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WW2 German SPGs

15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B “Bison”

Nazi Germany (1940)
Self-propelled howitzer – 38 built

The concept of mounting a heavy infantry gun on a tank chassis was born out of the need for providing the German infantry formations with more mobile artillery support. The 15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B was the first attempt to test the performance of this concept. In essence, it was simply the mounting of a heavy 15cm sIG 33 on the Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B chassis. It was built in small numbers but this vehicle saw extensive combat in France, the Balkans and later on the Eastern Front up to 1943.

The Beginning of Self-Propelled Infantry Support Vehicles

During the First World War, the need for more mobile infantry support artillery became obvious. In countless attacks, especially on the Western front, infantry units (on both sides) found themselves in situations where the lack of proper artillery support prevented them from capturing enemy trenches and positions. The existing field guns were often too heavy or had insufficient mobility to be used more directly during assaults.
After the First World War (in the late twenties and early thirties), the Germans developed new infantry support guns. The lightweight 7.5 cm LeIG 18 and the heavier, larger caliber 15 cm sIG 33. The 15 cm sIG 33 proved to be especially effective in combat. It had good elevation, was easy to maintain, and had excellent firepower. However, the biggest issue with the design was its heavy combat weight, which limited its mobility. This became obvious during the invasion of Poland in 1939. A solution to this problem was to mount this weapon on a more mobile platform to give it more mobility.

Side view of the 15 cm sIG 33 gun. Photo: warspot.ru
As the Panzer I tank was obsolete, the Waffen Prüfen 6 (Wa Prüf 6 – design office for armored vehicles and other military equipment) decided to reuse the chassis and mount the heavy 15 cm sIG 33 on it. In January 1940, the first prototype was built by the Altmärkische Kettenwerke G.m.b.H (Alkett) in Berlin. As this design was deemed satisfactory, an additional 37 vehicles were converted within a short time and, by March 1940, all were ready for combat operations. These vehicles, including the single prototype, would be readied for the upcoming German invasion of France in May 1940.

The first prototype 15cm sIG 33 (Sf) Ausf. Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B during some field testing in held in somewhere in Germany in spring of 1940. Photo: warspot.ru
The official name of this vehicle was ‘15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B’, though in some sources ‘15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen I Ausf. B’ is used. The abbreviation ‘Sf’ stands for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’, which can be translated as ‘self-propelled’. Additionally, the name ‘Bison‘ is often associated with this vehicle. Many other German WW2-era vehicles acquired similar wrongly attributed nicknames in the post-war era (like ‘Hetzer’ or ‘Gepard’), which were never used by the Germans during the war. Sturmpanzer I’ is another false name, given in the incorrect belief that the vehicle was designed to be used as a direct firing support weapon, which did occasionally happen but was not its primary purpose, due to the low armor thickness and the fact that is was not fully protected.
Note: For the sake of simplicity only, this article will use the sIG 33 auf Pz. I name, although this is not an official name.

15 cm schweres Infanterie-Geschütz 33 (15 cm sIG 33)

The 15 cm s IG 33 was designed in 1927 primarily for use as an infantry support weapon. With a total weight of approximately 1.700 kg, it was one of the heaviest guns ever to be used for such a purpose. It was a reliable and robust gun that was easy to build and required very little maintenance.
In terms of construction, it was quite a conventional design: a two-wheeled carriage (the wheels were made from pressed metal and fitted with solid rubber tyres when intended for motorised towing) and the older type of box-trail equipped with a hydropneumatic recoil system placed under the gun barrel. The gun possessed a high elevation and used a horizontal sliding-block breech mechanism. To help counteract the muzzle weight, two spring balancing-presses (one on both sides) were installed.
The elevation was -4° to +73° with an 11° traverse. Muzzle velocity was between 240-280 m/sec depending on the type of ammunition used. Maximum firing range was 4,700 m. The standard HE ammunition used was the 15 cm l Gr 38 Nb (38-40 kg). Rate of fire was low, at only 2 to 3 rounds per minute. This was due to the heavy weight of the shells and the use of separate two-part ammunition (shell and charges).
It was considered a satisfactory weapon by the Germans, but the greatest issue was its weight. It would remain in use throughout the whole of World War II, in both its original form and as the main weapon of many German self-propelled guns.

Construction

For the sIG 33 auf Pz. I modification, the Panzer I Ausf. B chassis was used, as it had a stronger engine and was longer than the Ausf. A. The sIG 33 auf Pz. I’s suspension and running gear were the same as those of the original Panzer I Ausf. B, with no change to its construction. It consisted of five road wheels on both sides. The first wheel used a coil spring mount design with an elastic shock absorber in order to prevent any outward bending. The remaining four wheels were mounted in pairs on a suspension cradle with leaf spring units. There were two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers and eight return rollers in total (four on each side).
The design of the rear engine compartment was left unchanged. The main engine was the water-cooled 3.8 l Maybach NL 38 TR, with 100 hp at 3,000 rpm. The fuel consumption was around 149 l at 100 km. The gearbox (ZF Aphon FG 31) had five forward and one reserve speed.
While the chassis remained unchanged, the original superstructure and turret were completely removed. In their place, a simple three-sided (open from the back and the top) box-shaped armored superstructure was added for crew protection. The upper front part of this new compartment was open (U-shaped) to allow the gun to be placed there. Besides the front armored plate, the gun shield also protected the crew. The rear sections of the two side walls could, if needed, be opened to provide the crew with more working room and some protection during ammunition resupplies. Three observation ports were incorporated into this armored box: two at the sides and one at the front left side.

The rear sections of the two side walls could, as seen here, be opened to provide the crew with more working room and some protection during ammunition resupplies. This vehicle belongs to the 1st Panzer Division (702nd company), seen here somewhere in France in 1940. Photo: warhistoryonline
The unchanged Panzer I Ausf. B chassis had 13 mm of all-around armor, while the floor and hull roof were 6 mm thick. The new box shaped superstructure was 10 mm thick on all three sides. It was built by a combination of riveted and welded plates.

It was quite common among the Bison crews to paint names on the vehicle’s outer armor. This one had the name Edith painted on the front armor. It was quite common among the sIG 33 auf Pz. I crews to paint names on the vehicle’s outer armor. This one had the name Edith painted on the front armor. These two vehicles are from the 2nd Panzer Division (703rd company), seen here in France, possibly in June 1940. It is also possible to see the changed frontal superstructure on this photograph, with the addition of an extra armored visor to the right of the driver’s position. Sources: Photo: warspot.ru
The main gun was the 15 cm schweres Infanterie-Geschütz 33, often shortened to 15 cm sIG 33. This gun was not modified in any way and was simply placed on top of the modified tank chassis. The wheels were held in place (preventing them from moving during firing) by reinforced metal plates located on top of the mudguards. The gun was also secured by a vertical pin connected to the gun tow hitch (towing eye) and a triangular shaped armored plate that was welded to the engine compartment. If needed, the gun could be easily removed, which made performing maintenance and repairs much simpler. For this purpose, on both sides of the armoured superstructure there were two oval projections. The right-hand side oval was slightly closer to the front of the vehicle, in contrast to the left side. This allowed the gun to be turned anti-clockwise and with the help of some kind of crane or a winch system, the gun could be removed without dismantling the rest of the superstructure. The main gun elevation was -4° to +75 (or 0° to + 73° according to some sources) with a traverse of 11° (some sources state 10° or 12°).
Due to its cramped interior and the large ammunition required for the gun, according to most sources, only three rounds were carried inside the vehicle. There are photographs that show that an additional fourth round was carried under the gun itself, making it difficult to spot. Spare rounds were held in woven containers. Two were usually located on the left rear mudguard and one on the right side, plus the one under the gun. It was also possible for crews to store many additional rounds in any available free space inside the vehicle. Besides the crew’s personal weapons, no secondary armament was provided for self defense. As this vehicle was designed to fire from a distance, this was not a significant issue.

Here we can see the round that was placed under the gun. In addition to this, the right round is also visible. Two more round containers (possibly empty) are held on top of the gun’s box trail. Photo: SOURCE
The weight was increased to nearly 8.5 t compared to the original 5.8 t weight of the Panzer I Ausf. B. As far as the dimensions of the vehicle are concerned, most sources often quote these figures: length 4.67 m, width 2.06 m, height 2.8 m. According to some other sources, these dimensions were: length 4.42 m, width 1.68-2.65 m and height 3.35 m.

In this photograph (from the Eastern Front 1942), what looks like four round containers can be seen, instead of two that were usually carried on this side. This vehicle was part of the 9th Panzer Division (701st company). Photo: worldwarphotos
The crew consisted of a commander (who was also the gunner), two loaders (necessary due to the heavy weight of the 15 cm rounds), and the driver. The driver’s position was on the vehicle’s left side, the same as on the original Panzer I, but the front superstructure was changed with the addition of an extra vision port on the right side. Although the driver was therefore fully protected, the remaining crew members only received partial protection from the added armor plates.
The commander, who also served as the gunner, was located on the gun’s left side. For viewing his surroundings and spotting potential targets, the Zeiss Rblf 36 sight was used. The loaders were frequently exposed to enemy fire, as they often had to move between the sIG 33 auf Pz. I and its ammunition supply vehicles due the vehicle’s low ammo count. One loader would load the gun while the other would bring new shells. The crews from the supply vehicles (usually three people per vehicle) would also help with delivering the ammunition. Because of this, sometimes the crew number is stated as larger than four. As there was little room for all of the crew members, on longer marches, the crew, with exception of the driver, were usually transported by the support vehicles (but this depended on the situation in the field). As an open-topped vehicle, the crew was also exposed to the weather. A canvas cover could be placed over the vehicle, but it limited the crew’s view of the surroundings.

Additional spare parts would be sometimes be added to the front to act as extra armor. This vehicle is part of the 9th Panzer Division’s (701st company) advance in the Soviet Union, possibly 1941. Photo: warspot.ru
Very often, additional spare parts, such as wheels and tracks, would be added to the front armor. This had a dual function; first it helped to quickly repair broken parts, and secondly, it acted as extra armor (even though this had a very limited effectiveness).

Close examination of this photo shows the vertical pin that connected the gun tow hitch to the added metal plate welded on the rear engine compartment above the exhaust. An antenna mount for a radio is also visible next to the left mudguard. It is also possible to see the crew’s positions: the commander to the left side and two loaders to the right. This picture was taken during maneuvers in 1940 and belongs to the 7th Panzer Division (705th company). Source: warspot.ru


15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen I Ausf B (Bison) Sd.Kfz.101 of the schwere Infanteriegeschütz-Kompanie 701, France, May 1940.


15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen I Ausf B (Bison) Sd.Kfz.101 of unit 704, attached to the 5th Panzerdivision.

Both illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Organization

Prior to the beginning of the Second World War, ordinary German infantry divisions contained a number of 15 cm caliber guns available in their organisational structure. For Motorized Divisions, the situation was different. For artillery support, 75 mm caliber guns were mostly used, as the 15 cm guns had low mobility and there were insufficient numbers of adequate transport vehicles.
During the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Motorized Infantry Division lacked necessary heavy artillery support. The German solution to this problem was the introduction of the sIG 33 auf Pz. I. It had enough firepower and far greater mobility than towed guns. Of the 38 converted, two were used as training (and as replacement for any lost vehicles), while the rest were used to equip six self-propelled heavy infantry gun companies (Schwere Infanteriegeschütz (Motorisiert) Kompanie, s.I.G.(mot.) Kp for short. These were numbered from 701 to 706.
These companies consisted of a command unit (Kompanietrupp) that was equipped with four military cars (with better off-road performance) such as the Kfz. 15 Horch, as well as four motorcycles (usually one with a sidecar). Each company was then divided into three platoons, each with two sIG 33 auf Pz. I vehicles, four Sd.Kfz.10 half-track vehicles (with two trailers) and two motorcycles. As there was limited space inside the vehicle, the crew and the additional ammunition would be transported in these half-tracks.
These companies also included an ammunition transportation unit (Munitionsstaffel), consisting of three 3 ton trucks, a smaller supply unit (Verpflegungstross) with one 1.5 ton truck and a motorcycle, and one maintenance and repair unit with one car and a motorcycle. In total, it comprised some 176 soldiers and officers.
In February 1941, these self-propelled heavy infantry gun companies were reorganized. The major change was the introduction of a unit equipped with radio equipment. Although photographic some sIG 33 auf Pz. I were equipped with antenna mounts and radios, this still represented a considerable improvement in communications capabilities.

In Combat

As previously noted, the sIG 33 auf Pz. I was used to equip several self-propelled heavy (motorized) infantry gun companies numbered from 701 to 706. These were allocated to six Panzer divisions which were preparing for an attack on the Western Front in May 1940. The 701st was given to the 9th Panzer Division, 702nd to the 1st Panzer Division, 703rd to 2nd Panzer Division, 704th to the 5th Panzer Division, 705th to the 7th Panzer Division and the last, the 706th, was given to the 10th Panzer Division.
During the German offensive on France, it proved to be an effective weapon but was not without its flaws. The mobility (compared to towed guns) and the firepower were assessed as positive, but mechanical breakdowns, especially on the transmission, were common, and many vehicles were put out of action because of this. For example, the 703rd company had only one operational sIG 33 auf Pz. I after the first week of fighting. Only two were lost due to enemy fire during this offensive. One of these two was hit by an artillery shell and destroyed.

Due its weak armor and high silhouette, the sIG 33 auf Pz. I was an easy target for enemy gunners. This vehicle was destroyed during the last days of May 1940 (after the end Fall Gelb and shortly before the start of Fall Rot) in Arras France. It had the ‘Alter Fritz’ name painted on its armor and was part of the 2nd Panzer Division (703rd company). Sources: warspot.ru
The effectiveness of its firepower can be seen in a contemporary German propaganda video, where it is filmed destroying a house during one German offensive action (possibly somewhere in France). This video shows that the sIG 33 auf Pz. I was sometimes (depending on the combat situation) used in a more direct support role. Due its weak armor this kind of sIG 33 auf Pz. I usage was very dangerous for its crew.
The link for this video can be found here.
During the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1940, and later the invasion of Greece, some Panzer Divisions (the 2nd, 5th and the 9th) equipped with sIG 33 auf Pz. Is were involved in these operations. Yugoslavia was overtaken very quickly (the war lasted less than two weeks), with minimal German losses. Following the capitulation of Yugoslavia, the Germans successfully invaded Greece. There is no information as to whether these units suffered any losses, but it is likely none were lost.
After a successful campaign in the Balkans, the Germans began to withdraw their forces in preparation for the upcoming attack on the Soviet Union. The 703rd company, together with other armored vehicles of the 2nd Panzer Division, was to be transported by the ships Kybfels, Laura C and Marburg from Patras to Taranto (Italy). But on the 21st of May 1941, all sIG 33 auf Pz. Is belonging to the 703rd company were lost, as the Marburg and Kybfels were sunk by a naval mine near Kephalonia island. By the end of August this unit was equipped with towed 15 cm sIG 33.

The sIG 33 auf Pz. I from the 703rd company being loaded on the ships to be transported to Italy. All six were lost when the ships carrying them were sunk by a mine. The 703rd company was not disbanded but was instead equipped with towed 15 cm sIG 33. Photo: SOURCE
All six self-propelled heavy infantry gun companies (the 703rd had no sIG 33 auf Pz. I vehicles but it participated in this attack) were ready for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941. Although the German forces did not expect any serious resistance from the Soviet Army, the first month of the invasion proved to be different from their expectations. All six self-propelled heavy infantry gun companies were heavily engaged in combat. Due to many factors (poor roads, mechanical breakdowns, combat losses etc.), the number of lost vehicles began to grow from month to month.
As only a limited number of such vehicles were ever modified, any lost vehicles were difficult to replace with new ones. However, there is proof that field modifications were sometimes made, like in the case of the 701st company from the 9th Panzer Division. In order to replace their sIG 33 auf Pz. I losses, in February 1942, two 15 cm sIG 33 and five Panzer I Ausf. B tank chassis were supplied to this unit. As this vehicle had a very simple construction, it could be easily completed without the need for complicated tools.
The last unit to operate this vehicle was the 5th Panzer Division (704th), which still listed two operational vehicles on 30th June 1943.

This vehicle from the 10th Panzer Division (706th company) was damaged and then captured by the Soviet troops. It is towed by a Komintern Soviet artillery tractor. This photograph was taken somewhere in the Soviet Union in either November or December 1941. Source: warspot.ru

Production

Only a limited number (some 38) of such vehicles were converted during the first half of 1940. Such a small amount of converted vehicles can be explained by the poor performance of the Panzer I tank chassis. In some instances, a few or possibly five, new conversions were made in the Soviet Union at the beginning of 1942.

Positive and Negative Sides

The sIG 33 auf Pz. I self-propelled gun solved the problem of the low mobility of towed artillery guns. It could engage enemy positions and then disengage, change position, or retreat to safety much faster than towed artillery. The sIG 33 auf Pz. I could keep up with tanks and motorized infantry and could provide them with fast firing support, without losing any time preparing for firing like ordinary towed guns. The firepower of the main 15 cm sIG 33 gun was considered to be satisfactory by the Germans.
The sIG 33 auf Pz. I had a very simple design, which allowed for quick and easy repairs and replacement of any damaged or worn out parts. The simple installation of the 15 cm sIG gun also allowed it to be dismounted (if the tank chassis was damaged beyond repair) and to be used as an ordinary towed gun.
Although at first glance the sIG 33 auf Pz. I performed relatively well, especially during the battle of France in 1940, many negative issues would be discovered during its service life, especially on the Eastern Front.
The weight of the 15 cm gun and the additional armor plates was simply too much for the weak Panzer I tank chassis. This overloading often resulted in many transmission and suspension breakdowns. A common problem was the frequent malfunction of the shock absorbers fitted to the front road wheels. Breakdowns of entire wheels and tracks were also common. The main gun recoil during fire was so strong that the vehicle would wildly shake and could be thrown back. This also increased the chance of damaging the chassis.
The extra weight also influenced the engine performance. Fuel consumption was high (149 l per 100 km), which resulted in a limited operational range of only 100 km (or up to 140 km depending on the source). Maximum speed was around 35 km/h on good roads and only 20 km/hr on cross-country. The ground pressure was also very high, which made driving in off-road conditions very difficult.
The high profile was a big problem for the sIG 33 auf Pz. I too, making it a good target for enemy artillery gunners. The armor was also quite light and offered only limited protection from small arms fire and shrapnel. But it is also important to note that this vehicle was not designed to be used as an assault weapon. Instead, it was intended to be used in a supporting role from a distance, where the lack of armor was not so important. Regardless, heavy camouflage and a well-selected combat position were necessary for the crew’s survival, but this was not always possible or easy to achieve successfully.
Low ammo capacity was a big issue, especially during prolonged fights, as the gun could quickly run out of ammunition, which limited its combat potential. The sIG 33 auf Pz. I therefore needed constant support from a supply vehicle for the delivery of additional ammunition, which were themselves in short supply. Moreover, the crew compartment was too cramped, meaning that some of the vehicle’s crew had to transported by these ammunition vehicles.

Conclusion

Despite its flaws, the sIG 33 auf Pz. I would become an example how the Germans would (especially in the later part of the war) reuse obsolete or captured tank chassis and combine them with the 15cm sIG gun. Later models would use more fitting tank chassis, such as the Panzer 38(t), which would be built in much greater numbers. The sIG 33 auf Pz. I may not have been a perfect weapon without any flaws, but it influenced the future development of similar vehicles used by the Germans during the war. It not only helped German designers and engineers gain experience in making similar vehicles, but also contributed towards the development of adequate tactics.

sIG 33 Bison specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.67m x 2.06m x 2.80m
(15’3″ x 6’8″ x 9’2″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 8.5 tons (17,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander/gunner, driver, 2 loaders)
Propulsion Maybach 6-cyl NL38TR water-cooled, gasoline, 100 bhp
Armament sIG 33 15 cm howitzer (5.9 in), 30 HE rounds
Armor From 5 to 13 mm front (0.2-0.5 in)
Speed (on/off road) 40 km/h (25 mph)
Range 140 km (87 miles)
Total production 38

Links $ Resources

The author of this article would like to thank Guillem Martí Pujol for providing valuable data.
German light and heavy infantry artillery 1914-1945, Wolfgang Fleischer.
Naoružanje drugog svetsko rata-Nemačka, Duško Nešić, Beograd 2008.
Twentieth-century artillery, Ian Hogg
Tank Power Vol.XXIV 15 cm sIG 33(Sf) auf PzKpfw I/II/III, Wydawnictwo Militaria
Encyclopedia of German tanks of world war two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary L.Doyle.
Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Reichswehr, Wehrmacht und Bundeswehr ab 1900, Werner Oswald 2004.
Panzer I The beginning of a dynasty, Lucas Molina Franco 2005.
Panzer Tracts No.10 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten, Panzer Tracts 2002
www.tapatalk.com

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.

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WW2 German SPGs

Hummel-Wespe 10.5cm SPG

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1944) Artillery SPG – 12+ built

The 10.5cm Hummel-Wespe Artillery SPG

There is only one known photograph of a Hummel self-propelled gun (SPG) chassis and body fitted with an artillery 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40 L/28 howitzer rather than the normal 15cm s.FH 18/1 L/30 howitzer. It was officially called the Hummel-Wespe. This name was used on the Stahlindustrie construction company’s documentation. It was also known as the 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagfen III/IV, or lichtPanzerhaubitzen (lePzHaub – light armoured howitzer) or the the Ersatz-Wespe (Replacement Wasp). The photograph was taken after World War Two during the winter of 1945/46 at Košťaty near Teplice, Czechoslovakia, close to the factory that assembled the vehicle.
German WW2 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 GW III/IV Hummel Wespe artillery SPG
Hummel-Wespe 10.5 cm le.F.H 18 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten (Artillery SPG) – Photo: Petr Dolezal and Marek Solar
The Hummel SPG used an extended tank chassis called the Geschüetzwagfen III/IV to mount the 15cm s.FH 18/1 L/30 howitzer. The engine was moved from the rear of the tank to the center of the vehicle to make room for the gun and the armored fighting compartment at the back of the SPG.
The 10.5cm leFH 18/2 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen II ‘Wespe’ (Sd.Kfz.124) artillery SPG used a Panzer II tank chassis. Production began in February 1943 and ceased in June 1944, when the main factory in Warsaw, Poland was captured by the Red Army. The German Army Panzer-Artillerie batteries still needed more self-propelled guns that could keep up with the Panzer Divisions, fitted with 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40 howitzers.
The Geschuetzwagfen III/IV was still in production and being used for the Nashorn 88mm anti-tank self-propelled gun as well as the 15cm Hummel SPG. A decision was made to mount the 10.5cm le.F.H. 18 howitzers gun used on the Wespe SPG onto the Geschuetzwagfen III/IV chassis.
The German armaments company Deutsche Eisenwerke (D.E.W) were constructing Geschuetzwagfen III/IV chassis at their assembly plant in Duisburg, Germany. Allied bombing was making production difficult. It was moved to the D.E.W plant Werke (Deutsche Eisenwerke AG Werk) Teplitz-Schönau in Czechoslovakia (now known as Teplice, Czech Republic). The building of armored vehicles for the German Army continued until the end of the war in May 1945.
Plans to fit a 10.5 cm Le.F.H 18/40 light field howitzer to the s.Pz.Haubitze Fahrgestell extended and modified Panzer III/IV tank chassis, as a stop-gap solution to send more 10.5 cm artillery SPGs on the battlefield, were discussed in a meeting on 2nd December 1944. The factory was expected to produce 40 in February, 50 in March and 80 in April. A further report documents the demand for a further 250 to be built in June 1945. That report was dated 9th January 1945.
A Stahlindustrie report dated 30th of August 1945 stated that one Hummel-Wespe artillery SPG had been built in December 1944, a further 9 in January 1945 and a further one before the end of the war, bringing the total to eleven. No German Army documents have been found that show these vehicles entering operational service or being used on the battlefield.

The anti-grenade screen

Another unusual feature visible in the photo of the Hummel/Wespe is the hand grenade protection screen that was added over the open fighting compartment on a metal hinged frame.
Hummel with wire screen
This is a photograph of an early version Hummel, not a Hummel/Wespe. It is fitted with the same wire mesh top screen to prevent grenades and mines from being thrown into the fighting compartment. Notice the large exhaust muffler/silencer box under the rear hatches. It was removed on the later version of the Geschützwagen III/IV chassis that was used on the 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 Hummel-Wespe artillery SPG.

Proposed production figures – German Archives

A GenArt (General der Artillerie) report dated 11 December 1944, kept in the German Archives, reports that documentation for the 10.5 cm Hummel-Wespe design had been signed and a production order for 250 units for delivery in June 1945 issued.Production was to start in February 5. It was intended that 80 vehicles would be completed each month.
On 10 February 1945 the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKH – Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces) issued the following instructions, ” “Due to the drop in light field howitzer (LeFH) production, delivery of the 250 le Panzerhaubitze auf Fahrgestell Hummel is no longer anticipate. Instead of the 80 lePzHaub scheduled for February only 10 will be completed, followed by another 20 in March. To compensate, production of Panzerhaubitzen will proceed as follows.”
“In parallel with the highest possible output of lePzHaub, some 50 sPzHaub (15 cm sFH Hummel SPGS) will be produced. The available 80 sFH guns from the Hummel production wil be mounted on Beutelafetten (captured gun mounts). Production of lePzHaub (the 10.5 cm leFH Hummel-Wespe) will be fixed at 200 and not 250 units.”
Due to the end of the war being close, the continued bombing of German factories and supply routes, this production figure was never meet.

Proposed production figures – Russian Archives

A German document was captured by the Red Army. It showed predicted production numbers of vehicles like the Jagdpanther, Jagdtiger, Flakpanzer, Hummel and Hummel-Wespe from March 1945 to August 1945. It was translated by Senior Lieutenant Rubinshtein into Russian and kept in the Soviet archives.
On line 345, it shows that planned production of the heavily armed howitzer, the Hummel, was for 50 vehicles: 20 in March and 10 in April, May, June 1945 with production stopping in July. On line 346, it shows that planned production of the light armed howitzer, the Hummel-Wespe, was for 190 vehicles: 20 in March and 30 in April, May, June and 40 in July, August 1945.
There was a side note that an additional 10-20 new type Hummel/Wespe would be added to the number on April and May. This would have brought the planned production numbers of the 10.5cm Hummel-Wespe Artillery SPG to 220 vehicles by August 1945. Obviously, that did not happen as the war ended in May 1945.

Czechoslovakian Army 1948-54

Surviving Hummel-Wespe artillery self-propelled guns were used by the Czechoslovakian Army after WW2. They had twelve, but only eight vehicles underwent renovation and entered service in 1948. Between 1948-1949 they were officially called “Samohybné děla so 105 mm húfnicou”. Between 1949-1954 the official designation in army records changed to “105 mm samohybná húfnica vz.18/40”. They were withdrawn from Army service in 1954 and presumably scrapped. (Source – Vojenská história 4/2009 ISSN 1335-3314, VHÚ Bratislava)
Czechoslovakian Army records recorded the original German production chassis number (Fgst.Nr) of the eight Hummel-Wespe artillery SPGs that entered their service.
German Fahrgestellnummer 84407, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R114, army registration number 79.651
German Fahrgestellnummer 84412, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R107, army registration number 79.652
German Fahrgestellnummer 340003, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R108, army registration number 79.653
German Fahrgestellnummer 84410, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R3397, army registration number 79.654
German Fahrgestellnummer 84422, date in service 20th October 1949,
Battery number R113, army registration number 79.655
German Fahrgestellnummer 84419, date in service 20th October 1949,
Battery number R109, army registration number 79.656
German Fahrgestellnummer 84420, date in service 20th October 1949,
Battery number R106, army registration number 79.657
German Fahrgestellnummer 84421, date in service 20th October 1949,
Tactical unit number R105, army registration number 79.658

The German self-propelled howitzers

The full designation of this self-propelled artillery gun was Panzerfeldhaubitze 18M auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf) Hummel, Sd.Kfz. 165. The German word ‘Hummel’ means bumblebee. This armored fighting vehicle had a nasty sting. There were two main types of self-propelled guns in the German Army during WW2. One was fitted with an anti-tank gun and the other with an artillery howitzer, like the Hummel. A vehicle fitted with an artillery field howitzer was called a ‘Geschüetzwagen’, which is literally translated as a ‘gun vehicle’. The letters ‘Sf’ stand for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’ – self-propelled carriage. ‘Panzerfeldhaubitze’ means armored field howitzer.
Self-propelled artillery guns were developed to enable fast moving attacks to have artillery support that could keep up with the speed of advancing Panzer Divisions. They could use direct fire mode at targets they could see or, more commonly, use indirect fire at targets plotted on a map.
They were not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. They were motorized artillery guns that could fire high explosive 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 crews 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.
The open-topped back design of these self-propelled guns had a number of advantages. The elevated commander’s position when standing in the crew compartment, behind the protective armored shield, meant that he had a good view on all sides. If there was the threat of enemy small arms fire, then the crew could use a twin lens range finder telescope that could peak over the top of the armored casement.
There was enough room for the crew to be transported towards the battlefield whilst protected from small arms fire and shell shrapnel. The vehicle had good mobility and could follow the infantry almost anywhere. The gun was quicker to get ready for action and fire on targets than towed artillery guns.
Putting the 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 howitzer on top of a tank chassis was a more efficient use of manpower from the traditional form of German artillery battery transportation. Even in WW2, horse power was still widely used although tracked vehicles were also employed when available. Each field gun would require a six-horse team to pull the gun and limber. The ammunition, supplies and kit would be kept in the limber, which was a very large box on a pair of wheels with seats on the top. Three men would ride on the left-hand horse of each pair to control them. The remaining six men of the gun crew would ride on top of the limber. Only a relative few were towed by the 3-ton halftracks.
High explosive HE shells came in two parts. The explosive shell was loaded first, followed by the variable charge canister. This meant that the Hummel/Wespe could only carry 18 rounds of HE. It could fire armor-piercing AP rounds but they were only effective at short ranges and used in self defense. The Hummel/Wespe was not meant to be on the battlefield front line. It was a support vehicle that provided artillery support from behind the infantry and tanks.

The Geschützwagen III/IV chassis

The powerful 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 light field howitzer was mounted on a specially designed Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig lengthened German tank chassis called the Geschützwagen III/IV. Components were adopted from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank chassis. The more robust final drive wheels, front drive wheels and steering units plus the Zahnradfabrik SSG 77 transmission gearbox were adopted from the Panzer III Ausf.J.
The Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with its cooling system, the suspension, and idler with track tension adjustment were adopted from the Panzer IV. The engine was moved from the rear of the tank to the center of the vehicle to make room for the gun and the armored fighting compartment at the back of the SPG.
On early versions of the Geschützwagen III/IV chassis, the front top of the hull had sloping armor with a raised armored compartment for the driver on the left of the vehicle. The front hull superstructure and driver’s armored compartment were redesigned in early 1944 and enlarged, covering the whole width of the vehicle. The radio operator and driver now had more space to work in. This design was used on all Hummel/Wespe artillery SPGs.
The exhaust system was also changed on the later model. It was moved from the original location below the rear double doors. The exhaust mufflers were dropped and the ends of the exhaust pipes were cut at a slant away from the tracks to avoid stirring up additional dust.
The Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis did not have a hull mounted machine gun. Crews were issued with a single MG34 or MG42 machine gun, carried inside the fighting compartment, for self-defense.
The Hummel/Wespe was designed to be operated by a crew of six: commander, driver and four gunners. They were protected by an enclosed high silhouette armored fighting compartment. Although it was open topped, the crew were issued with a thick canvas tarpaulin cover that could be used in bad weather.
In front of the driver, a metal wire grid was fixed into position to aid the driver maneuvering the vehicle in the correct fire position. These were designed to prevent grenades and mines being thrown into the vehicle as it moved through towns and cities.
A metal louvered cover ventilated the engine, but many later versions were fitted with an angled shield that opened upward. On the photograph of the Hummel/Wespe the metal louvered engine vent can not be seen on the sides of the vehicle. It looks like it has been fitted with one of the armored angled shields.
Three aiming stake poles would have been carried in brackets below the rear door. The gunner would use a large ZE 34 sight. The top lens aperture would point to the rear of the vehicle. The gunner used this aperture of the sight to locate the aiming sticks that a member of the crew had pounded into the ground at the rear at a known bearing from the vehicle, having used a compass (compasses did not work inside a metal vehicle in 1943). By lining up the red and white fire aiming stake, subtracting 180 degrees, he would be able to work out the correct bearing the gun barrel is pointing towards.
The upper fighting compartment superstructure walls were constructed using 10 mm (0.39 in) thick E11 chrome-silicon armor plates hardened to 153 kg/mm2 for protection against shell fragments. The 30 mm (1.18 in) thick front hull was made using face-hardened FA32 armor plates. The rest of the hull was made out of cheaper rolled SM-Stahl (carbon steel) that was hardened to 75-90 kg/mm2. It took 20 mm (0.78 in) thick plates of SM-Stahl to provide equivalent protection against penetration by SmK (7.92 mm AP bullets) as 14.5 mm (0.57 in) of E11 armor plate.
The early Geschützwagen III/IV chassis used the standard 1943 38cm wide SK18 track that had three smooth metal pads visible on the front face of the track. In winter some vehicles were fitted with track width extenders called Winterketten (winter track). These triangular pieces of metal were bolted onto the outer edge of the track to extend the width of the track and help the vehicle move across snow and mud by spreading the load over a larger area. They were problematic: they fractured and often fell off. In 1944, vehicles started to be fitted with the wider Ostketten (east track) to cope with the conditions found on the Eastern Front. The Winterketten extensions made the SK18 tank track 55cm wide. The one-piece Ostketten was 56cm wide and did not have bits falling off it.

The Hummel-Wespe - Illustration by David Bocquelet
The Hummel-Wespe – Illustration by David Bocquelet

Early version Hummel SPG Eastern Front Winter 1943
A regular Hummel SPG with the wire mesh protective cover

Wespe 146th Panzer Artillerie Regiment, Normandy.
A Wespe SPG with its 10.5 cm gun.

10.5cm Hummel-Wespe SPG model
A model of the 10.5cm Hummel-Wespe SPG made by Danis Stamatiadis

Hummel-Wespe artists impression of the SPG on the Eastern Front battlefield during 1945
Hummel-Wespe artists impression of the SPG on the Eastern Front battlefield during 1945 (Art work – Cyber-Hobby)
The Hummel-Wespe 10.5 cm SPG had the louvered engine vents protected by an armoured shaped cover
The Hummel-Wespe 10.5 cm SPG had the louvered engine vents protected by an armored shaped cover (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)
The front hull superstructure and driver's armored compartment were redesigned in early 1944
The front hull superstructure and driver’s armored compartment were redesigned in early 1944 and enlarged, covering the whole width of the vehicle. The radio operator and driver now had more space to work in. (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)

The rear exhaust system was removed on the Hummel-Wespe SPG. The three aiming stake poles were stored below the rear hatch doors.
The rear exhaust system was removed on the Hummel-Wespe SPG. The three aiming stake poles were stored below the rear hatch doors. (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)

Fighting compartment of the Hummel-Wespe Spg
Fighting compartment of the 10.5 cm le.F.H 18 Hummel-Wespe SPG. (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)

The 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18 light field howitzer

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.

German Army 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18 light field howitzer on display at the Finnish Artillery Museum, Finland
German Army 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18 light field howitzer on display at the Finnish Artillery Museum, Finland
The 105 mm (4.13 in) high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7 lb). The armor piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the high explosive HE projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case. Depending on the range of the target different sized bags of propellant were inserted into the cartridge. More bags were used for longer range targets.

An article by Craig Moore

Hummel-Wespe specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 7.17 m x 2.97 m x 2.81 m (23ft 5in x 9ft 7in x 9ft 2in)
Total weight, battle ready 23 tonnes (24.25 tons)
Crew 6 (commander, driver, 4x gun crew)
Propulsion 12-cylinder water cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM 11.9 litre petrol engine, 265 hp at 2600 rpm
Fuel capacity 400 litres
Top speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Operational range (road) 215 km (133 miles)
Armament 10.5 cm le.FH 18/40 howitzer
7.96 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 machine gun
7.96 mm (0.31 in) MG 38/40 machine gun
Armor Front 30 mm (1.18 in), sides 20 mm (0.79 in), rear 20 mm (0.79 in)
Superstructure front 10 mm (0.39 in), sides 10 mm (0.39 in)
Total production 10-20?

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.10 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thomas L. Jentz
Panzer Tracts No.10-1 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thomas L. Jentz
German self-propelled guns by Gordon Rottman
Panzer-Grenadier Division Grosssdeutschland by Bruce Quarrie
Panzerartillerie by Thomas Anderson
Restricted July 1944 – Allied Expeditionary Force – German Guns – Brief notes and range tables for allied gunners. SHAEF/16527/2A/GCT
Czechoslovakian Army records
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 armor WW2 German SPGs

10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 10 built (+2 prototypes)

Design and Production

The large German engineering company Krupp had been involved in designing and manufacturing ammunition, artillery, armored fighting vehicles and weapons for the German Army for many years. They had received their first order to build 135 Panzer I tanks in 1933.
In 1939, they turned their attention to the problem of how to mount a large artillery gun on a tank chassis. Their solution was to fix a 10.5cm LeFH 18/1 artillery light field howitzer on top of a shortened Panzer IV tank chassis in an open-topped turret. It was given the official designation 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb. The chassis had only had six road wheels rather than the normal eight. The six wheels were 570mm diameter instead of the normal 470mm diameter road wheels. It also only had three not four top track rollers. Krupp presented their design to the military on 14th September 1939.
Completed 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb at the factory
Completed 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb at the factory. It was based on a shortened Panzer IV tank chassis with only six wheels and not the regular 8.
The turret could not fully traverse 360 degrees. It could only traverse 70 degrees: 35 degrees to the left and 35 degrees to the right. It was not a tank, even though it may resemble one at first glance.
Two test vehicles were built. They were given the internal factory designations of V1 and V2 (nothing to do with the later flying bomb and rocket). The letter ‘V’ was an abbreviation for the German word ‘Versuchs’ which translated means trail or prototype. The German Army liked what they saw and put an order in for 10 more to be built in the autumn of 1941.
The first one was completed at the Krupp-Grusonwerk factory in August 1941, three more in September, four in October, one in November and one in December 1941. The 10 vehicles were accepted into the army in January 1942.
The first two test vehicles V1 and V2 were powered by a Maybach HL66P engine that produced 188 hp. The next ten SPGs were given a more powerful engine, a Maybach HL90 P20k 12-cylinder engine that produced 320 hp. Their chassis numbers ranged from 150631 to 150640. They were given the official designation of 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb (Sd.Kfz.165/1). This was shortened to 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb or Pz.Sfl.IVb.
Pz.Sfl.IVb artillery self-propelled gun at the crew training centre
Pz.Sfl.IVb artillery self-propelled gun at the crew training center
The turret armor was not thick. It ranged from 14.5 to 30 mm (0.57-1.18 in). It provided the gun crew protection from small arms fire, high explosive shell fragments and mortars. The open top reduced weight and allowed the commander all round vision. In bad weather, a tarpaulin was fixed over the top of the open turret. It was also used in very hot weather. When not in use, it was rolled up on top of the rear turret storage box.
The Panzer IV hull mounted machine gun was removed to free up more storage space. This vehicle was not designed to be an assault gun or anti-tank gun. It was to provide mobile artillery support that could keep up with the attacking Panzer Divisions.
It was not envisaged to be fighting on the front line. It could fire high explosive shells over long distances onto enemy targets it was given via a grid reference by forward observation units. If Soviet infantry got too close they could use their personal weapons or retreat as fast as they could to a safer location.
The gun was issued with a few armor piercing AP rounds for self-defense if they were surprised by Soviet tanks. They only worked at close range and were ineffective against the front armor of the more heavily armored T-34 and KV-1 tanks.
The commander sat at the rear of the turret on the left side behind the gunner. He had access to a range finding periscope mounted to the side of the vehicle. The gunner’s gun sight poked out above the top of the forward gun shield and armor casement. The loader sat on the right side of the vehicle.
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb
Spare road wheels were often fixed to the rear engine deck. The vehicle was fitted with six enlarged 520 diameter road wheels on both sides to cope with the extra weight, not the normal Panzer IV tank’s eight pairs of 470 mm diameter road wheels per side. In the case of damage to the wheels, they could be changed by the crew. A square jacking block was affixed to the right side of the hull just under the rear of the turret. The jack was kept on the rear track guard at the back near to it. Metal tow cables were stored around the outer turret armour plates.
Spare track links were fixed to the rear storage box at the back of the turret. A mock driver’s armoured vison slit replaced the hull machine gun on the right side of the front upper hull in an effort to confuse enemy gunners. The driver sat on the left of the SPG.
During 1942, the ten prototypes underwent trials on the German Army’s eastern test range with the Feld-Versuchs Batterie (field test battery), 16th Panzer Artillery Regiment, 12th Panzer Division. These were successful. An order for a further 200 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb SPGs was placed. They were going to be built at the Stahlindustrie in Muelheim-Rhur. The problem was building enough Panzer IV tank chassis to be converted into artillery self-propelled guns. More Panzer IV tanks were urgently required to deal with the Soviet Army’s new T-34 and KV-1 tanks.
In the meantime, the engineers realized that they could mount the same 10.5cm artillery gun on the now obsolete Panzer II tank chassis. This new SPG was later known as the Wespe. No more 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb self-propelled artillery guns were built. The order for the additional 200 was canceled in November 1942.
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb

The 10.5cm LeFH 18/1 howitzer

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.
The 105 mm (4.13 in) high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7 lb). The armor piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the high explosive HE projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case. Depending on the range of the target different sized bags of propellant were inserted into the cartridge. More bags were used for longer range targets.

Active Service

All ten vehicles served with the Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 16, attached to the 16.Panzer-Division on the Eastern Front. The Division was held in reserve during the Balkan Campaign, but took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, in June 1941.
It was used in the southern sector of the Front, advancing to Stalingrad via Lvov, Pervomaisk, Zaporozhe, Taganrog, Makeevka and Artemorsk. The 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb joined the rest of 16.Panzer-Division in late December early January. The regiment was destroyed in early 1943 in the Stalingrad pocket.

An article by Craig Moore

Sources

Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten – Panzer Tracts No.10 by Thomas L.Jentz
Panzer Tracts 10–1 Artillerie Sfl. – by Thomas L. Jentz, Hilary Louis Doyle, 2012
Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht by Walter J. Spielberger
On Achtung Panzer

Gallery


Illustration by David Bocquelet
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb self-propelled artillery gun in gray livery.
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb self-propelled artillery gun in gray livery. The gun crew have their thick long winter overcoasts on. Notice the false armored driver’s vision slit where the hull machine gun would have been.
The 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb turret had a gunner's periscope sight at the front on the right side
The 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb turret had a gunner’s periscope sight at the front on the right side. Behind that was a range finder fixed to the side for use by the commander. Tools were fastened onto the upper track guards and spare track links were fixed to the rear of the turret.
Newly completed 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb SPG at the factory.
Newly completed 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb SPG at the factory. Notice that the tow cable is stowed around the turret and spare road wheels are on top of the engine compartment at the rear.
View of the rear of a 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb
View of the rear of a 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb showing the tow bar, exhaust system and spare road wheels and track links.
The gunner sat on the left of the gun with the commander behind him in the 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb
The gunner sat on the left of the gun with the commander behind him in the 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf GW IVb
Tools like the jack, jack plate, axe and spade were strapped down to the right hand side rear track guard.
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb awaiting deployment in a forest
10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb photographed by US Army Ordenence intelligence unit at the factory proving ground.
A US ordnance team inspecting the Rheinmetall proving ground at Hillersleben found this gun less 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVb artillery SPG.

Specifications

Dimensions (LxWxH) 5.9 m x 2.87 m x 2.25 m
19ft 4in x 9ft 5in x 7ft 5in
Total weight, battle ready 18 tonnes (19.84 tons)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Prototype Engine Maybach HL 66 P 6-cylinder inline water cooled 6.6 litre gasoline/petrol engine, 188 hp
Production Engine Maybach HL 90 P20k 12-cylinder water cooled gasoline/petrol engine, 320 hp
Top road speed 35 km/h (22 mph)
Operational range on road 240 km (149 miles)
Operational range off-road 130 km (81 miles)
Main armament 10.5 cm leFH 18/1 L/28 howitzer, 60 rounds
Front hull armor 12–30 mm (0.47-1.18 in)
Side and rear hull armor 14.5 mm (0.57 in)
Front turret armor 20–30 mm (0.79-1.18 in)
Side and rear turret armor 14.5 mm (0.57 in)
Total production 10+2 prototypes

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 SPGs

10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen B2(f)

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1942) SPG – 16 built

The Giant SPG

With the fall of France in May 1940, the German Army captured a lot of French Army tanks and vehicles. They called them Beutepanzer (trophy tanks). The approximate numbers of French AFVs captured by the German Wehrmacht are as follows: 300x Panhard-178; 3,000 Renault-UE; 350 to 360x Lorraine 37L and 38L; 1700x Renault FT Tanks (various versions); 843x Renault R35; 550 to 600x Hotchkiss H-35 and H-39; 50x FCM-36 tanks; 297x SOMUA S-35 tanks and 161x Char B1 bis tanks. More than 5,000 captured French army armoured fighting vehicles were repaired or converted in French factories. Vehicle manuals were translated into German and the vehicle spare part production initiated.
One such Beutepanzer trophy tank was the very large Char B1 bis heavy tank. Many of them had been abandoned by their crews after running out of ammunition or fuel. The French Army supply system was poorly organized in 1940. Very few of these monster tanks were knocked out by enemy action.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f) factory fresh having just been driven out of the workshop doors.
Factory fresh 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f), having just been driven out of the workshop doors.
They were given the German designation Panzerkampfwagen B2 740(f) shortened to Pz.Kpfw. B2 740(f). The letter ‘f’ signified that it was a French built tank. Hitler issued a directive in March 1941 that sixteen of these tanks were to be converted to self-propelled artillery guns and used to support the Flammenwerfer auf Pz.Kpfw.B2(f) flamethrower tanks as they assaulted Soviet positions on the Eastern front.
It took longer than initially planned to convert the Char B1 tanks to self-propelled artillery guns. Lack of equipment, vehicles, guns and parts were blamed. The Flammenwerfer auf Pz.Kpfw.B2(f) flamethrower tanks went into action without supporting artillery SPGs in June 1941.
The Panzer-Abteilung (Flamm).103 was disbanded by mid-July 1941. The B2 Flammenwerfer tanks were a disappointment to the Germans. They kept on breaking down with mechanical problems. They were not reliable and could not be depended upon to get to an enemy strong point and neutralize it.

Livery

Most of the 10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen B2(f) artillery self-propelled artillery guns were painted ‘Panzergrey’ at the factory but a few were repainted in the standard late war paint scheme of sandy yellow ‘Dunkelgelb’ with brown and yellow mix.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2 in the Rheinmetall-Borsig factory with bad weather tarpaulin on the top
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2 in the Rheinmetall-Borsig factory with bad weather tarpaulin on the top painted in ‘Dunkelgelb’ sandy yellow not ‘Panzergrey’.
The following photograph ends the discussion as to what colour the 10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen B2(f) artillery self-propelled artillery guns were painted. The first vehicle is painted in the sandy yellow ‘Dunkelgelb’ and the one following it is painted in the earlier ‘Panzergrey’.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2 painted sandy yellow

Design and Production

The design contract was given to Rheinmetall-Borsig, which was based in Dusseldorf. They created blueprints for a mount placed on top of the tank chassis that could take the 10.5 cm leFH 18/3 artillery howitzer. The gun crew would be protected from small arms fire by an open top armored casement. Its armor plate thickness ranged between 30–40 mm (1.18-1.57 in) thick at the front and 20–30 mm (0.79-1.18 in) at the sides. Tarpaulins would cover the open top to give the crew shelter from bad and hot weather.
It had a five-man crew: commander, driver and three gunners. The Char B1 main gun in the hull had been removed. It was not replaced with a hull mounted machine-gun. For self-defence, a 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 machine gun was available to be fitted to the top of the gun casement. The crew also had access to handheld 9 mm (0.35 in) machine pistols.
The Char B2 tanks already had a very high profile. With the mounting of the 10.5cm leFH 18/3 howitzer on the top, it was very tall. Its height was 3 m (9ft 11in). This made it easy for the enemy to spot, so it had to be deployed behind the initial front line of tanks.
The French army radios were replaced. Some could only send messages by Morse code. Modern German Fug.5 radios, that could provide voice communication, were fitted in the machines. The removal of the hull mounted 75 mm (2.95 in) gun increased the amount of room there was available for the storing of extra equipment and ammunition.

Operational Service

Five were produced by January 1942, five in the following February and six in March. The sixteen 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf G.W. B2(f) were issued to Artillerie-Regiment 93, 1.Abteilung (1st Battalion) of the 26.Panzer-Division which was in France. The 1st Battalion had three batteries with four self-propelled artillery guns in each battery. The four remaining vehicles were issued to the HQ battery on reserve. Reports stated that the vehicle was prone to frequent mechanical breakdowns.
An Artillerie-Regiment 93’s combat strength report dated 31st May 1943 reported that they had fifteen 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf G.W. B2(f) SPGs of which 14 were in an operational condition. This report also recorded that twelve Wespe 10.5cm SPGs had been issued to the 1.Abt./Artl.Rgt.93 as replacement vehicles for the mechanically unreliable 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f) SPGs. These were then used as training vehicles to teach new tank drivers, gunners and mechanics their trade skills. The 26.Panzer-Division was sent to Italy in July 1943.
Orders had been issued to send these vehicles to Sardinia to be part of the strength of the 90.Panzergrenadier-Division. No records have been found to confirm that the fifteen remaining vehicles were transferred to Sardinia or what their ultimate fate was. The 90.Panzergrenadier-Division withdrew to Corsica from Sardinia and was then sent to northern Italy. It fought at Anzio, Rome, the Caesar and Gothic Lines and the Po River. It was destroyed near Bologna, Italy, April 1945.

The 10.5cm LeFH 18/3 howitzer

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.
The 105 mm (4.13 in) high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7lb). The armor piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4 lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two-part round. First, the high explosive HE projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case. Depending on the range of the target different sized bags of propellant were inserted into the cartridge. More bags were used for longer range targets.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters (550 yd).
A HEAT-round for the 10.5cm leFH 18 was developed in June 1940. It went into service in a large number in winter 1941/42, probably as a reaction to the T-34s and KV-series tanks appearing on the Eastern Front. There were 3 different types of HEAT-rounds, the GR H1/A, GR H1/B and GR H1/C. The GR H1/A was the first one developed in June 1940, followed by the GR H1/B sometimes in 1941 and the final GR H1/C in 1942.

An article by Craig Moore

Geschützwagen B2(f) specifications

Dimensions (L,W,H) 7.62 x 2.4 x 3 m (25′ x 7’10” x 9’11”)
Total weight, battle ready 32.5 tons
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, 2x loaders)
Propulsion Renault 307 water cooled, 6-cylinder gasoline/petrol engine, 272 hp
Top road speed 28 km/h (17 mph)
Off road speed 21 km/h (13 mph)
Operational range (road) 135 km (84 miles)
Main Armament 10.5 cm (4.13 in) leFH 18/3 howitzer
Secondary Armament 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG34 machine gun
Armor (chassis) Front 40-60 mm (1.57-2.36 in)
Sides and rear 55 mm (2.16 in)
Total production 16

Sources

Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht by Walter J. Spielberger
Beutepanzer der Wehrmacht by Alexander Lüdekes
Die Feldartillerie des Heeres in der Panzerabwehr 1939–1945 (Militärgeschichte” issue 1/1994, page 9–15) by Wolfgang Fleische.
Profile AFV Weapons 55 – German Self Propelled Weapons by Peter Chamberlain and H.L.Doyle.
German Heavy Field Artillery 1934-1945 by Joachim Engelmann
German Artillery at War 1939-45 Vol 1 vy Frank V. de Sisto.
German Army S.P. Weapons 1939-45 part 2. handbook No1 by by Peter Chamberlain and H.L.Doyle.
Panzer Tracts by Thomas L.Jentz and H.L.Doyle
Assistance of Marcus Hock and Steve Osfield

German Army 10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f) self-propelled artillery gun
German Army 10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f) self-propelled artillery gun by David Bocquelet

10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f) in Dunkelgelb livery by David Bocquelet

Gallery

Two 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2(f) self-propelled artillery guns on the move.
Two 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2(f) self-propelled artillery guns on the move. They were designated alphabetically in capital letters (A – P).
Gun crew standing next to a 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f)
Gun crew standing next to a 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f)
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f) N
The fighting compartment that surrounded the gun of 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen B2(f) N had an open top. In bad or very hot weather, a tarpaulin covered the top.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) SPG 'D' is carrying a large wooded box on the back
Notice that 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) SPG ‘D’ is carrying a large wooded box on the back.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) SPG 'D' is carrying a large wooded box on the back
Here is a side view of another 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) SPG carrying a large wooded box on the back.
The 75mm gun was removed from the Char B1 hull when the tank was converted into an artillery self-propelled gun.
The 75 mm (2.95 in) gun was removed from the Char B1 hull when the tank was converted into an artillery self-propelled gun.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) SPG N
Side view of 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) Artillery Self-propelled Gun, with vehicle identification letter N, being inspected by senior officers (Giuseppe Bianco)
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) SPG N
Front view of 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf) auf GW B2(f) Artillery Self-propelled Gun, with vehicle identification letter N, being inspected by senior officers (Giuseppe Bianco)
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.

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Categories
WW2 German SPGs

10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen Mk.VI(e)

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1942) SPG – 6 built

The little SPG

With the fall of France in May 1940, after the German Blitzkrieg invasion, all British Army Expeditionary Force (BEF) tanks and vehicles had to be left behind as the soldiers escaped back to England via the beaches of Dunkirk. When the vehicles were abandoned the British troops tried to make them unusable so the German Army could not turn them against their previous owners.
The 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) self-propelled artillery gun built on a Vickers Mk.VI light tank chassis
The 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) self-propelled artillery gun built on a Vickers Mk.VI light tank chassis
Not all their efforts were successful. A number of the captured tanks were in a repairable condition. Parts were taken from different vehicles to make one vehicle serviceable. The German mechanics managed to repair a number of British Vickers Mk.VIb and Mk.VIc light tanks.
These were known as Beutepanzers (trophy tanks) and given the official designation of Leichter Panzerkampfwagen Mk.VIB 735(e) or Leichter Panzerkampfwagen Mk.VIC 736(e). They were used for combat, reconnaissance, internal police security and tank crew training. The letter ‘e’ in brackets referred to the country of origin of the captured tank, in this case, England.
The German army needed artillery that could keep up with the tanks of the Panzer Division. A decision was made to use some of the captured tanks, including the Vickers Mk.VI light tanks, as self-propelled artillery guns and mount a howitzer on the tank chassis.
Fighting compartment showing the commander's and gunner's positions on the left of the SPG
Fighting compartment showing the commander’s and gunner’s positions on the left of the SPG

Design and Production

A German engineer called Oberleutnant Becker, who had been attached to the tank producing factory of Alkett in Berlin, organized the mounting of six WW1 era 10.5cm le.F.H.16 howitzers on the top of captured Vickers Mk.VI tanks.
The gun crewmen were protected by an armored casement that surrounded the 10.5cm leFH 16 howitzer. Its armor thickness ranged from 11 to 22 mm (0.43-0.89 in). That was enough to protect the crew from small arms fire and shrapnel fragments from high explosive shells and mortar rounds.
This self-propelled gun was not designed to fight on the front line. It was an artillery self-propelled gun that would stay behind the main assault and fire high explosive HE shells over the heads of the troops and tanks at targets given to it as grid references on a map by forward observers.
It was not an anti-tank gun, though it did carry a few armor piercing AP rounds for self-defense at close quarters. A machine gun could be fitted to the front of the superstructure to the right of the gun. The crew had their own weapons that they could fire over the top of the fighting compartment if enemy troops got too close.
The fighting compartment was open topped, it did not have an armored roof. This kept the weight down and gave the commander all round vision. The crew would cover the top with a tarpaulin in bad weather and also in very hot weather, in order to provide shade.
To help deal with recoil from the gun when it was fired, the gun crew deployed a metal support frame attached to the rear of the vehicle. It was a square shaped metal frame that was strengthened by two cross bars and at the bottom had V-shaped ‘spades’ at the bottom that would dig into the earth.
The commander sat at the rear of the vehicle, on the left side, behind the gunner. He had access to a range finding periscope mounted to the side of the vehicle. The gunner’s gun sight poked out above the top of the forward gun shield and armor casement. The loader sat on the right side of the vehicle.
Prototype under going trials at Le Harfleur, France.
In June 1940, the prototype underwent firing trials at Le Harfleur, France. The gun crew protective armor casement had not been built around the gun at this stage – Photo: Dr Werner

The 10.5cm leFH 16 gun

The 10.5 cm leFH 16 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War I. It had a shorter range than the WW2 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun. Its maximum firing range was 9,225 m (10,089 yds). As it had the same caliber as the newer leFH 18, it could fire the same ammunition. Its muzzle velocity was 395 m/s (1,300 ft/s).
The 10.5 cm leFH 16 gun abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was not fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 16 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two-part round. First, the high explosive HE projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case. Depending on the range of the target different sized bags of propellant were inserted into the cartridge. More bags were used for longer range targets.

Active Service

The six converted Vickers Mk.IV light tanks, now fitted with the long range 10.5cm leFH 16 artillery howitzer, were placed in the 15th battery of the Artillery Regiment, 227th Infantry Division. They were divided up into two platoons of three. The commanding officer was the same German Engineer Alfred Becker, now promoted to Captain, who had been involved in their construction.
The German documents refer to this unit as an assault battery. It was not used in that role. The armor on the front of these vehicles was not strong enough to take a direct hit from an enemy tank or anti-tank gun. These SPGs were used as artillery.
The 227th Infantry Division performed coastal defense and internal occupation security duties after the fall of France in Normandy, near the port of Le Havre, from July 1940 until late summer of 1941. The gun crews had time to train on their new vehicle before being posted to the Eastern Front and taking part in the heavy fighting in and around Leningrad (St Petersburg) Russia.
The 227th Infantry Division was transferred to the German Army Group North, arriving in the autumn. They relieved the 39th Motorised Corps who had been in position in the forests south of Ladoga.
At this part of the battle, the German commanders were expecting a Soviet counter attack to try and end the siege surrounding the city. The 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) artillery SPGs of the 15th Battery took up defensive positions where they could fire on the routes it was believed the Red Army troops and tanks would take. They had time to zero in their guns, so as soon as the advancing Soviet forces were spotted by forward observers, they could cover the area in high explosive HE shells.
They were temporarily transferred to the nearby 254th Infantry Division and provided mobile artillery support when they took part in the 54th Army’s offensive of the 20th October 1941. The 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf GW Mk.VI(e) were used for numerous artillery fire missions between the 23rd and 24th October 1941, firing over 200 rounds. It appears that the 15th Battery was now divided into three platoons of two guns each.
The unit suffered its first casualties. Four men including Captain Becker were wounded when the SPGs were used for direct fire infantry support. This was a role not suitable for this artillery weapon due to the lack of heavy protective armor on these vehicles.
The two 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) artillery SPGs of the 1st platoon were very active in late October. They were ordered to support the 11th Infantry Division as they attacked towards the villages of Volkhov and Pogostye. Soviet infantry surrounded the SPGs and the tank crews had to use their personal weapons and hand grenades to fight off the enemy troops.
On the 11th of November 1941, near the village of Khotovskaya Gorka, Soviet light tanks engaged the 1st Platoon Artillery SPGs. A German battle report confirmed the Soviet report that one of the vehicles was hit 16 times, but its armor was never penetrated. The tanks they confronted were Soviet T-40 light tanks of the 2nd Tank Brigade. Luckily for the German gun crews, the T-40 was only armed with machine guns.
Three men were killed on 15 November when the battery was ordered to act as assault guns whilst supporting an unsuccessful attack of the 223rd Infantry Division. One of the vehicles had to be left in no man’s land after being heavily damaged by a mine. It was recovered three days later.
The 15th Battery had fired over 1300 shells, which is just over 200 shells per gun crew, between November to mid-December 1941.
The 15th Battery conducted more artillery support fire missions during the winter and spring of 1942 as the 227th infantry Division continued to fight around the village of Pogostye.
Three of the six 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPGs were knocked out on the 16th of February 1942, when KV-1 heavy tanks of the 124th tank battalion of the Soviet 54th Army attacked German units. The 10.5cm armor piercing ammunition given to the German gun crews failed to knock out the Red Army KV-1 tanks.
The three remaining vehicles provided close support as troops moved through forest roads near Pogostyle in March 1942. They used their HE shells to destroy a machine gun nest and fire on a Soviet infantry column they encountered in the woods.
One of the remaining three vehicles was reported not fit or active service and could not be repaired after the close quarters fighting during March. The 15th Battery now only had two vehicles. They were used to break through an enemy encirclement. One was knocked out by a Soviet anti-tank rifle.
The last remaining 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf GW Mk.VI(e) self-propelled gun was destroyed by a Red Army tank of the 98th Tank Brigade as it tried to provide protective covering fire for one of the German supply routes.

The post battle report evaluation

A German Army post-battle report dated November 1941 covered the role played by the 15th Batterie, Artillerie-Regiment 227 assault gun battery in the battle of Leningrad (St Petersburg) in October 1941 near the village of Mga south of the city.
The reporting officer was impressed with the high explosive shell performance of the 10.5cm LeFH 16 howitzer over the 7.5 cm HE shells. He judged it to be three times as powerful. It was found that the two-part ammunition used on the larger more modern guns, the 10.5cm LeFH 18, could be used up to canister charge 5. This helped in dealing with the logistics of ammunition supplies.
The overall evaluation of the 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf GW Mk.VI(e) in combat was positive as it was a good stable firing platform and it had good cross-country performance. Because of these findings, more self-propelled artillery guns were built although on different larger tank chassis.

Battery markings

On some photographs taken of 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf GW Mk.VI(e) on the Eastern Front there are numbers and letters on the side of the vehicle. The letters ‘Gp’ are an abbreviation for the word ‘Geschuetzpanzer’ which translated as gun tank or self-propelled gun. The number is the vehicle identification number given to the vehicle by the Regiment: Gp 4 would be gun tank number 4 in an artillery battery of 6 vehicles.

An article by Craig Moore

Gallery



Tanks Encyclopedia’s own illustrations of the 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) by David Bocquelet.
There looks to be a machine gun mount at the front of the casement walls on the right of the main gun.
There looks to be a machine gun mount at the front of the casement walls on the right of the main gun.
227.Infanterie-Division 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) self-propelled artillery gun
The driver would sit behind the loader on the right, at the back, when the gun was fired to assist with loading the gun.
The driver would sit behind the loader on the right at the back when the gun was fired to assist with loading the gun.
10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e)
10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPG
Camouflaged 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPG on the Eastern Front
Camouflaged 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPG on the Eastern Front
A battery of three 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPGs deployed for a fire mission. Notice the tracked ammunition carrier with a trailer in the background.
A battery of three 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPGs deployed for a fire mission. Notice the tracked ammunition carrier with a trailer in the background.
10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPG in winter camouflage
10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPG in winter camouflage.
Two 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPGs in a revers slope firing position to avoid detection from the Soviet troops
Two 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e) SPGs in a revers slope firing position to avoid detection from the Soviet troops.
10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e)
Beutepanzer SPG conversion 10.5cm LeFH 16 auf Geschutzwagen Mk.VI(e)

Specifications

Dimensions (LxWxH) 4 m x 2.08 m x 2.26 m
(13ft 1in x 6ft 10in x 7ft 3in)
Total weight, battle ready 6.5 tons
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loaders)
Propulsion Meadows 6-cyclinder gasoline/petrol engine, 88 hp
Top road speed 35 mph (56 km/h)
Off road speed 25 mph (40 km/h)
Operational range (road) 125 miles (200 km)
Main Armament 10.5cm (4.13 in) leFH 16 Howitzer
Armor (chassis) Front 4 – 14 mm (0.16-0.55 in)
Total production 6

Sources

Beutepanzer unterm Balkenkreuz by Dr. Werner
Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht by Walter J. Spielberger
Warspot.ru by Vyachevlav Mosunov
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 SPGs

10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f)

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942) SPG – 12 built

The German self-propelled howitzers

There were two main types of self-propelled guns in the German Army during WW2. One was fitted with an anti-tank gun and the other with an artillery howitzer, like the 10.5cm leFH 18 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) self-propelled gun. The vehicle fitted with the artillery howitzer was called a ‘Geschuetzwagen’, which is literally translated as a ‘gun vehicle’. The letters ‘SF’ stand for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’ – self-propelled carriage. The letter (f) indicates that the chassis was of French origin.
Recently manufactured 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf.) auf GW FCM 36(f)
Recently manufactured 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf.) auf GW FCM 36(f) in factory fresh condition.
Improvised self-propelled artillery guns were developed to enable fast moving attacks to have artillery support that could keep up with the speed of advancing Panzer Divisions. They could use direct fire mode at targets they could see or, more commonly, use indirect fire at targets plotted on a map.
They were not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. They were motorized artillery guns that could fire high explosive 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 crews 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.
The open-topped back design of these self-propelled guns had a number of advantages. The elevated commanders position when standing in the crew compartment, behind the protective armored shield, meant that he had a good view on all sides. If there was the threat of enemy small arms fire, then the crew could use a twin lens range finder telescope that could peak over the top of the armored casement.
There was enough room for the crew to be transported towards the battlefield whilst protected from small arms fire and shell shrapnel. The vehicle had good mobility and could follow the infantry almost anywhere. The gun was quicker to get ready for action and fire on targets than towed artillery guns.
They were cheaper and faster to build than a new vehicle. They used the chassis of an obsolete captured French tank and an existing artillery howitzer.
Putting the 10.5cm leFH 18 howitzer on top of a captured French FCM 36 tank chassis was a more efficient use of manpower from the traditional form of German artillery battery transportation. Even in WW2, horse power was still widely used although tracked vehicles were also used when available.
Each field gun would require a six-horse team to pull the gun and limber. The ammunition, supplies and kit would be kept in the limber, which was a very large box on a pair of wheels with seats on the top. Three men would ride on the left hand horse of each pair to control them. The remaining six men of the gun crew would ride on top of the limber. Only a relative few were towed by the 3 ton halftracks.
10.5cm leFH 16 auf GW FCM 36(f) awaiting the gun shield to be fitted in the factory workshop run by Major Becker
10.5cm leFH 16 auf GW FCM 36(f) awaiting the gun shield to be fitted in the factory workshop run by Major Becker

The German FCM 36 artillery SPG

The total amount of 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) built has not been confirmed. Some say only eight, whilst other sources say 12 or even 48. At present there is no documentary evidence to confirm the exact number. The reason why eight is the preferred number is because of a photograph taken inside the tank conversion factory workshop that shows six 10.5cm gun barrels on the floor waiting to be hoisted onto the new built SPG gun mounts and in the background there are two FCM 36 tank based artillery SPGs already fitted with their gun barrels.
There is good evidence that 12 were produced as German Army orders show eight being sent to an Artillery Battalion 31st October 1942 and later four more being sent to the same unit in early 1943.
There were a few disadvantages of an open topped vehicle. The crew was exposed to the elements and were also at risk of injury from enemy thrown hand grenades, mortars and shrapnel from air burst enemy shells. Rain covers were produced. They covered both the crew compartment and the gun. The canvas was attached to the upper protective armour using the small D shaped rings welded to the upper part of the structure.
Because the French FCM 36 tank chassis was small, there was limited space for the storage of ammunition. Only thirty six 10.5 cm HE two part shells could be carried. The propellant charges were kept on the left of the vehicle whilst the projectile shells were stored on the right.
A MG 34 machine gun was attached to top right side of the armor casement, on a swivel mount to the right of the main gun. 50 round drums of spare ammunition were stored underneath the mount. It fired 7.92 mm (0.31 in) bullets.
Only 100 French built FCM 36 tanks were completed by the time of the German invasion of France in May of 1940. In early 1939, the French Army 4e and 7e Tank Battalions were equipped with 50 tanks apiece. After the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939, the two battalions were consolidated under the banner of the 503e French Second Army reserve. The FCM 36 tanks saw active service when they attempted to counter the growing German presence at a bridgehead being set up along the Meuse River at Sedan
With the fall of France, it is believed that roughly 50 FCM 36 tanks remained in operational service. The Germans decided to use some of these French tanks to help strengthen their occupation forces around France. These captured tanks were known as Beutepanzers, trophy tanks. Thirty seven were used as tanks and give the German Army designation of Panzerkampfwagen FCM 737(f). The letter “f” indicate that the tank was of French origins. Ten FCM 36 tank chassis were used to mount 7.5cm PaK anti-tank guns. These tank destroyers were known as the Marder I.
It is not clear if Panzerkampfwagen FCM 737(f) tanks were withdrawn from internal security patrols and converted into self-propelled artillery and anti-tank guns or if the chassis came from knocked out or abandoned FCM 36 tanks that were recovered or captured on the battlefield .
10.5cm leFH 16 gun barrels awaiting hoisting into the new gun mounts on top of the modified FCM 36 tanks
Six 10.5cm leFH 16 gun barrels awaiting hoisting into the new gun mounts on top of the modified FCM 36 tanks. Two have already been fitted. This is why some sources say only eight 10.5cm le.F.H.16 auf GW FCM SPGs were built. Other documents state that 12 were built.

The 10.5cm gun

The 10.5 cm leFH 16 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War I. It had a shorter range than the WW2 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun. As the it had the same caliber as the newer leFH 18, it could fire the same ammunition. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. The number 16 refers to 1916, the year it was introduced into the Imperial German Army. They were produced by the German weapons manufacturer Krupp.
German 10.5cm LeFH 16 Howitzer preserved in a park, North Baltimore Street, Kirksville, MO, USA
German 10.5cm LeFH 16 Howitzer preserved in a park, North Baltimore Street, Kirksville, MO, USA
It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.
The 105 mm high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7 lb). The armor piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4 lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 395 m/s (1,300 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 9,225 m (10,089 yd). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-5 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 16 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case.
Fully loaded 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) with high explosive shells and charge canisters. The machine gun was mounted to the right of the gun.
Fully loaded 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) with high explosive shells and charge canisters. The machine gun was mounted to the right of the gun.

Operational Deployment

Eight 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf) auf GW FCM 36(f) artillery self-propelled guns were issued to the gepanzer Artillerie-Abteilung (Sfl.) z.b.V (Armored Artillery Battalion) on the Western Front through an order dated 31st October 1942 (K.St.N.430).
The letters z.b.V were the abbreviation for ‘zur besonderen Verwendung’. An English translation would be ‘for special deployment’ or ‘for special assignment’.
They were divided up between two self-propelled artillery batteries called 1.Batterie (Sfl.) and 2.Batterie (Sfl.). Four SPGs were in each battery. The abbreviation (Sfl.) roughly translates to gun carriage or self-propelled gun.
A further four were issued for deployment. They were put in the 3.Batterie (Sfl). This gives strength to the argument that twelve 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf) auf GW FCM 36(f) were built.
On the side of the upper armor of one vehicle in one of the surviving photographs is the number 2 over a 6Gp. This means that this vehicle was the gun tank number 6 in the 2nd Battery. The 1st Battery would have SPGs numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4. The 2nd Battery would have SPGs numbered 5, 6, 7 and 8. The 3rd Battery would have SPGs numbered 9, 10, 11 and 12.
In March 1943 the unit was renamed. It was now called the Sturmgeschuetz-Abteilung 931 (931st Assault Gun Battalion). This unit’s long name is often abbreviated to Stu.Gesch.Abt. 931. This Battalion was also equipped with 7.5 cm Pak 40 auf FMC 36(f) anti-tank self-propelled guns and an anti-aircraft battery of 2cm Flak auf gep.Zgkw. P 107 vehicles for self-defence.
On 6th May 1943, Stu.Gesch.Abt. 931 was merged with Pz.Jg.Kp. 931 and renamed verst.Pz.Jg.Abt. and was now part of the Schnelle Division West. (Western fast response Division). The abbreviation ‘verst’ was for the word verstaerkte which means ‘reinforced’ (reinforced tank hunting battalion).
Pz.Jg.Kp. 931 was equipped with seven gep.Zgkw Somua MCG/MC 7.5 cm Pak 40 auf m SPW S307(f) anti-tank self-propelled guns. The abbrerviation  gep.Zgkw is short for Gepanzerte Zugkraftwagen (Armored Half-track)
A few weeks later, on June 27th 1943, the unit was renamed again. It was just called Sturmgeschuetz-Abteilung (Stu.Gesch.Abt.) but without a unit number. The Schnelle Division West was now called the 21.Panzer Division.
The rest of the men and equipment of the Pz.Jg.Kp. stayed part of the 21st Panzer Division, but they handed over their gep.Zgkw. Somua mit 7,5 cm Pak 40 halftracks and 2cm Flak auf gep.Zgkw. P 107 to one of the Division’s Panzer Grenadier Regiments.
On 15th July 1943 it was renamed again. This time it was called the Sturmgeschuetz-Abteilung 200 (200th Assault Gun Battalion) and was still part of 21.Panzer-Division.
In September 1943 the 4th battery was equipped with six 10.5cm leFH 18 (Sf.) auf Geschutzwagen 39H(f) artillery self-propelled guns. These had artillery guns that could fire high explosive shells over longer distances. The 4th Battery was also equipped with four 7.5cm Pak 40 (sf) auf GW 39H(f) anti-tank SPGs. To make the supply of spare parts and maintenance simple a decision was made in December 1943 that all the all FCM 36 tank chassis based SPGs were to be replaced with Hotchkiss tank chassis based SPGs.
German military units regularly sent reports to headquarters on how many soldiers and guns, tanks and SPGs were fit for action. In a battle strength report submitted by this unit dated 1st January 1944 there were no 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf) auf GW FCM 36(f) listed.
It looks like they did not see action in Normandy fighting off the Allies invasion of France. At present it is not known what happened to them.

Identification

One of the easiest ways of telling the difference between a 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf.) auf Geschutzwagen FCM 36H(f) self-propelled gun and a 7.5cm PaK 40 (Sf.) auf PzKpfw FCM 36(f) anti tank gun SPG is to look at the armored housing that surrounds the gun’s recoil recuperator mechanisms. A recuperator on an artillery gun is a device employing springs or pneumatic power to return a gun to the firing position after the recoil. On the 10.5cm leFH 16 it is long and is half the length of the gun. It is situated below the gun. The armored housing covering the 7.5cm Pak 40 gun’s recoil recuperator mechanisms is small and the gun barrel is thinner and much longer.
When looking at different German self-propelled guns the triangular road wheel armour covering between the tracks is very unique to the FCM 36 tank based SPGs and makes it easily identifiable.

An article by Craig Moore

10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f), having just come out of the tank conversion workshop.
10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f), having just come out of the tank conversion workshop.10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f), 21st Panzerdivision, Normandy, summer 1944.
10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f), 21st Panzerdivision, Normandy, summer 1944.

Gallery

10.5cm gun barrel being lifted by chain and rope hoist
10.5cm gun barrel being lifted by chain and rope hoist.
This 10.5cm LeFH 16 gun is being hoisted into position on its new self-propelled gun mount.
This 10.5cm LeFH 16 gun is being hoisted into position on its new self-propelled gun mount.
This 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) still needs its gun shield fitted before it can leave the tank conversion workshop.
This 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) still needs its gun shield fitted before it can leave the tank conversion workshop.
10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) with camouflage livery in France
10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) artillery self-propelled gun with camouflage livery in France
Gun crews of the 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) being inspected in France by senior officers.
Gun crews of the 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) being inspected in France by senior officers.
A member of the 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) gun crew posing for a photograph near his SPG.
A member of the 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f) gun crew posing for a photograph near his SPG.
10.5cm leFH 16 auf GW FCM 36(f) SPG being transported by rail to the front line.
10.5cm leFH 16 auf GW FCM 36(f) SPG being transported by rail to the front line.

Last surviving FCM 36 tank

FCM 36 Char léger Modèle 1936 French WW2 light infantry tank at the Musée des Blindés, French Tank Museum, Saumur, France
The last preserved FCM 36 Char léger Modèle 1936 French WW2 light infantry tank at the Musée des Blindés, French Tank Museum, Saumur, France

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 4.60 (without gun 4.46) x 2.14 x 2.15 m
(15’1″ (14’7″) x 7′ x 7′)
Total weight, battle ready 12.2 tonnes
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Berliet MDP V-4 diesel engine, 91 hp
Fuel capacity 260 liters
Top road speed 24 km/h (15 mph)
Operational range (road) 225 km (140 miles)
Main Armament 10.5 cm (4.13 in) leFH 16 howitzer with 37 rounds
Secondary Armament 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 machine gun
Hull Armor Front 25-40 mm (0.98-1.57 in)
Sides and Rear 20 mm (0.79 in)
Upper Armor Front 15 mm (0.59 in)
Sides 15 mm (0.59 in)
Rear 15 mm (0.59 in)
Total production 12

Sources

Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle, 1999
Panzer Tracts No.10 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thanks L. Jentz
Profile AFV Weapons 55 German Self-Propelled Weapons by Peter Chamberlain and H.L.Doyle
Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht by Walter J. Spielberger
French Tanks of World War II by Steven J.Zaloga
French Infantry Tanks: part II by Major James Bingham
German Artillery at War 1939-45 vol.1 by Frank V.de Sisto.
Musée des Blindés, French Tank Museum, Saumur, France.
Special thanks to Marcus Hock
www.tank-hunter.com
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.

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Categories
WW2 German SPGs

15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)

nazi germany Nazi Germany (1940-41) SPG – 12 built

One of Rommel’s Funnies

To move a towed 15 cm artillery piece, the Germans needed a team of six horses and three men to control and look after the horses. The five or six man additional crew rode on a wheeled limber behind the horses. Attached to the limber was the heavy 15 cm artillery field howitzer.
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. He demanded a solution be found.
The gun barrel on this 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) was fitted with a cover to stop dirt and sand getting inside
The gun barrel on this 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) was fitted with a cover to stop dirt and sand getting inside. (photographer unknown)
The Panzer II tank had performed well in Poland in 1939, but it was out classed by some of the British and French tanks it encountered during the invasion of France in May 1940. This vehicle was considered obsolete by 1941 and was replaced by Panzer III tanks as soon as they came off the factory production line.
The German army now had a surplus of Panzer II tanks. The decision was taken to remove the tank’s turret and mount in its place a 15cm sIG 33 field howitzer with a gun shield to protect the crew. Rather than having to find a crew of 9 men and six horses to operate one artillery gun, the German army only needed to find four crewmen. It is sometimes called one of ‘Rommel’s Funnies’.
Driver's escape hatch on the 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)
Driver’s escape hatch on the 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf). (photographer unknown)

The Name – Not a Sturmpanzer II or Bison II

The correct German Army designation for this self-propelled artillery gun is 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) Sd.Kfz.121/122 or 15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.).
While undergoing trials, it was sometimes referred to as the 15cm s.I.G.33 B (this was to show it was an upgrade from the prototype SPG, the 15cm s.I.G.33 A, that used the original five wheeled Panzer II tank chassis and had not yet been lengthened).
After World War II, a scale model kit company produced one of the first retail kits of this vehicle. They called it the ‘Bison II’, believing it to be the natural progression for the earlier Bison 1 self-propelled 15cm Artillery Gun based on a Panzer I tank chassis’.
This was wrong. It was never called the Bison II during the war but, after the war, the name Bison II stuck. Museums, historical books and other scale model kit companies continue to call this mobile artillery weapon the Bison II.
Some authors, museums and scale model kit companies also wrongly call it the Sturmpanzer II. A ‘Sturmpanzer’ is a heavily armored assault tank. It’s crew is protected in a fully armored box, that is enclosed on all four sides and has an armored roof. The front armor of this vehicle is thick to enable it to get close to enemy strong points before firing it’s weapon.
This description bears no resemblance to the function and appearance of the German 15 cm s.I.G. 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) SPG. This vehicle was not designed to advance towards heavily fortified gun emplacements and blow them up whilst under heavy fire. It is only thinly armored and the crew have very little protection.
This vehicle was designed 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.
Notice the spare road wheels strapped to the top of the right track guard of this Bison II
Notice the spare road wheels strapped to the top of the right track guard on the 15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) on the left. (photographer unknown)

Production and Development

Before the first 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen I (Sf) (Bison I) had been tested in combat in May 1940, the German Army Waffenamt was already engaged in the development of an improved model based on the Panzer II Ausf.B tank chassis, rather than the Panzer I.
The prototype was successfully test fired at Kummersdorf on 13 June 1940. A 15cm s.I.G.33 B, without standard gun carriage wheels, had been fitted to a Panzer II tank chassis by Alkett, an engineering company near Berlin. As part of the trials, 120 rounds were fired.
15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) prototype
This is a photograph of the 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) prototype. Notice the curved gun shield and five, not six road wheels.
The Panzer II tank chassis absorbed the 15cm gun’s highest recoil force of 9 tons firing at all settings and at a rapid rate of fire of up to three rounds per minute. The tracks didn’t noticeably sink into the ground while firing on sandy soil.
Several months earlier, a similar trial had been conducted by Alkett. The standard field gun carriage wheels had been mounted on the Panzer tank chassis. This meant it had to be mounted too far to the rear.
The engine hatches at the rear of the vehicle were left in the open position when driving to keep the engine cool.
The engine hatches at the rear of the vehicle were left in the open position when driving to keep the engine cool. (photographer unknown)
Firing at the highest muzzle velocity of 240 meters/second at an elevation of about 15 degrees, the recoil force of 9 tons passed through the middle of the last road-wheels, resulting in the Pz.Kpfw.II tank chassis unacceptably tipping backward.
After this initial failure, the Alkett design team went back to the drawing board. They took the wheels off the gun carriage and devised new mounts. This meant that the 15 cm howitzer could be fitted considerably farther forward on the tank chassis, which made the vehicle significantly more stable when firing.
The Entwicklungsstueck (prototype development piece) was completed by Alkett in October 1940 using a normal length Pz.Kpfw.II chassis with five road-wheels. They only made one.
On 18th February 1941, General Halder commented in his diary: ‘Room inside the s.I.G. auf Pz.II is unacceptably small. New vehicles in four months. Mass production in one year. ‘
Alkett must have taken this criticism to heart because the Versuchsserie (trial series) of twelve 15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) SPGs were produced with a lengthened and widened hull resulting in the addition of a sixth road wheel. Delivery was to start in August 1941. Overall length of the new vehicle was 5.48 m, width 2.60 m, and height 1.98 m (compared to the 4.81 m long by 2.28 m wide Panzer II Ausf.F light tank).
Additional space for the fighting compartment was also achieved by mounting the 150 metric horsepower Buessing-NAG L8V water-cooled gasoline petrol engine transversely across the rear. The gun had a 75-degree elevation, but only 10 rounds could be carried on-board.
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) being loaded with supplies
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) being loaded with supplies. (photographer unknown)

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 shells, 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 was situated below the gun barrel. It was trough-shaped and is provided with guide ways, in which guides on the gun move as it recoiled and ran out. On either side at the front was a pad to receive the unabsorbed force of run-out. Between them was the expansion chamber which received the buffer fluid forced from the buffer by expansion as it became heated. Towards the rear were the two cradle arms to which the trunnions were fixed. Each trunnion was provided with a cranked compensator lever which compresses the compensator spring.
Abandoned 15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) in North Africa 1941
Abandoned 15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) in North Africa 1941. (photographer unknown)

North Africa

On 15th September 1941, the German Army Organisations-Abteilung ordered the creation of two new independent heavy self-propelled infantry gun companies: 707.schwere Infanteriegeschütze-Kompanien. and 708. schwere Infanteriegeschütze-Kompanien. These units were sometimes abbreviated to s.I.G.Kp. (mot. S).
Alkett completed seven 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) in December 1941 and five in January 1942. Each company were issued with six of these new SPGs. The six vehicles in the 707 were assigned to the Schützen-Regiment 155 and the six vehicles in the 708 were assigned to the Schützen-Regiment 200. Both of these regiments were part of Rommel’s 90.leicht Afrika-Division and fought until the Axis surrender in Tunisia in May 1943. The 12 vehicles did get to Libya in time for Rommel’s assault on Tobruk, due to its postponement from November 1941 until June 1942.
On the 23 February 1942, the six vehicles belonging to 708 arrived in Tripoli. Three different ships were used, each carrying just two of the SPGs, just in case of a torpedo or bombing attack. The s.I.G.Kp.707 wasn’t transported to Libya until April 1942. Six different ships were used to transport the remaining six vehicles belonging to 707. The last vehicle was taken of the ship in Tripoli on 24 April 1941.
On 9 March, the 708 company commander reported at the division command post that they had arrived in Bengasi on 8 March, but they must remain there for two days to complete various engine repairs. Not enough spare parts had been shipped to North Africa. One of the units NCO’s flew back to Alkett in Berlin to arrange for replacement parts to be shipped out as soon as possible.
Mechanical problems were going to plague the deployment of these new self-propelled artillery guns in the desert. The engine had not been upgraded to take the additional weight and cope with the conditions encountered in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. The Panzer II 155 horsepower engine was too weak for the vehicle weight of 16 ton.
The engine cooling system was inefficient for conditions in Africa. In accordance with the driver’s manual, the cooler flaps must be opened while driving. The large amount of dust thrown up by the tracks fell through the open grating and plugged up parts of the radiator reducing the available surface area and its ability to cool the radiator fluid. Engine temperatures became too hot.
A report dated 16 May 1942 stated that, ‘During the 70 km journey to SegnaIi-Sued it soon became apparent that the new 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) of 708.schwere Infanteriegeschütze-Kompanien were unusable due to design faults. The same situation applied to the vehicles of 707. They were currently in Bengasi with two broken-down SPG’s without any resources to transport them to the front or repair them.’
The transmission and transfer boxes suffered from faults. After a very short running time, sometimes 15 minutes, the engines were so hot that they had to stop to cool them. The pressurized engine coolant reached 120 degrees Celsius after a short running time. Cracks appeared in the track and drive wheels due in part to poor material quality.
Panzer-Armee Afrika still listed eight 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) as available, but not how many were operational on 23 October. All eight were reported as having been lost by 2 December 1942. The British reported capturing six of them abandoned during the withdrawal, all in a dismantled condition in a tank workshop.

Rain & Sun protection

The crew could fit two metal bands across the middle of the open top fighting compartment. They provided similar support as tent poles in a tent. A large canvas tarpaulin tied down at the back of the vehicle could be hauled over these bands and lashed down to the front of the vehicle to give the crew protection from the sun, as well as rain and sand storms.


The prototype 15cm s.I.G. 33 A only had five wheels and the normal length Panzer II tank chassis
The prototype 15cm s.I.G. 33 A only had five wheels and the normal length Panzer II tank chassis.The 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) in grey livery
The 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) in grey livery.
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) ready for active service in North African 1941.
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) ready for active service in North Africa, 1941.
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) with tarpaulin frame erected and sun shade tarpaulin tied on
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) with tarpaulin frame erected and sun shade tarpaulin tied on.

Gallery

15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) with wet weather tarpaulin frame in place
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) with wet weather tarpaulin frame in place. (photographer unknown)
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) with the tarpaulin pulled over the ridge frame to keep the crew in the shade
15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) with the tarpaulin pulled over the ridge frame to keep the crew in the shade – North Africa, 1941. (photographer unknown)
15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) gun crew, driver and commander
15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) gun crew, driver and commander – North Africa, 1941. (photographer unknown)
Notice the stick leaning on the vehicle. It was painted red and white and hammered into the earth behind the vehicle to help the gunner work out firing angles.
Notice the stick leaning on the vehicle. It was painted red and white and hammered into the earth behind the vehicle to help the gunner work out firing angles. (photographer unknown)
German 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) parked in a North African street.
German 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) parked in a North African street. (photographer unknown)
15cm s.I.G.33 B Sfl Waiting for the next target.
Waiting for the next target. (photographer unknown)
The driver's side vision hatch is open on this photograph of a 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)
The driver’s side vision hatch is open on this photograph of a 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf). (photographer unknown)
Time for coffee out of sight of the enemy
Time for coffee out of sight of the enemy. (photographer unknown)
The rear engine hatch covers are in the up position. This was done to keep the engine cool
The rear engine hatch covers are in the up position. This was done to keep the engine cool. (photographer unknown)
The flap in the gun shield was opened to use the shorter periscope gun sight for direct fire targets. The taller gun sight was used for indirect fire targets
The flap in the gun shield was opened to use the shorter periscope gun sight for direct fire targets. The taller gun sight was used for indirect fire targets. (photographer unknown)
15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)
15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) ready for a bombardment (photographer unknown)
15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) in North Africa with a six man crew (driver hidden from view)
15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) in North Africa with a six man crew? The driver hidden from view. (photographer unknown)

Why were only 12 built?

A German Army Waffenamt liaison officer assigned to Panzer-Armee Afrika filed a report dated 30th August 1942 about the use of the 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) in North Africa:
‘From the ballistic and destructive effectiveness standpoint, the gun is judged to be outstanding but the Panzer II chassis too underpowered and liable to mechanical breakdown. The troops’ propose that a more suitable tank chassis should be used. I do not agree. The range of this gun cannot be increased. The expenditure is not justified. It would be better to use the 15 cm s.F.H.13 Sfl heavy field howitzer, which has the same caliber but a considerably longer range, on a better tank chassis.
Operationally it is too risky to employ such a valuable self-propelled gun as a fixed location defensive weapon. As soon as it opens fire the gun will be knocked out by concentrated artillery fire. In this situation, the should be replaced with a 12 cm Werfer (mortar) that, with its increased rate of fire, lower weight and easier transport on a truck, has almost the same destructive effectiveness.’
Lessons learned from this vehicle, the 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) Sd.Kfz.121/122 and earlier 15cm and 10.5cm self-propelled artillery guns resulted the design and development of the 10.5cm ‘Wespe’ self-propelled artillery infantry gun.

Specifications

Dimensions (L W H) 5.48 x 2.60 x 1.98 m (17’11” x 8’6″ x 6’6″)
Total weight, battle ready 12 tonnes
Armament 15cm s.I.G.33 L/11 howitzer, 10 rounds
Armor Front hull 30 mm (1.18 in)
Front gun shield 15 mm (0.59 in)
Side and rear 15 mm (0.59 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Buessing-NAG L8V water-cooled gasoline petrol engine
Max Road Speed 45 km/h (28 mph)
Range 170 km (110 miles)
Total production 12

Post WW2 Service

The British Army recovered six 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II self-propelled artillery guns. They were left in Egypt. The Egyptians recovered one more. It is not known if any were repaired and used by the Egyptian Army against the Israeli Army in the 1948 war or what happened to them after that conflict. If you have any further information please contact us.
Recovered 15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) in Egypt 1948
Recovered 15cm s.l.G.33 auf Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.ll (Sf.) in Egypt after WW2
A 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II self-propelled artillery gun captured by Israeli forces in 1948
A 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II self-propelled artillery gun captured by Israeli forces in 1948

Sources

Ed Webster
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
Trojca, Waldemar and Jaugitz, Markus. Sturmtiger and Sturmpanzer in Combat. Katowice, Poland: Model Hobby,
Sturmpanzer II Bison. Achtung Panzer!.
Info on Wikipedia
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 SPGs

15cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)

nazi germany Nazi Germany (1944) SPG – 1 prototype & 30 built (?)

Introduction

The German Army run factories in Czechoslovakia could produce Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer chassis faster than they could produce the main 75 mm (2.95 in) gun. There were stocks of old 15 cm  (5.9 in) s.I.G 33/2 heavy field howitzer guns available to be mounted in those chassis. Troops on the Eastern Front always needed more heavy artillery support. Fixing a 15 cm gun onto an already built Jagdpanzer 38(t) chassis seemed a very sensible idea. For this prototype, a Bergepanzerwagen 38(t) was used.
15cm SiG33/2 (Sfl) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
15cm sIG 33/2 (Sfl) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) prototype.

The name

This self-propelled artillery gun was officially designated the 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t). The long version of the name is 15 cm Schweres Infanteriegeschütz 33/2 Selbstfahrlafette auf Jagdpanzer 38(t).
Although the word ‘Jagdpanzer’ is used in the name, this vehicle was not a tank hunter. The term ‘Jagdpanzer’ is a reference to the donor vehicle chassis used to mount the 15 cm heavy infantry field howitzer. This vehicle is a self-propelled mobile artillery gun.
It is often incorrectly called the Sturmpanzer (38)t. A ‘Sturmpanzer’ is a heavily armored assault tank. It’s crew are protected in a fully armored box, that is enclosed on all four sides and has an armored roof. The front armour of this vehicle is thick to enable it to get close to enemy strong points before firing its weapon. This description bears no resemblance to the function and appearance of this vehicle.
It was not designed to advance towards heavily fortified gun emplacements and blow them up whilst under heavy fire. It is only thinly armored and the crew had very little protection. This vehicle was designed 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.
A Bergepanzer 38(t) was used to build the first prototype 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
A Bergepanzer 38(t) was used to build the first prototype 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)

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.  The gun crew had a range chart that told them what amount of explosive propellant to put into the empty brass cartridge case. 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 bag number 6 would be put in the brass propellant cartridge case. For shorter distances lower number bags, with less propellant inside, 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.
The gun 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 fuse s.Igr.Z. 23 was a highly sensitive, nose-percussion fuse 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.
15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) with gun in the firing position
15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) with gun in the firing position

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
Osprey New Vanguard: The Jagdpanzer 38(t) (Doyle/Jentz/Badrocke)
Panzer Tracts 7-3, Panzerjägers (Doyle/Jentz)
Panzer-35t/38t – Spielberger
The Hetzer on Wikipedia

The prototype 15 cm Schweres Infanteriegeschütz 33/2 Selbstfahrlafette auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
The prototype 15 cm Schweres Infanteriegeschütz 33/2 Selbstfahrlafette auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
Fictional white washed livery of a 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
Fictional white washed livery of a 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t), ready for winter active service on the Eastern Front in early 1945
Fictional livery of a 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) ready for spring deployment
Fictional livery of a 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) ready for spring deployment on the Eastern Front in 1945

Gallery

15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) with the gun trough resting on the armored hatch
15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) with the gun trough resting on the front armored hatch. The same hatch design was later used on the Grille.
Top view of the open fighting compartment if the 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
Top view of the open fighting compartment if the 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
Front view of the 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
Front view of the 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)

Were they actually built?

Most history books, museums and websites state that 30 of these Jagdpanzer 38(t) variant SPGs were built. The only known photographs of the 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) are of the prototype at the factory. Why are there no operational or trials photographs of this vehicle?
The official order exists requesting six to be built by converting existing Jagdpanzer 38(t) chassis and a further twenty four to be built on new chassis by December 1944. No documentation has yet been found to confirm that the order had been completed or delivered.
It is assumed that they were issued to schwere infanterie-geschutz (heavy infantry gun) companies of armored infantry regiments on the Eastern Front, but the exact ones have so far not been identified. No regimental records have been found showing receipt and deployment of these weapons. There are no Soviet photographs of captured or knocked out wrecks of this type of vehicle. None have so far been identified in photographs of Allied German military vehicle scrap yards in Western Europe.
At present it cannot be confirmed that thirty 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer were built even though an official order was issued authorising their manufacture. It can only be confirmed that a prototype was constructed.
Spielberger’s book ‘Panzer-35t/38t’ on page 171 -172 states that an additional 30 were built between December 1944 and February 1945 and used as a support vehicle for the Panzergrenadiers. Six converted from existing Jagdpanzer 38(t) chassis and 24 newly built.
Note:- Unfinished Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzers would come from a holding area off the production line. It was not uncommon for production completion to be held up waiting for the main gun to be finished in a different or separate part of the factory.

Specifications

Dimensions 4.83 (without gun) x 2.59 x 1.87 m
(15’10” x 8’6″ x 6’1″)
Total weight, battle ready 15.75 metric tonnes (34,722 lbs)
Armament 15cm (5.9 in) schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33 howitzer
Armor 8 to 60 mm (0.3 – 2.36 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Praga 6-cyl gas. 160 hp@2,800 rpm (118 kW), 10 hp/t
Speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Suspension Torsion bar
Range 177 km (110 miles)
Total production 1 (or 30)

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 SPGs

Hummel 15cm SPG

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942) SPG – 705 built

The German self-propelled howitzers

The full designation of this self-propelled artillery gun was Panzerfeldhaubitze 18M auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf) Hummel, Sd.Kfz. 165.The German word ‘Hummel’ means bumblebee. This armored fighting vehicle had a nasty sting. There were two main types of self-propelled guns in the German Army during WW2. One was fitted with an anti-tank gun and the other with an artillery howitzer, like the Hummel. A vehicle fitted with an artillery field howitzer was called a ‘Geschüetzwagen’, which is literally translated as a ‘gun vehicle’. The letters ‘Sf’ stand for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’ – self-propelled carriage. ‘Panzerfeldhaubitze’ means armoured field howitzer.
Self-propelled artillery guns were developed to enable fast moving attacks to have artillery support that could keep up with the speed of advancing Panzer Divisions. They could use direct fire mode at targets they could see or, more commonly, use indirect fire at targets plotted on a map.
They were not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. They were motorized artillery guns that could fire high explosive 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 crews 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.
Early Hummel SPG
Early production Hummel. Notice the wire rack covering the open fighting compartment.
The open-topped back design of these self-propelled guns had a number of advantages. The elevated commander’s position when standing in the crew compartment, behind the protective armored shield, meant that he had a good view on all sides. If there was the threat of enemy small arms fire, then the crew could use a twin lens range finder telescope that could peak over the top of the armored casement.
There was enough room for the crew to be transported towards the battlefield whilst protected from small arms fire and shell shrapnel. The vehicle had good mobility and could follow the infantry almost anywhere. The gun was quicker to get ready for action and fire on targets than towed artillery guns.
Putting the 15cm s.FH 18/1 howitzer on top of a tank chassis was a more efficient use of manpower from the traditional form of German artillery battery transportation. Even in WW2, horse power was still widely used although tracked vehicles were also employed when available. Each field gun would require a six-horse team to pull the gun and limber. The ammunition, supplies and kit would be kept in the limber, which was a very large box on a pair of wheels with seats on the top. Three men would ride on the left hand horse of each pair to control them. The remaining six men of the gun crew would ride on top of the limber. Only a relative few were towed by the 3 ton halftracks.

Production

A total of 705 Hummel 15cm self-propelled artillery guns were built by the end of the Second World War in 1945 and 157 Hummel ammunition carriers were also produced.
The Hummel was designed in 1942. The prototype featured a very large muzzle brake, but this was not used on the production models. The contract was awarded to Alkett and Deutsche Eisenwerke in Duisberg was contracted as the assembly firm. The first five production series Hummels were completed in February 1943 and entered service in March 1943. They were sent immediately to the Eastern Front to provide artillery support for the Panzer Divisions.
The initial contract for 500 (including the ammunition carrying Munitionsträger version) was completed in January 1944. The new improved version of the Hummel appeared in early 1944. A total of 705 Hummels were reported as completed by the end of March 1945.
late version Hummel 15cm spg
Late production Hummel 15cm self-propelled artillery gun. Notice that the raised armoured driver’s compartment now covers the width of the vehicle to give the radio operator and driver more room.
The powerful 15cm sFH 18 L/30 heavy field howitzer was mounted on a specially designed Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig lengthened German tank chassis called the Geschützwagen III/IV. Components were adopted from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank chassis. The more robust final drive wheels, front drive wheels and steering units plus the Zahnradfabrik SSG 77 transmission gearbox were adopted from the Panzer III Ausf.J. The Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with its cooling system, the suspension, and idler with track tension adjustment were adopted from the Panzer IV.
The engine was moved from the rear of the tank to the centre of the vehicle to make room for the gun and the armored fighting compartment at the back of the SPG. The Geschützwagen III/IV hull was also used for mounting the 88cm anti-tank gun. This self-propelled gun (SPG) was called the Nashorn. Unlike the Nashorn’s armor piercing rounds, the Hummel’s 15cm HE high explosive shells came in two parts. The explosive shell was loaded first, followed by the variable charge canister. This meant that the Hummel could only carry 18 rounds of HE.
When not in use the Hummel’s 15cm howitzer was locked in place by a large ‘A’ frame travel-lock bracket that was mounted on the front hull glacis armoured plate. This stopped the gun moving up and down too violently when the vehicle was travelling across rough undulating ground.
On early versions of the Hummel, the front top of the hull had sloping armor with a raised armored compartment for the driver on the left of the vehicle. The front hull superstructure and driver’s armoured compartment were redesigned in early 1944 and enlarged, covering the whole width of the vehicle. The radio operator and driver now had more space to work in.
The exhaust system was also changed on the later model. It was moved from the original location below the rear double doors. The exhaust mufflers were dropped and the end of the exhaust pipes were cut at a slant away from the tracts to avoid stirring up additional dust.
The Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis did not have a hull mounted machine gun. Crews were issued with a single MG34 or MG42 machine gun, carried inside the fighting compartment, for self defence.
The Hummel was designed to be operated by a crew of six: commander, driver and four gunners. They were protected by an enclosed high silhouette armored fighting compartment. Although it was open topped, the crew were issued with a thick canvas tarpaulin covers that could be used in bad weather.
In front of the driver a metal wire grid was fixed into position to aid the driver manoeuvring the vehicle in the correct fire position. Some early versions of the Hummel had a metal pole and wire mesh roof framework fitted above the fighting compartment of the vehicle. These were designed to prevent grenades and mines being thrown into the vehicle as it moved through towns and cities.
Hummel with Wire screen
Early version Hummel fitted with wire mesh top screen to prevent grenades and mines from being thrown into the fighting compartment. Notice the large exhaust muffler/silencer box under the rear hatches. It was removed on the later version.
A metal louvered cover ventilated the engine, but many later versions were fitted with an angled shield that opened upward.
Three aiming stake poles were carried in brackets below the rear door. The gunner would use a large ZE 34 sight. The top lens aperture would point to the rear of the vehicle. The gunner uses this aperture of the sight to locate the aiming sticks that a member of the crew had pounded into the ground at the rear at a known bearing from the vehicle, having used a compass (compasses did not work inside a metal vehicle in 1943). By lining up the red and white fire aiming stake, subtracting 180 degrees, he would be able to work out the correct bearing the gun barrel is pointing towards.
The upper fighting compartment superstructure walls were constructed using 10 mm (0.39 in) thick E11 chrome-silicon armor plates hardened to 153 kg/mm2 for protection against shell fragments. The 30 mm (1.18 in) thick front hull was made using face-hardened FA32 armour plates. The rest of the hull was made out of cheaper rolled SM-Stahl (carbon steel) that was hardened to 75-90 kg/mm2. It took 20 mm (0.78 in) thick plates of SM-Stahl to provide equivalent protection against penetration by SmK (7.92 mm AP bullets) as 14.5 mm (0.57 in) of E11 armour plate.
The early Hummel SPGs used the standard 1943 38cm wide SK18 track that had three smooth metal pads visible on the front face of the track. In winter some vehicles were fitted with track width extenders called Winterketten (winter track). These triangular pieces of metal were bolted on to the outer edge of the track to extend the width of the track and help the vehicle move across snow and mud by spreading the load over a larger area. They were problematic: they fractured and often fell off. In 1944, vehicles started to be fitted with the wider Ostketten (east track) to cope with the conditions found on the Eastern Front. The Winterketten extensions made the SK18 tank track 55cm wide. The one-piece Ostketten was 56cm wide and did not have bits falling off it.

Operational service

The German Army Wehrmacht and SS Panzer Divisions each had their own heavy self-propelled artillery battery as part of their Artillery Regiment battalion. Each battery normally consisted of six Hummels supplied by one Munitionstrager Hummel armored ammunition carrier.
In March 1943, the first batch of eight Hummel SPGs entered service followed by another 46 in April. A few months later they saw their first action during Operation Zitadelle (Citadel) in July 1943 on the Eastern Front. They were used by Panzer-Artillerie regiments on the Eastern Front until the end of the war. A small number were captured by the Soviet Red Army and used against Axis forces in Hungary. Hummels were used in Greece, Italy and North West Europe in 1944.
The authorised establishment of the Panzer Artillery Regiment of the Heer Panzer Division that took part in the Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes Offensive in December 1944 had three Abteilungs (battalions). The second and third battalion comprised of towed 10.5cm, 15cm and 17 cm Howitzers but the first battalion was equipped with artillery self-propelled guns.
1.Abteilung
Stabskompanie (HQ company)
1.Batterien (6x Wespe 10.5cm Artillery SPG)
2.Batterien (6x Wespe 10.5cm Artillery SPG)
3.Batterien (6x Hummel 15cm Artillery SPG)
Hummel on the eastern front
Late version Hummel on the Eastern Front painted with white-wash. The white paint has been rubbed away to expose the German Army black and white identification cross. Notice that there is no rear exhaust muffler/silencer box on the late version Hummel. The gun crewman outside the Hummel is carrying the shorter propellant canisters. It fired two-part ammunition. The HE shell went in the breach first, followed by the propellant canister.

Munitionsträger Hummel

The self-propelled artillery units that operated Hummels needed to be supplied with ammunition regularly. As each vehicle could only carry 18 rounds, they soon depleted their stock of shells.
The gun crew working the Hummel’s 15cm howitzer were protected by the vehicle’s armor plate from small arms fire and high explosive shell shrapnel fragments. Soft skinned lorries carrying ammunition near the frontline were liable to explode in that hostile environment.
The artillery regiments of the Wehrmacht used standard production Hummels, that did not have a gun and were fitted with a 10 mm (0.39 in) armor plate over the gun mount, to carry ammunition. These were called Munitionsträger Hummel. 157 armoured ammunition carriers based on the Hummel Geschützwagen III/IV hybrid tank chassis were constructed.
A flat 9.5mm (3/8th inch) armor plate was bolted to the fighting compartment front to replace the normal gun shield. The cargo space inside the armored compartment was 15 cubic meters (530 cubic feet).
Ammunition was delivered to the working Hummel battery in wicker tube shaped shipping containers, each containing one 42.9-kilogram (94.6-pound) high explosive projectiles. Artillerymen referred to the containers as a Koffer (suitcase). The separate charge cartridges arrived in wooden boxes.

The 15 cm s.FH 18/1 gun

The abbreviation 15 cm s.FH 18 used in the German Army designation of this artillery gun is short for 15 cm schwere Feldhaubitze 18. It was a heavy (schwere) field howitzer (Feldhaubitze). It was towed by horses and used by the German Army in World War II. When they were available, half-tracks were also used to tow these artillery pieces.
In the 1935s the longer barrelled 15 cm sFH 18 heavy field howitzer was introduced, replacing the WW1 15cm s.FH 13. It could deliver 150mm high explosives HE shells at a longer distance.
The gun was designed by Krupp and manufactured at the Krupp factory and also the factories of Rheinmetall. Over 5,000 of these guns were produced from 1933 to 1945. The recoil brake recuperator was positioned below and above the gun barrel to provide maximum possible stability for all gun elevations firing normal charges. A recuperator on an artillery gun is a device employing springs or pneumatic power to return a gun to the firing position after firing.
The HE high explosive shell weighed around 43.5 kg (96 lbs) and was loaded in two parts. This is known as a ‘separate loading’ round. First the explosive projectile shell was put into the gun breach and then the separate charge canister was rammed in behind it. It could also fire smoke rounds and AP armor piercing shells, though they were only effective at short ranges and used for self defence in an emergency.
The gunner had seven different strengths of charge canisters to choose from depending how far away the target was. The gun had a maximum firing range of 13.25 km 13,250m (8.23 miles 14,490 yards) when charge No.7 was used. It had a muzzle velocity of 495 m/s (1,620 ft/s) and a good gun crew could fire four rounds per minute.

Identification

One of the easiest ways of telling the difference between an early and late production Hummel when studying a photograph is to look at the upper front superstructure on the tank chassis. If you can see a separate armored raised box on the left of the vehicle, where the driver would sit, then this is an early production vehicle. If there is a raised box that covers the whole width of the vehicle than this is a late production version.
If you cannot see the front of the vehicle look for a large exhaust muffler/silencer box under the two small hinged doors at the rear of the vehicle. If you see one then you are looking at an early production vehicle. It was dropped from the late production models and two replacement spare bogie wheel holders were put in its place.
It is easy to tell the difference between a 15cm Hummel and 8.8cm Nashorn self-propelled artillery gun even though they both used the same Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis. The 15cm howitzer used in the Hummel was not fitted with a muzzle brake on the end of the gun barrel. The Nashorn’s 8.8cm gun always had a muzzle brake fitted.
Early and Late Hummel Exhaust systems
The early production Hummel is on the left with the large exhaust muffler/silencer box affixed under the rear doors and a late version is on the right.

2nd SS Panzer Division ‘Das Reich’ 1944

SS Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 2
1st Battery 12x 17cm K18 Howitzer
2nd Battery 6x 15cm Hummel SPG
3rd Battery 12x 15cm Howitzer
4th Battery 12x 10.5cm Nashorn SPG
5th Battery 12x 10.5cm Howitzer
40x Motorcycle troops

An article by Craig Moore

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 7.17 m x 2.97 m x 2.81 m (23ft 5in x 9ft 7in x 9ft 2in)
Total weight, battle ready 23 tonnes (24.25 tons)
Crew 6 (commander, driver, 4x gun crew)
Propulsion 12-cylinder water cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM 11.9 litre petrol engine, 265 hp at 2600 rpm
Fuel capacity 600 litres
Top speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Operational range (road) 215 km (133 miles)
Armament 15 cm (5.9 in) s.FH 18/1 L30 howitzer with 18 rounds
7.96 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 machine gun
Armor Front 30 mm (1.18 in), sides 20 mm (0.79 in), rear 20 mm (0.79 in)
Superstructure front 10 mm (0.39 in), sides 10 mm (0.39 in)
Total production 705

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.10 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thanks L. Jentz
German self-propelled guns by Gordon Rottman
Panzer-Grenadier Division Grosssdeutschland by Bruce Quarrie
German self-propelled artillery in world War II and other 150mm self-propelled guns by Joachim Englemann.
The Ardennes Offensive – V Panzer Armies – Central Sector by Bruce Quarrie
Nashorn, Hummel, Brumbar in Action by Ewe Feist
Restricted July 1944 – Allied Expeditionary Force – German Guns – Brief notes and range tables for allied gunners. SHAEF/16527/2A/GCT
Hummel SPGs on Tank-Hunter.com

Early version Hummel SPG Summer 1943.
Hummel Artillery SPG prototype with large muzzle brake.

Early version Hummel SPG with wire mesh protective roof Summer 1943
Early version Hummel SPG, Eastern Front, winter 1943

Early version Hummel SPG Eastern Front Winter 1943
Early version Hummel SPG with wire mesh protective roof, summer 1943
Late production Hummel Summer 1944.
Late production Hummel, 2 SS-Pz Div “Das Reich”, summer 1944.Late production Hummel with armoured engine louvered exhaust cover. Summer 1944.
Late production Hummel with armored engine louvered exhaust cover. Summer 1944.
Late production Munitionsträger Hummel Ammunition carrier. Summer 1944.
Late production Munitionsträger Hummel ammunition carrier. Summer 1944.

Operational Photographs

Hummel 150mm SPG Prototype with large muzzle brake
Hummel 15cm SPG prototype with large muzzle brake.
Hummel 15cm SPG prototype with large muzzle brake.
Hummel 15cm SPG prototype with large muzzle brake.
Hummel SPG 15cm Howitzer
Early production Hummel fitted with driver’s aid firing position wire grid. This SPG has the wider tracks fitted with ice cleats for better grip. It only has one masked headlight.
Hummel 15cm Artillery SPG
Early production Hummel fitted with four extra pairs of bogey wheels on the front of the front upper armored structure
Hummel self-propelled gun
Early production Hummel with two masked headlights and 15cm gun locked into position by an ‘A’ frame travel mount designed to stop the gun moving too violently as the vehicle crosses undulating ground.
Some Hummel SPGs were captured and used by the Soviet Red Army
Some Hummel SPGs were captured and used by the Soviet Red Army.
Hummel SPG shells
A common field modification by the Hummel gun crews was to place two planks of wood across the rear compartment when the rear hinged doors were open. This was to allow shells to be stacked at the back ready to be grabbed by the loader.

Surviving Examples

Early Hummel SPG German Tank Museum Munster
Hummel SPG (early production version) kept at the Deutsches Panzermuseum, the German Tank Museum, Munster, Germany
Hummel SPG at the French Tank Museum Saumur
Hummel SPG (late production version) on display at the Musée des Blindés, French Tank Museum, Saumur, France
Hummel SPG Auto and Technik Museum in Sinsheim Germany
Hummel SPG (late production version) preserved in the Auto and Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany.
Hummel SPG at US Army Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA.
Hummel SPG (late production version) at US Army Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA. The dots are supposed to represent dappled light coming through gaps between the leaves when the vehicle is taking cover from allied fighter bombers, when parked under trees.
Hummel 15cm spg at the German Artillery School
Hummel SPG (late production version) at the German Artillery School, Artillerie Schule, Idar Oberstein, Germany. Notice that the engine exhaust louvered panel has an armoured cover.

Czechoslovakian Army Hummels

Surviving Hummel Artillery self-propelled guns were used by the Czechoslovakian Army after WW2. Twelve vehicles underwent renovation and entered service in 1950. They were officially called “Samohybné děla Hummel (152 mm ShH vz. 18/47N, SD-152). They were later withdrawn from Army service and presumably scrapped.
Czechoslovakian Army records recorded the original German production chassis number (Fgst.Nr) of the eight Hummel-Wespe artillery SPGs that entered their service.
German Fahrgestellnummer 84411, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1922, army registration number 79.659
German Fahrgestellnummer 84426, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1589, army registration number 79.660
German Fahrgestellnummer 84423, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1910, army registration number 79.661
German Fahrgestellnummer 84427, date in service 27th April 1950,
Tactical unit number 5246, army registration number 79.662
German Fahrgestellnummer 84406, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1915, army registration number 79.661
German Fahrgestellnummer 84413, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1919, army registration number 79.664
German Fahrgestellnummer 51091, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1920, army registration number 79.665
German Fahrgestellnummer 84409, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 1793, army registration number 79.666
German Fahrgestellnummer 84429, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 328, army registration number 79.667
German Fahrgestellnummer 84424, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1916, army registration number 79.668
German Fahrgestellnummer 84425, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1802, army registration number 79.669
German Fahrgestellnummer 84428, date in service 9th March 1950,
Tactical unit number 1918, army registration number 79.670
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.

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Categories
WW2 German SPGs

15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1942) SPG – 102 (166) built

The German self-propelled howitzers

There were two main types of self-propelled guns in the German Army during WW2. One was fitted with an anti-tank gun and the other with an artillery howitzer, like the 15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) Sd.Kfz.135/1. The vehicle fitted with the artillery howitzer was called a ‘Geschützwagen’, which is literally translated as a ‘gun vehicle’. The letters ‘SF’ stand for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’ – self-propelled carriage. The letter (f) indicates that the chassis was of French origin.
15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f)
This 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) is from 6th Battery, 2nd Battalion, 155th Panzer Artillery Regiment, 21st Panzer­ Division (6./Pz.Art.Rgt.155).
Improvised self-propelled artillery guns were developed to enable fast moving attacks to have artillery support that could keep up with the speed of advancing Panzer Divisions. They could use direct fire mode at targets they could see or, more commonly, use indirect fire at targets plotted on a map.
They were not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. They were motorized artillery guns that could fire high explosive 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 crews 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.
The open-topped back design of these self-propelled guns had a number of advantages. The elevated commander’s position when standing in the crew compartment, behind the protective armored shield, meant that he had a good view on all sides. If there was the threat of enemy small arms fire, then the crew could use a twin lens range finder telescope that could peak over the top of the armored casement.
There was enough room for the crew to be transported towards the battlefield whilst protected from small arms fire and shell shrapnel. The vehicle had good mobility and could follow the infantry almost anywhere. The gun was quicker to get ready for action and fire on targets than towed artillery guns.
They were cheaper and faster to build than a new vehicle. They used the chassis of an obsolete captured French tank and an existing artillery howitzer.
Putting the 15 cm sFH 13/1 howitzer on top of captured French Army Lorraine 37L tracked armoured transporter chassis was a more efficient use of manpower than the traditional form of German artillery battery transportation. Even in WW2, horse power was still widely used, although tracked vehicles were also used when available.
Each field gun would require a six-horse team to pull the gun and limber. The ammunition, supplies and kit would be kept in the limber, which was a very large box on a pair of wheels with seats on the top. Three men would ride on the left hand horse of each pair to control them. The remaining six men of the gun crew would ride on top of the limber. Only a relative few were towed by the 3 ton halftracks.
Versailles, 1943, 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPGs
Sixty 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery guns belonging to Gepanzerte Artillerie-Regiment (Sfl.) on parade on the grounds of the Versailles Palace, just outside Paris, in late 1942. The numbers on the side of the nearest vehicle shows that it is the first ‘gun tank’ of the 2nd Battery (1 Geschuetzpanzer 2.Batterie). Note the bad weather canvas tarpaulin covers.

Production

On the 23rd of May 1942, Hitler attended a demonstration of newly constructed self-propelled guns where captured enemy vehicles had been converted to carry artillery howitzers and anti-tank guns. A decision was made to build 160 Selbstfahrlafette (self-propelled guns) based on the Lorraine 37L Schlepper tractor. Sixty would carry the 10.5cm leFH howitzer, forty would carry the 15 cm sFH 13 howitzer and sixty would be armed with the 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun.
Rommel’s Afrika Korps desperately needed self-propelled artillery guns that could keep up with the tanks. Hitler ordered the immediate assembly of thirty 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPGs on the 25th of May 1942. The contract was awarded to Alkett, which were based in Berlin-Borsigwalde. The order was completed in June 1942.
The interior of the vehicle could only hold eight high explosive shells and eight propellant cartridges.  The unusual distinct rear overhanging design was necessary because of the location of the engine. This required a retractable hinged spade to be fitted at the rear of the vehicle. It was lowered into the ground when the gun was in action to help support the vehicle when the gun was fired, and stop it moving backwards. The howitzer had a very limited traverse of only 5 degrees left and right with a 40 degree elevation.
An additional seventy two were built in France between July and August 1942 by Baukommando Becker, bringing the total made in WW2 to 102. Some sources, that at present cannot be verified, state that a further sixty four were built by Alkett in their factory near Berlin. That would bring the total built to 166. If one studies the operational photos, it will be noticed that there are three distinct models that have different build features. This would match with those sources which state that Alkett built the first batch of 30 then an improved version of 64, whilst Baukommando Becker built seventy-two slightly differently ones in France.
What are the differences? The first 30 that were sent to the desert have short retractable tail spades at the rear and no metal D shaped handles mounted on the side and bottom of the front armor plate. The second batch have the short retractable tail spades at the rear and now have metal D shaped handles fitted to the side and bottom of the front armour plate. This version can be seen in the photographs of the 60 vehicles on parade in Versailles Palace. The third version has extended long retractable tail spades at the rear of the vehicle.

Operational service

The initial batch of thirty Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) sent to North Africa was divided up between three different Panzer Divisions. Twelve were going to be sent to the 21st Panzer Division.  Another twelve were going to be sent to the 15th Panzer Division and the remaining six were to be issued to the 90th Leicht Division.
Unfortunately for the Afrika Korps, three were sunk in transit in July 1942 and four more on the 4th of August. The remaining twenty three vehicles arrived safely at the Libyan ports of Benghazi and Tobruk. They first saw action during Rommel’s final attempt to break through the El Alamein defenses on 30 August 1942. The 15th Panzer-Division reported that three of their 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) were total losses during the period from 30 August to 3 September 1942. The remaining nineteen 15 cm self-propelled guns were reported as available on 23rd October 1942, the day the British launched their attack on the German defenses at El Alamein. All were reported as having been lost by 2nd December 1942.
The new batch of sixty 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) was built in France in the summer of 1942 by Baukommando Becker for the “Schnelle (quick) Brigade West”. They differed only minimally from the original Alkett built vehicles, with details like the tailspade and travel-lock. They were quickly issued to frontline units. Thirty were sent to the Gepanzerte Artillerie-Regiment 1 (Sfl.) and thirty were delivered to the Gepanzerte Artillerie-Regiment 2 (Sfl.). Each regiment consisted of five batteries with six self propelled artillery guns in each battery.
The Gepanzerte Artillerie-Regiment 1 (Sfl.) was disbanded in December 1942, their vehicles were scattered at three apiece to infantry divisions stationed in the West. The Gepanzerte Artillerie-Regiment 2 (Sfl.) was reorganized and renamed Artillerie-Regiment 931 in March 1943 and later Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 155 which was part of the 21.Panzer-Division (neu). By June 1944, regimental documentation showed it only had twelve of the original thirty 15 cm sFH 13/1 SPGs it was issued with in 1942.
Other tracked weapons had replaced them and the Regiment now had ten batteries including a rocket battalion. They went into action in Normandy in June 1944.  Six were issued to the 6th Battery, 2nd Battalion (II. Abteilung (sf)) and six were issued to the 9th Battery, 3rd Battalion (III. Abteilung (sf)) . The Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 125 was shown as having six 15 cm sFH 13/1 SPGs and the Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 192 also had six.
The last ones were knocked out when they were caught in the Falaise Pocket and subjected to intense bombing, shelling and gun fire in August 1944. There are only two original surviving examples left. A third was recently destroyed in Iraq. The best example of a surviving 15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) SdKfz 135/1 self propelled artillery gun was captured at El-Alamein and is now kept at the US Army Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, OK, USA. The second is damaged, but is on display at the El-Alamein War Museum in Egypt.
15 cm Geschutzwagen Lorraine, driver hatch down
The driver’s compartment is open on this 15 cm SPG SdKfz 135/1. Mounted on the front right of the superstructure armour plate is a 7.92 mm MG-34 machinegun with anti-aircraft sight. Notice the D shaped handles on the side and at the bottom of the front armour plate.

The 15 cm sFH 13 gun

The abbreviation “15 cm sFH 13” used in the designation of this self-propelled artillery gun is short for 15 cm schwere Feldhaubitze 13. It was a heavy (schwere) field howitzer (Feldhaubitze). It was towed by horses and used by the German Army in World War I and at the beginning of World War II. When they were available, half-tracks were also used to tow these artillery pieces.
In the 1930s, the longer barrelled 15 cm sFH 18 heavy field howitzer was introduced, that could deliver 150 mm (5.9 in) high explosives HE shells at a longer distance. The older 15 cm sFH 13 guns were moved to reserve and training units, as well as to coastal artillery. At the end of WW1, many of these guns entered service with the Belgian and the Dutch Army. The German Wehrmacht took control of them again in 1940.
The gun was designed by Krupp in 1913 and manufactured at the Krupp factory and also the factories of Rheinmetall and Spandau. Over 3,000 of these guns were produced from 1913 to 1918. The recoil brake recuperator was positioned below the gun barrel to provide maximum possible stability for all gun elevations firing normal charges. A recuperator on an artillery gun is a device employing springs or pneumatic power to return a gun to the firing position after the recoil.
The HE high explosive shell weighed around 37.92 kg (83.6 lbs) and was loaded in two parts. This is known as a ‘separate loading’ round. First the explosive projectile shell was put into the gun breach and then the separate charge canister was rammed in behind it.
The gunner had seven different strengths of charge canisters to choose from, depending how far away the target was. The gun had an effective firing range of 4.7 km (2.92 miles) when charge No.7 was used. It had an effective firing range of 1.4 km (0.90 miles) when charge No.1 was used. It had a muzzle velocity of 381 m/s (1,250 ft/s) and a good gun crew could fire four rounds per minute.
Two types of shell were fired, the 15 cm. I.Gv.33 and the 15 cm. I.Gv.38. They were for all practical purposes identical. Both HE high explosive shells had a percussion fuse. The smoke shell was painted Grey and marked Nb in white letters.
15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) SdKfz 135/1 in the court yard of the Versailles Palace, France, 1943
Sixty 15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) SdKfz 135/1 in the court yard of the Versailles Palace, France in 1942.

Identification

One of the easiest ways of telling the difference between a 10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery gun and the 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) is to look at the armored housing that surrounds the gun’s recoil management recuperator mechanisms.
On the 10.5cm leFH 18 there are two, one above and below the gun. On the 15 cm sFH (sf) there is only one below the gun barrel. The 15 cm sFH (sf) gun was not fitted with a muzzle brake. It does have two metal bands fitted around the barrel, unlike the 10.5cm leFH-18/40 gun. Both guns were fitted to the same Lorraine 37L tractor chassis.

21st Panzer Division June 1944

Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 155
I. Abteilung (1st Battalion)
1st Battery 4x 12.2-cm-Kanone 390/1(r) (captured Russian)
2nd Battery 4x 12.2-cm-Kanone 390/1(r) (captured Russian)
3rd Battery 4x 10 cm K 18’s
II. Abteilung (sf) (2nd Battalion)
4th Battery 6x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
5th Battery 6x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
6th Battery 6x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine
III. Abteilung (sf) (3rd Battalion)
7th Battery 6x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
8th Battery 6x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
9th Battery 6x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine
Rocket Battalion (Werfer)
10. Batterie (10th Battery)
2x S307(f) R-Vielfachwerfer
Kampfgruppe Rauch Panzergrenadier-Regiment 192
9.(SiG) Kompanie
3x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine
Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 155
2.Battalion
4th Battery 3x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
5th Battery 3x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
6th Battery 3x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine
Kampfgruppe Oppeln Panzer-Regiment 22
Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 155
3.Battalion
7th Battery 3x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
8th Battery 3x 10.5 cm le.FH 18 auf Lorraine
9th Battery 3x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine
Kampfgruppe Luck Panzergrenadier-Regiment 125
9.(SiG) Kompanie
3x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine
1.Panzergrenadier-Abteilung (SPW)
HQ 1x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine
9.(SiG) Kompanie
3x 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine

An article by Craig Moore

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 5.31 m (4.4 m without gun) x 1.85 m x 2.02 m
(17ft 5in (14ft 6in without gun) x 5ft 1in x 6ft 7in)
Total weight, battle ready 8.5 tonnes (18,739 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Type 135 Delahaye 6-cylinder water cooled inline 3.56 litre petrol engine, 70 hp at 2800 rpm
Fuel capacity 110 liters
Top speed 35 km/h (22 mph)
Operational range (road) 120 km (74.5 miles)
Armament 15 cm (5.9 in) sFH 13/1 howitzer with 36 rounds
7.96 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 machine gun
Armor Front 9 mm, cast nose 12 mm, sides 9 mm, rear 9 mm
Superstructure front 10 – 14.5mm, sides 8 mm
Total production 166

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.10 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thanks L. Jentz
German self-propelled guns by Gordon Rottman
Profile AFV Weapons 55 German Self-Propelled Weapons by Peter Chamberlain and H.L.Doyle
Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der Deutschen Wehrmacht by Walter J. Spielberger
Normandy 1944: German military organization, combat power and effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling
Restricted July 1944 – Allied Expeditionary Force – German Guns – Brief notes and range tables for allied gunners.  SHAEF/16527/2A/GCT

Sd.Kfz.135/1, North Africa, 1942
Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (SdKfz 135/1) in sand and green livery, North Africa, 1942. 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f)
Alkett built 15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (SdKfz 135/1) in plain grey livery. Late 1942.
Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f)
Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (SdKfz 135/1) in plain sand and green livery. Normandy, summer 1944.
Baukommando Becker built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f)
Baukommando Becker built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (SdKfz 135/1) in sand, green and brown livery with long tailspade. Normandy, summer 1944.

Operational Photographs

Alkett built Geschutzwagens awaiting shipping to North Africa
Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) awaiting shipping to North Africa
15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper Battle of El Alamein
Battle of El Alamein Oct-Nov 1942 Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (SdKfz 135/1)
15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f)
15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) captured by British troops (Mike Foster)
15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine Schlepper SPG with gun raised and the short tailspade deployed at the rear in North Africa.
15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine Schlepper SPG with gun raised and the short ‘tailspade’ deployed at the rear in North Africa.
One of the twenty three 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine Schlepper self-propelled artillery guns used in North Africa.
One of the twenty three 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine Schlepper self-propelled artillery guns used in North Africa.
Captured 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine Schlepper SPG
In the background there are 7 captured Afrika Korps 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery guns in a British scrap yard near El Alamein, waiting to be broken up. Photo dated 16th December 1943.
Captured 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine Schlepper in North Africa in British hands
Captured 15 cm sFH 13 auf Lorraine Schlepper in North Africa in British hands
A Baukommando Becker 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (Sd.Kfz.135/1)
A 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (Sd.Kfz.135/1). Notice the rain cover and D shaped handles fitted to the sides and bottom of the front armor plate.
Notice the 'tailspade' in the up position at the back of this 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)self-propelled gun
Notice the ‘tailspade’ in the up position at the back of this 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)self-propelled gun.
15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) in Normandy
15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) in Normandy. Notice the D shaped handles fitted to the sides of the front armour plate and the spare bogie wheel mount on the front.
15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) in Normandy with long extended large tail spade at the rear.
15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) in Normandy with long extended large tail spade at the rear. Notice the D shaped handles fitted to the sides of the front armour plate and the spare bogie wheel mount on the front.
Rear view of the 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f)
Rear view of the 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) with its recoil spade in the travelling position.

Surviving Examples

US Army Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, OK, USA, an Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)
Captured at El-Alamein, now kept at the US Army Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, OK, USA, an Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) Sd.Kfz.135/1 self propelled artillery gun (photo by Gordon Blaker)
l Alamein War Museum, Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPG
El Alamein War Museum, Alkett built 15 cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPG (photo by F.N.A.I.Torino)
This photograph was taken by a Danish Soldier in 2005. It stood as a monument at the entrance to an ordnance factory north of Basra in Iraq, not far from the remains of a Saddam memorial.
This photograph was taken by a Danish Soldier in 2005. It stood as a monument at the entrance to an ordnance factory north of Basra in Iraq, not far from the remains of a Saddam memorial.
This photograph was taken by the same Danish soldier a few weeks later. Local Iraqi people had started to strip the vehicle after the removal of the Saddam Government.
This photograph was taken by the same Danish soldier a few weeks later. Local Iraqi people had started to strip the vehicle after the removal of the Saddam Government. Notice that the gun is in full recoil after the breech exploded. Location and condition unknown at present.
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!