Panzer Mk III History
The vehicle that was to become the PzKpfw III was originally intended to be the main fighting vehicle of the new panzer units but this idea was soon dropped once the early war campaigns had been analysed. The original vehicles were ordered under the cover designation of 'Zugfuhrer-wagen' (platoon commander's vehicle) in 1936, and Daimler-Benz and Rheinmetall built prototypes — a Krupp design was built but was not successful. The Daimler vehicle was selected for production and the first was built in 1937.
It is interesting to note that at the design stage a 5 cm gun was considered for the main armament, but a 3.7 cm weapon was considered to be sufficient. However, the turret ring was designed to be large enough for any possible gun that might be fitted — a remarkable example of foresight.
PzKpfw 111 Ausf A
Only ten of this version were built, and they featured rather large road wheels, an internal mantlet and coil spring suspension which was soon shown to be too flimsy for its task. The vehicles were built during 1937.
PzKpfw III Ausf F in the Western Desert, and armed with a 5 cm KwK 39.
PzKpfw III Ausf M
complete with Schuetzen and 5 cm KwK L/60 gun.
PzKpfw III Ausf B
On this model, the road wheels were smaller and a revised suspension was tried.
PzKpfw III Ausf C
Built during 1938, the Ausf C had a revised suspension again, but was otherwise the same as the Ausf B.
PzKpfw III Ausf D
This model had increased armour and a revised cupola.
PzKpfw III Ausf E
Up till this model the suspension design was never satisfactory and on the Ausf E the problem was cured by installing a six-wheel torsion bar system which was used on later models. A more powerful engine was fitted, and some late examples had a 5 cm gun and an external mantlet. This model formed the bulk of the PzKpfw Ills in service during the early war campaigns.
PzKpfw III Ausf F
Where armament is concerned, the division between the Ausf E and F is not clearfor both could be found with either the early 3.7 cm gun or the later 5 cm KwK 39 L/42 gun. The Ausf F production began in late 1940, and the type was the first PzKpfw III with a turret stowage bin, although some were retrofitted to earlier models.
PzKpfw III Ausf G
The main change on this model was to the cupola. Some Ausf G vehicles were tropicalised for service in North Africa by the addition of filters for the engine and had the (Tp) designation added to their title.
PzKpfw III Ausf H
In 1941 the basic
PzKpfw III underwent a major revision with wider tracks, more armour, a new, drive transmission and nu,merous design changes intended to speed production and cut down the use of scarce raw materials. Some vehicles were fitted with the longer 5 cm L/60 gun.
PzKpfw III Ausf J
This model had thicker armour and most were fitted with the 5 cm L/60 gun. The SdKfz number became SdKfz 141/1.
PzKpfw III Ausf L
The Ausf K did not see service so the next model was the Ausf L. This had the L/60 gun fitted as standard, and spaced armour was fitted to increase protection. The model was built during 1942 and some were sent to Africa. Many were retrofitted with hanging plate armour.
PzKpfw III Ausf M
Built during 1942, this model was further simpl;fied for production, but was essentially the same as the Ausf L.
PzKpfw III Ausf N
The Ausf N was a remarkable example of German
ingenuity for it mounted short 7.5 cm guns taken from early models of PzKpfw IV tanks when they were fitted with longer guns. 666 were built and some were converted from Ausf M vehicles. They were used as infantry support vehicles.
The Ausf N was the last PzKpfw III model to be built but plans were made to produce a PzKpfw III/IV model
incorporating assemblies from both the PzKpfw III and IV production lines. Some self-propelled gun platforms were built but no tanks were produced.
Most numerous of the Panzer-kampfwagen III variants were the Sturmgeschutz III assault guns. Originally armed with the short 7.5 cm Kwk L/24 gun as fitted to the early PzKpfw IV series, the Stug III was later fitted with the L/43 and L/48 7.5 cm guns and the 10.5 cm Sturmhaubitze. There were many different versions of the Stug III with the main differences
being in the superstructure and running gear. The main SdKpfz number for the series overall was SdKfz 142.
StulG 33 auf Fgst PzKpfw III
In 1941 a small batch of 12 PzKpfw III Ausf H vehicles were converted to take the infantry 15 cm sIG 33 gun, housed in a closed box in place of the normal turret. This variant saw service in Russia.
PzKpfw III Flammpanzer III (SdKfz 141/3)
In 1942 some Ausf H and M tanks had their main armament replaced by a flamethrower, and were issued to special flamethrower units. Crew was reduced to three men and two machine-guns were retained.
PzKpfw III (Tauchfahig) (Submersible)
This variant was prepared during 1940 for the intended invasion of Britain and used Ausf E or F tanks. The tank was sealed and used a schnorkel while under water for air breathing. They were used in action in the invasion of Russia in 1941.
Panzerbeobachtungswagen III (SdKfz 143)
This was a special observation vehicle produced in 1941 for the control of self-propelled artillery fire. The gun was replaced by a dummy barrel offset to enable a machine-gun to fire through the mantlet. The inside of the vehicle was occupied by radios and observation instruments.
There were several types of armoured command vehicles based on the PzKpfw III. They differed from normal tanks only in having extra radio equipment and the attendant aerials. There were several possible radio 'fits' and these were denoted by the SdKfz numbers of 266,267 and 268. Models used were the Ausf D, E, H and K.
This turret-less variant was equipped as an armoured recovery vehicle.
Schlepper III On the Russian front some elderly PzKpfw III vehicles had their turrets replaced by a flat wooden platform for use as supply vehicles.