Another good picture of a BergePanther, this time towing a Ferdinand tank hunter.
Mention of a 35-ton tractor has occasionally been made in German documents. Herr Kniepkamp (of Wa Pruef 6 of the Heereswaffenamt) stated that such a vehicle had existed as a project at one time. It was to have been fully tracked, the tracks having lubricated needle-bearings and rubber track pads. The body was to have had an external resemblance to the Panther hull, but to have been constructed of sheet metal, and the engine and transmission were to have been the same as in the Panther. However, the manufacturers represented that, as the Panther hull was already in production, it would be simpler to make use of this. This was done, the result being the Panther recovery vehicle – the Bergepanther. He stated that a track for the projected 35-ton tractor had actually been constructed.
The Bergepanther was a German Heavy Recovery vehicle based on the Panther chassis. There were two versions of this vehicle. The early was simply a Panther Ausf D or A that did not have a turret installed and some mounting points for towing or pushing disabled vehicles. The reduction in weight gave the Bergepanther the power to tow disabled tanks for repair.
The later vehicle was based on the Panther Ausf A or G chassis, but a powerful winch was installed under where the turret would have been on a normal Panther. This winch enabled the Bergepanther to pull disabled vehicles from mud bogs or ditches with the aid of a large ground spade mounted on the rear. This spade would dig into the ground and allow the Bergepanther to pull in vehicles that weighted more than it and not slide towards the stuck vehicle.
There were a whole family or group of recovery vehicles developed by the German called Bergepanzer. Most of these were vehicles without their turrets, but the Bergepanther and a Bergehetzer were built with winches to pull using a steel cable.
40ton Bergepanther winch
Those 40 tons is only the direct pulling power of the winch. The effective power could be doubled by using the katrols (Block and tackle - it are the two wheels around which the cable makes a 180° turn. On models they are often seen hanging from the crane because of one pic from a captured Bergepanther). These were carried by Bergepanthers as standard equipment, and enabled it to pull much more than 40 tons [some sources say with spade deployed 80 tonnes]. This is why the spade was necessary: the power was so big that the Bergepanther would pull itself backwards, even when using its brakes. One Bergepanther would be enough to pull out a bogged Panther/Tiger I and Tiger II unless they were very bogged down.
Tom Jentz in Panzer Tracts notes following:
MAN with 12 in June 1943 [Ausf D]
Henschel with 70 in July to December 1943 [Ausf A]
Daimler Benz with 40 in February/March 1944 [Ausf A]
Demag with 123 in March 1944 to September 1944 [Ausf A]
Demag with 45 in October 1944 to January 1945 [Ausf G]
A total of 290
I have records from " Die deutschen Panzer 1926-1945 " by F.M. von Senger und Etterlin, Edited by Walter Spielberger mentioning 297 Bergepanthers built.
Some of the vehicles were manufactured as "Munitionspanzer Panther" without windlass and tail device. Maybe they were 7 in total
It seems that 46 didn't have a winch. Production numbers are going from 290, 297 up to 347. But if some one's right, then it's Tom Jentz.