf. B in order to differentiate them from the more complex superstructures fitted to the Ausf. A. Over 6500 vehicles were produced in 12 variants until the end of the Second World War.

5 cm PaK 38

The 5 cm PaK 38 was developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig in 1938 as a replacement for the weaker 3.7 cm Pak 36, but it was not ready for service until 1940. The PaK 38 carriage was a split trail design with tubular rear legs which helped absorb the recoil during firing. For mobility, two solid tired disk wheels were used, to which an additional third rear wheel could be added. The gun was fitted with a semi-automatic breech and had a muzzle brake. For crew protection, a double skin shield was provided. Stronger weapons would eventually supplant the PaK 38, but it was never completely replaced as it remained in use until the end of the war. Between 1939 and 1944, some 9,500 were produced.
The Pak 38’s basic characteristics were: practical rate of fire 10 to 15 rounds per minute, elevation -8° to + 27°, traverse 65°, and weight in action 986 kg. Average penetration at 1,000 m (at 0°) was 61mm (Panzergranate 39) and 84 mm by using the rare tungsten ammunition (Panzergranate 40). The maximum range of high explosive shells was 2,650 m (2,500 m depending on the sources).


Pak 38 in action. Photo: SOURCE

The Modification

By analyzing the modified half-track superstructure in detail, it can immediately be noticed that several interesting and unusual modifications were done. The most obvious is the unusual rear extension of the Sd.Kfz.250’s fighting compartment by nearly a meter. It is probable that the added rear ‘part’ was simply salvaged from another damaged Sd.Kfz.250 or even 251. A potential explanation for this is that, because of the installation of the new weapon, the crew needed extra room to use it efficiently. However, similar modifications had already been implemented, for example on the Sd. Kfz.250/8. It had an even larger caliber gun installed, but this did not require any major changes to the superstructure and which was not extended.
The rear left the sided door of the Sd.Kfz.250 with 5 cm Pak 38 gun was left unchanged but the door itself was missing. This vehicle surely had an operational real door (there was no real reason no to have one), but at some point, it was removed for unknown reasons. Since recently, the door has been restored and welded completely, so it is no longer possible to see the interior. Dimensions of this modified version are, according to the Museum’s own book-catalog: length 4.56 m, width 1.95 m, and height 1.66 m. Armor thickness ranges from 8 to 15 mm.


On closer inspection, the place where the extended armor was welded to the original one can be observed. Photo: Author’s own


The potentially damaged suspension with the missing wheels and parts can be seen here (right side of the vehicle). Photo: Author’s own


On the left side, this vehicle seems like it is completely intact. All German vehicles in the Belgrade Military Museum are painted in this camouflage. It has a more ‘decorative’ role and does not represent how the vehicle was painted in reality. Photo: Wikimedia
The suspension and running gear appear to have suffered some kind of damage at some point and were never truly repaired. On the vehicle’s right side, the outer two road wheels are missing, as are the front wheels mudguards, and other parts like the bolt that hold the wheels in place.

Armament

The main weapon was the 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank gun. The wheels and the two rear legs were removed. Besides this, it seems no other changes were done on the gun construction. The main weapon was held by two forward-pointed thick metal levers (one on each side). These were bolted to a metal construction which was added for this purpose. Traverse of the main weapon was quite limited, but the maximum elevation was high, but the exact numbers are not known.
Unfortunately, there is no information about the amount of ammunition carried inside. The similar Sd. Kfz. 250/8 carried around 20 (75 mm) rounds. As the 5 cm rounds were smaller, and with the extra rear space the possible minimum quantity could be at least 30 to 40 or much higher. According to the Museum own book-catalog, two secondary MG 34 or 42 machine-guns were also used. As there are no obvious mounts for them, it is possible that they were stored inside.


The Sd.Kfz.250 mit 5 cm PaK 38 in a dunkelgelb camouflage, as it might have looked if employed in the later part of the war. Observe the welded-on rear part of the hull. Illustration by Jaroslaw Jarja, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Crew

The crew would probably consist of the driver, gunner with a loader and a commander in order to efficiently operate this vehicle. The rest of the space was probably used for PaK ammunition, crew secondary weapons and equipment, and even more crew members or other passengers. According to the Museum own book-catalog, six crew members are listed but not marked who does what. What is possible is that this information is regarding the original Sd.Kfz.250 vehicle.


The top view, here we can see that by adding the sheet metal the gun was fixed in place. Photo: Author’s own

Roof

Another unusual feature of this vehicle is the covered top with sheet metal. At first glance it seems like an good idea, as this way the crew would be better protected. But if we examine the vehicle top, we can very easily detect a major problem. By adding this sheet metal, the gun was made completely useless and unusable. So the question is, why do it? The explanation is simple, it was added after the war, possibly by the JNA when it was given to the Belgrade Military Museum to keep the weather out of the vehicle for external display.


Side view of the vehicle top where we can see that it is covered with sheet metal to protect the vehicle from weather elements. It looks like the left side armor was damaged possibly by shrapnel. We can also see where the added rear part was welded to the vehicle superstructure. Photo: Author’s own
Unfortunately, nothing is left of the original interior. It seems that at some point, probably at the moment of handing over to the museum, the whole interior was removed. The Maybach HL42 TRKM engine, with the steering wheel and the control panel was also removed. It was probably estimated that it would be pointless to leave it, as it would be exposed to weather conditions. This is supported by the fact that no other exhibit vehicle of this Museum has a preserved interior.

Unfortunately today, nothing is left of the original interior apart from the gun. Photo: SOURCE
The vehicle weight is marked as 5.7 t, but it was probably more than 6 t (possibly up to 7 t) as we must take into account the gun plus the ammunition weight.

Who built it and why?

There are several different explanations about the origin of this vehicle. But since there are several different theories that be can found in different sources (most often on the Internet), it is appropriate to give explanation some of them and to explain why some of them are not true.
Modification built during the Yugoslav wars in the 90’s: We can immediately reject this theory for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason was the fact that this vehicle was placed in the Museum long before the conflicts even broke out.
Did the Partisans Build It: the Yugoslavian Partisans did modify a number of Allied supplied M3A3 tanks and equipped them with German captured weapons (7.5 cm PaK 40 and the 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling) in Šibenik workshop (1944/45). They certainly had the ability to make this modification. A number of 5 cm PaK 38 were captured from the Germans and used by the Partisans. They also captured and used in limited numbers some German half-track vehicles. But it is important to note that the main repair base (where the modifications on the M3 tanks were done- the city of Šibenik at the end of 1944 and beginning of 1945) was too far away from the estimated location where this vehicle was captured. It would be illogical to transport this vehicle to this location just to make the modification.
As the Sd.Kfz. 250 was a rare vehicle on this front, it does not make sense to modify it. The lack of any spare parts would make this vehicle useful only for only a short time until it broke down or was damaged. Also, there is no precise or valid information which can prove that they are creators of this modification. Partisan modification is, therefore, possible but not likely.
Did the Germans Build It: It is highly likely that it was built by the German, possibly somewhere in occupied Balkan. It is certain that it was made after 1943, as it had the new armored superstructure, which production began that year.
There are several reasons why we can say that it was German made: Booth the vehicle and the gun were of German origin, German soldiers did many similar modifications on the field so this would not be too big a problem for them, no other side used the Sd.Kfz. 250 in the Balkans except for Germans and most important (as already mentioned earlier) is the information that this vehicle was captured by the Partisans during the German withdrawal from Greece 1944 or 1945. But unfortunately, it is difficult to determine exactly where, when and which unit built it.
The question of why it was made, is also problematic, but it is possible to answer it. In essence, it could have been used as a training vehicle, but it is more likely that it was built to fight different Partisans groupings on Balkan. The Partisan way of fighting is usually by attacking in smaller groups different enemy targets (cities with small garrisons, patrols etc.) and then quickly retreat into the forests and hills. For the Germans (or any force on that matter) it was important to prevent these attacks in time before they cause damage, so mobility was important. Mobile artillery could give the Germans forces the more fire-power during the usually short engaging with the Partisans. Half-track vehicles had good mobility, better than trucks or cars, and in this case had sufficient armor to protect its crew from small arms fire. A high gun elevation would also help with fighting in hills or woods.
It is also possible that this modification was built during the fast and (somewhat) chaotic withdrawal of German forces from Greece, in the hope of better protecting the German withdrawal forces from possible Partisan attack. At some point, it was damaged (or abandoned) and then captured by the Yugoslav Partisans.
It is almost impossible to determine the exact creator unit of this modification. It could be any unit of the German Army Group E and F who were responsible for the defense of the Balkans from different Partisans faction and potential any Allied invasion in 1944/45.
Possible armored units from Greece were Panzer Auflkarungs Abteilung 122 or the Panzer Abteilung 212. Both units got orders for withdraw from Greece in late 1944 and to move mostly through the Yugoslavian territory. During these withdrawals, they often fought battles with Yugoslav Partisans and the Bulgarian forces that had earlier switched sides to the Allied side. There was heavy fighting in Macedonia and the southern parts of Serbia where this vehicle was probably captured.

In Partisan/JNA Service

If this vehicle was ever used by the Partisans and later JNA in any way (in war or as a training vehicle) it is not known. Mostly because of the inability to find new spare parts, there is a great chance that it has never been used operationally and was probably stored and later given to the Belgrade Military Museum.

The Name

There is also no information about the exact name for this vehicle, and whether the German (and later Partisans/JNA) even assigned an official name for it. In accordance with German army practice, the nomenclature and designation of such similar modifications the Sd. Kfz. 250 with (or ‘mit’ in German) 5 cm PaK 38 could be used.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, due to almost no information about this vehicle, we will never know it full operational history. It is very likely that it was built by the German forces in Balkans, possibly either to fight the Partisans or as protection for the withdrawing forces from Greece or even as a training vehicle. As there is no information available, it could be any or none of these. On the other hand, the Yugoslav Partisans did make some improvised vehicles by the end of 1944. But it is likely that they did not build this vehicle. Regardless of who made it or when and why, it is more important that it had survived the War, as many other similar modifications did not. In the end, it stands as proof of its maker skill and imagination of combining these two weapons.

The Belgrade Military Museum

This unusual vehicle can be seen in the Belgrade Military Museum exhibitions. The Museum was founded in August 1878, with the first permanent exhibition open in 1904. Over the course of more than a century of existence, it had accumulated a large amount of various military exhibits and weapons. Along with other interesting and rare World War Two era vehicles, like the German Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf.F. and the Polish TKF tankette.
The author of this article would take this opportunity to thank the museum advisor Dr. Mirko Peković for helping with the research for this article.

Specifications

Dimensions L W H 3.62m x 1.91m x 1.63 m (11’10” x 6’3″ x 5’4″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 6 – 7 tonnes
Crew 2+4 4 (gunner, loader, driver, commander)
Propulsion Maybach 6-cyl. water-cooled HL42 TRKM petrol, 99 hp (74 kW)
Top speed 76 km/h (47 mph)
Maximum range (on/off road) 320/200 km (200/120 mi)
Armament 1x 5 cm PaK 38, possibly 2x 7.92 mm MG34 or MG42
Armor 8 – 15 mm
Production 1

Sources

Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu, Bojan B. Dumitrijević i Dragan Savić, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd 2011.
German Artillery of World War Two, Ian V.Hogg,
Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Alexander Ludeke, Parragon.
Sd Kfz 250 Vol. I, Janusz Ledwoch, Warszawa 2003.
Artillery and armoured vehicles in exterior of the military museum, Mirko Peković and Ivan Mijatović
Encyclopedia of German tanks of world war two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary L.Doyle.

Categories
Improvised AFVs WW2 German Improvised AFVs

Panzerkampfwagen KV-1B 756(r) (KV-1 with 7.5cm KwK 40)

Nazi Germany (1942-43)
Improvised Heavy Tank – 1 Built

Throughout the Second World War, the German Army captured hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles from countries it invaded. The same was true during the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Germans frequently made upgrades and modifications to fit their needs. This process spawned one of the larger armored vehicle enigmas to come out of the War.
This was the KV-1 that was captured and then re-armed with the 7.5cm KwK 40 gun. Not much is known about the history of this improvisation, and there is only one known photo to prove its existence.
It is not the only tank of the Second World War that was retrofitted in the field to accept a gun from another nation. Other examples include the Churchill NA 75 which was a British Churchill tank modified to accept the American 75mm Tank Gun and the Matilda II that was modified to accept the 76mm ZiS-5 gun. In both of these cases, of course, they were not captured vehicles.

The only known image of the modified KV-1.

Background, the KV-1

The KV-1 was the unsuspecting winner of a Soviet contract for a new heavy tank to replace the obsolete T-35A Multi Turreted Heavy Tank. The KV tank beat the SMK and T-100 to make it to mass production. Immediately prior to the invasion of the USSR in June 1941, roughly 508 KV-1 tanks were in Red Army service.
The KV-1 was an unpleasant surprise to the advancing Germans in June 1941, due to its excellent armor protection. The KV-1 quickly gained a fearsome reputation on the battlefield, being able to withstand point-blank shots from the standard 37mm anti tank guns fielded by Germany. Many KV-1s returned from combat peppered with dents and gouges from ricochets which had failed to penetrate its armor. However, the KV-1s made little impact on the actual fighting during the months of Operation Barbarossa with the exception of a small number of engagements. Poor crew training, poor logistical support and inept command and control meant that the Soviet tanks, including the mighty KV-1, where deployed in small packets that were easily swallowed and terminated by the better organized German units.
The KV-1 tank weighed 45 tonnes, and was powered by the 660hp V2K engine. The suspension was the first Soviet use of torsion bars, and it consisted of six road wheels, a rear drive wheel, a large front idler wheel and three return rollers. The tank had a crew of five. Soviet engineers constantly updated the tank and, between 1941 and 1942, the armor was thickened from 90mm to 200mm in places. The firepower was improved too, from the 30.2 calibre long F-32 76.2mm gun, to the 42.5 calibre long 76.2mm Zis-5 gun. The F-32 gun could penetrate 50mm of armor at 1,000m, whereas the Zis-5 gun could penetrate 60mm of armor at the same range. In 1942, this made the gun a significant threat to most German tanks. However, the gun was similar to the one on the T-34 medium tank, which was far more mobile and far cheaper to build.

KVs in German Service

When the Wehrmacht first encountered the KV-1, they were horrified and greatly impressed with its capability to take extreme punishment from the main German tank and anti-tank guns of the time. Contrary to popular belief, there were only a handful of KV-1 tanks that were ever pressed into German service. The captured tanks were known as ‘Beutepanzer’ or trophy tanks.
In 1941, the Germans had a categorizing system for those units captured from the enemy, this was an “Ebeuten” number. The number for KV tanks of all sub-types was “E I”. The overwhelming majority of these tanks were either dismantled at the roadside, or returned to the Reich for museums or testing. However, there were some KV tanks pressed into Wehrmacht service.

Beutepanzer KV-1 ‘1’ of the of the 8th Panzer Division. Photo: SOURCE
The earliest known Beutepanzer KV-1s, which in the German numbering system were known as the Pz.KpfW KV-1a 753 (r) (r = Russia) were deployed in the Autumn of 1941. German changes were minimal, with most Beutepanzer KV-1s retaining the original Soviet radio and equipment, however, occasionally German radios and tool sets were issued. The most interesting German acquisitions were the two OKV-1 tanks pressed into service. The Kirov works in Leningrad had manufactured six prototype flame throwing KV tanks, with a flame unit in the hull. All were used in combat, and two were subsequently pressed into Wehrmacht service after their capture.
Between 1941 and 1943, the German army likely dealt with thousands of lost KV tanks, of which perhaps several hundred were captured in working condition. It is thought however that less than 50 KV-1 tanks were pressed into German service. A multitude of factors can explain this, from lack of spare parts, to German overconfidence in their own tanks, to the Nazi ideological doctrine that viewed anything manufactured by a Slavic race to be inferior.

German Modification

The specific model of KV-1 that this conversion was based upon was a 1942 model, manufactured at Factory 100 Chelyabinsk (ChTZ) and was probably manufactured in the first or second quarter of 1942. It was fitted with the applique armor on the nose, and on the glacis plate which increased the armor up to 200mm (7.9 in) thick in places. It was equipped with the lightweight cast turret. Sometimes, this model also carried a heavyweight cast, or simplified welded turret. Standard armament remained the same, being the 76mm ZiS-5 gun. In German service, this was designated as the Pz.Kpfw KV-1B 755(r). This modified version was designated Pz.Kpfw KV-1B 756(r). The construction work was carried out by the maintenance battalion of Panzer Regiment 204 of the 22nd Panzer Division.

Gun

The most drastic modification to this single KV was the alteration made to the main armament. The original Soviet 76mm ZiS-5 gun was removed to make way for the German’s own 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43.

Diagram of the L/43 gun in its standard mounting, the Panzer IV
This gun was derived from the 7.5cm PaK 40, a towed anti-tank gun that entered service in 1942. In 1942-43, the gun was also mounted on Germany’s main medium tank, the Panzerkampfwagen IV, replacing the short barreled 7.5cm KwK 37 howitzer. Tanks with this new armament were designated as the Panzer IV Ausf.F2. It was a deadly weapon, with a range of ammunition types. These included Armour Piercing Capped Ballistic Cap (APCBC), Armor-Piercing Composite Rigid (APCR) and High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT). The APCBC was its most deadly round, able to penetrate a maximum of 99mm (3.9 in) of armor.
At this time, the 7.5cm KwK L/43 was a rare gun, as only 135 Panzers were equipped with it. One these tanks must have been irreparably damaged in action, but retained an operable gun that was able to be cannibalized. Though the ZiS gun was removed, the mantlet was retained. The new gun was posted through the void breach first and mounted into position, complete with its coaxial MG 34 machine gun. It is unknown as to what internal modifications took place concerning the placement of the trunnions and elevation/depression gears. Being the more powerful gun, the KwK 40 was larger in the breach than the ZiS. The 7.5cm shell was 100mm longer than the 76mm shell of the ZiS, meaning the breach was also 100mm longer. Recoil length would also have been longer, meaning there was even less room behind the gun.

Turret Changes

Minor modifications were also made to the turret. A salvaged commander’s cupola from either a Panzer III or Panzer IV (It is unclear which one it is) was added atop the turret. This was not added over the original commander’s hatch at the rear of the turret. A new hole was cut in the roof towards the right front of the turret, and the cupola added above it. This cupola gave the commander far better visibility, allowing him to spot targets, navigate terrain and observe friendly units easier.
On the left, an air filter was added, with a cover salvaged from a T-34.

But, Why?

A great deal of time was spent theorizing this matter by both authors of this article. The conversion of just this one vehicle would have been time and resource consuming. Other vehicles that were modified in such a way, such as the Churchill NA 75 and Matilda II with ZiS-5 which are mentioned in the introduction, had a designed purpose. The idea behind the Churchill NA 75 was to make use of guns from wrecked tanks, and give the poorly armed Churchill more Anti-Armor and High-Explosive firepower. The same was true for the Matilda, the original 2-Pounder gun of which was considered useless by the Soviets.
This KV, however, seems to lack any recorded intention. The German 7.5cm KwK 40 was a much better gun than the Soviet ZiS-5 76mm. At 1000 meters, the ZiS could only penetrate 61mm of armor, at the same distance, the 7.5cm could punch through 82mm. Ammunition may also have been a factor, as it would’ve been far easier for the Germans to resupply with 7.5cm ammunition than 76mm ammunition.
These are the only practical advantages of adding this gun to the KV. The KV, at this time, was one of the best heavy tanks in the war, and as already discussed, the Germans already had a number of captured examples in their arsenal. It may be that this was intended as somewhat of an ‘Anti-KV’ or ‘Anti-T-34’ vehicle. The Soviets’ own 76mm Gun could not penetrate the front of a standard KV-1 (without 200mm armor) or T-34 at 1000m. The German 7.5cm could handle both. Putting this gun on a chassis the 76mm could not penetrate would prove deadly to any Soviet vehicle facing it.
There is, however, an element of redundancy in the project worth highlighting. At the time this vehicle was built, German vehicles such as the Panzer IV (with long 75mm), Panzer V Panther, Panzer VI Tiger, and Panzerjager Tiger (P) were appearing. All of these, while still teething, were adequately armed so that the armor on the T-34 and KV-1 did not provide the advantage they had. With the 8.8cm gun or high velocity 7.5cm gun both the T34 and KV-1 were much more vulnerable.
The most logical conclusion as to why this KV was modified in this way is therefore that it was simply a culmination of spare parts and ingenuity.
This KV was apparently active at Kursk, but further details of this are scarce.

An article by Mark Nash and Frankie Pulham

Specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 5.8 x 4.2 x 2.32 m (19.2×13.78×7.61 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 45 tonnes
Crew 4 (commander, driver, 2 gunners)
Propulsion V12 diesel V2, 600 bhp (400 kW)
Maximum Speed 38 km/h (26 mph)
Range (road/off road) 200 km (140 mi)
Armament 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43
2x DT 7.62 mm machine-guns 1x MG 34 7.92mm machine gun
Armor 30 to 100 mm (1.18-3.93 in)
Total Convered 1

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Panzer Tracts No.19-2 – Beutepanzer – British, American, Russian and Italian Tanks Captured From 1940 to 1945, Thomas L. Jentz & Werner Regenberg
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #17: KV-1 & 2 Heavy Tanks 1939-45
Frontline Illustrated, History of the KV Tank, Part 1, 1939-1941, M Kolomiets.
beutepanzer.ru


The Panzerkampfwagen KV-1B 756(r) with added 7.5cm KwK 40. Illustrated by Tank Enyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

8cm Schwerer Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR 35(f) 

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1942)
Heavy Mortar

Captured Renault AMR 35 tanks

In German Army service, the few French Army Renault AMR 35 (Auto Mitrailleuse de Reconnaissance) tanks that were captured were given the official designation of Panzerspähwagen VM 701(f). They were used for training and police duties in occupied countries.

German 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(35f) self-propelled mortar
German 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(35f) self-propelled heavy mortar.
A variant called the 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(35f) self-propelled heavy mortar (abbreviated to 8cm Granatwerfer auf PSW AMR 35(f)) was fitted with an 81 mm (3.19 in) GW-34 heavy mortar in an open topped armored fighting compartment. The turret of the tank had been replaced with a lightly armored superstructure of riveted construction that enclosed the fighting compartment. The top and rear were left open. The armor plate used on the front of the superstructure was 13 mm thick set at a 15 degree angle. The sides were also 13 mm thick set at a 40 degree angle.
The fighting compartment included the space formerly occupied by the turret and the space above the engine compartment at the rear of the chassis. The mortar was mounted at the front to fire forward. The front of the compartment was not separated from the driver’s position. The crew had to enter it from the rear.
The 81 mm mortar tube rested on a base plate bolted to the top of the engine compartment. The bipod retained the normal cross-levelling, elevating and traversing mechanism, but the legs had been extended and were attached to a rack and pinion mechanism which permitted additional elevation, traverse and leveling adjustment. The mortar was equipped with a collimator mortar sight RA35.

Links

On Wikipedia
GBM, Histoire & Collection, about WW2 French tanks
On Chars Français (many photos)

Specifications

Dimensions 3.84 x 1.76 x 1.88 m (12.6 x 5.77 x 6.17 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5 tons
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion Renault Reinastela 6-cyl, 84 hp
Speed 65 km/h (50 mph)
Suspension Horizontal coil springs
Range/fuel capacity 225 km (139 mi)/128 l (33.81 gal)
Armament 81 mm (3.19 in) heavy mortar
Armor (max) 13 mm (0.51 in)
Total production Not known

AMR-35
AMR 35 ZT-1 equipped with a heavy 13 mm (0.51 in) Hotchkiss machine gun with 1250 rounds. Fitted with the AVIS-2 turret, 80 built.
8cm Schwere Granatwerfer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(f).
A rare German battlefield conversion, 8cm Schwere Granatwerfer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(f) self-propelled heavy mortar.

Gallery

Front view of the 8cm Granatwerfer auf PSW AMR 35(f)
Front view of the 8cm Granatwerfer auf PSW AMR 35(f). It is being inspected by a soldier for the US. 3rd Army as it was found in their area. A report on the vehicle was sent back to America.
8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspahwagen AMR(35f) 
The mortar fixing points inside the 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspahwagen AMR(35f)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

12.2cm FK(r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 1 built

Armored Trains

During World War Two, Polish, Soviet, German and British armed forces used armored trains. Germany had 21 armored trains in 1942, 29 in 1943, 44 in 1944 and 55 in 1945. The Soviets had a lot more including captured Polish armored trains.
The locomotive would be covered in protective armor plate and pull artillery wagons fitted with howitzers, anti-aircraft wagons bristling with flak guns for self-defence, anti-tank wagons with tank turrets mounted on top of an armoured coach, command and assault wagons to carry troops plus at the back a flat-bed tank transporter with ramps. The tanks could dismount from the train when needed and take the battle to the enemy by out flanking them or using direct assault under the cover of supporting fire from the train.
On 8th September 144 German Army PZ32 armored train was captured in St Berain, France.
On 8th September 1944, the German Army PZ32 armored train was captured in St Berain, France. Most German armored trains were on the Eastern Front.

The Lorraine 37L

During WW1, the French and British Army needed a way to transport ammunition and supplies to the front line. Men and horses were getting killed and injured from small arms fire and exploding shell fragments. Tracked armored supply vehicles were developed. This vehicle was developed by the Lorraine company in 1937 as a replacement for the smaller Renault UE. It could transport a heavier load and was faster than the Renault UE. Production began in January 1939. By the time France surrendered in 1940, a total of 432 Lorraine 37L armored supply tractors had been produced.
A Lorraine 37L tractor
The Chenillette Lorraine 37L armored tractor unit was designed to transport ammunition and supplies to the front line.

The 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) and Marder I SPGs

After the surrender of France in 1940, a lot of French Army military equipment was taken into operational use by the Germans. Some of the French tanks and armored tractors, like the Lorraine 37L, were converted into self-propelled guns. These vehicles would be able to keep up with the Panzer Divisions. There were two main types of self-propelled guns in the German Army during WW2.
One, like the Marder I, was fitted with an anti-tank gun and the other with an artillery howitzer, like the 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery gun. A vehicle fitted with an artillery howitzer was called a ‘Geschützwagen’ abbreviated to ‘GW’, which is literally translated as a ‘gun vehicle’. The word ‘Schlepper’ means tractor. The letter (f) indicates that the SPG’s chassis was French.

The 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f)

This vehicle was also built around a captured Lorraine 37L. It was used on the PZ32 German armored train in France. It would be at the end of the train on a flat-bed tank transporter wagon that had ramps. The driver would reverse the 12.2cm FK (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPG up the ramps and onto the wagon.
Many observers have claimed that it was used as an anti-aircraft gun because in many photographs the gun barrel was pointed up into the sky. It was never used to try and shoot down aircraft. It was a long range artillery gun designed to deliver high explosive HE shells great distances.
The gun was fixed into position. It was not in a turret that could turn to face the enemy. It had a limited traverse left and right. It was envisaged that when the train got to the battlefield the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPG would be driven off the train, down the rear ramps and moved to face the direction of the target.
It could be used in direct fire mode at targets the crew could see, but more commonly it was used for indirect fire at targets plotted on a map. It was not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. It was a motorized artillery gun that could fire HE shells over the heads of friendly troops. Most targets would have been given to the crew as map grid references by forward observation officers or infantry units under attack.
Quite often, the gun crew could not see where their shells landed, as the target was so far away. They would have to rely on the forward observer to tell them if adjustments had to be made.

New Build or Battlefield Conversion?

The origins of the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) self-propelled artillery gun are not known. Was a Soviet 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer M1938 (M-30) used to replace the gun in a Marder I anti-tank SPG or a 10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery gun? Was this vehicle a one off new build?
A company called Alkett, based near Berlin, built the first 10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery guns in 1942. German Army engineer Major Alfred Becker worked with the company to create these conversions.
The following year, he was in Normandy at the head of a Baukommando, a construction command unit. Becker’s men, engineers and mechanics converted more Lorraine 37L tractors into self-propelled artillery gun by fixing 10.5cm leFH-18/40 howitzers onto the top of these vehicles.
The design of the fighting compartment was slightly different on each version. By comparing photographs of the Becker and Alkett built SPG with the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) it can be seen that major work was done on the top section of the upper armor.
It looks like the original vehicle was an Alkett built 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f), as the upper and lower armor joints of the fighting compartment are low down. That joint on the Becker built vehicles was much higher.
However, where the fighting compartment upper side armor plates meet the front plates the joint angle is forward not backward as on the Alkett build.
Was it a converted Marder I which was also built on a Lorraine 37L chassis? There was no forward gun lock on this SPG as there was on the Marder I. The angle of the joint between the upper front and side armor was the same unlike on the 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f).
The author of the German book ‘Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht’, Walter J.Spielberger, had the benefit of an interview with Major Becker after the war and access to all the original documents. There is only one small paragraph about this vehicle in the book.
It does say that only one vehicle was built with a 12,2cm Kanone (r) on a Lorraine-Schlepper tractor. It does not say that the Soviet gun replaced a 10.5cm leFH 18 gun or a 75 mm Pak 40 L/46 gun. This vehicle could have been a new build rather than a battlefield conversion of an existing self-propelled gun.

The 122 mm howitzer M1938 (M-30)

Between 1939 and 1955, Soviet factories produced 19,266 of these artillery howitzers. They were developed by the design bureau of Motovilikha Plants, headed by F.F.Petrov, in the late 1930s. It was used as a towed divisional artillery piece during WW2.
The Finish and German army reused captured guns. The German Army gave them the designation 12.2 cm s.F.H.396(r) heavy howitzers. Germany began mass production of 122 mm (4.8 in) ammunition for these and other captured howitzers, producing 424,000 shells in 1943, 696,700 in 1944 and 133,000 in 1945.
Soviet 122mm howitzer M1938 (M-30) captured by the Finnish Army. It is now on display at the Hameenlinna Artillery Museum in Finland
Soviet 122 mm howitzer M1938 (M-30) captured by the Finnish Army. It is now on display at the Hameenlinna Artillery Museum in Finland
The German 10.5cm leFH 18/40 gun had a muzzle velocity of 540 m/s, elevation of 45° and a range of 12,325 m. The Soviet M-30 122mm gun had a muzzle velocity of 515 m/s, elevation of elevation of 49° and a range of 11,720 m. Both guns were similar but the German howitzer had a less powerful high explosive HE shell and its smaller maximum elevation made it less effective against dug-in troops.
The howitzer was designed to fire high explosive and smoke shells. In May 1943, a 122mm High Explosive Anti-Tank HEAT round became available. It only had a range of 2,000 m and the muzzle velocity was reduced to 335 m/s. This was meant for self-defence. This gun was an artillery howitzer not a high velocity anti-tank gun.

The Train – 1964 Film

‘The Train’ was a Hollywood movie starring Burt Lancaster and the PZ32 armored train that was captured in St Berain, France. The story is set in 1944, a German colonel loads a train with French art treasures to send to Germany. The Resistance must stop it without damaging the cargo. The 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) self-propelled gun can be seen at the rear of the train. It is not known what happened to the train or the SPG after filming had finished.
An article by Craig Moore

Specifications

Dimensions (L,W,H) 4.22 (without gun) x 1.57 x 2 m (13’10” x 5’2″ x 6’7″)
Total weight, battle ready 7.7 tons
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Type 135 Delahaye 6 cylinder inline petrol engine, 70 hp at 2800 rpm
Fuel capacity 144 litres
Top speed 35 km/h (22 mph)
Operational range (road) 137 km (85 miles)
Armament Soviet 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer M1938 (M-30) – 12.2cm sFH 396(r)
Armor (chassis) Front 9 mm (0.35 in), cast nose 12 mm (0.47 in), sides 9 mm(0.35 in), rear 9 mm(0.35 in)
Total production 1

Sources

Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht by Walter J. Spielberger
Armored Trains by Steven J Zaloga
Steve Osfield collection

122cm_fk_auf-gw_lorraine_schlepper-f
German Army 12.2cm FK (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schleppe(f) self-propelled artillery gun.

Which one was the donor vehicle?

Or was it a new build?

10,5cm le FH18(Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen 39H(f), sand livery
10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (Alkett version)
10,5cm le FH18(Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen 39H(f), sand livery
10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery gun. (Baukommando Becker version)
10,5cm le FH18(Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen 39H(f), sand livery
7.5cm Pak 40/1 auf Geschutzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) Sd.Kfz.135 – Normandy, 1944 Marder I

Gallery

12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) on the back of an armoured train flat truck with ramps
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) on the back of an armored train flat truck with ramps.
The ramps at the end of the armored railway wagon would allow the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) SPG to be deployed on the ground to fire at long range targets
The ramps at the end of the armored flat-back railway wagon would allow the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) SPG to be deployed on the ground to fire at long range targets.
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2 cm artillery gun spg
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
Abandoned German armored train, Mutzich station, Alsace, France end of 1944
German armored train with the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG at the rear at Mutzich station, Alsace, France.
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War
German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War

By Craig Moore

One towed artillery gun required a team of six horses and nine men. WW2 German engineers came up with the idea of mounting an artillery gun on top of a tank chassis. This new technology reduced the amount of resources required to deploy one artillery gun. Artillery self-propelled guns only needed a four or five man crew. They could also be made ready to fire more quickly. This book covers the development and use of this new weapon between 1939 and 1945. One type was successfully used in the invasion of France in May 1940. More were used on the Eastern Front against Soviet forces from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

Infanterie PzKpfw MK II 748(e) “Oswald”

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1942)
Training vehicle – 1 built

Introduction

During the early stages of World War II, the rampaging Wehrmacht began running into some hardened British steel among the softer skinned Crusaders and Vickers Lights. This was of course, the famous Queen of the Desert, Infantry Tank Matilda Mk.II, and nothing short of an 88 mm cannon would stop one.
Witnessing this excellent, unyielding armor first hand, the Wehrmacht were more than happy to capture any operational Matildas for themselves.

In fighting in France and North Africa, some of the captured Matildas were turned on their original operators. A tank under the name of “Dreadnought” is one such vehicle frequently seen in photographs from the time.
A few of the vehicles were sent back to Germany for analysis. This practice of sending captured equipment back to HQ was the norm in all armies. The tanks were mostly used for training purposes in their standard configuration, but one vehicle, previously identified as No. 111, was converted into the 5cm KwK 38 L/42 auf Infanterie Panzerkampfwagen MK II 748(e).
The letters Kwk were an abbreviation for the German word Kampfwagenkanone (Combat vehicle gun – Tank gun) It was nicknamed “Oswald” by its operators.
V2iJvy1
Here “Oswald” can be seen taking part in training exercises, note the name “Oswald” on the fender. Source: – beutepanzer.ru

Oswald

The conversion of the “Oswald” was caused by the Hochsee-Lehrkommando (High Seas Instructional Command). For a time, it was trained on in it’s original form. It later underwent some modifications. The tank’s hull and power plant remained the same as the standard Matilda II.
The major modification was the removal of the 2 pounder main armament and the turret, being replaced with the 5cm KwK 38 anti-tank gun. The gun is thought to have come from an irreparable Panzer III. It was pivot-mounted, protected by a specially hand-made shield which went over the weapon’s standard gun shield. Two 7.92 mm MG 15s were mounted atop this.
Infanterie PzKpfw MK II 748(e) Oswald transporting troops during a training exercise
Infanterie PzKpfw MK II 748(e) Oswald transporting troops during a training exercise
Quite why the turret was changed out is unknown, it is quite possible that the supply of 2-Pounder ammunition ran out and, for obvious reasons, it was easier to resupply with 5 cm shells. Also, the extremely tight turret of the Matilda would’ve made it ill-suited to training purposes. The open space the modification granted would’ve made training, and guidance of the training, a lot easier.
The only other modifications were cosmetic. It was repainted in German camouflage and markings. The name “Oswald” was stenciled onto the track guard above the front left idler-wheel.

Infanterie_PzKpfw_MK-II-748(e)_Oswald
Rendition of the Oswald
Matilda_KwK_38
Oswald on the back of a PiLaBo.41, No. 504, during training exercises. Source: – beutepanzer.ru

Training in the Wehrmacht

This particular Matilda is believed to have served under the British Army in North Africa before its capture, and bore the serial number “111”. The vehicle does, however, have raised suspension, a feature not continued after the debacle in France 1940, so it may well have been captured from the BEF.
Almost untouched, the tank came into German possession at some point in 1942. It was transported back to occupied Holland. Here, it was handed over to the Hochsee-Lehrkommando in Terneuzen where it underwent its modifications. It was then used to train loaders and take part in combat training. It took part in Operation Sea Lion invasion training.

Fate

It is unknown what happened to the “Oswald”, it is possible that it was used against the allies as Holland was liberated. Destroyed in this action, or scrapped, it didn’t see much action during the rest of the war and does not survive today.
An article by Mark Nash

5cm KwK 38 L/42 auf Infanterie Panzerkampfwagen MK II 748(e)”Oswald”

Dimensions 15’11” x 8’6″ x 8’3″ ft.in (5.99 x 2.60 x 2.50 m)
Crew 3-4 (driver, commander, loader, gunner)
Propulsion 2 diesel 6-cyl AEC/Leyland 94/95 hp
Speed (road) 16/9 mph (26/14 km/h)
Armament 5cm KwK 38 L/42
2 x MG 15 7.92 mm machine gun
Armor 78 mm (3.07 in) hull, approximately 10 mm (0.39 in) for the gun shield
Total production 1 Trainer

Links & Resources

Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.: Captured American & British Tanks Under the German Flag
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #8, Matilda Infantry Tank 1938-45
Oswald on en.valka.cz (Slovak)
Oswald on world-war-2.wikia.com
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf)

nazi germany Nazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 1 built

Introduction

Troops are very resourceful and often make battlefield modifications to existing equipment. One such example was the 15cm sIG 33 L/11(Sf) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf). Only one was ever made and it did not survive the war. Luckily photographs are available to prove its existence and use in North Africa.
A Panzer III Ausf H tank chassis was used to mount the same 15 cm s.I.G. 33 L/11 heavy field howitzer that was used on 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) that had an extended Panzer II tank chassis.
15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf)
15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf)15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf) in a ‘hull down’ position. Photo:Eckbaustein
As with its baby brother, this self-propelled artillery gun also has a problem with its name (The 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) has wrongly been called the Bison II or the Sturmpanzer II: this started after the war). Some scale model kit companies, military history authors and museums wrongly call the field modification 15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf) SPG the Bison III. It was never called that during WW2.
It is believed that it was used by the German Afrika Korps Schützen-Regiment.200 (90 leichte Infanterie-Division) attached to the s.I.G Kompanie (Sfl.)708 between 1942-1943 and first saw action in September 1942.
construction of the 15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf)
Construction of the 15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf). Photo:Eckbaustein

Why was it built?

In 1941 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel needed heavy artillery to support his advancing armored divisions in North Africa. Horse drawn artillery was impractical in the heat of the desert. The logistics of supplying these animals with enough feed and water was a nightmare. Each towed artillery gun would require a team of six horses to pull it.
He demanded a solution be found. A small number of 10.5cm and 15cm artillery field howitzers were mounted on captured enemy tank and tractor chassis and sent to support the men and machines of the German Afrika Korps DAK. Some were fitted to obsolete German tank chassis like the Panzer I and Panzer II. These tanks were replaced by the Panzer III and Panzer IV as they came off the factory production line and entered service.
These self-propelled German artillery guns are some times referred to as ‘Rommel’s Funnies’. This vehicle was not designed to advance towards heavily fortified gun emplacements and blow them up whilst under heavy fire. It has only a thinly armored fighting compartment: the crew had very little protection. It was intended to keep up with the advancing infantry and tanks but remain behind them out of harm’s way and fire shells over their heads at enemy targets.
Heavy lifting gear was needed to fit the 15cm sIG 33 L/11 gun into the Panzer III Ausf.H tank chassis
Heavy lifting gear was needed to fit the 15cm sIG 33 L/11 gun into the Panzer III Ausf.H tank chassis. Photo:Eckbaustein

The 15cm sIG 33 Gun

The Germany Army Infantry regiments could call on the support of a large 15 cm caliber towed artillery field howitzer called the 15cm schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33 (heavy infantry gun). They were designed by Rheinmetall in 1927 and were formally accepted introduced into the German military in 1933, hence the designation 33. This long name was shortened to 15 cm sIG 33 or 15 cm s.I.G. 33. About 4,600 were made between 1936 – 45.
This gun was not designed as an anti-tank gun. It was normally used to fire high explosive HE shells over the heads of advancing German troops at targets plotted on a map. This is called indirect fire. Occasionally it was called upon to fire at enemy positions it could see. This is called direct fire. The two part I Gr 33 HE shell was filled with 8.3 kg (18 lbs) of pressed TNT with smoke box and standard Zdlg. 36 exploder system. The total weight of the fused round was 38 kg (84 lbs).
Unlike anti-tank gun shells that came in one piece artillery shells were loaded into the gun breach in two separate pieces. The high explosive HE shell was always loaded first and this was followed by the propellant cartridge.
The rimmed brass propellant cartridge case, with a c 12 n/A percussion primer was closed at the top by a cardboard closing cap and loaded after the HE shell had been rammed home into the gun. The gun crew had a range chart that told them what amount of explosive propellant to put into the empty brass cartridge case. More was added for longer range targets and less was used to hit targets closer to the gun.
The propellant consisted of six removable silk bags numbered 1 to 6 that contained Nitroglyzerin Blättchen Pulver (nitroglycerin flaked powder) or Diglykolnitrat Blättchen Pulver (diglycolnitrate flaked powder). For long distant targets all six bags would be put in the brass propellant cartridge case. For shorter distances fewer bags would be used.
The gun could also fire smoke rounds to cover the retreat or advance of an infantry or armored column. These shells were called 15-cm Igr. 38 Nebel and weighed 38.50 kg (85 lbs) These smoke shells were identified by the white letters ‘Nb’ on a field-gray projectile. The bursting charge consisted of picric acid, and the exploder system comprised of a detonator set in penthrite wax enclosed in an aluminium container. The shell produces a smoke cloud 50 meters (55 yards) thick.
It had an effective firing range of 4.7 km – 4,700 m (2.89 miles – 5,140 yd). When firing HE shells it had a muzzle velocity of 240 m/s (790 ft/s). A good gun crew could fire three rounds a minute. The shell fuze s.Igr.Z. 23 was a highly sensitive, nose-percussion fuze with an optional delay of .4 second. It operated on impact or graze. It fired two types of HE shell, the 15cm I.Gv.33 and the 15cm I.Gv.38. For all practical purposes they were identical.
The breach was a horizontal sliding block. The gun’s recoil was controlled by a hydropneumatic chamber. The gun was made by a number of different companies: Rheinmetall, AEG-Fabriken, Bohemisch and Waffenfabrik
The gun cradle is situated below the gun barrel. It is trough-shaped and is provided with guide ways, in which guides on the gun move as it recoils and runs out. On either side at the front is a pad to receive the unabsorbed force of run-out, and between them is the expansion chamber which receives the buffer fluid forced from the buffer by expansion as it becomes heated. Towards the rear are the two cradle arms to which the trunnions are fixed. Each trunnion is provided with a cranked compensator lever which compresses the compensator spring.


15cm sIG-33 L/11_auf_Fahrgestell_Panzerkampfwagen-III_Ausf-H(Sf)
15cm sIG 33 L/11(Sf) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf) in indirect fire mode

Gallery

15cm sIG 33 L/11(Sf) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf).
15cm sIG 33 L/11(Sf) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf) with the gun in indirect fire mode in North Africa 1941. Photographer: unknown
The crew of the 15 cm s.I.G. 33 B (Sfl.) auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. H
The crew of the 15 cm s.I.G. 33 B (Sfl.) auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. H relaxing in the North African desert.Photographer: unknown
15 cm s.I.G. 33 B (Sfl.) auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. H
If you look at the rear of the vehicle you will notice a metal frame. This was designed to enable boxes of ammunition, supplies and equipment to be strapped to it. Photo:Eckbaustein
15 cm s.I.G. 33 B (Sfl.) auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. H SPG loaded with kit
You can see in this hull down photograph how the kit was stored on the back of this SPG. Water and fuel cans were put in the rear rack and spare bogie road wheels were fixed to the engine hatches and covered by the foul weather tarpaulin. Photo:Eckbaustein

Why was only one built?

When vehicles get damaged on the battlefield they are recovered by the engineers who try to repair them back behind the front line. Some times parts of an armored fighting vehicle are damaged beyond repair but the rest of the vehicle is in good working order. The Afrika Korps engineers had problems getting replacement parts in North Africa because of the sinking of Axis transport ships in the Mediterranean by the Allies.
Rommel’s forces were out numbered by the Allies in North Africa who had more tanks, artillery guns and armoured fighting vehicles. The German engineers were under pressure to repair to get as many serviceable fighting vehicles to the front line as they could. It wold have seemed logical to them that a working 15cm s.I.G heavy infantry gun salvaged from a knocked out self-propelled gun should be sent back to the front on a new chassis. In this situation they used a turret less recovered Panzer III Ausf.H tank chassis. Development of the 10.5cm ‘Wespe’ self-propelled artillery infantry gun was already started back in Germany. This took priority.

Specifications

Dimensions 5.41m x 2.95 x 2.44 m (17’9″ x 9’8″ x 8’0″ ft.inches)
Total weight, battle ready 20.3 tons
Crew 5
Propulsion Maybach V12 gasoline HL 120 TRM
(220 kW) 300 bhp
Speed on /off road 40/20 km/h (25/12 mph)
Armament 15.cm (5.9 in) leFH 18 howitzer
7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34 machine gun
Range 165 km (102 mi)
Total production 5774

Sources

German Infantry Weapons – US Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 14, May 25, 1943. U.S. War Department
Allied Expeditionary Force German Guns – Brief Notes and Range Tables for Allied Gunners – SHAEF/16527/2A/GCT July 1944
Chamberlain, Peter, and Hilary L. Doyle. Thomas L. Jentz (Technical Editor). Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War A Complete Illustrated Directory of German Battle Tanks, Armoured Cars, Self-propelled Guns, and Semi-tracked Vehicles, 1933–1945 – Arms and Armour Press
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War
German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War

By Craig Moore

One towed artillery gun required a team of six horses and nine men. WW2 German engineers came up with the idea of mounting an artillery gun on top of a tank chassis. This new technology reduced the amount of resources required to deploy one artillery gun. Artillery self-propelled guns only needed a four or five man crew. They could also be made ready to fire more quickly. This book covers the development and use of this new weapon between 1939 and 1945. One type was successfully used in the invasion of France in May 1940. More were used on the Eastern Front against Soviet forces from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW2 German Improvised AFVs

Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) mit T-26 Turm

Nazi Germany (Unknown, est.1942-44)
Light tank – 1 known converted

A mystery mismatch

The R35/T-26 is an R35 chassis with a T-26 conical turret, with a near totally unknown origin. It is, unofficially, named the “Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) mit T-26 Turm” for the purpose of this article, and for ease, R35/T-26 from hereon. There is another vehicle that can be titled “R35/T-26” – one with a round T-26 turret. This article will focus on the conical turreted version, which is likely a German field conversion, whilst the round T-26 turret version will be explored in the Vânătorul de Care R35 article.
R35s were used on the Eastern Front in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa, some as munitionspanzers, but some as security vehicles. This conversion has sparked substantial debate among the Tanks Encyclopedia team as to its origin, date, location, etc. One thing is agreed upon – practically nothing lasts four years on the Eastern Front, so the conversion was most likely done in 1942 or 1943; by which time, the R35 was generally deemed poor for even the role of munitionspanzer. However, the more believable theories place this vehicle in mid/late 1944.
Renault R35 T-26 bigger background
The only known photo of this conversion, having been cleaned up in photoshop (a slightly cropped version of the original can be viewed here). The markings are fairly unremarkable, and there are no soldiers clear enough to identify. The background and scenery is also fairly difficult to identify, not least because it is out of focus, but because it also appears very generic. It is most likely that this is an early/mid war conversion in Yugoslavia.

Context: R35s in Axis use

Large stocks of French tanks were captured by the Germans after the fall of France, and were pressed back into service with their captors. An estimated 843 R35s were captured, 131 of which were used for driver training, and in the Balkans for anti-partisan operations. Many others were converted into SPGs, and some even had parts cannibalized for armored trains, and bunkers. 124 were also used by Italian troops at Gila, 1943. Bulgaria also used 40 between 1943 and 1944 against partisans.

Theories – Origin

Details of R35s on the Eastern Front are unclear, and therefore, this R35 conversion could be in service almost anywhere at any given time after Operation Barbarossa began.
The sole photo of this conical turret version reveals little about the vehicle’s location or date. The architecture seems fairly generic, but shows a semi-urbanized area, characteristic of an Eastern European country such as the Ukrainian SSR, but it could also easily be a small town in Yugoslavia. Attempts to identify the coupe car in the background have failed, although the information that doing so would give would be minor at best. Worse still, there are no soldiers present to identify. The markings on the tank are generic – that of any typical Beutepanzer (which has ruled it out as being a Vânătorul de Care R35 prototype conversion, as Romania never used the balkenkreuz).
Thus, such a lack of evidence can only lead to broad and debatable theories. The main two issues with the theories are: “Would an R35 still be in service by then / there?” and “Would they be able to get a T-26 turret then / there?“. These are questions that are difficult to answer. Assuming that this vehicle is not a Vânătorul de Care R35 prototype (a discussion of which can be found on the respective article), then these are several main theories. The first two are effectively the same – a field conversion by a German sicherung division, and the third theory is that it is fake.
Theory 1. Field Conversion by 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, Yugoslavia.
The Prinz Eugen used French tanks from 1942 onward, and was stationed in Yugoslavia as an anti-partisan unit. They were heavily armed with captured weapons such as SOMUA S35s, Hotchkiss H39s, Renault R35s, and other foreign machine guns. They also had German field guns, such as the as the 10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 howitzer and 7.5 cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 mountain gun.
The Prinz Eugen is reported as having done some field conversions. According to “Tankograd German Panzers & Allied Armour in Yugoslavia in WWII” by Bojan Dimitrijevic, the division operated at least one improvised armored car, thought to be based on a commercial Morris CS8, in 1942 for anti-partisan duties (see photo below). It is, therefore, possible that the T-26/R35 is another conversion by them. Admittedly, this is circumstantial evidence, but, nevertheless, it suggests that they had the capabilities for a field conversion.
There is, however, a major problem with this theory – how the division obtained a T-26 turret. The exact turret is a conical T-26 turret. Only in September, 1944, did the Division come into contact with the Soviet offensive and heavy Yugoslav partisan attacks, where it took heavy casualties. After this, in October, the Division took part in the defense of the Kraljevo Bridgehead, fighting against more Yugoslav partisans. Some theories as to how the turret was obtained are as follows:
1. It is possible that a T-26 was captured from the partisans or the Red Army, and the tank was cannibalized for the conversion. This makes a large assumption that there was still an operational R35 available for the conversion.
2. It is possible that the turret was given to them by another unit. The 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg was incorporated into the Prinz Eugen after its disbandment in November, 1944, who were armed with Italian tanks, and it may be the case that they had a number of captured T-26s, as the M15/42s that the Skanderbeg had was generally deemed unreliable, and may have been replaced with captured T-26s.
3. A T-26 captured from the front lines may have been sent back to the rear for a minor role such as security or munitions transport at any point after the start of Operation Barbarossa. It may have made its way to Yugoslavia, where it was cannibalized for the R35/T-26 conversion.
Theory 2. Field conversion by a different unit.
Few Renault R35 tanks were still on record as being in service by 1943, even though they were probably mostly out of service on the Eastern Front by 1942. Sources vary between 58, and 47 (25 of which were with the Ordnungspolizei). The others were with Panzerbrigade 100 (which served in France), 708th Infantry Division (which served in France), 711th Infantry Division (which served in France, Hungary, Ukrainian SSR, and Czechoslovakia), and the 712th Infantry Division (which served in France, Low Countries, and Poland). The 711th Infantry Division served in Hungary and the Ukrainian SSR, presumably (but this is not confirmed) with those munitionspanzers in 1945. Similarly, the 712th Infantry Division was reformed in Poland, in late 1944. The division was totally unable to deal with the Soviet offensive, and was practically destroyed at the River Oder by January, 1945.
Again, it is plausible that either division (or perhaps any other division which used these munitionspanzers in the early/mid war) tried to increase their firepower by upgrading their munitionspanzer with a captured T-26 turret.
Yugoslavia did have 45 R35s, which saw service against the Germans in April, 1940. According to Bundesarchiv photographs, a handful of R35s were in German service alongside the 11th Panzerdivision for a few days in April, 1941, after which surviving vehicles were used by the Independent State of Croatia, a German puppet state, presumably for security duties. There is no chance that this conversion took place before Operation Barbarossa, because there were no captured T-26s available before then. Not only this, but the R35/T-26 conversion clearly has German markings – Yugoslav markings were different. Whilst 40 R35s were sold to Bulgaria by Germany, Bulgaria had its own tank markings, ruling it out as a possible user of this conversion. Some R35s that were in service with Croatia, to an unknown fate, would also have their own markings.
Theory 3. Fake
As with these little known vehicles, of which only one photo exists, the question as to whether it is a fake or not does arise. The photo is fairly bad quality, but by comparing the lighting, shadows, etc between the turret and chassis, it seems highly doubtful that the photograph is a fake, because these details line up perfectly. If fake, this is a highly professional job. Another problem with it being a fake is that it would be a fairly unremarkable fake – such professional work for something so ‘bland’ is dubious. Apart from which, the original photo was taken from a reputable online wartime photo shop.

Theories – Role

Like with many field conversions, information is scarce, owing to the fact that HQ was not necessarily informed of hasty work done on tanks, particularly Beutepanzers. The tank’s location and date are incredibly important to working out what role it would take on. However, there is a wealth of likely stories for this particular conversion, such as:
1. Designed for direct combat. It is suggested by some that the conversion was meant to fight in regular combat of some kind, whether front-line alongside other tanks, or in rear duties, such as anti-partisan/security. This would mean that the reasons for the conversion are numerous, such as the turret for the R35 being damaged, lack of 37mm munitions, or the 37mm gun being deemed insufficient, so a captured T-26 turret was mounted instead. If it were, as is most likely, made in Yugoslavia then it is more than likely that it is a security vehicle because there would be no need for any other type of vehicle until late 1944, what with the Belgrade Offensive in September.
2. Support vehicle. It has also been suggested that the tank was originally a munitionspanzer that has been converted for artillery observation purposes, with the turret being welded on and not intended to fire, because the turret rings would not match up due to the T-26 turret being larger than the original R35 turret. The overall suggestion of artillery observation is not unfair at all, as many Beutepanzers were relegated to such roles, some with improvised superstructures, such as some Lorraine VBCP-38L APCs modified for artillery observation purposes, and even the Kleiner Funk-und Beobachtungspanzer auf Infanterie-Schlepper UE(f), which was a small radio and observation vehicle based on an armored Renault UE chenillette chassis.
Both were in support of 10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPGs. However, it must be noted that these conversions were done much more professionally than the R35/T-26 conversion, but, it may be the case that this conversion was done much more hastily. Any division with artillery, such as the Prinz Eugen, would benefit from having an armored vehicle which can radio for adjustments of indirect fire.
3. Command Vehicle. The vehicle could also be a command vehicle of some kind, owing to its larger turret, which would allow better working space among other benefits. Whilst the radio would be considered a tell-tale sign of a command vehicle, all German R35s were given radios, and the photo shows a large antenna mounted on the right of the hull, which can be better seen on a scale model. According to photos, these new German radios were placed on various parts of the hull. French R35s did not have radios, except for some in the 507e Régiment de Chars de Combat, although their exact design is unclear.
The T-26 turret’s radio mount visible but it is empty, anyway. It is unclear what type of unit this vehicle would command – possibly units made up of other beutepanzers, or it could well be a very heavily armored mobile command center. This would not be the first time in history a captured T-26 turret has been used for a command vehicle – one Hispano Suiza MC-36 was given a T-26 turret during the Spanish Civil War for just such a role.

Conclusion

Practically all of the theories on the vehicle valid, but, as stated, the year and location are important to deducing its story. Evidence for each theory is, at best, circumstantial. There are no other apparent modifications to the vehicle, such as a new periscope, new fenders, etc, which could possibly indicate that it was either a hasty or unprofessional conversion, unlike the BA-10/Panzer II, which had a number of additional parts. However, there may be more, and due to the angle of the photo, they cannot be seen. Despite our best attempts at a likely story, we cannot say that one story of its origins or role is more likely than the other – and for those reasons it is highly unlikely that the true story will ever be known.
An article by Will Kerrs

Links and Sources

Prinz Eugen Balkans archive by Fraser Gray and Bruce Crosby
Beute-Kraftahrzeuge und -Panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht” by Walter J. Spielberger
Waffen-Arsenal – Waffen und Fahrzeuge der Heere und Luftstreitkrafte – Beutepanzer unterm Balkenkreuz – Panzerspahwagen und gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge” by Werner Regenberg
Trophy Armored Vehicles of the Wehrmacht” by M. Baryatinsky (Note: Russian. Title has been translated into English)
Tanks of Hitler’s Eastern Allies1941-45” by Steven J. Zaloga
Third Axis-Fourth, Romanian Armed Forces In The European War 1941-1945” by Mark Axworthy
7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen on Wikipedia
panzerserra.blogspot.fr
https://www.network54.com
https://forum.axishistory.com
https://www.militarymodelling.com
https://armorama.com
https://foum.axishistory.com (2nd page)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

R35-Mit-26_Turm
Tanks Encyclopedia’s rendition of the R35 mit T-26 Turm. The colors are speculative.
PanzerKampfwagen_35f
For comparison, a fairly typical Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) with tail, France, fall 1940.
R35 T-26 turret M1935
R35/T-26 with an M1935 turret. It appears as though it is being transported by rail along with a T-26. The nationality of the soldiers is unclear, but the vehicle has been attributed to Romania. Note: the image appears to have been watermarked.
R-35turretT-26039
A scale model of the R35/T-26 showing the opposite angle to the original photo. Colors are speculative only. The sheer attention to detail on this model is astounding. Credits: Armorama user “Panzerserra”, 2011. Available here.
R35-010
A Renault R35 in service with the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen. There appears to be a radio antenna visible on the rear of the hull just on the left. As taken from “Prinz Eugen Balkans archive” by Fraser Gray and Bruce Crosby.
German Hotchkiss H39 stuck in a ditch, Yugoslavia
Often easily mistaken for an R35, this is a German Hotchkiss H39 stuck in a ditch, Yugoslavia, circa winter 1941/2. The radio antenna can be seen at the rear of the hull on the right side. The radio antenna was closer to the front on the R35/T-26 conversion, it is unclear if location of the radio mount was standardized.
Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731 f
A column of Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731 (f)s, location and date unknown. Possibly Yugoslavia.
Vânătorul de Care R35 tank
Between 1943 and 1944, thirty-six Romanian R35s were converted by Atelierele Leonida with a high-velocity Soviet 45 mm (1.77 in) gun jammed in the turret, and were renamed “Vânătorul de Care R35”. Due to the few known photos of this rare conversion, and the fact that it has a 45mm gun, it may have confused some sources, and led them to believe that they are the same thing, when they are not.
SS Prinz Eugen armored Morris CS8
An improvised armored car that is believed to be based on a commercial Morris CS8. It was reported to be in support of, it not part of, the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen in Yugoslavia. It was also reportedly captured near Ljubljana in May, 1945. This is circumstantial evidence to suggest that the Prinz Eugen, or a similar/nearby unit might have had access to field conversion equipment necessary for the T-26/R35 conversion.
105mm-lefh-18-howitzer-lorraine-schlepper-spg
Four 155th Panzer Artillery Regiment, 21st Panzer Division 10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPGs on parade in France 1944. There are three Renault UE chenillette tracked infantry supply tractors behind them. The vehicle at the front of the photograph is a Lorraine VBCP-38L (Voiture blindee de Chasseurs Portes), an armored personal carrier modified to be an improvised artillery observation vehicle. The second vehicle is a “Kleiner Funk-und Beobachtungspanzer auf Infanterie-Schlepper UE(f)” a small radio and observation vehicle based on an armored Renault UE chenillette chassis. (Baukommando Becker converted 40 Renault UEs to this specification. They replaced the rear ammunition and supplies transportation box with a lightly armoured structure for observation and radio equipment). The larger vehicle would have been the Battery Officer’s command vehicle and the smaller one would have been used as an observation post vehicle – being small it would be fairly easy to conceal. This is an example of how beutepanzers were converted into artillery observation and radio vehicles, which is what the R35/T-26 might be. However, it must be noted that there is no proof that this is what the R35/T-26 was, and it also seems like a much hastier and cruder conversion that the ones in the above photo.
A Hispano Suiza MC-36 with a T-26 M1935 turret.
A Hispano Suiza MC-36 with a T-26 M1935 turret. This vehicle originally had a fairly large, dome-shaped turret featuring a Hotchkiss machine gun. A number of these vehicles were used by the Republicans, but were captured by the Nationalists, probably somewhere between Madrid and Seville. It was reportedly used as the command vehicle for Agrupacion de Carros del Sur.