I really don't know what it is that fascinates me that much about the Panzer III. Maybe it's the fact that it's often overlooked by gamers in favour of the later big cats or the Panzer IV. Or maybe it's just its shilouette which somehow looks mean and menacing, especially when compared to the design of Sherman tanks and the like. Or maybe it's the fact that it soldiered on during the whole conflict (albeit in ever diminishing numbers) despite beeing more or less obsolete since the Wehrmacht encountered the T-34 in Russia.
No matter what the reason is, the moment I saw Warlord Games releasing a plastic Panzer III I knew I had to get my hands on at least one of these beauties.
Originally I intended to use it for a tutorial but unfortunately my camera somehow lost the photos of the first painting stages so the tutorial has to wait a little longer. The Panzer III in my opinion is the best designed kit by Warlord Games and Italeri up to date. It goes together smoothly and offers options to do a Ausführung J, L, L/M, M, M/N or N. Only the tanker looks a little too delicate when compared to WG's other offerings. Thus after a little cutting he was short enough to be just visible above his cupola as if observing his surroundings ready to button down any moment.
5774 Panzer III in various versions were built from 1939 till 1943. The Panzerkampfwagen III SdKfz. 141, as it was formally known, was built to specifications dating back to 1934. It was to become the mainstay of the German Panzer forces till as late as the battle of Kursk, when it has long become apparent that the Panzer III was no longer able to keep up with enemy armour.
Ironically the Panzer IV, initially designed to be a infantry support tank, took over the roll of main battle tank and relegated the Panzer III to he roll of infantry support. Therefore the final Ausführung N was fitted with the short barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 mostly left over from refitted earlier Panzer IV and Sturmgeschütze.
The first Ausführung to be designed in any significant numbers (450) was the Ausführung F in 1939/40. It still featured the 3,7cm KwK 36 L/46.5 which was essentially the 3,7cm PaK 36 gun, also known as the Heeresanklopfgerät (Army door-knocking device) because of its inability to engage heavier enemy armour regardless of the distance. The only thing it was said to achieve was to inform the enemy of its presence, hence the nick name.
This problem became apparent as early as the battle for France when the Wehrmacht first encountered heavy tanks like the British Matilda Mk I and Mk II or the French Char B1 with its 60mm front armour.
In order to improve its capability in 1940 the first Ausführung F were upgraded with the more capable 5cm KwK 38 L/42 main gun which was to become the main gun till the Ausführung L. The Ausführung L not only had better armour than its predecessors but also was upgunned to carry the longer 5cm KwK 38 L/60 gun. 1470 Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. L were produced in 1941/42.
After the battle of Kursk in 1943 the Panzer III was relegated to training and reconnaissance or converted to Sturmgeschützen. Still in some units it soldiered on till the end of t war. The picture below showing a German tank unit, equipped with Panzer III Ausführung N and what looks like a single Ausführung L or M in the middle, surrendering to British forces in Norway after the German surrender in May 1945.
In Italy the 26. Panzerdivision lists a single Panzer III as combat ready as late as July 1944. Perfect for my plans to field a mid war German Fallschirmjäger force with some tank support. Monte Cassino here I come ;-)
The sand bags were made using Green stuff and an old sock to imprint the weaving pattern. The Fliegersichttuch (identification cloth for air observation?) comes from a 1/48 Tamiya set. Decals are Warlord Games.
Thanks for viewing and I hope you enjoyed!