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French Campaign 1940 : no medium tanks for Wehrmacht

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  • French Campaign 1940 : no medium tanks for Wehrmacht

    german tank production was slow to begin with , plus they were only able to field 600 or so Pz III/IV by may 1940.

    What if there were more technical difficulties in producing these tanks and germans had no Pz III or IV inoperational units by may 1940

    Would they be as successful as they were in the 1940 campaign ? assuming they make up the numbers with Pz II and I
    The number of czech tanks would probably still be around 300 , but they will be the only tanks with a medium gun


    Personally I dont think not having the medium panzers would have made a huge difference in the outcome of the campaign
    Last edited by nastle; 06 Jul 09, 23:21.

  • #2
    Actually it was less than that: about 300 pzIII and 80-odd PzIV with short 75 deployed in France.

    I agree- it wouldn't have made much difference. The 37mm gun on the PzIII was no different to the Pak 37 infantry gun (which was incapable of taking out many of the allied tanks directly anyway) and the Germans had plenty of artillery & air support. Speed and manouverability mattered more and PzI & II's are more than capable of flanking infantry and letting rip with the MG's.

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    • #3
      The German tank park consisted of the following on May 10th

      523 Pz I
      955 Pz II
      349 Pz III
      278 Pz IV
      106 Pz 35t
      228 Pz 38t

      As can be seen there were some 950+ tanks armed 37mm or 75mm guns. Four out five French mech cav divs (light tanks and mounted infantry) were shot up in the Ardennes by the panzers along the roads leading to the Meuse and for this the Germans needed their mediums. It is doubtful that 3rd or 4th Pz divs could have battled Prioux's two DLMs at Gembloux without them. Likewise, 5th (and 7th Pz) fought a day long running battle with 1st DCR, the 6th and 8th Pz shot up 2nd DCR and Guderian's 10th Pz supported Grossdeutchland in defeating 3rd DCR and 3rd DIM at Stonne. All these engagements required the heavier models as artillery would not have done the job on its own.

      The unknown is whether the Germans could have created the conditions for their breakthrough and exploitation without they heavier and better armed tanks. That is questionable.

      NB - The 37mm PaK was an AT gun, not an infantry gun. It could deal with the smaller French R35, H35 and H39 models which made up the majority of the French vehicles. It had little hope of doing much to the heavier S35 or Char B1 bis.
      Last edited by The Purist; 07 Jul 09, 10:14.
      The Purist

      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

      Comment


      • #4
        As can be seen there were some 950+ tanks armed 37mm or 75mm guns. Four out five French mech cav divs (light tanks and mounted infantry) were shot up in the Ardennes by the panzers along the roads leading to the Meuse and for this the Germans needed their mediums. It is doubtful that 3rd or 4th Pz divs could have battled Prioux's two DLMs at Gembloux without them. Likewise, 5th (and 7th Pz) fought a day long running battle with 1st DCR, the 6th and 8th Pz shot up 2nd DCR and Guderian's 10th Pz supported Grossdeutchland in defeating 3rd DCR and 3rd DIM at Stonne. All these engagements required the heavier models as artillery would not have done the job on its own.

        The unknown is whether the Germans could have created the conditions for their breakthrough and exploitation without they heavier and better armed tanks. That is questionable.
        Thanks for that information, can I ask for the source of these figures ? I was recently reading "blitzkrieg legend" by Karl-Heinz Frieser.He did not make any mention of this , len deightons book does allude to this battle without much details.

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        • #5
          You can regard those numbers as accurate. I've a couple magazine articalls and a couple more books on my shelf that are similar to those. What Gerry presents is gross strength, which would include training (Lehr) companies, reserve machines in replacement depots, a few machines in Norway, and possibly a few in Poland.

          if I were not digesting dinner I'd go pull one of the several OB showing assignment by division that are on my shelf and post it here. Those make it a little clearer how the Germans used their tanks. One point that jumped out at me was the use of mixed companies of several types. The MkIII or Cezch tanks were in the medium platoons & the MkI/MkII tanks were in light scouting platoons. The MkIV were in "Heavy" companies (at what? 25 tons?) with one or two of these in most tank regiments. The heavy company also had some light tanks for scouting. Command tanks were usually the MkII with radios substituted for the cannon, tho there were exceptions depending on the preference of the commander.

          As for the absence of the medium tanks postulated in the first post. The Germans would have trained in slightly different tactics to compensate. they like to use light artillery aggresively so it is probable the 75mm & 150mm Light Infantry Guns would have been provided to substitute for the lack of the MkIV supoort tank. Possiblly more of the 150mm would have been mounted on MkI or MkII chassis for this purpose. It would also make sense to provide more AT guns to the motorized infnatry brigade of the German tank divsion to help compensate for the lack of the MkIII.

          The battle at the villiages of Crehen Thisenes, Wasin on 12 May might illustrate how the Germans would fight without the medium tanks. In that battle the villages had nests of French dragoons with 25mm AT guns, light and heavy MG, and pleantifull artillery support (five battalions). A sqquadron of 20 H39 tanks supported the infantry. The German 4th Panzer Division had a very low ration of medium to light tanks. It took them three hours to winkle the French out the first villiage Crehen and the afternoon to clear Thisenes. The light tanks were unable to make any progress against the French infantry or H39 tanks and both villages were taken with infantry attacks covered by batterys of 105mm artillery and the light tanks providing covering fire. The final attack just before twilight ended when the commander of the German tank regiment took a direct hit by a artillery round on his tank.

          Late in the morning the French withdrew their H39 tanks to resupply with ammo. About half were still running. Those were described as having multiple gouges from German AT shot. Some had several 20mm AP shot stuck into the armor "Like a beard" as one French witness reported. In the early afternoon a squadron of S35 tanks briefly approached the German tanks surrounding Crehen & Thisenes and exchanged fire for a little while.

          What the German & French witnesses to this battle seem to describe is the German tanks operating as light cavalry, scouting and screening the enemy until a combined infantry artillery attack can be organized. Their efforts to drive the French infantry & 'light' tanks out of the villages on their own failed.

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          • #6
            You can regard those numbers as accurate. I've a couple magazine articalls and a couple more books on my shelf that are similar to those. What Gerry presents is gross strength, which would include training (Lehr) companies, reserve machines in replacement depots, a few machines in Norway, and possibly a few in Poland.
            I dont doubt the number of tanks given by Gerry I have similar numbers myself add to that some 50 or so Stugs
            But was wondering where I could find details of these battles.

            As for the absence of the medium tanks postulated in the first post. The Germans would have trained in slightly different tactics to compensate. they like to use light artillery aggresively so it is probable the 75mm & 150mm Light Infantry Guns would have been provided to substitute for the lack of the MkIV supoort tank. Possiblly more of the 150mm would have been mounted on MkI or MkII chassis for this purpose. It would also make sense to provide more AT guns to the motorized infnatry brigade of the German tank divsion to help compensate for the lack of the MkIII.
            That makes a lot of sense maybe like the panzerjager conversion of Pz I , AFAIK none were available for france but 202 were present at barbarossa.Such arrangments might have been rushed earlier and would have compensated somewhat for the medium tanks though they had many inherent disadvantages.

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            • #7
              German divisional strengths are below. Probably the amount of 'runners' was near 100% on May 10th but this would have dropped by Guderian's rough 25% off road soon after. The numbers quoted do not include the small reserve of 135 Pz I and Pz II or those converted to command tanks. No does it include the Pz I , Pz IIs and Pz V NbFz in Pz Bn 40 used in Norway.

              It is interesting to note that the distribution of the mediums depends greatly on the job assigned to the divisions. The comparison between Guderian's three divisions pointed at Sedan and the 9th Pz up in Holland is illuminating.

              1st, 2nd and 10th Pz (Guderian) - 30 Pz I, 100 Pz II, 90 Pz III, 56 Pz IV

              6th, 7th and 8th Pz (all in the Ardennes) - 10 Pz I, 40 Pz II, 132 Pz 35 (6th Pz) or Pz 38 (7th and 8th), 36 Pz IV.

              3rd, 4th and 5th Pz (Gembloux and the Ardennes) - 140 Pz I, 110 Pz II, 50 Pz III, 24 Pz IV

              9th Pz (Holland) - 100 Pz I, 75 Pz II, 36 Pz III, 18 Pz IV

              IIrc, 1st though 5th Pz and 10th Pz had four tank battalions in two pz reg'ts while 6th - 9th Pz divs, being conversions from the old light divisions, had a single reg't of three battalions.

              In addition to the pz divs there were -

              24 Stug IIIB in four 6 gun batteries of which at least one (Btty 640) was attached to Grossdeutchland Reg't in Guderian's corps.

              The PzJg I was available in May 1940 but in small numbers (I have no exact figure), probably a few batteries at most.

              36 sIG IB were deployed in six companies, one each assigned to 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th PZ divs (most likely assigned to the motor infantry reg'ts in place of towed infantry versions).

              Sources -

              "Knights of the Black Cross" by Bryan Perrett
              "Panzer Leader" by Heinz Guderian
              "To Lose a Battle" by Alistar Horne

              and a few others. The battle of France is almost rote memory after all these years
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg
                ...What the German & French witnesses to this battle seem to describe is the German tanks operating as light cavalry, scouting and screening the enemy until a combined infantry artillery attack can be organized. Their efforts to drive the French infantry & 'light' tanks out of the villages on their own failed.
                The French Cavalry Corps under Prioux did an excellent job of screening the 1st Army's advance but paid the price for their success. Various sources post the tank losses for both sides at about 200 each over the three day battle. The Germans retained the battlefield and were able to recover many of their damaged vehicles, the French losses were permanent. More importantly, French tankers were badly effected by the way the Germans seemed to be able to out manoeuvre and out fight their heavier models. This had a negative effect on morale as the French recognised the weaknesses in their own method.
                The Purist

                Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by nastle View Post
                  I dont doubt the number of tanks given by Gerry I have similar numbers myself add to that some 50 or so Stugs
                  But was wondering where I could find details of these battles.
                  Two picks. Most of the others we might recomend are broader histories and do not delve much into the tactical details of the battles.

                  Jerry Gudmundson's 'Battle of the Belgian Plain' printed in the journal of Military History is a excellent account of the battles around Crehen, Thisines, Merdorp, & Perwez. There is a copanion artical concerning th attack by th same German tank corps on the French infantry near Gembloux a couple days later.

                  Doughty's 'The Breaking Point' is a near forensic analysis of the events leading to and of the battle at Sedan. A book packed with tactical details & quotes from participants.

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                  • #10
                    Without the ability to take on pretty much any French armor, I believe the German offensive would have been more near-run, and slower, because there would have been a reliance on AT guns, artillery, and airpower to take out pretty much every French tank on the battlefield before the armor could exploit the fight against the infantry. Against infantry divisions, the battles would have been the same, as armored MG pillboxes that move are powerful enough to deal with unsupported infantry.
                    Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                    • #11
                      Gerry and Carl thanks a lot for the details ...

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                        The French Cavalry Corps under Prioux did an excellent job of screening the 1st Army's advance but paid the price for their success. Various sources post the tank losses for both sides at about 200 each over the three day battle. The Germans retained the battlefield and were able to recover many of their damaged vehicles, the French losses were permanent. More importantly, French tankers were badly effected by the way the Germans seemed to be able to out manoeuvre and out fight their heavier models. This had a negative effect on morale as the French recognised the weaknesses in their own method.
                        I'm not certain this is entirely correct. As I recall from reading Pallud's work on the topic, Prioux's screening task was to coincide with a withdrawal of the 1st Armee for redeployment, not it's advancement. I am also left with the impression that the French actually forced the Germans from the engagement and thus retained control of the battlefield for a short time, that is until Prioux was ordered to withdraw from the area, not retreat under force of arms. Otherwise, you are correct about the French tank losses being permanent. Obviously a disagreement over technicalities, and national bias, since French sources regard this engagement as a tactical victory which met it's goal of covering for 1st Armee redeployment, wheras British and Americans view this as a German victory, despite the Germans not accomplishing any of their main goals during this battle.
                        Last edited by asterix; 13 Jul 09, 22:59.
                        You'll live, only the best get killed.

                        -General Charles de Gaulle

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                        • #13
                          It has been my impression that the battles of May 12th-13th (even as early as the the evening of the 11th) were during 1st Army's move into Belgium to take position between the BEF and 9th Army. Once the screening task had been accomplished the corps was to have been moved into the reserve but, unfortunately, was instead broken up to support the increasingly nervous infantry commanders and never brought together again as a corps.

                          My understanding is that First Army never really got its footing and was soon moving back in concert with the BEF as the French 9th Army came apart, finally becoming trapped itself at Lille and Dunkirk.

                          Always ready to learn more,...
                          Last edited by The Purist; 13 Jul 09, 23:30.
                          The Purist

                          Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                            It has been my impression that the battles of May 12th-13th (even as early as the the evening of the 11th) were during 1st Army's move into Belgium to take position between the BEF and 9th Army.
                            Looking at the dates for the arrival of the various Cav Corps & 1st Army units at specific locations, and the dates of the various fights it is clear the CC was screening the 1st Armys arrival.

                            First contact of CC reconissance with 4th Pz Div.. evening of 11 May.

                            Arrival of liasion and advance partys of 1st Army units on Dyle line 10-11 May

                            Opening attack of 4th Pz on 3rd DLm @ Crehen/Thisens 12 May

                            Arrival of lead battalions of 1st Army on Dyle line 12 -13 May

                            Main battle between CC & Pz Corps (3rd & 4th Pz Div) 13 May

                            Main body of 1st Army arrives on Dyle position 13-14 May

                            CC conducts delaying actions between the main screening position & Dyle line 14-15 May. Retires behind 1st Army to rest/reserve are 15 May.

                            German Pz corps attacks 1st Army 15-16-17 May.


                            Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                            Once the screening task had been accomplished the corps was to have been moved into the reserve but, unfortunately, was instead broken up to support the increasingly nervous infantry commanders and never brought together again as a corps.
                            Gunsberg claims he cant find any evidence any of the 2d or 3rd DLM fought on 16-17 May. On my shelf is a magazine artical in French describing this battle. The person who gave it to me claimed there were refrences in it to squadrons of the DLM fighting with the 1st Army. But, I have not located those yet.

                            Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                            My understanding is that First Army never really got its footing and was soon moving back in concert with the BEF as the French 9th Army came apart, finally becoming trapped itself at Lille and Dunkirk.

                            Always ready to learn more,...
                            Gerry you should know the event sequence. For any others who dont..

                            By the time the German Pz Corps broke off its attack on the 1st Army zone, near Gembloux on 17 May, the French 9th Army had not only retreated from its adjacent position on the Meuse River, but had lost contact with 1st Army. By the 17th the 1st Army could only place the 9th armys flank vaguely somewhere near the border 30+ kilometers to the rear of 1st Army. I am unsure when the British communicated their intent to leave the Dyle line, but that would leave the left flank of the 1st Army wide open as well. Stabilized or not the disintigration of the 9th Army made the 1st Armys position untenable.

                            To relate this to the thread topic. The intial battles of the Pz Corps attacking the CC 12-13 May were made with tanks leading & followed by combined arms infantry & artillery attacks where French resitance nests were encountered (usually in the villiages). On the 15 - 17 May battle the tanks were used more cautiously and the infantry/artillery commited sooner. Looking back at the OB of the German divisions posted above you can see the number of MkIII & MkIV tanks was low compared to other Pz Div. This suggests the medium tanks were not of crititical importance to the overall outcome.
                            Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 14 Jul 09, 06:26.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg
                              ...Gerry you should know the event sequence. For any others who dont...
                              I do. I was looking to see if Asterix had some new information that suggested something other than 1st Army's move up to Gembloux followed by the retreat and encirclement. I don't recall the actual timing of the BEFs advising Blanchard of their intention to withdraw either but it may have been sometime around the 16th or 17th. Iirc, there is some criticism of Gort's HQ that, in rush to organise the retreat, the liaison with the French was less than perfect.

                              It is interesting to note that Hoepner's divisions, after an initial fighting with 1st Army on the 15th were disengaged and moved south to support the exploitation of the other seven pz divs. It has been suggested by some sources that it was the seriousness of the losses to 4th Pz, in particular, that contributed to this decision. Whatever the reason, after Gembloux, neither German division played a major role in remaining the pre-Dunkirk campaign.
                              The Purist

                              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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