A Brief History of the Sd.Kfz.251

The Sd.Kfz.251 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251) halftrack was an armoured fighting vehicle which was designed and built by the Nazi company Hanomag during WW2. They were produced in large quantities throught the war.

Early production models were first issued to the 1st. Panzer Division in 1939. There were four main models A to D with many variants. The initial idea was for a vehicle that could be used to convey a squad of infantry in relative safety to the Battle area protected from enemy small arms fire with some limited protection from artillery and mortar rounds. The open top design meant that the crew was still vunerable from high burst artillery fragments.

The first two models were run in small numbers but the C variant had lager production runs but was quite a complex vehicle to build having precise angled corner plates in the build.

The D version was re designed to a much simpler version more suited for fast builds, and can be easily recognised by it's single sloping rear. (with flat doors).

Althoughdesigned for cross country work, it had it's limitations the front wheels were not powered.

The standard version was equiped with an MG34 and later versions with the MG42 machine gun mounted in the forward open compartment above and behing the driver. A second MG was mounted on an anti-aircraft mount at the rear.

These vehicles were meant to enable panzer grenadiers to accompany Panzer tanks and provide infantry support as required. In practice there were never enough of them to go around. And many panzer grenadiers had to make do with trucks for transport.

Only a few favoured divisions like Panzer Lehr received enough to fully equip their infantry units.

Many variants were produced for specialised purposes, including anti aircraft guns, light howitzers, anti-tank guns and mortar units and even un guided artillert rockets as well as a version with (IR) Infra Red search light equipment to spot potential targets for Panthers also eqiped with IR systems and detectors.

PS WRP Sd.Kfz.251 G

Single Click on Images to Expand

PS WRP Sd.Kfz.251 B
PS WRP Sd.Kfz.251 E
PS WRP Sd.Kfz.251 F
PS WRP Sd.Kfz.251 D
Panther Icon

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Tamiya Panther Variant 'A'
Command Variant.
'Barkamanns Corner Normandy 1944'
by
Peter Symonds Nottingham, England.

Newly finished Tamiya Panther Schursen Side Armour Plates

PS Panther A Var. C

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PS Panther A Var. E

This model above is a Tamiya full option Panther 'G' extensively modified to resemble Tank 424 a Panther A command variant commander by SS-Oberscharfuhrer Ernst Barkmann on 20th July 1944 near the village of Le Lorey in Normandy, France.

Most command vehicles had a four point radio antenna which was dangerous as it marked it out as special to the Allies.

Seperated from the rest of the company whilst his panther was being repaired after damage by RAF fighter bombers Barkmann was alerted to 15 US Shermans advancing on the village.

Quickly moving his damaged Panther into position behind some Oak Tree's, Barlmann ambushed the column single handedly destroying nine Shermans in a few minutes.
He then withdrew and rejoined his company the next day.
Barkmann survived the War with over 80 kills to his name he died on 27th June 2009, Kisdorf Germany.

text by Peter Symonds

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Below: Panther Tank Russia Steppes.

PS Panther A Var. BW

Below is the same tank photographed by Peter inside at that Hotel 'Rene' again, but with some foilage attached.
Lift up drivers visor supplied by BFM

PS Panther A Var. B

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PS Panther A Var. A

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Ernst Barkmanns Panther

The Panther in Combat

The Panther was designed to supplement the Panzer 4 and tatally replace the Panzer 3 medium tanks.
Each German armoured division 'Panzer Group' had two tank divisions, the idea was to equip one division in each battalion wiht Panthers, retaining the lighter older Panz. 4's in other battalions. Beginning in mid 1943 battalions were gratefully converted to Panthers.
The Panther first saw action at Kursk in July 1943, early tanks were plagued by mechanical problems.. the tracks and suspension often broke, the engine was dangerously prone to overheating and busting into flames.
At Kursk more panthers were disabled by there own failings than the enemy action.

For example the XLVIII panzer Corps reported on 10 July 1943, that they had 38 panthers operationaland 131 awaiting repair, out of 200 they had started with on 5th. July.
Heinz Gunderian who had not wanted Hitler to send them into combat this soon, later remarked about the early panther's performance in the battle: ''they burnt too easily, the fuel and oil systems were insufficiently protected, and the crews were lost to lack of training.''

Gunderian also stated that the firepower and frontal protection was very good. While many of the Panthers used at Kurst were damaged or suffered from mechanical difficuties, only a small number were lost for good, the tanks achieved successwith 253 Soviet tanks claimed destroyed. Although its frontal armour was thinner than the Tiger's it was also much more sloped and proved harder for Soviet shells to penetrate.

After Kursk the tanks suffering from damage or mechanical breakdowns were repaired and the inherant design problems of the ausf D models were fixed making the Panther a formidable tank.

Later in 1943 and into 44 Panthers appeared in increasing numbers on the eastern front. By June 1944, Panthers were half of the German tank strength both in the East and West, at the end of the war it was the third most produced German armoured fighting vehicle.

In 1943-44, a Waffen-SS special operations group by Otto Skorzeny, to infiltrate the enemys defens. A small number of panthers and Stug III's were repainted with US with US Army insignia. The panthers were altered as best they could with thin sheet metal to resemble US M10 Tank Destroyers.

Perhaps the best known German Panther commander was SS-Obersscharfuhrer Ernst Barkmann of the secont SS- Pnzer regiment, second SS-Panzer division ''Das Reich''.
Panther turrets from battle damaged and retired vehicles along with specially manufactured ones, were also mounted in fixed fortifications. Turrets (mechanically transversable) were mounted onto concrete base emplacements (betonsokel) known as Panzerturm III or welded steel boxes known as Panzerturm I- Stahlundersatz - sub steel base, which also housed the ammunition storage and fighting compartment along with crew quarters.

Panzerturm In Berlin

Such implacements were located in the fortifications of the Atlantic Wall, West Wall, Gothic Line, Hitlers Line and the Piedimonte in Monte Cassino area and also 12 in Berlin. A total of abot 270 - 280 turrets were installed as of March 26th. 1945

Panzerturm Berlin