As you know, during the Second World War, it was specialized anti-tank artillery that caused the greatest losses to armored vehicles. Although the saturation of troops with anti-tank guns and their penetration was constantly increasing, an acute shortage of anti-tank weapons was experienced in the armies of most warring states until the end of hostilities.
In the initial period of World War II, the Wehrmacht anti-tank units had a significant number of 37-mm guns 3,7 cm Pak. 35 / 36. However, these guns, which had a high rate of fire, small dimensions and weight, the ability to quickly transport and good maneuverability on the battlefield, could not effectively fight tanks protected by anti-ballistic armor. In this regard, by the beginning of the 1943 year, the 37-mm guns ceased to play a noticeable role in anti-tank defense, although they were used in the "second roles" until May 1945 year. The industry of Germany and occupied European countries did not have time to compensate for the huge losses of equipment and weapons on the Eastern Front. Despite the efforts made, it was not possible to fully satisfy the needs for 50-mm guns 5 cm Pak. 38 and 75 mm 7,5 cm Pak. 40. In this regard, the Germans had to use 88-mm anti-aircraft guns and field guns of the caliber 105-150-mm in anti-tank defense. Creation on the basis of the 88-mm Flak anti-aircraft guns. 41 with a barrel length of 71 caliber anti-tank guns 8,8 cm Pak. 43 did not change the situation. Although the 88-mm armor-piercing projectile with an initial speed of 1000 m / s at real combat distances confidently hit all serial Soviet, American and British tanks, the 8,8 cm Pak gun. 43 turned out to be expensive to manufacture, and when the mass in combat position 4240-4400 kg had extremely low maneuverability. Monster-like 128-mm gun 12,8 cm PaK. 44 ballistic 128-mm anti-aircraft gun FlaK. 40, during the Second World War, had no analogues in firing range and armor penetration, however, the mass in combat position of about 10000 kg and excessive dimensions nullified all the advantages.
Austrian 47-mm gun Böhler M35
In the conditions of chronic shortage of anti-tank artillery, the armed forces of Nazi Germany actively used guns captured in other countries. The first foreign anti-tank guns, adopted by the Wehrmacht, were the Austrian 47-mm Böhler M35.
47-mm anti-tank gun Böhler M35
The design of this model was influenced by the views of the Austrian military, who wanted to get a universal artillery system suitable for use in mountainous areas. In this regard, the designers of the company Böhler ("Boehler") created a very unusual weapon, which in the Austrian army was used as an infantry, mountain and anti-tank. Depending on the purpose, the 47-mm gun had a different barrel length and could be equipped with a muzzle brake. A collapsible modification suitable for transportation in packs was also mass-produced. A common feature of all models was a large elevation angle, the absence of an anti-splinter shield, as well as the possibility of separating the wheel drive and mounting directly on the ground, which reduced the silhouette at the firing position. To reduce the mass in the transport position, some of the late-production guns were equipped with wheels with alloy wheels.
As follows from the designation, mass production of the gun began in the 1935 year, and for that time, despite a number of controversial decisions due to the requirements of universality, it was very effective in the role of anti-tank. Modification with a barrel length of 1680 mm in transport position weighed 315 kg, in combat, after separation of the wheel drive - 277 kg. The firing angles in the vertical ranged from -5 ° to + 56 °, in the horizontal plane - 62 °. Combat rate of fire 10-12 rds / min. The ammunition had fragmentation and armor-piercing shells. A fragmentation projectile weighing 2,37 kg had an initial speed of 320 m / s and a firing range of 7000 m. An armor-piercing tracer projectile weighing 1,44 kg left the barrel at a speed of 630 m / s. At a distance of 100 m along the normal, he could penetrate 58 mm armor plate, at 500 m - 43 mm, at 1000 m - 36 mm. Modification with a barrel length of 1880 mm at a range of 100 m was able to penetrate 70 mm armor.
Thus, the 47-mm Böhler M35 gun with acceptable weight and size characteristics at all distances could successfully deal with armored vehicles protected by bulletproof armor, at short range with medium tanks with anti-ballistic armor.
After the Anschluss of Austria, the Germans got 330 47-mm guns, and approximately 150 guns were assembled from the existing reserve until the end of the 1940 year. Austrian 47-mm guns were adopted under the designation 4,7 Pak. 35 / 36 (ö). Given the fact that the Böhler M35 enjoyed success in the foreign market, Germany got the Dutch guns, called 4,7 Pak. 187 (h), and former Lithuanians seized in the warehouses of the Red Army - designated 4,7 Pak. 196 (r). The guns manufactured in Italy under license had the designation Cannone da 47 / 32 Mod. 35. After Italy emerged from the war, the Italian guns captured by the Wehrmacht were called the 4,7 Pak. 177 (i).
According to rough estimates, in June 1941, the Wehrmacht had at its disposal 500 guns Böhler M35. Until the middle of the 1942 year, they actively fought on the Eastern Front and in North Africa. A number of 47-mm guns were used to equip improvised anti-tank self-propelled guns. Subsequently, the surviving and captured guns in Italy were handed over to Finland, Croatia and Romania.
Czechoslovak anti-tank guns 3.7 cm kanon PUV vz. 34 (Škoda vz. 34 UV), 3.7 cm kanon PUV.vz.37 and 47-mm 4.7 cm kanon PUV. vz. 36.
Czechoslovakia became another country annexed by Germany in the 1938 year. Although this country had a developed defense industry, and the Czechoslovak army was considered quite combat-ready, as a result of the betrayal of the governments of England and France, the country was divided almost without resistance by the Germans into the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Slovakia and the Carpathian Ukraine (occupied by Hungary). At the disposal of Germany were stocks of weapons of the Czechoslovak army, which allowed to arm the 9 infantry divisions. Throughout the war, Czech industry worked for the Nazis.
In March of the 1939 of the year, in the anti-tank batteries of the Czechoslovak army there were 37-mm guns 3.7 cm kanon PUV vz. 34 (Škoda vz. 34 UV), 3.7 cm kanon PUV.vz.37 and 47-mm 4.7 cm kanon PUV. vz. 36. By the time of the occupation, the customer was delivered 1734 37-mm and 775 47-mm guns.
37-mm anti-tank gun 3.7 cm kanon PUV vz. 34 with pneumatic tires
37-mm anti-tank gun 3.7 cm kanon PUV vz. 34 (export name Škoda A3) had a small weight and dimensions. By design, this tool was quite perfect for its time. Wooden wheels with a metal rim were sprung, which made it possible to transport the gun not only by horses, but also by mechanical traction. The mass in combat position was 364 kg. The gun had a monoblock barrel with a horizontal wedge bolt, which ensured the rate of fire of the 15-20 rounds per minute. The ammunition included armor-piercing shell weighing 0,85 kg and fragmentation mass 1,2 kg. With a barrel length of 1480 mm, an armor-piercing projectile, having accelerated to 640 m / s, at a distance of 100 m could normally penetrate 42 mm armor, at a range of 500 m, armor penetration was 31 mm.
The 3.7 cm kanon PUV.vz.37 gun was different from arr. 1934 g. Carriage construction and barrel length 1770 mm. 1934 mm anti-fragmentation shield was mounted on the guns of the 1937 sample and the 5 sample. Thanks to the longer barrel, the armor penetration of the 3.7 cm kanon PUV.vz.37 has increased significantly. At a distance of 100 with an improved armor-piercing shell with a carbide tip, 60 mm armor could be pierced along the normal. At a range of 500 m, penetration was 38 mm.
German soldiers with 37-mm gun 3.7 cm kanon PUV.vz.37
The Germans, evaluating the combat qualities of Czech guns, adopted them under the designation 3,7-cm Pak. 34 (t) and 3,7-cm Pak. 37 (t). Production of guns arr. 1937 continued until May 1940. After the loss of independence, the Skoda factories delivered 513 guns to the Wehrmacht. The guns intended for the armed forces of the Third Reich received wheels with pneumatic tires, which allowed to increase the speed of their transportation. These wheels in army workshops were also equipped with some of the guns built in Czechoslovakia.
Czech-made 37-mm anti-tank guns along with the German Pak. 35 / 36 in the initial period of the war were used in anti-tank units of infantry divisions. However, soon after the invasion of the USSR, it became clear that the armor penetration of 37-mm guns and the armored action of their shells on modern medium and heavy tanks left much to be desired, and they were quickly supplanted in parts of the first line by more effective anti-tank weapons.
The 47-mm 4.7 cm kanon PUV gun had greater armor penetration. vz. 36. In addition, a gun with a fragmentation projectile weighing 2,3 kg and containing 253 g of TNT was better suited for providing fire support, destroying light field fortifications and suppressing firing points.
47-mm anti-tank gun 4.7 cm kanon PUV. vz. 36 in combat
This gun was developed by Skoda in the 1936 year as a further development of the 37-mm anti-tank gun. Externally 4.7 cm kanon PUV. vz. 36 was similar to 3.7 cm kanon PUV.vz.34 differing in larger caliber, overall dimensions and weight increased to 595 kg. In addition, for ease of transportation, both stands of the 47-mm gun were folded and deployed at 180 ° and attached to the barrel.
47-mm anti-tank gun 4.7 cm kanon PUV. vz. 36 in transport position
As of the 1939 year, the 47-mm Czechoslovakian gun was one of the most powerful in the world. With a barrel length of 2219 mm, the initial velocity of 1,65 kg of armor-piercing projectile was 775 m / s. At a right angle of 1000 m, he pierced 55 mm armor. A well-trained calculation per minute could make 15 aimed shots.
Before the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Skoda company managed to produce 775 47-mm anti-tank guns. Several dozen of these guns were sold to Yugoslavia in the 1938 year. The piquancy of the situation was that in the 1940 year these weapons were used against each other by the Yugoslav army and the Wehrmacht. After the occupation of Yugoslavia in April 1941, captured weapons were used in the Wehrmacht under the name 4,7 cm Pak 179 (j).
German calculation of the 47-mm Pak 36 (t) anti-tank gun raises it to a height
47-mm anti-tank gun 4.7 cm kanon PUV. vz. 36 in the armed forces of Germany received the designation 4,7 cm Pak 36 (t). Since the middle of the 1939 year, the gun began to enter the arsenal of the tank destroyer divisions of a number of infantry divisions, and was first used during battles in France in the 1940 year, where it proved itself better than the 3,7 cm Pak. 35 / 36. In terms of armor penetration, the 4,7 cm Pak 36 (t) was slightly inferior to the German 5 cm Pak. 38, which during the French company were still very few.
In March 1940, the 4,7 cm Pak 36 (t) began to be installed on the chassis of the light tank Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B, and since May 1941, on the chassis of the captured French tank R-35. A total of 376 light tank destroyers were manufactured. Self-propelled guns, designated Panzerjager I and Panzerjäger 35 R (f), respectively, entered service with the divisions of tank destroyers.
Tank Destroyer Panzerjäger 35 R (f)
The production of 47-mm guns continued until the 1942 year. In total, more than 1200 copies were built. The early release guns had wooden wheels with a metal rim and a high shield.
In 1939, to reduce the silhouette of the anti-tank gun at the position, the shield was shortened, and the transportation speed was increased due to the introduction of pneumatic tires on steel disks.
In 1940, an armor-piercing subcaliber projectile PzGr 40 with a tungsten carbide core was developed for the gun. A shell weighing 0,8 kg, with an initial speed of 1080 m / s at a distance of up to 500 m confidently pierced the frontal armor of the medium Soviet tank T-34. This allowed the 47-mm gun to remain operational until the beginning of the 1943 year, until the German anti-tank divisions were equipped with a sufficient number of 50 and 75-mm guns. However, the proportion of sub-caliber shells in the ammunition load of German anti-tank guns was small, and they turned out to be effective only at a relatively short distance.
Polish 37-mm anti-tank gun 37 mm armata przeciwpancerna wz.36
At the time of the German attack on Poland, the main means of anti-tank defense in the Polish army were the 37 mm guns 37 mm armata przeciwpancerna wz.36. Under this designation was the anti-tank gun 37 mm pkan M / 34, developed by the Swedish company Bofors ("Bofors") in the 1934 year. The first batch of 37-mm guns was purchased from Bofors in the 1936 year, and subsequently in Poland, their licensed production was established at the SMPzA plant in Pruszkow. By September 1939, the Poles had more than 1200 such guns.
37-mm anti-tank gun Bofors M / 34
According to the set of characteristics of the 37-mm gun, the Bofors M / 34 was the best in its class. A semi-automatic horizontal wedge shutter provided a rate of fire up to 20 rds / min. Thanks to wheels with pneumatic tires, transportation was allowed at speeds up to 50 km / h. The gun had small dimensions and mass, which facilitated the task of masking the gun on the ground and rolling it onto the battlefield with calculation forces.
Battery of Polish anti-tank guns 37 mm armata przeciwpancerna wz.36 at a firing position
In combat, the gun weighed 380 kg, which was 100 kg less than the German 3,7 cm Pak. 35 / 36. Bofors M / 34 surpassed its competitors in caliber 37-mm in armor penetration. An armor-piercing tracer shell weighing 0,7 kg, leaving the barrel length 1665 mm at a speed of 870 m / s, at a distance of 500 m, when hit at right angles, pierced 40 mm armor. At the same range at a meeting angle of 60 °, armor penetration was 36 mm. For the second half of the 1930's, these were excellent indicators.
After the surrender of the Polish army, the Germans got the 621 37-mm gun wz.36. At the end of the 1939 year they were adopted by the designation 3,7 cm Pak 36 (p). In the 1940 year in Denmark, the Wehrmacht captured the local version of the anti-tank gun, which received the designation 3,7 cm Pak 157 (d). Also, the Dutch and Yugoslav guns became the trophies of the German army. Subsequently, Romania acquired 556 trophy anti-tank "Bofors" in Germany.
The calculation of the 37-mm anti-tank gun 3,7 cm Pak 36 (p) at the firing position
Light 37-mm guns until the end of the 1942 year were actively used by the Germans on the Eastern Front and in North Africa. After the withdrawal of guns from the state of anti-tank units, they were used for direct fire support of the infantry. Although the fragmentation effect of the 37-mm projectile was small, the 3,7 cm Pak 36 (p) was appreciated for its high firing accuracy, comparable to the 7,92-mm Mauser 98k rifle. The relatively small weight of the gun made it possible for a crew of five to roll it onto the battlefield and, following the attacking infantry, suppress the firing points. In some cases, compact 37-mm guns were successfully used in street battles at the final stage of hostilities. Judging by archival data, a small number of 37-mm "Bofors" were available in the troops until the end of the war. In any case, two dozen such guns went as trophies of the Red Army during the surrender of the German Courland group in May 1945.
Efficiency of 37 and 47-mm guns against Soviet tanks
In total, the Germans managed to capture more than 4000 anti-tank guns of the caliber 37-47-mm in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Given the fact that in the initial period of hostilities on the Eastern Front in the Red Army there was a large share of light tanks, these guns played a prominent role in the battles of the 1941-1942 of the Shells of guns manufactured by the Boehler, Skoda and Bofors firms, confidently hit the Soviet light tanks T-26, BT-2, BT-5, BT-7. The T-60 and T-70, whose production began after the German attack on the USSR, were also vulnerable to their fire. Although the frontal armor of T-34 medium tanks in most cases held small-caliber armor-piercing shells, the thirty-four’s side was often pierced by 37-47-mm shells when firing from a short distance. In addition, the fire of light anti-tank guns was often able to damage the chassis and jam the tower.
By 1943, most of the surviving small-caliber anti-tank guns were withdrawn from the front line, transferred to auxiliary occupation and training units. However, after the Nazi German armed forces switched to strategic defense, the obsolete guns returned to the front. They were most often used in fortified areas and during street battles. Thus, it can be stated that the captured anti-tank guns captured by the Germans in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland had a noticeable effect on the course of hostilities.
To be continued ...