Tank Battalion / Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V.40
|Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V.40 (z.b.V. – zur besonderen Verwendung – for specialutilization) was formed as Heerestruppe at Dabendorf near Berlin (Wk III) onMarch 8th 1940 to support the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. Thisbattalion sized unit consisted of 3 leichte Panzer-Kompanien of 3 Panzer-Zugeach (later a 4th Panzer-Zug was added to each Kompanie after the NorwegianCampaign ended). Each of the leicht-Panzer-Kompanien of the Abteilung weregiven 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 newunit, and the resulting Panzer-Abteilung had a total of 9 Panzer-Zuge, witharound 45-50 tanks total. Most of the armored fighting vehicles employed were ofthe Pz.Kpfw.I type, with comparatively few Pz.Kpfw.II types with modifiedarmor-plate available. Later, after April 25, 1940 two further platoons, eachwith 1 Pz.II, and 4 Pz.I were sent to Pz.Abt.zbV.40 to make up for Panzerslost in action.|
Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V.40 was attached to the 11.Schützen-Brigade for thecampaign, although portions of the Abteilung would be seconded to othervarious units and Kampfgruppe during combat in Norway. The 3.Kompanie ofthe Abteilung was sent directly to Norway on April 9th 1940, while theAbteilung Stab and the 1.Kp. and 2.Kp. rolled north through Denmark alongthe western Danish coast. As the 3.Kp. was transported directly to Norway thesteamship Urundi ran aground with a number of Panzers aboard, and thetransport ship Antaris H, destined for Oslo, was sunk with 5 Panzers aboard.Shipped in the third transport wave of the sea-lift between Denmark andNorway, 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 andcompleted unloading in Oslo, Norway on 24 Apr 40. On that same day, the Abteilungwas deployed in the following manner: The 1.Kp. (minus one zug) under Hauptmannvon Burstin was attached to Kampfgruppe Fischer (Inf.Rgt.340) with 1 disabledPz.Kpfw.IV, five Pz.Kpfw.II, twelve Pz.Kpfw.I, and two kl.Pz.Bef.Wg. (whichwas a Pz.I type befehls panzer, or command tank which had extra radioequipment to direct cohesive unit deployment). A zug of 1.Kp. underOberleutnant Preiss was attached to 196.Inf.Div. with two NBfz.VI (onedisbled), three Pz.II, three Pz.I and one kl.Pz.Bef.Wg. The 2.Kp. (minus onezug) 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. Itwas comprised of three Neubau Pz.Kpfw.VI types. This type was the heavysized multiple-turreted tank variously described as the Pz.Kpfw.V & VI, butwhich was actually a dead-end design prototype, with variants made by bothRheinmetall & Krupp. The unit was unloaded at Oslo on the morning of 19April and paraded through the city before setting off in the direction ofKonigsvingen Elverum. Pz.Zug Horstmann was attached to advance elements ofthe 196.Infanterie-Division for the attack on Hamar on 20 April 1940.
The deployment of armor in the mountainous terrain of Norway imposed anumber of unique problems for the German Panzertruppe. Limitationsengendered by difficult road, weather, and terrain features were exacerbatedby clever and skillful blocking techniques undertaken by the Norwegiandefense forces. Road blockades of felled timber and huge stone impedimentsslowed the German advance, and temporarily put the Panzers at adisadvantage, but were usually overcome by a combination of infantry andassault-engineer elements working in front and alongside of the advanceunits to neutralize such hazards. The forces arrayed against the Germansemployed the Boys anti-tank rifle, as well as the French 25mm Hotchkissanti-tank gun, both of which were easily capable of penetrating the armor ofthe 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 2cmsprenggranaten (high-explosive) round fired from their 2cm Kw.K main-gunespecially useful in clearing infantry held roadblocks. Under covering fireby the panzers, the infantry quickly circumvented the most strongly heldbarriers with a minimal loss to the attacking force.
After breaking down with mechanical difficulties in a swampy area, oneNeubau Pz.VI was destroyed with explosives by German engineers. Only threeof the five extant versions of the Neubau Pz.VI had been manufactured withhardened armor plate. The two replacement Nb.Pz.VI’s shpped to Norway hadbeen built using soft steel plate. The total loss of Panzers in thecampaign can be surmised by a May 1940 OKH report of one Nbfz.Pz.VI, twoPz.II,and 8 Pz.I’s as total writeoffs.
On the 25th April 1940, Gruppe Pellangahr (made up of elements of the196.Infantry Division and some of Pz.Abt.z.b.V.40) ran into a Britishblocking position held by the 1st Battalion of Kings Own Yorkshire LightInfantry at the village of Kvam. The British had no heavy weapons only two3″ mortars and five 25mm Hotchkiss anti-tank guns. The lead element of theGerman advance included 3 panzers at least one of which was a NbFz VI .TheBritish held their fire until the enemy was at the range of 150 yards andthen opened fire. The Panzers then attempted to maneuver into position, itwas at this time that the NbFz VI was put out of action by one of theanti-tank guns. The Germans stopped to bring up their guns and call up theLuftwaffe, the British managed to hold on until the evening of the 26thbefore withdrawing. The remains of the NbFz VI (a section of the runninggear) can still be seen in the small museum at Kvam and until the late1980’s the 25mm anti-tank gun was still to be seen in good condition, leftin 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 independentzüge in Jul 40, and was later incorporated into the original 3.Kp. on 7Nov 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.9on 5 Dec 42 (Tessin: 16 Dec 42) and transfered into the newly forming25.Panzer-Division, of which Pz.Rgt.9 was an organic part.
By the close of operations in Norway,the bulk of Panzer-Abteilung zbV.40was 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.