This text was first published at the World War II mailing list.
Panzers in Norway -
by Russ Folsom
In early March of 1940 a special Panzer unit designated "Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V.40" (z.b.V.= zur besonderen Verwendung - for special utilization) was created to support the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. This battalion sized unit consisted of 3 leichte Panzer-Kompanien of 3 Panzer-Zug (3 light tank companies of 3 platoons) given up from 3 separate Panzer-Regiments each,for a total of 9 Panzer-Platoons (around 45 tanks). Most of the armored fighting vehicles employed were of the Pz.Kpfw.I type, with relatively few Pz.Kpfw.II types with modified armor available. (After April 25, 1940 two further platoons, each with 1 Pz.II, and 4 Pz.I were sent to Pz.Abt.zbV.40 to make up for Panzers lost in action.)
On 9 April 1940,the Stab (staff) elements of 1. and 2.le.Pz.Kompanie of Pz.Abt.zbV.40 moved into Denmark. The 3.Kompanie was transported directly to Norway. There were complications; the steamship "Urundi" ran aground with a number of Panzers aboard, and while destined for Oslo, the ship "Antaris H" was sunk with 5 Panzers aboard. Shipped in the third transport company, the bulk of 3.Kompanie reached Oldenburg on 17 April.
A unique element attached to Pz.Abt.zbV.40 was *Panzerzug Horstmann* (tank-platoon), named after it's CO, Oberleutnant Horstmann, which was comprised of three (3) Neubau Pz.Kpfw.VI types. (this is the "heavy" sized multiple-turreted tank variously described as the Pz.Kpfw.V & VI, but which was actually a dead-end design prototype, with variants made by both Rheinmetall & Krupp.) the unit was unloaded at Oslo on the morning of 19 April and paraded through the city before setting off in the direction of Konigsvingen Elverum. Pz.Zug Horstmann was attached to advance elements of the 196.Infanterie-Division for the attack on Hamar on 20 April 1940.
A detailed strength report dated 24 April 1940 on Panzers employed in Norway reads as follows:
1.le.Pz.Kompanie, CO Hauptmann von Burstin, attached to Kampfgruppe Fischer (Inf.Rgt.340) with 1 disabled Pz.Kpfw.IV, five Pz.Kpfw.II, twelve Pz.Kpfw I, and two kl.Pz.Bef.Wg. (this latter being a Pz.I type "befehls" panzer,or command tank, which had extra radio equipment to direct cohesive unit deployment.)
Two NBfz.VI (one disbled), three Pz.II, three Pz.I and one kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.,attached to 196.Inf.Div. near Lillehammer - CO Oberleutnant Preiss.
3.le.Pz.Kp. led by Hauptmann Niedrieck attached to 163.Inf.Div. with six Pz.II, five Pz.I, and one kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.
One zug (platoon) of the 2.le.Panzer-Kompanie, CO Oberleutnant Reibig with one Pz.II, and four Pz.I.
2.le.Pz.Kp. (minus one platoon), CO Hauptmann Toelke still in Oslo with three Pz.II and five Pz.I.
Panzer-Abteilung zbV.40 total strength: 3 Neubau Pz.Kpfw.VI, 18 Pz.II, 29 Pz.I, and 4 kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.
The deployment of armor in the mountainous terrain of Norway imposed a number of unique problems for the German Panzertruppe. Limitations engendered by difficult road, weather, and terrain features were exacerbated by clever and skillful blocking techniques undertaken by the Norwegian defense forces. Road blockades of felled timber and huge stone impediments slowed the German advance, and temporarily put the Panzers at a disadvantage, but were usually overcome by a combination of infantry and assault-engineer elements working in front and alongside of the advance units to neutralize such hazards. The forces arrayed against the Germans employed the Boys anti-tank rifle, as well as the French 25mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun, both of which were easily capable of penetrating the armor of the Neubaufahrzeug Pz.VI*, as well as that of the lightly armored Pz.I & Pz.II types. Units employing the Pz.II found that the use of the 2.cm "sprenggranaten" (high-explosive) round fired from their 2 cm Kw.K main-gun especially usefull in clearing infantry held roadblocks. Under covering fire by the panzers, the infantry quickly circumvented the most strongly held barriers with a minimal loss to the attacking force.
By the close of operations in Norway, the bulk of Panzer-Abteilung zbV.40 was located in Oslo. On 16 May 1940 Pz.Abt.zbV.40's strength was as follows:
1.Kompanie - 8 Pz.I; 7
Pz.II; 3 kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.
2.Kompanie - 8 Pz.I; 4 Pz.II
3.Kompanie - 5 Pz.I; 5 Pz.II; 1kl.Pz.Bef.Wg.
Zug Walter - 4 Pz.I; 1 Pz.II
Zug Meier - 4 Pz.I; 1 Pz.II
Zug Putlos - 3 Neubau Pz.VI
After breaking down with mechanical difficulties in a swampy area, one Neubau Pz.VI was destroyed with explosives by German engineers. Only three of the five extant versions of the Neubau Pz.VI had been manufactured with hardened armor plate. The two replacement Nb.Pz.VI's shipped to Norway had been built using soft steel plate. The total loss of Panzers in the campaign can be surmised by a May 1940 OKH report of one Nbfz.Pz.VI, two Pz.II,and 8 Pz.I's as total write-offs.
See below - specifications of the main types employed by the Panzertruppen in Norway:
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B (Sd Kfz 101)
Other designation: LaS Maybach
Type: Machine-gun armed light tank
arm: Two 7.92 MG13
Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen (Sd Kfz 265)
Type: Light armored tracked command vehicle
arm: One 7.92 MG 13 or 34
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf A,B u.C (Sd Kfz 121)
Type: Light tank
arm: One 2cm Kwk30 L/55 One 7.92 MG34
Type: Medium/Heavy tank
arm: One 7.5cm Kwk L/24 ; one 3.7cm.Kwk L/45; two MG13 (7.92mm)
5 prototypes built by Rheinmetall-Borsig & Krupp
(2 built in 1934; 3 built in 1935 - dead-end, non-production series.)
* (On the 25th April 1940, Gruppe Pellangahr [made up of elements of the 196. Infantry Division and some of PzAbt zbV40 zbV. ran into a British blocking position held by the 1st Battalion of Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at the village of Kvam. The British had no heavy weapons only two 3" mortars and five 25mm Hotchkiss anti-tank guns. The lead element of the German advance included 3 panzers at least one of which was a NbFz VI . The British held their fire until the enemy was at the range of 150 yards and then opened fire. The Panzers then attempted to maneuver into position, it was at this time that the NbFz VI was put out of action by one of the anti-tank guns. The Germans stopped to bring up their guns and call up the Luftwaffe, the British managed to hold on until the evening of the 26th before withdrawing. The remains of the NbFz VI (a section of the running gear) can still be seen in the small museum at Kvam and until the late 1980's the 25mm anti-tank gun was still to be seen in good condition, left in spot where it was left by its previous owners in April of 1940.) - <from "Actung Panzer" site - Goerge Parada.>
Panzertruppen Vol.1 - Tom Jentz.
Encyclopedia of German Tanks - Chamberlin & Doyle.
(a note on Jentz: Throughout the text on panzers in "Weseruebung",Jentz refers to the Neubaufahrzueg "heavy" tank as "Nbfz.IV" - this is confusing, and unattributed as far as I can tell, so may just be a publishing typo)