Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Latest Additions

Hello there toy soldier lovers, and welcome to the next installment of the LA series of posts, only the second so far but by no means the last

These models dropped onto the doormat, metaphorically speaking, on Saturday morning having come all the way from Canada, to be precise from Quebec, where they were previously being lovingly looked after by Toy Soldiers Club [see previous post]

The two foot figures depict an officer and rifleman of the LAH regiment and come from the K+C Berlin '38 series, whilst the tank is a Waffen SS Panzer III in summer camo pattern, very recently retired

An officer and rifleman of the LAH presenting arms

Showing the detail of the marching pack

The following photos show the above two figures 'in situ' as part of my recently begun Lichterfelde Barracks display. I have BIG plans for this display so keep looking in on the blog every once in a while if you want to see how it develops!

And here are a few shots of the Panzer III, broken up with a few historical details pertaining to its manufacture and usage during the war. More details available from Wikipedia, Achtung Panzer, and Military History Encyclopedia

Development Details

The Panzer III Medium Tank was the main German battle tank for the first two and a half years of the Second World War, only beginning to lose that status after the appearance of the Panzer IV Ausf F2 in March 1942. Until then the Panzer III had been the only German tank armed with a gun designed to penetrate enemy armour

Serious work on the Panzer III began in 1936, when a number of German tank manufacturers produced prototypes for a tank in the 15 ton category. This tank would be the main anti-tank weapon, firing armour piercing shot from its 3.7cm gun, while the Panzer IV would be the close support tank, firing high explosive shells at soft-shelled vehicles or anti-tank guns

Daimler-Benz, Krupp, MAN and Rheinmetall all produced prototypes. Testing of the prototypes took place in 1936 and 1937, leading to the Daimler-Benz design being chosen for production. The first model of the Panzer III, the Ausf. A, came off the assembly line in May 1937, and a total of ten, two of which were unarmed, were produced in 1937. Mass production of the Ausf. F version began in 1939

The development and production of the Panzer III progressed very slowly. On 1 September 1939 only 98 had been completed (compared to 211 Panzer IVs, 1,223 Panzer IIs and nearly 1,500 Panzer Is). The situation had somewhat changed by the start of the campaign in the west in May 1940, by which time there were over 300 Panzer IIIs on the front line, but it would only be available in really large numbers for the start of the invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941

A Panzer III belonging to the SS Wiking Division in Russia
The Panzer III was laid out in the same way as the earlier Panzer I and II, with the engine at the rear and the gearbox at the front. The turret was an enlarged version of the one used on the Panzer II, now carrying three out of the five crew (commander, gunner and loader), an arrangement that dramatically improved the fighting power of the tank by increasing the rate of fire and allowing each member of the crew to concentrate on one job, particularly the tank commander who was able to focus on situational awareness and overall tactical considerations. This design feature was inherited by all future German tanks and by many later Allied vehicles as well

The Panzer III was intended as the primary battle tank of the German forces, however, when it initially met the KV and T-34 tanks in Russia it proved to be inferior in both armour and gun power. To meet the growing need to counter these tanks, the Panzer III was up-gunned with a longer, more powerful 50mm (1.97 in) cannon and received more armour, although this failed to effectively address the problem caused by the KV tank designs. As a result, production of self-propelled guns, as well as the up-gunning of the Panzer IV, was initiated

A Panzer III of the 2nd SS Panzer Division, Das Reich, after the Battle of Kursk
In 1942, the final version of the Panzer III, the Ausf. N, was created with a 75mm (2.95 in) KwK 37 L/24 cannon, a low-velocity gun designed for anti-infantry and close-support work. For defensive purposes, the Ausf. N was equipped with rounds of hollow charge ammunition which could penetrate 70 to 100 millimetres (2.76 to 3.94 in) of armour depending on the round's variant but these were strictly used for self-defense

  • Panzer III Ausf. A, B, C, D - Pre-production models in 1937-1938. 75 produced.
  • Panzer III Ausf. E, F - Production models 1939-1940. Armed with 3.7 cm KwK 36 L/46.5 (later 5 cm KwK 38 L/42) guns. 531 produced.
  • Panzer III Ausf. G - More armour on gun mantlet. Armed with 5 cm KwK 38 L/42 gun. 600 produced in 1940-1941.
  • Panzer III Ausf. H - Minor modifications. Bolt-on armor added to front and rear hull (30 mm + 30 mm plates). 308 produced in 1940-1941.
  • Panzer III Ausf. I - Variant mentioned in Allied intelligence reports but not an actual existing vehicle.
  • Panzer III Ausf. J - The hull was lengthened. Front armor increased to 50 mm plate. 482 produced in 1941.
  • Panzer III Ausf. J¹ - Equipped with the longer and more powerful 5 cm KwK 39 L/60 gun. 1,067 produced in late 1941 to mid 1942.
  • Panzer III Ausf. K - Panzerbefehlswagen command tank variant with a modified turret. Carried actual main armament rather than a dummy gun as found on other Panzer III command versions.
  • Panzer III Ausf. L - Uparmored to 50 mm + 20 mm plates. 653 produced in 1942.
  • Panzer III Ausf. M - Minor modifications such as deep-wading exhaust and schurzen. 250 produced in 1942-1943.
  • Panzer III Ausf. N - Armed with a short barreled 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun, due to 7.5 cm gun's ability to fire HEAT rounds. 700 re-equipped J/L/M models in 1942-1943.
Panzer IIIs pictured during the invasion of France in 1940
Combat Record

The Panzer III was used in the campaigns against Poland, France, the Soviet Union and in North Africa. A handful were still in use in Normandy and at Arnhem in 1944

In the Polish and French campaigns, the Panzer III formed a small part of the German armoured forces. Only a few hundred Ausf. A through F were available in these campaigns, most armed with the 37mm (1.46 in) gun. They were the best medium tank available to the Germans and outclassed most of their opponents

Around the time of Operation Barbarossa the Panzer III was numerically the most important German tank. At this time the majority of the available tanks (including re-armed Ausf. E and F, plus new Ausf. G and H models) had the 50mm (1.97 in) KwK 38 L/42 cannon which was also mounted on the majority of the tanks in North Africa. Initially, the Panzer IIIs were outclassed and outnumbered by Soviet T-34 and KV tanks but many of these suffered from mechanical problems and their crews were not that familiar with them. This, along with superior German tactical skill, crew training, and the superior ergonomics of the Panzer III, all contributed to the Germans managing to achieve very respectable kill ratios against their Russian opponents

The appearance of the T-34 and KV tanks did, however, worry the Germans and rearming the Panzer III with a longer, more powerful 50mm (1.97 in) cannon was prioritised. The T-34 was generally invulnerable in frontal engagements with the Panzer III until the 50 mm KwK 39 L/60 gun was introduced on the Panzer III Ausf. J1 in the spring of 1942 (the gun was based on  the infantry's 50mm Pak 38 L/60). This could penetrate the T-34 frontally at ranges under 500 metres (1,600 ft). Against the KV tanks it was a threat if armed with special high velocity tungsten rounds. In addition, to counter antitank rifles, in 1943 the Ausf. L version began to be fitted with spaced armour skirts (schürzen) around the turret and on the hull sides. However, due to the introduction of the upgunned and uparmoured Panzer IV, the Panzer III was, after the Battle of Kursk, soon relegated to secondary roles, and it was replaced as the main German medium tank by the Panzer IV and the Panther

A wrecked Panzer III, somewhere in Russia

The Panzer III chassis was the basis for the turretless Sturmgeschutz III assault gun, one of the most successful self-propelled guns of the war, and the single most-produced German armored fighting vehicle design of World War II

By the end of the war, the Pz.III had almost no frontline use and many had been returned to the factories for conversion into StuG assault guns, which were in high demand due to the defensive warfare style adopted by the German Army by that stage

For more information on the combat record of the Panzer III, see the following: "Panzer III Medium Tank"

Other Panzer III Based Designs

  • Artillerie-Panzerbeobachtungswagen III - Forward artillery observer tank. 262 produced.
  • Bergepanzer III - In 1944 some Panzer IIIs were converted to armoured recovery vehicles.
  • Flammpanzer III Ausf. M / Panzer III (F1) - Flamethrower tank. 100 converted from existing Panzer III Ausf. M.
  • Minenräumer III - Mineclearing vehicle based on a Panzer III chassis with a very highly raised suspension. (Prototype only.)
  • Panzerbefehlswagen III - Command tank. Heavier armor, dummy gun, and long-range radios.
  • Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B - A close-support, Assault gun. Armed with a 15 cm sIG 33, 24 built.
  • Sturmgeschütz III - Assault gun / tank destroyer armed with a 75-millimetre (2.95 in) StuK.
  • The Soviet SU-76i self-propelled gun was based on the chassis of captured German Panzer III and StuG III. About 1,200 of these vehicles, many from Stalingrad, were converted at Factory No. 38 in 1943 for Red Army service by removing the turret, constructing a fixed casemate, and installing a 76.2-millimetre (3.00 in) ZiS-5 gun in a limited-traverse mount. The armour was 60 millimetres (2.36 in) thick on the casemate front, 50 millimetres (1.97 in) in the hull front, and 30 millimetres (1.18 in) on the hull side. It was issued to tank and self-propelled gun units starting in autumn 1943.
  • Tauchpanzer III - Some tanks were converted to "diving tanks" for Operation Sealion.

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