First, recall the events that preceded the appearance of three armored cars, including PB 23. In the mid-thirties, the Norwegian command, after many years of frank ignoring, decided to tackle the subject of armored combat vehicles. The first result of these works was the appearance of an experienced tank Rikstanken based on the Swedish chassis L-120. This machine received a body made of structural steel and therefore could not participate in battles. In addition, it showed very low technical and operational characteristics, as a result of which interest in armored vehicles disappeared for the next few years.
Only in the last months of 1939, after seeing and appreciating the results of the Polish campaign of Nazi Germany, did the Norwegian military leaders realize the need to build and operate armored vehicles. Soon came the order to create the first own combat vehicles that fully meet the requirements of combat use. Possibly, the possibility of building a large number of vehicles was considered, but in the end only three armored vehicles could be assembled, which, moreover, were not distinguished for their high performance and outstanding combat capabilities.
Not having developed defense industry and not having experience in creating armored vehicles, Norway was forced to use available components and outdated approaches to the construction of equipment. As the basis for new armored cars, the existing truck chassis should have been used. They were offered to install armor corps of original designs. A similar approach to the creation of combat vehicles was actively used by all countries in the past, but by the end of the 1930s it was hopelessly outdated. However, the Norwegian designers and the military simply had no choice.
Three armored vehicles of the new series received the designations Panserbil 21, Panserbil 22 and Panserbil 23. For convenience, the abbreviated names PB 21 / 22 / 23 could also be used. It is noteworthy that the authors of such designations did not show originality and called the technique “armored vehicles”. To distinguish between cars, respectively, used two-digit numbers.
As a basis for new armored cars, it was proposed to use different types of chassis with similar and different characteristics, which required the use of different hulls and internal equipment. Nevertheless, the armored vehicles with the numbers “22” and “23” had some common features, but at the same time they differed noticeably both from each other and from the first PB 21. In particular, this suggests that the second and third armored vehicles were designed and built taking into account the results of the assembly and testing of the first vehicle.
The commercial truck of the American company Chevrolet was chosen as the basis for the Panserbil 23 armored vehicle. It was a two-axle vehicle with an incomplete drive and a 1,5 tonnage. The removal of the standard hull with the bonnet and cab, as well as the cargo body, made it possible to noticeably increase the capacity margin required for mounting the armor hull and weapons, as well as for the transport of crew and troops. Known information suggests that the project was able to meet all the requirements for the mass of new units.
Like the other armored cars of its series, the PB 23 received a relatively subtle booking, providing protection against bullets and shrapnel. In terms of its construction and external contours, the case looked like the corresponding units of the PB 22 machine, but it differed in shorter length and in other dimensions of individual parts. The layout of the armored corps was standard for both Norwegian and foreign military vehicles, built on the basis of production trucks. A smaller armored hood protruded before the habitable compartment, and all other volumes were allocated for the accommodation of people or goods.
The Panserbil 23 project offered protection for the engine and some transmission devices with a relatively small armor casing. Frontal projection of the power plant was covered with an inclined trapezoid sheet with a wider upper edge. Much of this sheet was given under the window with blinds, necessary for engine cooling. On top of the front sheet was attached inclined quadrangular hood, extending towards the habitable compartment. As in the case of the PB 22, the side of the engine was covered with the front parts of large L-shaped side plates, which also served as the sides of the cabin. At the same time in the left wall was provided a large ventilation hatch with its own cover. On the sides of the frontal sheet were unprotected headlights with electric lamps. At a certain time, frontal protection was reinforced by two quadrangular armor plates suspended at the edges of the bumper. They were designed to protect the front wheels from fire.
Directly to the roof of the engine compartment was attached a sloping frontal sheet of the habitable compartment, which had hatches for observation and armament. On the side, it was connected to the inclined edges of large side sheets. The latter had a complex shape and were installed at an angle to the longitudinal axis of the machine, as a result of which the hull smoothly increased its width from the front sheet from the louver to the rear of the cabin.
It was proposed to mount a relatively simple armored hull of the troop compartment in place of the cargo area of the car. He had a flat bottom, located above the frame and wheels, and also equipped with vertical sides. A similar design was used on the Panserbil 22 armored car, but this time the upper sections of the cabin and troop compartment sides were at the same level and did not mate through the ledge.
The body of this design was to be installed on a commercial Chevrolet chassis. The base machine had a chassis with an 4x2 wheel formula with a rear driving axle. The front wheels were driven. The dependent suspension of bridges based on semi-elliptic leaf springs was used. The car was completed with a gasoline engine and manual transmission with fully manual control. Apparently, during the restructuring of the truck in the armored car the power plant and transmission were not altered.
Own crew of PB 23 armored car could consist of two people - the driver and the gunner. The control post with the systems of "automobile" type was located in the front part of the hull at the left side. The driver could observe the road with the help of two inspection hatches in the front and side sheets. The front hatch was initially small and was closed with a sliding cover with a viewing slot. Subsequently, the hatch significantly increased and equipped with a new lid, raised on a hinge up. It should be noted that the Panserbil 22 armored car has undergone the same improvements. The shooter was to the right of the driver and could use a machine gun course. To install weapons in the front sheet there was a round opening.
Because of the two-axle chassis, the Panserbil 23 armored car differed from the other two machines in shorter length and, as a result, in smaller body volumes. Among other things, this led to a decrease in the capacity of the troop compartment. On the benches along the sides it was possible to place no more than 5-6 soldiers with personal weapons. The troop compartment had no means of observation, but the lack of a roof made it possible to inspect the terrain and fire. Both the landing party and the crew were to get into the armored car through the aft door.
The PB 23 armored car differed from other vehicles in a reduced set of onboard armaments. The only regular weapon was the 7,92-mm machine gun Colt m / 29 (the licensed version of the American Browning M1917). A large casing, necessary for the water cooling of the trunk, was placed in the front embrasure of the habitable compartment. Near the workplace of the shooter there were racks for the transport of boxes with cartridge tapes. Other Norwegian armored cars could carry additional machine guns or rifles of various types, but such information about the 23 was missing. At the same time, the landing had the opportunity to fire at the enemy from personal weapons over the sides of the hull. In this case, the rifles of the Krag-Jørgensen type became the additional armament of the armored vehicle.
In connection with the use of less long chassis armored car Panserbil 23 was noticeably shorter than the other two Norwegian vehicles. Other dimensions, obviously, were on the same level. The one-and-a-half truck chassis made it possible to get a combat mass at the level of the 3,5-4 t. From the point of view of mobility, the armored car had to correspond to serial two-axle trucks carrying the full payload. At the same time, the existing chassis made it impossible to get high off-road mobility.
The construction of the PB 23 armored car on the two-axle Chevrolet chassis was launched no earlier than the end of the 1939 of the year. The available serial model of a commercial model was dismantled, after which it was equipped with a new armored hull of its own building. After that, the armored car came to the test, probably along with one or two other machines. The test results are unknown, but the available information suggests that some of the design features led to criticism and led to certain changes in the design. In particular, the main inspection hatches were enlarged and their covers were changed.
PB 22 (left) and PB 23 (right) after revision
All three armored cars were ordered in the interests of cavalry troops. It was assumed that on the fields of future battles armored cars would accompany the attacking cavalrymen and support them with machine-gun fire. Given the current state of the ground forces, even three armored vehicles could seriously increase combat capability. In connection with similar plans, the three armored cars built were transferred to one of the cavalry units.
According to reports, at the beginning of 1940, PB 21, PB 22 and PB 23 armored cars went to serve in the 1 th dragoon regiment (according to other sources, in the 2 th dragoon regiment), based near Oslo. After receiving the equipment, the personnel of the regiment proceeded to the development of an unusual material part and the training of future crews. In addition, soon the armored cars were attracted to the exercises, during which the interaction of self-propelled vehicles, infantry and cavalry was worked out. Probably, the results of such maneuvers were taken into account when drawing up future plans.
Nevertheless, the formation of new plans and programs for the development of the army no longer made sense. On the night of April 9 1940, the troops of Nazi Germany invaded Norway. On the same day, the dragoons from the 1 regiment received orders to prepare for advancement to the front. Early in the morning of April 10, the fighters left the unit and went to the specified area. For some unknown reasons, the regiment, taking with it a different material part, left all the available armored cars and the only experimental light tank Rikstanken in the garages.
Just a few hours after the departure of the servicemen, the unit was captured by the enemy. All left samples of military equipment in one moment became trophies. German soldiers showed interest in the Norwegian armored vehicles, but its main result was numerous memory photos. Without facing a shortage of armored combat vehicles, the German army did not need to adopt trophy samples. Nevertheless, some of them still found use. Thus, the Panserbil 22 armored car was slightly modified, repainted and sent to serve as a special police vehicle.
Exact information about the fate of the armored vehicle Panserbil 23 is missing. Captured combat vehicles were not of particular interest to the army of Hitler's Germany, which did not contribute to the preservation of even unusual and unique designs. Most likely, the third machine of the series, which the occupiers actually did not need, was at a certain moment written off and sent for disassembly. One way or another, the PB 23 armored car and two other fellow members were disposed of before the end of World War II.
Until the mid-thirties, the Norwegian command did not see any sense in the construction or purchase of armored combat vehicles. Only in 1936, a not very successful attempt was made to build the first own tank, based on a foreign chassis. The failure of this project seriously hit the prospects of the whole direction, which is why until the very end of the decade, new attempts to create armored vehicles were not made. Famous events in Poland forced the Norwegian commanders to change their minds and urgently start developing new projects. However, there was too little time left, and therefore only three armored cars were built. The German occupation led to the halt of all work in the field of armored vehicles. As a result, the Panserbil 21 / 22 / 23 vehicles turned out to be not only the first, but also the latest armored vehicles in Norway. Subsequently, the Norwegian designers did not engage in projects of this kind.
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