Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Panthers at Kursk

The Frontline Illustration book called: ‘Panthers at Kursk’ (roughly translated) - the following is new according to the book:

a. The 52nd Abt. used different company colours for its snarling panther head logos. 5th Company had white head with black details, 6th blue head with white details, 7th black head with white details and the 8th a brown head with black and white details, as well as a red tongue. The head of the 8th company also differs in details. The photos included are clear enough to support the theory of different colours, but the blue one is difficult to proof.

b. The book is suggesting the following numbering system: R01-R08, I01-I08, II01-II08 and then x01-x02, x11-x15, x21-x25, x31-x35 and x41-x45 for the eight tank companies. This is supported with photos of R04, 101, 121, 142, 144, 214, 231, 312, 432, 434, 445, 502, 521, 535, 613, 632, 633, 634, 732, 735, 745 and 824.

c. There are a number of clear shots showing R04, and it has no logo.

d. The prowling panther in black outline is said to have been used by the 51st Abt. when it was serving with Grossdeutschland after Kursk. There are shots of Panthers 102, 124, 211, 301, 322 and 445, all showing this logo. The one numbered “4” in the earlier thread is probably the one said to be 124 here. The shot shows “24” with the one being added in the caption. Of further interest is that at least 102 and 445 has the first style turret with the “Klappe” on the LHS of the turret.

e. The table with cause-of-demise for Panthers is also given here. It is for tanks KO between the 20th and 28th of June 1943. The interesting thing is that the following turret numbers are given in this: 95, 170, 281, 381, 440, 551. They do not fit into the suggested numbering system proposed in this book, and it is also clearly stated. None of these "odd ones" appears in the photos, only tanks that fit in.

As to the odd turret numbers listed, it may well be that they were guessed from remains of burnt-out Panthers. Perhaps a bit shaky explanation, but at least a possible one.

The panther head logo of the 8th company actually appears to be in the some brown shade as the normal camo brown. It may be that it is a transparent logo, which would also explain the additional details.


  1. The turret numbers outside the conventional company system described in the Frontline book have been causing me some headscratching too Mitch. And while I agree with you that burnt out wrecks may have resulted in some transcribing errors by the Russians, it cannot be the whole story. Here's a very clear picture of 914 I have put in my Pinterest board on this topic. Very obviously taken during Zitadelle and hence 10 Pz.Bgde:

    I've seen discussion of this picture which posits possibly that 9 company numbers were used by the Abt staff of 52 Abt. Yet we have clear pics of R04 and I01 etc, so this suggests that Regimental and Battalion command staffs used the conventional system.

    A further intriguing detail from a Russian report in the book (p.65) is they claim to have recovered what they thought was a command vehicle carrying a globular muzzle brake (ie. as per early Pz.kpfw IV ausf. G and the first few Panther prototypes) and extra radios - and that these had a 'different design of turret with more room for the commander'.

    Since vehicles were in such short supply, I am wondering if almost everything in running condition was sent to maximise numbers even a few cobbled together from 'bits' and then allocated to staff units to to keep them out of the fiercest fire?

    Anyway 914 appears to be an entirely 'normal' early ausf. D...

  2. P.S. David E Brown on Missing-Lynx has proposed this explanation:

    I think that if the Stab.Pz.Abt.52 decided to not follow protocol (for whatever reason of its commander), the natural progression would be to use the number ‘9’ to identify vehicles from the Abteilungstabskompanie; a ninth unit within the Abteilung. This leads me to think that your idea of it separately identifying its Nachrichtenzug and Aufklarungzug vehicles has an elegant simplicity.

    Thus for Pz.Abt.52’s Stabskompanie:
    • Nachrichtenzug: II01, II02, & II03 (3 Panthers)
    • Aufklärungzug: 911, 912, 913, 914, & 915 (5 Panthers).

    Seems plausible to me, especially as he points out that so far no photo has emerged with turret numbers in the II01 to II08 range.