WW2 German Improvised AFVs WW2 Yugoslav Partisan Armor of German Origin

Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf.D mit Zwilling 12 cm Granatwerfer 42

German Reich/Yugoslav Partisans (1945)
Self-Propelled Mortar – 1 Modified

The occupation of Yugoslavia by the Axis forces led to nearly five years of heavy fighting and destruction. All warring parties that participated in the fighting in Yugoslavia were often forced to use older equipment and armaments, as not much else was available. While the Germans employed various armored vehicles, these were mostly older or captured equipment. The Yugoslav Partisans could only employ armor captured from the enemy. In order to gain a slight upper hand over the enemy, or to simply improve their firepower, various field and unique modifications were designed and built by both sides. Generally, in rarer cases, some of these were documented, while, for the majority, almost nothing is known besides a few available photographs that prove their existence. One of these was a Sd.Kfz.251 modification equipped with two 12 cm mortars.

This unusual and unique Sd.Kfz.251 is equipped with two 12 cm mortars. Colored by Smaragd. Source:

A Brief History of the Occupation of Yugoslavia

After the unsuccessful invasion of Greece by Italian forces, Benito Mussolini was forced to ask for help from his German ally. Adolf Hitler agreed to provide assistance, fearing a possible Allied attack through the Balkans would reach Romania and its vital oil fields. On the path of the German advance towards Greece stood Yugoslavia, whose government initially agreed to join the Axis side. This agreement was short-lived, as the Yugoslavian government was overthrown by an anti-Axis pro-Allied military coup at the end of March 1941. Hitler immediately gave an order for the preparation for the invasion of Yugoslavia. The war that began on 6th April 1941 was a short one and ended with a Yugoslavian defeat and the division of its territory between the Axis powers.
Following the collapse of Yugoslavia, the occupying Axis forces did not expect any major trouble to come from this part of Europe. Unfortunately for them, very quickly, two resistance groups sprang up, the Royalist Chetniks and the Communist Partisans. What followed was five years of heavy struggle, suffering, and destruction on all warring sides in Yugoslavia. While the resistance movements were initially small in scope, by 1944, the Communist Partisans movement combat strength reached several hundreds of thousands. They also employed armored formations consisting of vehicles that were either supplied by the Allies or captured by the enemy. While many Axis allies were present in occupied Yugoslavia, German forces were by far the largest and best equipped. This did not mean that these German units were supplied with the best equipment. Instead, they were mostly equipped with older, captured, or even obsolete weapons and vehicles. But even this, in many cases, was better than the weapons of other participants on this front.

Field Modifications

The combat operations in occupied Yugoslavia would see the use of a number of rare, obsolete, or captured equipment, along with some more modern ones. The most common in use were the French armored vehicles employed by the Germans. After 1943, these were mostly replaced with Italian vehicles, which were also captured by the Germans after their former ally surrendered. Given the Partisan’s lack of any kind of anti-tank weapons, except on the rare occasions when such weapons were captured from the enemy, even these obsolete armored vehicles could be put to good use. In order to compensate for the lack of armored vehicles, both the Germans and the Partisans made a number of unusual modifications. These often included reusing the already existing vehicles and adding better weapons in the hope of increasing their firepower. Probably some of the best-known examples of this were the M3 Light Tank modifications made by the Partisan First Tank Brigade in late 1944. These were made by adding a 2 cm anti-aircraft or a 7.5 cm anti-tank gun on the M3’s superstructure.

The 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank version of the M3A3 was employed by the Partisans near the end of the war. Source: www.srpskioklop.paluba

The Germans were not idlers either, creating a number of lesser-known improvised armored vehicles. These were constructed by simply reusing any available vehicles. Some modifications were quite simple, like adding a machine gun on a civilian car or truck. Others were more elaborate, such as adding a Panzer 38(t) turret on an Italian medium tank’s body. Another modification included arming a Sd.Kfz.251 half-track with two 12 cm mortars.

Often, due to a lack of proper armored vehicles, ordinary trucks and cars would instead be armed with machine guns. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945
A French tracked ammunition carrier equipped with an improvised superstructure that was taken from an Italian Medium tank, made by the Germans and used in Yugoslavia. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945
Another strange improvisation consisting of a Sd.Kfz.250 half-track armed with a 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank gun. This particular vehicle can be seen at the Belgrade Military Museum, Source: Wikimedia


During the early development of new Panzer formations, it quickly became obvious that the supporting infantry would need a vehicle that was protected and also had sufficient mobility to keep up with tanks. The choice was made to use the already available Sd.Kfz.11 half-track chassis, on which an armored body was placed. Two firms were responsible for the creation of this vehicle, Hanomag and Bussing-NAG. The first was responsible for the development of the chassis, while the latter was to provide the upper body armor. This vehicle was designated as Mittlere Gepanzerte Mannschaftskraftwagen (Englis: Medium armored personnel vehicle), but is generally best known by its designation number, Sd.Kfz.251.
It had a crew of 2 but was capable of transporting a squad of 10 troops. It was lightly protected but provided with highly sloped armor plates. The armament consisted of two machine guns, one mounted to the front and the second to the rear. Production of the first vehicles began in 1939, and, initially, three different versions would be introduced to service (Ausf.A to C) each receiving a slight modification to improve the vehicle’s overall performance. From 1943 onwards, the Ausf.D was introduced to service. It offered a more simplified overall construction, which was better suited for production. Overall, by the end of the war, over 15,000 of all variants were built.

The Sd.Kfz.251 was a vital troop carrier employed by the advancing panzer divisions. Source: Wiki

The Sd.Kfz.251 in Yugoslavia

The Sd.Kfz.251 was used for the first time in the Balkans during the occupation of Yugoslavia in April 1941. Following the successful completion of the short so-called April War (lasting from 6th to 17th April), most German armored formations either advanced toward Greece or went back to Germany to prepare for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union.

An Sd.Kfz.251 during the short April War in Yugoslavia. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945

Until 1943, these vehicles were generally rarely used in fighting with the Yugoslavian Partisans. After the capitulation of Italy and the ever-increasing numbers of Yugoslav Partisans, the Germans began introducing a larger number of Sd.Kfz.251s. Some units that used the Sd.Kfz.251 or some of its variants during 1943 were the SS Freiwilling Gerbirgs Division Prinz Eugen and the Verstarkers Polizei Panzer Kompanie 13. Interestingly, the later unit also employed the rare VK16.01 Panzers. Probably the best-equipped unit that saw service by the end of 1943 was the Panzergrenadier Lehr Regiment 901. In total, it had 236 Sd.Kfz.251s in 10 different variants. This included some 10 Sd.Kfz.251/2s armed with a single 8 cm mortar. This unit was only stationed briefly in Yugoslavia, before being moved to Hungary. The Panzer Abteilung 202 operated in Yugoslavia through the war, and, by late 1944, had in its inventory a number of Sd.Kfz.251 vehicles. The Sd.Kfz.251 performed their original role, transporting troops, or other support roles, such as ammunition carriers, firing support, or command.

SS Freiwilling Gerbirgs Division Prinz Eugen employed a number of Sd.Kfz.251 vehicles while fighting the Partisans. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945
Whilst the basic version of the Sd.Kfz.251 was the most common, other versions based on this vehicle were also employed in Yugoslavia. In this photograph, a 2 cm armed Sd.Kfz.251/17 captured by the Partisans. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945

The Modified Vehicle

There are a few photographs showing Partisan crew members operating a modified Sd.Kfz.251 half-track. This half-track had its superstructure partly cut off in order to use the new armament of two heavy mortars installed inside its passenger compartment. Unfortunately, this vehicle is quite poorly documented and there is little-to-no information about its use. Even the reasons why it was built are unknown.

Who Built It?

Due to the general lack of any kind of information about its origin, it is difficult to determine who actually built this vehicle. There are few possible participants in the fighting in Yugoslavia who could have potentially done it.

The Axis’ Allies

Almost from the start, of Germany’s allies, Bulgaria and Hungary can be excluded as the builders of this vehicle. While they had ground forces stationed in Yugoslavia, none of them ever operated any armored element during the occupation period. This does not include the later Bulgarian involvement when they switched sides and helped the Partisans liberate some towns in Serbia. During this occasion, they employed German-supplied armored vehicles and even managed to capture some damaged vehicles left by the retreating Germans. While there is a small chance that they could have modified the Sd.Kfz.251, it is highly unlikely for a few major reasons. The participation of the Bulgarian forces in Yugoslavia was rather brief, near the end of 1944. They simply lacked the time and a proper workshop to modify this vehicle. Lastly, but more importantly, the Bulgarians took with them nearly all captured German vehicles that they came across. They even waged small skirmishes with the Partisans over them, resulting in casualties on both sides.
The other Axis ally, Croatia, was more reliant on Germany for its survival. Due to its inability to acquire weapons and armored vehicles, it was highly dependent on Germany in this matter too. In 1942, the Croatians did manage to locally build a few armored trucks. While they received some armored vehicles (excluding the Sd.Kfz.251) from the Germans, these were allocated in limited numbers. Based on their limited production capabilities and resources, they too seem unlikely to have modified the Sd.Kfz.251. Interestingly enough, there is a photograph of an Italian medium tank equipped with a German Panzer 38(t) turret which was often associated with the Croatians due to its markings. The history of this vehicle is unknown, but, given the fact the Croatian never operated either of these two tanks, it is likely a German modification, possibly temporarily given to their allies.

One of the many strange improvised vehicles often associated with the NDH forces and used in Yugoslavia during the war. It consisted of an Italian medium tank body mated with a Panzer 38(t) turret. This vehicle would be captured by the Partisans together with other German vehicles in May 1945. Sadly, its fate is unknown.

Yugoslav Partisans

The Yugoslavian Partisans made several improvised armored vehicles during the war. For example, the First Tank Brigade modified a number of Allied-supplied M3A3 tanks and equipped them with German-captured weapons (7.5 cm PaK 40 and 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling) in the Šibenik workshop during 1944/45. In addition, they also modified one Somua 35 by replacing its gun with the larger 57 mm gun taken from a damaged AEC II armored car. They certainly had the ability to make this modification. Given that the only surviving photograph of this vehicle shows it being operated by the Partisans also greatly supports this idea. On the other hand, there is no documentation that shows that they actually did it, unlike for the other known conversions.


The most likely creators of this vehicle were the Germans. There are several reasons for this. The vehicle and the gun were of German origin and their troops had the expertise, tools, and equipment needed to actually make such an improvised vehicle. Lastly, but most importantly, a number of authors, such as B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne (Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945), mention that this vehicle was captured from the Germans.


There is no information about the exact designation for this vehicle, and whether the Germans or later Partisans even bothered to assign one for it. In accordance with German army practice, the nomenclature, and designation of such a modification could have been Sd.Kfz.251 mit (English: with) Zwilling 12 cm Granatwerfer 42.



The Sd.Kfz.251 hull consisted of a frontal mounted engine compartment, followed by the tracked suspension unit, above which the armored superstructure was placed. For this modification, it appears that the overall hull design remained unchanged.

Suspension and Engine

The Sd.Kfz.251’s tracked suspension consisted of seven overlappings and interleaved double road wheels, where the last one also acted as the idler. These were mounted on swing arms sprung by torsion bars. The suspension was powered by a front-mounted drive sprocket. The steering of the vehicle was done by the front-mounted wheels at low steering.
This vehicle was powered by a Maybach HL 42 100 [email protected] 2,800 rpm strong engine. With this engine, the Sd.Kfz.251’s maximum speed was slightly over 50 km/h, limited to 30 km/h cross-country. With a fuel load of 160 liters, the maximum operational range was 300 km on road and 150 km off-road. The weight of the two mortars, machine guns, spare ammunition, and crew members would have probably slightly increased its overall weight of 8.6 tonnes. This, in turn, may have affected this modified vehicle’s performance to a small extent. Due to the lack of available information, it is difficult to know this more precisely.

A close-up view of the Sd.Kfz.251’s suspension and the drivetrain components. Source:


While there are only a few photographs of this modified vehicle, none of them show the whole vehicle. This may lead to some problems with the identification of the precise version of the chassis. Luckily, one of the existing pictures shows the right side of this vehicle. On it, one major feature exists that helps identify the precise version of the Sd.Kfz.251 which was used as the base. The modified Sd.Kfz.251’s side shows that it had the three large storage bins, present only on the Ausf.D versions. Earlier versions had different bins, which helps identify the precise version.
The vehicle itself appears to have retained much of its superstructure unchanged. The major modification implemented was cutting the upper parts of the side armor. This was done to provide additional traverse for the main armament. If any other change to the superstructure was done is sadly not known.

In order to provide room for the traverse of the two large 12 cm mortars, it was necessary to cut away the upper parts of the side superstructure. Also note the superstructure side storage boxes, which help identify this chassis as the Ausf.D version. Source:
For comparison, the earlier version had greatly different side armor plates, where the storage boxes were located. Source:
Another side view of an Ausf.D version, showing the difference in the superstructure design. Source:


Following the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans managed to capture large stockpiles of different kinds of weapons. This included the 12 cm PM-38 mortars. The Germans were quite impressed with this weapon and put it in service, where it was known as 12 cm Granatwerfer 378(r). Given this mortar’s excellent performance, the Germans even began their own production of this weapon, simply copying its design. The newly produced mortar received the new designation 12 cm Granatwerfer 42 (12 cm GrW 42), but was otherwise the same as the original Soviet mortar. When fully deployed for firing, its overall weight was 285 kg. The elevation ranged between 45° to 85°. The normal firing rate was 6 rounds per minute, but a more experienced and well-trained crew could increase it to 8 to 10 rounds per minute. With a muzzle velocity of 283 m/sec, the maximum firing range was slightly over 6 km.

The German 12 cm Granatwerfer 42. Source: Wiki

The choice of using two large 12 cm mortars for the armament of this modification is unusual. Given the high trajectory of the 12 cm rounds during firing, it is obvious that it was designed to provide long-range artillery support. This concept was not new to the Germans, as they already employed the Sd.Kfz.251 vehicles in this manner. The Sd.Kfz.251/2 version was designed to provide the infantry with a supporting firing platform armed with one 8 cm mortar. The whole mortar, with its base and legs, was simply placed inside the crew compartment. No major modification was needed on the vehicle itself, besides the removal of the front mounted machine gun and some minor internal changes in order to fit the mortar with its ammunition.

The Sd.Kfz.251/2 version was armed with a single 8 cm mortar. Source:

The improvised vehicle employed in Yugoslavia was quite different in many regards. The most obvious change was the addition of two 12 cm mortars. This would require a number of structural modifications to the vehicle itself. In contrast to the 8 cm mortar, its larger counterpart used a larger round-shaped base platform. This provided a better firing platform and also prevented the mortar from digging itself into the ground during firing.

How the two mortars were installed inside this vehicle is unknown. Based on the surviving photographs, it appears that the mortar mounts were heavily modified. First, a sufficiently strong base platform had to be installed inside the Sd.Kfz.251’s bottom. This had to be strong enough to contain the recoil force of the two mortars without damaging the vehicle itself. If the 12 cm mortar platform was reused or a completely new one was built is unknown.
It appears that a new mount that held the two barrels was used instead of the original mortar bipod. As the photograph’s angle is not very good, it is also possible that the original bipods were retained with some modifications. Both the elevating and traverse screws, with their handles, were retained. Due to close proximity of the barrels, the traverse handles had to be positioned opposite of each other. This new installation appears to have provided an independent limited traverse and elevation of the two mortars. It is important to note that, as these two shared a common base platform, both barrels had to be pointed in the same direction. The different positions of the mortars on the available photograph and the cut upper side armor plates indicated that these may have had a full 360° firing arc.

The strange thing about this contraption is that no mortar sights are visible in the available photographs. These were originally located to the left of the mortar barrel. There could be several explanations for this. The simplest one would be that, due to photograph angles, the sights cannot not be seen. It is also possible that the crew that appears to be operating the mortars did not put them on. Lastly, it is also possible that the German crews took them with them just before the vehicle was captured by the Partisans, in order to disable it to some degree.

It is not clear, but the two mortars appear to have been placed on an especially designed mount. It possibly retained some elements from the original 12 cm mortar mounts, such as the elevating and traverse screw with their handles. Due to the close proximity of the barrels, the traverse handles had to be positioned opposite of each other. Source:
A 12 cm Mortar 42 drawing for comparison. Source:

The ammunition load for the two 12 cm mortars stored inside is unknown. The Sd.Kfz.251/2 armed with a single smaller mortar had an ammunition load of only 66 rounds. This indicates that the ammunition load for two larger mortars may have consisted of a dozen or even fewer spare rounds.

Two of what appear to be MG 34 machine guns were added to the vehicle. These two were placed on small mounts, located on the front part of the side armor plates. The overall characteristics and the ammunition load of these are unknown. The rear-positioned machine gun mount was unchanged.

The installations of the two machine gun mounts are quite mysterious, as the range of the two mortars meant that the vehicle would only engage with enemy positions from a long range. Thus, it did not need to engage an enemy at close range, rendering the machine guns superfluous. It is also possible that the Partisans themselves added these to the vehicle, as the vehicle may have been used for propaganda to look more intimidating.

Close-up view of the two side-mounted MG 34 machine guns. Source:

Armor Protection

The Sd.Kfz.251 was lightly protected. The frontal armor consisted of 14.5 mm angled plates and the sides were 8 mm thick. The bottom and the top were even weaker, at 5.5 mm. The armored plates used on this vehicle were well-angled, which in turn increased the chance of deflecting small caliber rounds. The small round opening on the superstructure sides would make this vehicle’s crew somewhat more exposed to enemy fire. But, given that this vehicle was meant to provide fire support from some distance away, this was not a major issue.


The number of crew this vehicle had is unknown. An Sd.Kfz.251/2, which was armed with the smaller 81 mm mortar, had a crew of 8. The modified Sd.Kfz.251, despite its larger armament, may have had a smaller crew. The vehicle itself would have needed the driver to drive it and also a commander. Given that it may have been possible to fire the two mortars independently, two gunners would have been needed. In addition, it is not clear who would operate the front-mounted machine guns. These were likely operated by the mortar gunners themselves.

The installation of the new armament and the ammunition needed to fire them would greatly have reduced the interior space. Likely, a loader had to be present to provide the necessary ammunition. It may also be possible that the gunners would also have served as loaders. This, in turn, would have greatly reduced their effectiveness and the vehicle’s rate of fire. Lastly, additional crew members would likely have been transported in another auxiliary vehicle that may have served as an ammunition transporter. Once again, given the general lack of any kind of information about this modified vehicle, this is just educated speculation.

With the addition of the new armament and spare ammunition, the crew compartment was likely cramped, especially during the traverse of the two large mortars. Source:

Service and Fate

The usage of this vehicle by the Germans is unknown. What is known is that, at some point in early 1945, it was captured by the Partisans in Croatia. It became part of the First Tank Brigade, but its final fate or if they even used in combat is not documented. This should not come as a surprise, as the Partisans themselves kept very poor documentation of the usage of captured weapons. In a number of cases, the use of armored vehicles by some Partisan units was not even reported to their superiors. This meant that this modified vehicle may have seen action against its former creators. There is also a possibility that it was lost in combat fighting the Germans.

The Partisans and the new Yugoslavian People’s Army after the war made extensive use of captured enemy equipment, as nothing else was available. For example, they operated at least a few of the rare Sd.Kfz.251/22 version armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun up to the early 1950s. If this mortar-armed vehicle indeed survived the war, it was likely scrapped shortly afterward.

An AB41 next to an Sd.Kfz.251/22 half-track armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 40 during military exercises in 1951. Source:

The Mortar Armed Stuart M3 Tank?

It is somewhat confusing that the available sources (mostly on the internet) mention that the Partisan First Tank Brigade had modified one of their tanks, replacing the turret and adding a mortar instead. As there is no actual proof that this ever occurred, it is likely that the culprit for this confusion was this modified Sd.Kfz.251 vehicle. Given that the surviving photograph does not show the whole vehicle, it is easy to see that for an untrained eye could have easily misidentified this as a tank chassis. This has led to speculations that the Partisans modified one of their M3 tanks in this way.


This modified Sd.Kfz.251 was another strange vehicle built and possibly used in Yugoslavia. Its overall design is shrouded in mystery, as it is not completely clear what its creator wanted to accomplish. Why add such extensive armament consisting of two heavy mortars and possibly up to three machine guns? Unfortunately, due to a lack of any information about its use, it can not be said if it was successful or flawed as an improvisation. It is a mystery that will probably remain unsolved until, hopefully, someone digs out more information about its history.

Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf.D mit Zwilling 12 cm Granatwerfer 42. Illustration by Godzilla.
Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf.D mit Zwilling 12 cm Granatwerfer 42 Specifications
Weight 8.5 tonnes
Dimensions Length 5.92, Width 2.88, Height 2.7 m
Engine Maybach HL 42 100 [email protected] 2,800 rpm
Speed 50 km/h
Primary Armament Two 12 cm Granatwerfer 42 mortars
Secondary Armament Up to three machine guns
Armor 5 to 14.5 mm


T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2001), Panzer Tracts No.15-3 mittlerer Schutzenpanzerwagen Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf.C and D
B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić (2011), Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945, Institut za savremenu istoriju
D. Predoević (2008), Oklopna vozila i oklopne postrojbe u drugom svjetskom ratu u Hrvatskoj, Digital Point Tiskara
V. Vuksić (2003), Tito’s Partisans 1941-45, Osprey Publishing
T. Gander and P. Chamberlain, Enzyklopadie Deutscher Waffen 1939-1945, Motor buch Verlag

Cold War Yugoslav Armor WW2 Yugoslav Partisan Armor of German Origin

Jagdpanzer 38(t) in Yugoslav Service

Yugoslav Partisans/Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1944-1952)
Tank Destroyer – 20+ Captured

During the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia (1941-1945) and the struggle for liberation, the resistance movements employed a collection of different armored vehicles from the USA, Germany, France, Great Britain, Poland, Soviet Union, and Italy. The Yugoslav Communist partisans used tanks and other vehicles that were given to them by the Western Allies and the Soviets, but also managed to capture a number of different Axis armored vehicles. Among these was the Jagdpanzer 38(t) which the Germans were using by the end of the war in small numbers on this front. The captured Jagdpanzer 38(t) would be used during the war in limited numbers and would also serve after the war by the new JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) army.

The Jagdpanzer 38(t)

When the Germans occupied what remained of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, they came into possession of two well-known weapon manufacturers: CKD (Ceskomoravska-Kolben-Danek) and Škoda. The CKD factory (renamed BMM by the Germans) was tasked with the production of the Panzer 38(t) for the Germans. The production of this tank would be terminated during the second half of the war, as it proved to be ineffective as a combat vehicle by that stage of the war.
The BMM factory continued production of different combat designs (mostly anti-tank) based on the Panzer 38(t)’s chassis. By late 1943, the BMM factory was involved in designing and building a light and relatively cheap tank destroyer vehicle based on some components from the Panzer 38(t). The result of this work would be the Jagdpanzer 38(t) tank destroyer. It was armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 39 and was fully enclosed and protected with well-angled 60 mm thick front armor. While not a perfect design, it would prove to be an effective anti-tank killer and during the war around 2,824 such vehicles were built by BMM and Škoda. It would be used on all fronts in Europe including in small numbers on the Balkans.

A brand new Jagdpanzer 38(t). Produced in August 1944 at the BMM factory. Source

In the Balkans

The quick defeat of Yugoslavia in April 1941 by the Axis forces created the wrong impression that there would be no more need for engagement of larger occupation force, but an uprising that began only a few months later forced the Germans to re-introduce some armored units in this region. At the start of the uprising, the Germans had only one armored company of old and captured tanks in the whole territory of occupied Yugoslavia. The Germans hastily rushed reinforcements including a tank battalion equipped with mostly captured French tanks ‘Beutepanzers’.
During the later part of the war, especially from 1943 onwards, the communist resistance movement, the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia (NOVJ) (Народноослободилачка војска Југославије), known today as the ‘Partisans’, began to increase in numbers. This was possible due to cooperation with the Allies which began supplying them with weapons, equipment and personnel. To combat the ever-increasing Partisan movement, the Germans were forced to send any available reinforcements, including some armored elements.
As most modern German armored vehicles were produced in relatively small numbers (in comparison to the Western Allies and Soviets) and were deemed too valuable, usually only older or captured vehicles would be sent to Yugoslavia. These were mostly French but included some Italian, Soviet, and a few British vehicles also. By 1944/45, some relatively modern vehicles, such as the Jagdpanzer 38, in small numbers, were present on this front with different units, including the 181st and 41st Infantry Divisions, 31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division, 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, and Panzer Abteilung 202.
The 181st Infantry Division was engaged fighting Partisan forces in Montenegro and Herzegovina during the second half of 1944. In October, Panzerjäger-Abteilung 222 was reinforced with 14 Jagdpanzer 38s and with another 10 in January 1945. During the German withdrawal from Yugoslavia in early Spring 1945, this Division would see some heavy action around Zagorje in Croatia. During the battle for the Sermian Front in early April 1945, the 41st Infantry Division was reinforced with 10 of these vehicles. Both these Division surrendered to the Partisans by 12th May 1945.
The 31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division since November 1944 had operated 14 Jagdpanzer 38 vehicles. This unit was for a short time used to fight Yugoslav Partisans before being deployed to Hungary to fight the Soviets. The much depleted 14th SS Grenadier Division “Galizische” was used to fight the Partisans in Slovenia during March, but shortly afterward was pulled out from this front. Panzer Abteilung 202 had been engaged in heavy fighting in Yugoslavia for years, its combat strength on 1st April 1945 was reported to be 23 Italian tanks, 2 Semovente 75/18, and 10 Jagdpanzers 38.

In Partisans hands

Precise information regarding the circumstances of when or how the Jagdpanzer 38 vehicles were captured is hard to find. The problem with Partisan documentation is that due to the poor knowledge of precise military designation, too often, wrong names or just simply the term tank (without any context or explanation of the type) were used. Sometimes Partisans units that did manage to capture enemy vehicles immediately put them into their service without reporting them to the High Command. Due to this, it is difficult to determine which vehicles were captured or if they were used in combat.
One of the first Jagdpanzers 38(t)s captured was during the German unsuccessful offensive action near Baranya that lasted from 6th to 19th March 1945. During the heavy fighting, the Partisans forced the Germans to withdraw and on that occasion, an unknown number (possibly only one or two) of Jagdpanzers 38(t)s were captured. The following month, another one was captured near Našice in North-East Croatia. Additionally, a number of these vehicles were also captured as they were left behind by the fleeing German forces. This is the case of Panzer Abteilung 202, as nearly all its armored vehicles (Jagdpanzers 38(t), M.15/42, Sd. Kfz. 251, etcetera) were found abandoned loaded on a train on the railroad from Ljubljana to Kranj. On top of that, a few were captured during the liberation of Maribor from 10th to 15th May 1945. The majority of the Jagdpanzers 38(t)s were captured with the final surrender of the 181st and 41st Infantry Divisions in May 1945.
According to researcher Dragan Savić, who investigated the Partisan archive of captured vehicles and equipment, a total of around 20 Jagdpanzer 38(t)s in various conditions were captured. Due to the lack of proper documentation, this number may be higher but it is hard to tell.

This vehicle was captured by the 16th Vojvodina Division (Vojvođanska Divizija) near the region of Baranya in March of 1945. Source

Another (or the same vehicle) with the 16th Vojvodina Division near the region of Baranya. Source
The use of these vehicles by the Partisan during the war is not well known due to the lack of documentation. The vehicles captured in Vojvodina (where the Jagdpanzers 38s were used) were often employed in combat, but only in small numbers.
There is a possibility that some Jagdpanzer 38(t)s were used by the specially formed Partisan auto-school (school for armored vehicle crew training) near the capital city of Belgrade in late 1944. If this school was independent or part of the larger school (possibly located, but there is no documentation to prove this) in the city of Kragujevac (Serbia) is also unknown. Allegedly, the Belgrade school in May 1945 had in its inventory: four R35, two-to-three M.15/42, L.6, one Semovente (possibly 75/18), two Semovente 47/32, a Hotchkiss (unknown type and numbers, probably a H35) StuG III, one Ferdinand (possibly a Jagdpanzer 38(t)) and a few armored cars.

One of the Jagdpanzer 38(t)s captured by the Yugoslavs and put into service, during training exercises at Bela Crkva after the war. Illustration by David Bocquelet, modified by Leander Jobse.

The name

During the war, the Yugoslav Partisans managed to capture a number of Axis armored combat vehicles. As the majority of the Partisan fighters who managed to capture these vehicles had no knowledge of the precise military designation for these vehicles, they called them by different and mostly wrong names. For example, the German-used T-34s (captured by the Soviet Union) were often called ‘Panther’, despite the fact that this vehicle was never used on this front.
The same is true in the case with the Jagdpanzer 38(t) (and, in some cases, for the StuG III, which also complicates the identification process), which was known under the name “Ferdinand” by some of its crew during and after the war. The origin of this name is not clear, but it is highly likely that name was taken from Soviet troops during the battle for Belgrade in late 1944.
After the war, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) never officially designated the Jagdpanzer 38(t) as Ferdinand. This is likely a result of the better understanding of the equipment captured during the war. In order to avoid any confusion and as the later JNA never gave any other designation, this article has and will use the original German designation for this vehicle.

After the war

The Jagdpanzers 38(t) in the JNA after the war were used mainly to equip combat units and as training vehicles. It was used for a short time to equip the 2nd Tank Brigade (equipped with the Soviet T-34-85) with two battalions of 8 Jagdpanzer 38(t)s during 1946. Some were given to the independent self-propelled anti-tank brigade.
A group of four or five such vehicles was given to the newly formed Tenkovsko Vojno Učilište (TVU) [Tank Military School] in November of 1945. The TVU was formed by the order of the Ministry of the National Committee in June 1945. The TVU had the aim to train a new generation of tank officers and was based on the Soviet model of schooling. It was first located at Banjica, but was relocated to Bela Crkva in 1946. In 1948, due to the Tito-Stalin split, Yugoslavia refused to join the Eastern communist bloc, and due to this decision, they were in real danger of a war with the Soviet Union. As the TVU was stationed near the Romanian border, it was put on high alert during this crisis. As this led to a slow crew training process, the TVU was again moved to Banja Luka far away from the eastern borders. From 1948 onwards, in the hope to keep the T-34-85s in good condition, the older and captured vehicles were mainly used for training.

A Jagdpanzer 38(t) during training exercises at Bela Crkva after the war. All captured vehicles received a three-digit label after the war. Source

Another photograph during training exercises after the war. Source
During its use as a training vehicle, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) was not much liked by its crews. There were a few reasons for this: cramped interior; unusual crew positions (with three crew member located on the right side); and during training, these vehicles were always marked as enemy vehicles, which was unpopular with its crews. The Jagdpanzer 38 would remain in operational service up to 1952 when the remaining vehicles were withdrawn from service as they were being replaced with more modern Western vehicles. Unfortunately, no Yugoslav Jagdpanzer 38(t) vehicles survive to this day.

Markings and paint scheme

After the war, there was no effective registration numbering system for the available armored vehicles of the JNA. Captured vehicles, regardless of origin, received a white three digits label which was simply painted with a paintbrush. The German vehicles were painted in the Dunkel Gelb with the combination of dark green and brown-red.

Yugoslav Jagdpanzer 38s in Albania

After the war, in Albania, a new communist regime established good but brief relations with Yugoslavia. As a result of these good relations, the JNA provided the Albanians with a number of different items of military equipment, supplies, personnel, and instructors. With training, a group of 21 tanks and other armored vehicles (including few Jagdpanzer 38(t)s) were also sent in September 1946. The instructors and other personnel were stationed there during 1947-48 and helped to train the Albanian crews.


The Jagdpanzer 38(t) did not have any influence on the future development of armored vehicles in JNA. It was important for two things: first, it helped build up the JNA strength after WWII at times the need for any armored vehicle was great, and it did help training first generations of new crew and officers.


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Duško Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
Bojan B. D. and Dragan S.(2011) Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu 1941-1945, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
Bojan B. D. (2010) Modernizacija i intervencija, Jugoslovenske oklopne jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
Velimir V. (2003), Tito’s Partisans 1941-45, Osprey publishing.
Samuel W. and Mitcham J.R. (2007), The German Order Of The Battle, Stackpole Books.

Jagdpanzer 38(t) specifications

Dimensions 6.38 x 2.63 x 2.17 m
Total weight, battle-ready 15.7 tonnes
Crew 4 (Gunner, loader, driver and commander)
Propulsion Six-cylinder Praga AE water-cooled 150 hp
Speed 42 km/h, 15 km/h (cross-country)
Range 177 km
Armament 75 mm PaK 39 and one MG 34 or MG 42 machine gun
Armor 60-8 mm
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index
WW2 German Improvised AFVs WW2 Yugoslav Partisan Armor of German Origin

Sd.Kfz.250 mit 5 cm PaK 38

German Reich/Yugoslav Partisans/Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? (1943-1954)
Self-Propelled Gun – 1 Built

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


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

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

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

Leichter Gepanzerter Mannschaftskraftwagen Sd.Kfz.250

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

5 cm PaK 38

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

Pak 38 in action. Photo: SOURCE

The Modification

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Who built it and why?

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

In Partisan/JNA Service

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

The Name

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


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

The Belgrade Military Museum

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


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


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