Thursday, March 10, 2016

German Recovery Vehicles

The schwerer Zugkraftwagen 18t or heavy 18-tonne recovery vehicle, SdKfz 9. Although a bulky and powerful prime mover, three of them were required to tow a Tiger!

From January 1944, all PzKpfw IIIs returned for overhaul were to be converted into Bergepanzer; a box top replacing the turret. 
In January 1944, it was ordered that all pz Kpfw III returned for overhaul be converted to Bergepanzer. The production plan called for fifteen to be converted in March, thirty in April and thirty in May. These vehicles were to be used with the Panzerbergeanker (1 achs) (=armoured recovery anchor; 1-axle) (Sd Ah 40). This large anchor was placed at an appropriate location, and the Bergepanzer pulled the vehicle to be recovered, via a reduction tackle attached by cable to the anchor. 
A large wooden box body was mounted on top of the former fighting compartment. A derrick crane, like that on the Bergepanther, was provided with mounting locations on the rear engine covers. The wide Ostkette (= East track; for Russia) tracks were generally used. 
Issued to the Workshop Company of the Panzer detachments equipped with the pz Kpfw IV or Sturmgeschutz III or IV. In February 1945, 130 Bergepanzer III were listed as available.

For the most part, the standard tank recovery vehicle remained the heavy-duty 18-ton prime-mover (Zugkraftwagen). The heaviest of the half-tracks, two at least were required for towing a Panther and three for a Tiger. About 2,500 were built by the firm of Famo at Breslau and Warsaw between 1938 and 1944. 

Nominally, provision was made in a 1944 tank regiment for two Bergepanzer III recovery tanks and four 35-ton Bergeschlepper towing tanks (probably an early designation for the Bergepanthers). The Bergepanzer III, based on the PzKpfw III Ausf M, N and J, was nevertheless something of a rarity - only to be found in Panzer Regiments 3, 16 and 130 and SS-Panzer Regiment 9 in Normandy. 

Altogether 271 were built by Alkett of Berlin who were responsible for more than half the production of the PzKpfw III.

The heavy tank battalions, with their Tigers, normally had Bergepanthers, which were rarer still. There were two in schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 and one in schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 101 but none in schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 102. The Bergepanther (SdKfz 179) was produced by Demag to meet the Armaments Ministry's requirement for a heavy-duty recovery vehicle able to cope with the Tiger and Panther. Between 1943 and 1944, 347 were built by Demag and MNH. The vehicle was a conversion of the Panther Ausf D and G, with the turret removed and housing a winch and its motor in a square open-top compartment with mild steel sides which could be extended upwards with wood flaps and had a tarpaulin cover. At the rear was a massive spade anchor, operated by the winch, to hold the vehicle down during the actual recovery operation. For lifting work there was a jib that could be fixed on either side of the hull roof and on the front plate mount. The fuel capacity of the Bergepanther was increased to 1075 litres.

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