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WW2 German Tank Battalion / Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V.40


Lineage

  • Newly formed unit from elements of 3., 4., and 5.Panzer-Divisionen

History

Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V.40 (z.b.V. - zur besonderen Verwendung - for special utilization) was formed as Heerestruppe at Dabendorf near Berlin (Wk III) on March 8th 1940 to support the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. This battalion sized unit consisted of 3 leichte Panzer-Kompanien of 3 Panzer-Zug each (later a 4th Panzer-Zug was added to each Kompanie after the Norwegian Campaign ended). Each of the leicht-Panzer-Kompanien of the Abteilung were given up from the following units: 6.Kp./6.Pz.Rg./3.Pz.Div, 1.Kp./35.Pz.Rg./4.Pz.Div, and 5.Kp./15.Pz.Rg/5.Pz.Div; these Kompanien formed the basis of the new unit, and the resulting Panzer-Abteilung had a total of 9 Panzer-Zuge, with around 45-50 tanks total. Most of the armored fighting vehicles employed were of the Pz.Kpfw.I type, with comparatively few Pz.Kpfw.II types with modified armor-plate available. Later, after April 25, 1940 two further platoons, each with 1 Pz.II, and 4 Pz.I were sent to Pz.Abt.zbV.40 to make up for Panzers lost in action.

Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V.40 was attached to the 11.Schützen-Brigade for the campaign, although portions of the Abteilung would be seconded to other various units and Kampfgruppe during combat in Norway. The 3.Kompanie of the Abteilung was sent directly to Norway on April 9th 1940, while the Abteilung Stab and the 1.Kp. and 2.Kp. rolled north through Denmark along the western Danish coast. As the 3.Kp. was transported directly to Norway the steamship Urundi ran aground with a number of Panzers aboard, and the transport ship Antaris H, destined for Oslo, was sunk with 5 Panzers aboard. Shipped in the third transport wave of the sea-lift between Denmark and Norway, the bulk of 3.Kompanie reached Oldenburg, Norway on 17 April.

The Stab, 1.Kp. and 2.Kp. of the Abteilung left Denmark on 20 Apr 40 and completed unloading in Oslo, Norway on 24 Apr 40. On that same day, the Abteilung was deployed in the following manner: The 1.Kp. (minus one zug) under Hauptmann von Burstin was attached to Kampfgruppe Fischer (Inf.Rgt.340) with 1 disabled Pz.Kpfw.IV, five Pz.Kpfw.II, twelve Pz.Kpfw.I, and two kl.Pz.Bef.Wg. (which was a Pz.I type befehls panzer, or command tank which had extra radio equipment to direct cohesive unit deployment). A zug of 1.Kp. under Oberleutnant Preiss was attached to 196.Inf.Div. with two NBfz.VI (one disbled), three Pz.II, three Pz.I and one kl.Pz.Bef.Wg. The 2.Kp. (minus one zug) under Hauptmann Toelke was located in Oslo with three Pz.II and five Pz.I. One zug of 2.Kp. under Oberleutnant Reibig had one Pz.II, and four Pz.I. The 3.Kp. under Hauptmann Niedrieck was attached to 163.Inf.Div. with six Pz.II, five Pz.I, and one kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.

A unique element attached to Pz.Abt.zbV.40 was Panzerzug Horstmann, named after it's commanding officer, Oberleutnant Horstmann. It was comprised of three Neubau Pz.Kpfw.VI types. This type was the heavy sized multiple-turreted tank variously described as the Pz.Kpfw.V & VI, but which was actually a dead-end design prototype, with variants made by both Rheinmetall & Krupp. The unit was unloaded at Oslo on the morning of 19 April and paraded through the city before setting off in the direction of Konigsvingen Elverum. Pz.Zug Horstmann was attached to advance elements of the 196.Infanterie-Division for the attack on Hamar on 20 April 1940.

The deployment of armor in the mountainous terrain of Norway imposed a number of unique problems for the German Panzertruppe. Limitations engendered by difficult road, weather, and terrain features were exacerbated by clever and skillful blocking techniques undertaken by the Norwegian defense forces. Road blockades of felled timber and huge stone impediments slowed the German advance, and temporarily put the Panzers at a disadvantage, but were usually overcome by a combination of infantry and assault-engineer elements working in front and alongside of the advance units to neutralize such hazards. The forces arrayed against the Germans employed the Boys anti-tank rifle, as well as the French 25mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun, both of which were easily capable of penetrating the armor of the Neubaufahrzeug Pz.VI (see below), as well as that of the lightly armored Pz.I & Pz.II types. Units employing the Pz.II found that the use of the 2cm sprenggranaten (high-explosive) round fired from their 2cm Kw.K main-gun especially useful in clearing infantry held roadblocks. Under covering fire by the panzers, the infantry quickly circumvented the most strongly held barriers with a minimal loss to the attacking force.

After breaking down with mechanical difficulties in a swampy area, one Neubau Pz.VI was destroyed with explosives by German engineers. Only three of the five extant versions of the Neubau Pz.VI had been manufactured with hardened armor plate. The two replacement Nb.Pz.VI's shpped to Norway had been built using soft steel plate. The total loss of Panzers in the campaign can be surmised by a May 1940 OKH report of one Nbfz.Pz.VI, two Pz.II,and 8 Pz.I's as total writeoffs.

On the 25th April 1940, Gruppe Pellangahr (made up of elements of the 196.Infantry Division and some of Pz.Abt.z.b.V.40) ran into a British blocking position held by the 1st Battalion of Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at the village of Kvam. The British had no heavy weapons only two 3" mortars and five 25mm Hotchkiss anti-tank guns. The lead element of the German advance included 3 panzers at least one of which was a NbFz VI .The British held their fire until the enemy was at the range of 150 yards and then opened fire. The Panzers then attempted to maneuver into position, it was at this time that the NbFz VI was put out of action by one of the anti-tank guns. The Germans stopped to bring up their guns and call up the Luftwaffe, the British managed to hold on until the evening of the 26th before withdrawing. The remains of the NbFz VI (a section of the running gear) can still be seen in the small museum at Kvam and until the late 1980's the 25mm anti-tank gun was still to be seen in good condition, left in spot where it was left by its previous owners in April of 1940.

After the Campaign in Norway ended, a 4.Kp. was formed from two independent züge in Jul 40, and was later incorporated into the original 3.Kp. on 7 Nov 40. The Abteilung was listed with 36.Armeekorps on 22 Jun 41.

After occupation duty in Norway the Abteilung was renamed as the II./Pz.Rgt.9 on 5 Dec 42 (Tessin: 16 Dec 42) and transfered into the newly forming 25.Panzer-Division, of which Pz.Rgt.9 was an organic part.

Organization

General Composition
Abteilung Stab
Nachrichten-Zug

1.leicht-Panzer-Kompanie
  • Kompanie Stab
  • 1.Panzer-Zug
  • 2.Panzer-Zug
  • 3.Panzer-Zug
  • 4.Panzer-Zug
2.leicht-Panzer-Kompanie
  • Kompanie Stab
  • 1.Panzer-Zug
  • 2.Panzer-Zug
  • 3.Panzer-Zug
  • 4.Panzer-Zug
3.leicht-Panzer-Kompanie
  • Kompanie Stab
  • 1.Panzer-Zug
  • 2.Panzer-Zug
  • 3.Panzer-Zug
  • 4.Panzer-Zug

By the close of operations in Norway,the bulk of Panzer-Abteilung zbV.40 was located in Oslo. On 16 May 1940 Pz.Abt.zbV.40's strength was as follows:

1.Kompanie - 8 Pz.I; 7 Pz.II; 3 kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.
2.Kompanie - 8 Pz.I; 4 Pz.II
3.Kompanie - 5 Pz.I; 5 Pz.II; 1kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.
Zug Walter - 4 Pz.I; 1 Pz.II
Zug Meier - 4 Pz.I; 1 Pz.II
Zug Putlos - 3 Neubau Pz.VI

Commanders

Oberstleutnant Volckheim