By Rob Morgan
This, as you will all recognise, is a PzKw V, the Bergepanther recovery version of the Panther tank. When the Mk V appeared in numbers on the Ostfront ready for the debacle at Kursk, there was a decree from the Fuhrer (A. Hitler) that no tank of this design should fall into the hands of the enemy. This led to the quick conversion of some earlier models of the Panther into Bergepathers, turretless ARV’s with a spade, a small hoist and ample tools. The turret well was replaced with an open topped box- shaped structure. Like most afv’s it carried an lmg for anti-aircraft and close-quarter defence. Early Bergepanther variants, and there were several, each with a slightly different set up of gear, had a 20mm Kwk-30 cannon, the excellent gun found on several 4-wheeled armoured cars, like the 222. Mounted centrally over the bow and operated from inside the hull, this gun was used for close-in defence. Although its firepower potential would be a boost to the recovery crew when advancing, it would probably have been less useful in overall combat terms, given the limited traverse.
This addition seems to have ended by mid-1944, and later Bergepanthers were more simply constructed. The order that no Panther should fall into enemy hands failed to have much effect, well any effect at all, really. Bergepanthers or not, the Red Army captured dozens of the 75mm gunned tanks intact, and were impressed with some technical features. They found the tank overall less impressive. However, they used the captured Mk V’s as front line afv’s under their own colours, until they failed mechanically. A more detailed description of this is found in Osprey Duel No 4: Panther v T34 Ukraine. There’s a review of that in the Osprey archive of this very blog. The photograph was taken at the French army’s Armour Museum at Saumur in 2015. Best afv collection around.