Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Valentines and Panthers

A brief line in a report of the 198th Independent Tank Regiment for June 1944 mentions a rather rarely documented event in the history of the Red Army: use of a captured Panther tank.


"...also, during combat action, one captured "Panther" type tank was used as a combat unit for 600 km. This tank was lost by the regiment in battles for [illegible] Brud, where it burned."

The tank is first encountered by the regiment on July 6th, 1944. Due to the regiment's poor situation with tank supplies, it was pressed into combat on the following day.


"To the HQ chief of the 6th Guards Cavalry Division
Battle report #095 from the 198th tank regiment HQ as of 23:00 on July 7th, 1944, forest 1 km east of Dyadichi, map 100.000-40G. 
  1. The regiment, in possession of 8 Valentine tanks and one captured Panther tank, performed a march on the Vishnevo-Tabry route, encountered an enemy ambush near Dyadichi, and engaged in battle. The enemy ambush was eliminated. The enemy lost the following:
    1. Guns: 9
    2. Mortars: 4
    3. Mounted machineguns: 14
    4. Trailers: 39
    5. Horses: 29
    6. Soldiers and officers: 160
  2. Our losses: 
    1. 5 Valentine tanks burned.
    2. Track damaged on captured Panther tank.
    3. Personnel:
      1. Dead: 6, including one officer.
      2. Wounded: 5, of which 4 were sent to the hospital.
  3. Regiment condition:
    1. Tanks in action: 3 (16 tanks lost in battle and 2 undergoing repairs).
    2. Wheeled vehicles: 43, 39 in action.
    3. Armoured cars: 3, 3 in action."
The Panther was fixed, and fought another day:


"To the HQ chief of the 6th Guards Cavalry Division

Battle report #096 from the 196th tank regiment HQ as of 3:00 on July 9th, 1944, in the houses 1 km north of Strugi, map 100.000-40G
  1. After a march through the Bragi, Traby, Subbotniki, and the north outskirts of Lida, the regiment regrouped at the houses 1 km north of Strugi by 24:00. 
  2. The vehicles at the houses were:
    1. Valentine tanks: 2
    2. Captured Panther tank
    3. 10 wheeled vehicles
  3. Regiment condition:
    1. 21 tanks initially. 17 were lost in battle between June 23rd, 1944, and July 8th, 1944.
    2. 2 of the regiment's tanks are currently in action, and 2 are undergoing repairs. Additionally, there is one captured "Panther" type tank also grouped up with the regiment's forces, in action.
    3. Wheeled vehicles in the regiment: 43, 39 in action.
    4. Armoured cars: 3, 3 in action."
Later that day, a more detailed report.


"To the HQ chief of the 6th Guards Cavalry Division

Battle report #097 from the 196th tank regiment HQ as of 16:00 on July 9th, 1944, in the forest 1 km north of Strugi, map 100.000-40G
  1. After combat actions and a march concluded at 24:00 of this day, the regiment concentrated in the forest 1 km north of Strugi. 
  2. As a result of battles between June 23rd, 1944, and July 8th 1944, the regiment destroyed 7 tanks, 1 StuG SPG, 45 guns of various calibers, 118 trucks with cargo, 13 tractors, 20 mortars, 1 mortar battery, 51 mounted machineguns, 229 trailers with cargo, an 579 horses. 1037 soldiers and officers of the enemy were killed.
    Trophies: 2 tanks (Panther), 16 light cars, 99 trucks, 7 tractors, 110 trailers, 45 horses, 40 rifles, 5 mortars, 7 mounted machineguns, 13 guns of various calibers. 147 soldiers and officers of the enemy were captured. 
  3. Over the period of June 23rd, 1944, to July 8th, 1944, the regiment suffered the following losses:
    1. Out of 21 tanks, 15 burned in the regions of Buda, Aleksinichi, Bruli, Dedichi.
    2. Two tanks damaged at Aleksinichi, Dedichi.
    3. 1 tank blew up on a mine.
  4. At the time of the report, the regiment is in possession of 2 Valentine tanks in action, as well as two Valentine tanks undergoing repairs. Before the end of July 10th, we will have 3 tanks in action. Additionally, we have one Panther tank, which is in action, and can support our tanks, but lacks tankers that know how to fire the pneumatic gun [Note: due to the compressed air clearing gases out of the barrel, the Panther's gun is occasionally called pneumatic in Soviet documents]. By the end of July 10th, our tankers will learn how to shoot from the pneumatic gun. 
  5. Over this period of time, we lost 21 men, including 11 officers, 31 wounded, including 6 officers (one of which is still with the unit). 
  6. Currently, the personnel are resting, and readying vehicles for an upcoming march."
And learn they did.


"To the HQ chief of the 6th Guards Cavalry Division

Battle report #0103 from the 196th tank regiment HQ as of 20:00 on July 12th, 1944, railroad station Petechko, map 100.000-40G
  1. Regiment, jointly with 28th Guards [illegible] captured Pozheche station.
  2. Large losses were dealt to the enemy.
  3. Destroyed:
    1. Three tanks on a train.
    2. Two locomotives.
    3. 5 machine guns.
    4. Up to a company of men.
  4. Captured trophies:
    1. 3 trains.
    2. 1 locomotive.
    3. Warehouses.
    4. [illegible, looks something like "more precise information on trophies is being obtained"]
  5. The regiment took no losses.
Captain [illegible]"

Let's look at a less hastily scrawled version.


"To the HQ chief of the 6th Guards Cavalry Division

Battle report #0104 from the 196th tank regiment HQ as of 22:00 on July 12th, 1944, southern outskirts of railroad station Pozheche, map 100.000-40G
  1. The regiment is resting in the forest 1 km south of Pozheche.
  2. The personnel are resupplying and refueling vehicles after capturing Pozheche.
  3. The regiment has 4 tanks in action including one captured tank, (which is currently undergoing track re-tightening) and an unusable SPG (side friction clutch is broken).
    Wheeled vehicles: 43, 39 in action
    Armoured cars: 3, 3 in action.
  4. The company destroyed 3 enemy tanks (loaded on the train), 2 locomotives, 5 machine guns, up to a company of enemy infantry. Trophies taken: 5 locomotives, 258 empty train cars, 317 flat bed train cars, 6 tank transports, 7 tanks (of which 3 were damaged, the rest 4 are unusable and have to undergo major repairs), 10 passenger train cars, 20 cargo train cars with possessions, 28 train cars with empty barrels, 20 train cars with fuel, 3 captured soldiers.
  5. The regiment took no casualties.
  6. Supplies:
    1. 2 refills of gasoline
      1 refill of gas-oil
    2. Ammunition
      1. 1 refill of 40 mm shells.
      2. 0.5 refills of BESA ammunition.
      3. 0.5 refills of Bren ammunition.
      4. 1 refill of 50 mm mortar rounds.
    3. 2 days of supplies.
Commander of the 198th Tank Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Karpov
HQ Chief of the 198th Tank Regiment, Major Birfer."

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