Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Panzer I Variants: A Versatile Little Tank

My "Panzer I" family photograph pulled from the album:

Along with the "combat tanks" (ahem, yes we all know that the Pz I was only ever intended as a panzer training vehicle, possibly stretching to combat use as a radio [as in, indirect combat role] command variant the Pz I was developed out of necessity in a variety of other roles. Going left to right we have: Spanish Civil War Condor Legion 1937 'Gun' Tank, then the German 1939-41 Command Tank, 1939-41 HMG Tank, 1940-1942 Tank Destroyer, 1940-1942+ Assault Gun AFV.  

The Spanish Civil War (SCW) brought a classic battlefield modification, born out of necessity, marrying a Breda 25mm Italian AT gun to a 'dustbin' turret on the Pz I chassis. All because the Nationalists had to counter Republicans who had real tanks with guns in them (T26's)! The miniatures are from a firm called 'Faust Miniatures' and were an early form of "resin" kit [circa 1997, and were rather rough and ready, brittle and sadly the castings were full of air holes] but rather nevertheless 'charming' for all that too. Too my disgrace they are still in their black undercoat despite having them for fifteen years, but I can report that they are finally working their way a cross the painting table (as I type).

Next in line is the main production fighting variant (see below) Panzer I Ausf B:

You had to be small and dinky to fit into these things, basically a machine gun carrier with a squashed or cosy crew of three. The armour could stop a HMG bullet but not an anti-tank rifle (aka the British Boyes or Russian PTRD) which could take the tank out. It had already reached its swan song long before 1939 and was pressed into combat use by dire need for tanks in Poland (1939), France (1940) and Russia (1941) campaigns.

Next up something with a much more significant punch, the mobile AT destroyer JagdPanzer I (could I call it a Marder MkI?) with the Czech 47mm AT gun. Something even early war French and Russian heavy tanks had to respect (see above). The manufacturers are Fujimi and Esci and again are "old" friends, painted but still needing [the bane of my modelling life] some decals.

Finally the 'metal' fiend of my collection. Something that even in later in the war would have drawn respect, though I don't think any of them could have lasted that long. The Pz I Sig 150mm mobile Infantry Gun. Not a tank killer but a high factor indirect (or direct) support weapon against infantry or fortifications (see below). The kit is courtesy of the ubiquitous SkyTrex 20mm WWII Hinchliffe range and although it was expensive, it was a nice buy which I have never regretted.

I don't think these things, call it an AFV for want of a better description, were ever "knocked out" in direct fire combat, but I suspect the vehicles soon "shook" themselves apart after continuous firing. In reality too big a weapon to be mounted on this small frame. 

The only omission to the family (bar a Pz I munition carriers or ambulances) would be the specialist street fighting variant produced experimentally in 1942 after the Pz I had been removed from front-line combat service. This was a Pz I with "100mm of thick frontal and side armour" designed to be a semi-mobile HMG platform to support German infantry in heavy urban combat. Dis anybody say shades of the Stalingrad mind set? Apparently eight were produced and fought in on the Eastern Front. I think the kits are/were available in resin but from who I know not. The DAK also did a 'battlefield conversion' when fighting outside of Tobruk in 1941 and installed an infantry flame-thrower weapon inside a Panzer I with a limited amount of success. 

Summary: The Panzer I a surprisingly versatile little tank and with its many variants lived a life with a lot more service than would have been expected from its pure wargaming "data statistics".


Tim Gow said...

Nice post. I too am a fan of the sIG. It must have been fun on corners! Mine (also the Skytrex model) currently serves as divisional artillery in (I think) 19PD.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Cheers Tim

There is a famous 1940 France German propaganda clip of a sIG hunting down a French sniper in a village

It seemed a tad unfair to have this heavy shell at your fingertips

Paul said...

I am in treadhead heaven, more more!

Uncle Brian said...

Nice post, with some great models!

Tsold9000 said...

i love the early war armor, before the behemoths.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

I agree the early war has a certain "unreal" feel to it, especially since over half the German kit was little more than training kit!

Once you look into to it you are hooked!

Tsold9000 said...

"unreal" feeling. good way to define it.haven`t tried any armourfast tanks.pegasus makes a decent quick build also.