The French Halftrack in German Service in Normandy Part I
The Citroën-Unic P 107 and the Unic TU 1
After the end of the French campaign, captured British, French, Dutch and Belgian vehicles were collected and gathered together in depots. Due to the heavy vehicle casualties suffered by the German units that participated in the Western Campaign and the insufficient availability of German-produced replacement vehicles, many French and British and, to a lesser degree, Dutch and Belgian vehicles were used to refit these units. Also, at this time, new divisions were being created and some of these were almost completely equipped with French vehicles. According to Spielberger, "in 1941 alone, 88 German infantry divisions, 3 infantry divisions (Motorized) and one panzer division could be equipped in their entirety with French motor vehicles" (Beute, Pg. 51). Nonetheless, large stocks of vehicles remained unused in depots in France up to late 1942.
Baustab Becker was established in Maison-Lafitte in northern Paris to exploit the existing stocks of captured vehicles with the aim of rehabilitating and converting them for the use by the Wehrmacht. This will be discussed in more detail later on.
The main sources of information for this piece are Vauvillier's book on the armored vehicles of the French Army up to 1940 and Spielberger's book on captured vehicles of the Wehrmacht. Spielberger lists the Becker Archives as one of his sources; however, the photographs are not individually attributed but rather the total numbers of photographs used in the book are listed per source. According to this information, 162 photos are from Alfred Becker's collection, most of which show the vehicles in "portraits" after they had already been delivered to and integrated by Schnelle Brigade West or by its precursor units. In addition, photos were taken within the factories themselves showing various vehicles being overhauled, photos of scrapyards showing piles of parts and vehicle carcasses as well as Aufbaus
being fabricated for other vehicles. There are not, however, many photos of beute vehicles being used in the field. Many of the photos used in this piece are taken from this book, especially those for which no campaign photos could be located.
I am interested in all of the vehicles of the 21st Panzer Division and this work has grown partly out that interest but the major spark was running across a photo in my hard-drive collection of a krankenpanzerwagen
Unic loaded with a mixture of Heer and Fallschirmjäger troopers (see below). My interest lies mainly in Normandy so, with the exception of some photos of Unics in the service of the French Army and a few showing the Unic in use by German units other than 21st Panzer and its predecessors, all photos are from the Normandy campaign. Part two of this work will cover the Somua MCG and MCL halftracks in German service. Part 3 will cover markings and camouflage if I am able to gather enough useful information.
THE UNIC HALFTRACKS
The nomenclature of the Unic P 107 is somewhat complicated by the multiple names that authors have applied to it, such as the "Citroën", " Citroën-Kégresse", "Citroën-Kégresse-Hinston", "Unic-Kégresse", "Citroën-Unic", "Unic" and others. Since the vast majority of the P 107s that were employed by the French army and, after capture from the French, the German army, were actually manufactured by Unic, Unic is the term that I will use. The official German designation for captured Unic P 107s was the U-304 (f). However, the 21st Panzer Division (the unit which fielded the vast majority of the Unics in Normandy and, thus, the focus of this piece) labels them in their Gliederungen as Unic P 107, so this is the terminology I will use throughout this article.
KEGRESSE AND CITROEN
The story of the French halftracks must begin with at least a short recounting of the role that Adolphe Kégresse played in this story. While the concept of the tracked vehicle had been around since at least as early as the 1770s and half-tracked vehicles employing tracks composed of metal links had been designed and commercially-produced by shortly after the turn of the century, if not before, Kégresse was the first to successfully design a half-tracked chassis driven by a flexible band track which began as simple bands of rubber that were later reinforced with metal inserts. Another feature of the "Kégresse Principle" was a running gear composed of a large drive sprocket and idler, in-between which were typically 2 pairs of bogie wheels (each pair joined by suspension frame and both suspension frames held together by a suspension frame assembly) and one return roller on top of the suspension frame assembly. Below is a closeup of the P 107 running gear from the German technical manual D628/1:
Kégresse was given the opportunity to put his design to practical use as the Technical Director of the motor pool of the Tsar of Russia from 1910-11. After returning to France due to the breakout of the Russian Revolution, Kégresse eventually formed a partnership with André Citroën and M. Hinstin and began perfecting the Kégresse Principle with Citroën in 1920. (Vauvillier, Boniface & Jeudy)
The first Citroën-Kégresse halftrack adopted by the French army was the P 7bis in 1928. At this time the French Army was in search of a fast vehicle that would be capable of towing the 75 mm model 1897 cannon cross-country and P 7bis was chosen. Only 6, according to most sources, were delivered to the Army. The P-7bis was extremely underpowered which severely limited its towing capacity and speed. The P 7bis was quickly replaced by the P 17, also produced by Citroën, which was an improvement but still underpowered and slow. (Vauvillier)
In 1925 the U.S. Army purchased two early 10 hp Citroën-Kégresse halftracks and in 1931 purchased a P 17 (see photo below) to evaluate them for possible adoption for use by the Army. While neither were chosen, because they were considered too small and underpowered, the influence of the Kégresse Principle is clearly seen in the running gear of the U.S. M series half-tracks (such as the M2A1, 2nd photo below) used by the U.S. Army prior to, during and after WW II. (Hunnicutt)
By 1934, in light of the impending introduction of rubber tires for artillery pieces, the French Army initiated a search for an improved towing vehicle for 75mm and also 105mm C guns. Several companies presented their vehicles for trials between the end of 1934 and 1936 but in the end the French Army chose two: the Citroën P 107 with Kégresse (half-track) drive and the Laffly S15 T with six-wheel drive. While the Laffly overall performed better, the Army chose both because the Laffly was more expensive and also because the production capacity of Laffly was more limited than Citroën. By September 1, 1939, there were about 1450 light artillery towing vehicles on hand, of which approximately 1066 were Citroën/Unic P 107s. (Vauvillier)
By 1934 Citroën was in financial trouble and the company was taken over by the Michelin brothers. In 1935 André Citroën died of cancer. The Michelin brothers decided to focus on large-scale production items and thus sold off the licensing of the specialized vehicles. S.A. des Automobiles Unic bought the rights to the P 107 and production began at their factory in Puteaux in 1937. By the time the war commenced, the majority of the P 107s in the French arsenal had been produced by Unic. The only Citroën halftrack that continued in production after 1935 was the P 107 (other than the P 19, which continued to be produced by Chenard & Walcker), but other Citroën vehicles that were already in use by the French army were captured and utilized by the Germans. The following are the three mentioned by Spielberger (Pg. 57) with the German designation in brackets:
The P 14 [Ci 306 (f)], as the tower for the heavy artillery. According to Vauvillier Citroën produced only 52 examples of this vehicle. No photographs of it in German service could be found. The following is one that was in French service, towing a 155mm CS:
The P 17 [Ci 301 (f)], as tower for the 7,5 cm leFK 97. According to Vauvillier 1142 were produced before production ceased. The following photo shows a P 17 in French service in a parade in 1939 towing the 75mm:
The P 19 [Ci 380 (f)], Personnel Carrier for the Motorized Infantry. There were at least around 600 of these in the French Army by 1939 (I was unable to determine if this number refers only to the P 19B or to all versions of it). This first photo shows a P 19 in French service with a 25mm Mdle 1934 AT gun mounted on it:
This next photo shows two views of a P 19 in use as a personnel carrier with Schnelle Brigade West:
and this one a signals vehicle, also with Schnelle Brigade West:
ALFRED BECKER AND BAUSTAB BECKER
(mainly summarized from Spielberger)
All armies, whether it be due to necessity, curiosity, preference or mere opportunity, use weapons and equipment that are captured from the enemy. Arguably no other army in modern times, however, has utilized captured foreign ordnance to such an extent as the Wehrmacht during World War II. A central figure in this utilization, as far as Western beute materials goes, was Hauptmann (later Major) Alfred Becker.
At the start of the Blitzkrieg, Becker was the commander of the 12. Batterie (or 15. Batterie, the sources conflict) of the artillery battalion of the 227. Infanterie-Division, a horse-drawn unit. In Amersfoort, Holland, Becker gathered up captured Dutch and Belgian trucks, cars and motorcycles to fully motorize his "officially" horse-drawn battery. After the capitulation of France, Becker, apparently, again, on his own initiative, gathered up some abandoned British Vickers Mk. VI light tanks and by removing the turret and part of the upper structure and adding to it an armored body and 10.5 cm Field Howitzer 16s was able to construct a full battery of 6 vehicles (Spielberger, Jentz). These SP guns were taken by the 227. Infanterie-Division to Russia where they performed favorably according to surviving reports and Becker's SP Batterie made a name for itself.
In August 1942, OKH requested that one of Becker's SP guns be sent to Berlin and on Sept 2 Becker and a crew demonstrated it before Hitler in the garden of the Reichs Chancellory. Impressed, Hitler sent Becker to Alkett as a consultant and then to Paris to oversee the renovation and conversion of the stocks of captured vehicles stored there, as well as collecting parts from battlefield wrecks and scrap yards.
The patterns for the aufbaus for converted vehicles were created by Alkett and Becker and sent to selected French factories for assembly-line production. Spare parts were cannibalized from wrecks and stripped clean and/or rebuilt resulting in practically new vehicles and also a supply of spare parts. The Baustab Becker restored or converted approximately 1800 vehicles, the vast majority of which were used to equip the Schnelle Brigade West which was created in 1943. This number comes from Spielberger's book but it is unclear if this is a final or an intermediate number.
On 2 July 1944, Major Becker of the 21. Armored Division, who at that time was commander of the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 200, was recommended for the award of the Ritterkreuzes zum Kriegsdienstkreuz mit Schwerter
or the Knight's Cross of the War Service Cross with Swords. This medal was awarded at the end of 1944.
_THE UNIC P 107_
The Unic P 107 was primarily produced for the French Army and as such the majority were used as artillery tractors.
In addition to the artillery version, there was also an Engineer version (below),
a version for the Air Force and also a version for use in North Africa (below) and two were fitted as signals vehicles.
The French Army impressed some that had been produced for civilian use after war broke out. According to Vauvillier (Pg. 199), a total of 3276 P 107s - including all military and civilian versions - were produced by the beginning of June 1940 at which time production ceased. Spielberger backs this figured up.
The total number of Unic P 107s impressed into German service as well as the numbers of the various subtypes is very difficult to determine. While Spielberger includes a few lists of numbers of vehicles, the vehicle types are often ambiguously indicated by purpose instead of make and some of the numbers do not make much sense. Being German, production records were certainly meticulously maintained and reported to at least one but probably more than one higher authority, perhaps the Reichsministeriums für Rüstung und Kriegsproduktion. I have not been able to locate these records yet, if they survived the war. Any leads for finding these records would be greatly appreciated.
These are the numbers that I have been able to scrape together from the sources I have on hand (essentially, Spielberger and Kortenhaus) so far:
Unfortunately, any non-armored P 107s are not mentioned in most sources, but it is quite possible that there were a large number serving in many of the subunits of 21st Panzer as well as other units in Normandy.
USE BY THE WEHRMACHT
While the majority of P 107s that were refurbished and/or modified by Baustab Becker were allocated to Schnelle Brigade West, which later became the 21st Panzer Division, it is possible that others were issued to other divisions. It appears that all of the armored P 107s were issued to 21st Panzer but there is ample photographic evidence that unarmored P 107s were used by other units, especially during the early years on the Eastern Front. Based on the information I have been able to gather, it is not clear to me if Baustab Becker was responsible for all Beute vehicles in the West or just one of the major organizations involved.
The Unics that were issued to German units before Baustab Becker was established were for the most part minimally converted. The most common modification was the addition of covers to the headlights. The following example is from an unknown location and date, but appears to belong to a German unit in France soon after the end of fighting there, so this is possibly an example of a P 107 that was captured and directly put to use by the captors either as a replacement vehicle or improvement:
As can be seen in the chart above, the Unic P 107 was converted by the Germans to play numerous roles. While some were extensively converted with armored bodies and/or the addition of weapons, the majority was just thoroughly overhauled.
The Unics that have been documented - the armored ones - were located in five subunits of the 21st Panzer Division: Pz.-Gren.-Rgt. 125, Pz.-Gren.-Rgt. 192, Sturmgeschütz Abt. 200, Pz. Nachrichten Abt. 200 and Pz.-Pio.-Batt. 200. In addition, the 1st and 3rd Companies of the Feldersatz Batt. 200 were armored, thus it is probable that these companies were equipped also with Unics. Unfortunately, I have found no documentation of unarmored Unics, though it is almost certain that these also made up part of the complement of 21. Panzer Division's motorized vehicles. These were probably reported together with other softskin trucks as a Lastkraftwagen
in the various reports. Below is a table showing the number of each type of armored Unic found in 21st Panzer as of 1.6.44. The second part of the table shows the theoretical breakdown within each Panzergrenadierregiment based on the Appendix in Kortenhaus's book. The numbers that are highlighted in blue are guesses based on similar Ger. K.St.N.:
- Medium ammunition carrier
This mittlere Munitionskraftwagen
is an example that was probably photographed outside of the factory where it was overhauled and is probably destined for Schnelle Brigade West:
- Light artillery tractors
This destroyed Unic P 107 is from the U.S. sector of operations, so probably belongs to a unit other than 21st Panzer. The date and location are unknown, but the website locates it in Normandy. According to Heimdal's First US Army
the photo was taken on 29-30 of July in the Roncey Pocket. This particular scan was found at http://www.beeldbankwo2.nl/zoek.jsp
A second Unic with a 7.5 cm Pak 40 still hitched to it, was photographed in Tessy-sur-Vire on 3 August, 1944 according to Rueckmarsch
from which this photo was taken:
- Light unarmored personnel carriers with MG trailer
This example of a Mannschafttransportwagen
(ungepanzert) is of a P 107 with benches added to the rear to act as a non-armored personnel carrier. This example belongs to Schnelle Brigade West:
This next example is from a forgotten source but I recall that the poster stated that the photograph was taken in France. Far from pristine, the Unic featured in this photo appears to have been in service for a long time and very well could represent an example that had been in German service since 1940. This P 107 is a very rare example of a hard-cabbed version only made for service in North Africa or it could be a civilian model which was impressed by the French or German army:
- Provisional recovery vehicles
There were apparently a number of P 107s set aside for towing lighter vehicles. Due to the P 107's relatively low towing power (and the designation "provisional"), their employment in this role was probably a result of the insufficient availability of proper vehicles for this role. It is unknown if any P 107s were used by 21st Panzer in this function. This example is in use by an NSKK unit. Date and location unknown:
- Signals vehicle
No known photos. It is unknown how many were adapted for this role and how many were maintained, if any, by 21st Panzer Division.
- Light armored personnel carriers Ausf One
There were two versions of armored bodies (or aufbaus) produced by the Germans for the Unic (other than the Flakpanzer version). The first version (Ausf. 1) had a body that consisted of sides composed of two plates with the bottom-most plate being set more or less at a 90° angle and the top, smaller plate being slightly angled inward towards the interior of the crew compartment. It appears that Ausf. 1 Unic was used only in the armored personnel carrier role. While I have not seen any photographs with MG34 or MG42 mounted on any Ausf. 1 Unics, there is a photo of a prototype which has an MG42 attached to the passenger side front of the armored cab.
There are a fairly large number of photos of Unics taken on the battlefields of Normandy. A few of these were taken shortly before D-Day by the members of the unit to which they belonged, but most were taken by British, Canadian or American official photographers and others taken by regular soldiers and civilians. Most of these with some exceptions are difficult if not impossible to date and locate. I am presenting them in approximate date order.
The photo to which Cance refers to in his article as the only known one of an Ausf. 1 Unic is a relatively well-known photo from NARA which was published in Concord's D Day Tank Warfare
and Alain Verwicht's Panzer Voran
No.6 among other publications. While this photo is often captioned as taken in Normandy, there are other sources that state the photo was taken in Lorraine. If so, this is one of the few Unics that made it out of Normandy:
The next two photos are from the Public Archives of Canada. The first, PA-132888 has the following description: "Lieutenant J.A.R. Gregoire leading a patrol past a disabled German halftrack vehicle in the Normandy beachhead, France, 10 June 1944." Considering the early date and how far west this photo was taken, it appears that this vehicle could only belong to I./Panzergrenadier-Regiment 192, part of Kampfgruppe Rauch (the commander of Pz.Gren. Rgt. 192). Also, while the major part of the tactical number is covered by camouflage material, from the fact that all three numbers appear to have long, horizontal bases, the number must be "222". As a side-note, there is a Lt. J.R. Gregoire of Le Régiment de la Chaudičre listed in The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has having died on 5.7.44. The regimental titles on the men in the photo cannot be clearly seen, but the shape does fit those of the Chaudičres http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2059184
The second photo, PA-162648, has the following caption: "Signalman A. McNeil entering Caen in a captured German halftrack vehicle, Caen, France, 10 July 1944."
This next Unic is from Dennis Trowbridge's website (http://news.webshots.com/photo/2729694430063387170VWKXym
). This scan was given to him by a friend and he does not know its origin:
Next is a photograph of Unic 201 which was taken by Bob Atkinson, a veteran of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps and published in an article in Quad
and provided to me by Yann Youalt via several other people:
And finally, a trio of photos showing Unic 116 turned over on the side of road near Bailleul from the Imperial War Museum and one from Ross Leal, taken by his grandfather Albert Brown:
- Light armored personnel carriers Ausf Two
The Ausf. 2 body type was probably the more common body and was used for all of the armored variations, with the exception of the 2 cm flak versions. The body of the Ausf 2. has more complex angles, similar to those of the Sd.Kfz. 251 Ausf. A, B & C:
Most were opened topped, but a few command and/or signals versions were constructed with a roof.
The majority of the Ausf. 2 Unics were employed in the role of armored personnel carriers. These normally were equipped with pintles for MG 42 at the front and rear of the fighting compartment. According to Kortenhaus (App., Pg. 585) the 4th Platoon of each Panzer Grenadier Company of the I. Batallion of both Regiments was the heavy platoon and was equipped with 4 SPW with heavy MGs, so, one would assume, these were equipped with the s.MG Lafette or a dismountable s.MG tripod.
The interior of the personnel carrier version of the Unic was similar to that of the 251/1, having a wood-slatted bench along each side of the crew compartment, as can be seen in the following photo:
This first vehicle was photographed in the company of a Panther which appears to be a Befehlspanther (due to the ladder attached to the side, a field mod which is common to Befehlspanthers of several Panzer Divisions operating in Normandy as was pointed out to me by Barry Crook, who also gave me a heads up on this photo) of a Waffen-SS Division. While the majority of the vehicle is screened by the men marching alongside the road, it is very likely a Unic:
The men marching alongside the road are dressed in a very typical manner that was unique to the 21st Panzer Division. Though probably not at the same level as typical Waffen-SS Divisions, the front-line troops of 21st Panzer, particularly the Panzergrenadiers but also some members of the Reconnaissance batallion and possibly others, appear to have been very uniformly equipped with camouflaged helmet covers and smocks. Secondly, many photos of Unics taken after D-Day show that one or both of the engine access hatches are unlatched and partially-swung open (i.e., the Unic in Bourgtherolde below). This closeup shows what appears to me to be such an open access door, rather than a bevel of the body where the sides meet the hood (which does not exist on the Unic):
The date and location of this photo are not known, but my hypothesis is that it was taken during the mobilization of both the rearward elements of 21st Panzer and of 12th SS on the 6th and 7th of June. Large portions of 21st Panzer, including I./PzGrenRgt 125, was located around and to the NW of St. Pierre-sur-Dives, which is one of the probable axes of advance of one of the three groups of 12th SS as it advanced toward Caen (According to Hubert Myer the plans of advance for two of the groups did not survive the war). I base much of my opinion on the fact that these troops look quite fresh, but this photo could have been taken at almost any point in June and much of July when 21st Pz and 12 SS were neighbors. It could have also occurred during Goodwood or during the retreats as well.
At least one Unic was filmed in Caen, probably soon after D-Day:
There are two instances that were captured of Unics in use early in the Normandy campaign. According to Funklenkpanzer
the first operational use of Borgward BIVs by Pz.Kp. 315 (Fkl) was on 23.6.44 in support of Kampfgruppe von Luck in the Bavent Forest area. While I am not going to include the images here since I have posted them before (see:
), this footage, included in one of the Wochenschau newsreels, showing a column of Stugs and Borgward B IVs of Panzer-Kompanie 315 (Funklenk) interspersed with Unic halftracks of one of the Pz.-Gren.-Rgts of 21st Panzer, could indeed be documentation of that very attack. There is additional footage which appears to have been taken of the same column and briefly shows footage from the ground but from the other side of the road and then shows footage filmed from inside of the (or a) 38t. I have been unable to ascertain if this footage is contained in one of the "missing" Wochenschau newsreels (i.e., those that are not included in any of the collections) or if it was film that was edited out and survived as raw footage. This clip can be found at: http://www.realmilitaryflix.com/public/467.cfm
and the relevant part starts at 4:35, right after the part showing Rommel visiting General Meindl.
This next photo is actually a still from an Imperial War Museum film (also found on a Pathe clip) showing an abandoned Ausf 2 in the area of Colombelles according to a source that I cannot verify. The date is not given but was probably taken in early to mid July if it was indeed taken in Colombelles:
Though it is far in the background, Albert Brown captured another Unic in the Falaise Gap, this time an Ausf 2. This photo was taken near Moissy Ford. It cannot be ascertained if this was an SPW or a specialized version for obvious reasons:
Several Ausf 2 Unics were filmed in Bourgtherolde during the Rückmarsch (I believe that these are two views of the same Unic, actually):
The SPWs of the platoon leaders for each of the armored platoons (with the exception of the Heavy Company and the heavy platoon of the rest of the armored companies), according to the K.St.Ns of the time, was armed with a 3.7 cm Pak. As noted in the chart above, there were 3 per (non-heavy) SPW Company, so 9 per Armored Batallion. Spielberger features a view of a fresh platoon leader's SPW:
Below is the only other photo I have found of the platoon leaders' SPW, which obviously met a violent end (date and location unknown to me):
- Partially armored self propelled Flak gun carriage
SP Flak gun carriage for the Flak 38 received the smallest amount of conversion, consisting of the addition of a three-part armored shield mounted on the very front protecting the radiator and the fenders. The middle part of this shield had openable metal slats over the radiator and each outside part had a hole cut in it through which the headlights protruded. The engine compartment and hood remained unchanged (unarmored), except that the windshield was covered or replaced by an armored one which was able to fold down but also had observation flaps in them so that they could be driven with the shield up. The bed of the halftrack was replaced by an armored tub in which was mounted the Flak 38.
As with all of the other conversions that were produced by Baustab Becker, there are photographs of it taken outside of the workshop and/or shortly after delivery to the troops:
This photo, kindly supplied to me by Noël Farrugia, shows the teilgepanzert SP Flak 38 with the windshield flap down. The location and source are unknown:
This teilgepanzert Unic, in the background, is from the collection of Hans Höller and probably shows one of the three Unic Flakpanzers with the 8./Pz.Gren.Rgt 192. The photo was taken in May, 1944:
Yet another teilgepanzert Unic Flakpanzer can be seen lurking in the background of this photo, behind the 10.5 cm le.F.H.16 auf gep.Sfl.FCM. According to Jentz, 12 of these FCM conversions were constructed for gepanzerte Artillerie-Abteilung (Sfl.) z.b.V which later became Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 200. The FCMs were no longer shown on any of the 21st Panzer records after 1 January, 1944, so this photo probably dates to some time in 1943 and this Unic probably belongs to gepanzerte Artillerie-Abteilung (Sfl.) z.b.V or Stug-Abt. 200:
- Armored self propelled Flak gun carriage
The fully armored SP Flak gun carriage for the Flak 38 received a body very similar to the SPW ausf 2 Unic, but the height of the fighting compartment and the armored cab are cut down so as not to impede the movement and field of fire of the Flak 38. This example was photographed while in service with Schnelle Brigade West from Spielberger's book:
The only known post-D Day photo of a fully armored Unic SP 20mm flak is one seen in the Trun dump which was pointed out to me by Leonard Paul and which is found in Panzers in Normandy Then and Now
by Eric Lefčvre:
- Armored Mortar carrier
According to Kortenhaus the heavy platoon of each SPW Company (4th Platoon) was equipped with two of this version of the Unic. Spielberger lists the Granatwerferpanzer
as one of the conversions for which Becker used the Unic as a basis, but no further information nor photos are provided. It is probable that the French Brandt 81mm mortar was employed, just as they were on Somua MCG and MCLs to produce the Reihenwerfer
versions. There is no known photo of this conversion, or, at least, none in which the mortar is visible.
- Armored ambulance
There is no documentation of the existence of an armored ambulance version of the Unic among the records to which I have access. Nonetheless, there is photographic evidence that they were present in Normandy. The SPW batallion HQ Companies were organized according to K.St.N. 1108 a (gp.) v. 1.4.1943 (a copy of which I have been unable to obtain) but most other K.St.N. for SPW batallion HQ Companies, such as 1108 a (gp.) dated 1.11.43, authorized 1 mittlerer Krankenpanzerwagen (Sd.Kfz. 251/8). Based on this theoretical organization, each SPW batallion should have had one Unic armored ambulance, but could have had more than one.
This next photo is one of my favorites. I have been unable to determine the source of this photo, but considering the fact that it contains both Heer and Fallschirmjäger passengers, my theory is that it was taken in or near the Falaise Gap. A wider view of this photo shows a Sherman Firefly (just the very end of which can be seen on the right edge of the photo) suggesting that this Unic is part of a column of German prisoners.
The second photo offers a frontal view of a Unic armored ambulance traveling down a road in the Bois de Bavent area, according to the person who sent it to me. One can appreciate the tall, narrow and somewhat delicate appearance of the Unic in this photo:
- Armored Radio car
Based on the numbers that I have been able to glean from the few sources I have available, it appears that the Funkwagen
version of the Unic was the second most common version utilized by 21st Panzer. The majority of these were probably open topped as shown here:
The radio equipment was stowed in the passenger side rear part of the fighting compartment, following the convention utilized in Sd.Kfz 250 and 251s :
There were, however, some that possibly served also as command vehicles which received a crowned, armored roof in which there were two flaps that allowed access to an MG (notice the pintle). The only known example of this is one that was captured in the Saar region in March 1945.
While the location and the unusual insignia would tempt us to assume that this is proof that Unics with aufbau were assigned to units other than 21st Panzer, that would be an incorrect assumption. This was, in fact, a Unic of Stug-Abteilung 200 of 21st Panzer. After Normandy, Stug-Abteilung 200 was removed from 21st Panzer as it was reorganized along a more standard organization. This abteilung was not broken up but rather was transferred. To quote Hans Weber, "The connection is StuG Abt 200 first with 21. Pz. Div. later under the name of HStuG Brigade 200 with FBB in the Ardennes. The second pic has been taken in the sector Ortho, Rochefort, if my memory serves me well. It became Pz.Jg.Abt. 673 (Panther) in 1945. It's first incarnation was under the name gep. Artilleriebrigade beim OB West." So, this vehicle, as well as a Somua schwere Munitionskraftwagen
which will be featured in part two, and other vehicles that had belonged to 21st Panzer remained with the unit as it became an independent unit. Notice that the vehicle has the tactical sign for a Stug unit painted on the rear:
_THE UNIC TU 1_ (Summarized from Spielberger)
Production of the Unic TU 1, known as the Tractor U 305 (f), to the Germans, began late during the Blitzkrieg. The first vehicle was delivered on 28 March 1940 and up to June 1940, when production ceased, only 236 were completed. Since production started so late, almost all were captured intact by the Germans.
The light tractor TU 1 was used by the Germans as light artillery tractors and provisional towing vehicles.
I have been able to find few photos of Unic TU 1s. I have found one or two photos of TU 1s employed by the Germans outside of or before Normandy,
but this is the only one in Normandy known to me. This TU 1 was taken by Albert Brown in St. Lambert-sur-Dives. He also took a photo of a Unic P 107 (see above) and a Somua MCG Panzerpionierwagen
, so it is possible that this TU 1 also belonged to 21st Panzer. Regardless of the Division to which it belonged, it is clear that it belonged to a towed artillery unit based on the tactical insignia on the rear passenger-side mudflap:
Since so few were produced, it is probable that very few of these were employed in Normandy.
The location of the TU 1 was provided to me by Leonard Paul (Spannerman) who also pointed me to an overhead modern-day view of this location which has been published in 39-45 Magazine and also in "Le Couloir de Mort"
He also pointed out two more photos which show portions of the TU 1, which are published in the same book:
There were roughly twice as many Unic P 107s produced as Somua MCGs and MCLs put together but, ironically, the photographic record of the latter is larger (at least in terms of the armored versions), as we will see in part 2. Nonetheless, the known photographic record of 21st Panzer Unics is much larger than I had thought when I began this project. I will continue to search for more photos and as these become available, I will post updates. I would be eternally grateful for any leads that you may offer, whether it be photos that are published or photos for sale.
In part 3 I will attempt to offer some analysis of marking and camouflage tendencies of the Unics along with other vehicles from 21st Panzer and its predecessors, but this will require a great deal more digestion.
I hope to one day complete a technical review of the various gepanzerte Unics. I have partially measured the chassis in Indiana and have heard rumors of original Ausf 2 Aufbaus in Europe somewhere, but this is a long-term project, the quick completion of which is beyond my means.
As usual much of this information and, especially, the photos could not have been presented without the help of many people, including some who wish to remain anonymous. In no particular order I would like to thank Barry Crook, Fred Bayerlein, Hans Weber, Niels Henkemans, Andrew Hall, Noël Farrugia, Martin Block, Yann Youalt, Alain Verwicht, Chris Brown, Christoph Awender, Dennis Trowbridge, Leonard Paul, Ross Leal, Richard Hedrick, Stanley Phillips, Graeme Carruthers, Aris Kosionidis & Dan Graves. My apologies if I have forgotten anyone.
Anonymous. D 628/1 Leichter Zugkraftwagen U (f) Typ P 107: Gerätbeschriebung und Bediennungsanweisung zum Fahrgestell. Berlin, 1941.
Buffetaut, Yves. Les Panzer en Normandie. (Militaria Hors-Série No. 1). Paris: Histoire & Collections, 1991.
Bernage, Georges; Leterreux, Frédéric & Wirton, Phillipe. Le Couloir de la Mort: Falaise-Argentan. Bayeux: Editions Heimdal, 2007. ISBN 2-84048-217- 7.
Bernage, Georges & Wirton, Philippe. Goodwood: Normandy 1944. Bayeux: Editions Heimdal, 2006. ISBN 2-84048-189-8.
Boniface, Jean-Michel & Jeudy, Jean-Gabriel. Scout Cars & Half-Tracks. Paris: Éditions Presse Audiovisuel, 1989. ISBN: 2-85120-316-9.
Cance, Hubert. "L'Unic P-107, Un Tracteur A Travers La Guerre". Steel Masters: Le Magazine des Blindes et du Modelisme Militaire, No. 39. (Histoire & Collections, Paris, Juin-Juillet, 2000.), Pp 28-32.
Cance, Hubert. "Les Unic P-107 Blindés Allemands." Steel Masters: Le Magazine des Blindes et du Modelisme Militaire, No. 40. (Histoire & Collections, Paris, Aout-Septembre, 2000.) Pp 26-30.
Chamberlain, Peter & Doyle, H.L. Semi-Tracked Vehicles of the German Army 1939-45, Part 2: Leichter Schuetzenpanzerwagen, Light Armoured Personnel Carriers (SdKfz 250 & Others). Bellona Handbook No. 2. Berkshire: Bellona Publications Ltd., 1970.
Daugherty, Leo. The Battle of the Hedgerows: Bradley's First Army in Normandy, June-July, 1944. Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allen, 2001. ISBN 0-7110-2832-X.
Fleischer, Wolfgang. Captured Weapons and Equipment of the German Wehrmacht, 1938-1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1998. ISBN: 0764305263.
Jaugitz, Marcus. Funklenkpanzer: The History of German Army Remote- and Radio-Controlled Armor Units. Alberta: JJ Fedorowicz, 2006. ISBN: 0921991584.
Kortenhaus, Werner. 21. Panzerdivision, 1943-45. Uelzen, Verlag Wolfgang Schneider, 2007. ISBN: 978-3-935107-11-2.
Morgan, Joe. "Unic-Fication: A Yummy French treat from H&K" Military Miniatures in Review, No. 13. (Ampersand Publishing, Delray Beach, FL, Summer 1997.) Pp. 29-31.
Spielberger, Walter J. Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Deutschen Wehrmacht. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag, 1989.
Vauvillier, François & Touraine, Jean-Michel. L'Automobile sous l'Uniforme 1939-1940. Paris: Editions Ch. Massin, 1992. ISBN: 2-7072-0197-9.
Zaloga, Steven & Balin. D-Day Tank Warfare: Armoured Combat in the Normandy Campaign June-August, 1944. Hong Kong: Concord Publications Co., 1997. No ISBN
Zaloga, Steven. Panzers in the Gunsights: German AFVs in the ETO 1944-45 in US Army Photos. Hong Kong: Concord Publications Co., 2005. ISBN 962-361-093-9.
Captured & converted French equipments in axis service http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=23596&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&sid=ba0c2c5883dabd616ca747838b96b462
FRANKREICH 1940 - 1944: FRANZÖSISCHE HALBKETTENFAHRZEUGE BEI DER DEUTSCHEN WEHRMACHT
Photographs taken at the Victory Museum in Indiana. (the body is fake but the chassis appears to be authentic).
Abilene, República de Texas
"All dressed in uniform so fine//They drank and killed to pass the time//Wearing the shame of all their crimes// With measured steps they walked in line" They walked in line - Joy Division