Top of tank development in Germany is usually associated with the coming to power of the Nazis. This is not quite correct. Back in 1931 the inspector auto Reichswehr troops, Major-General Oswald Lutz has put forward the idea of forming a large tank formations, appreciating with all this achieved by the time the results of the development of tanks in the Weimar Republic as unsatisfactory. Under the strong influence of his own chief of staff Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Guderian, he gave instructions to begin designing armored vehicle weight of 5000 kg for use for educational purposes (the only indulgence Versailles contract). Until now, for the troops used this wood models of tanks, mounted on cars and even on the Great.
Orders for the creation of the tank immediately got four companies: Daimlez-Benz, Rheinmetall-Borsig, Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg (MAN) and Krupp. The latter has already had a finished project "small tractor» LKA, whose founders were engineers and Hogelloh Voelfert. In order to misinformation was given the title of the tank LaS (Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper — «farm tractor"). The first of its layout appeared in July 1932.
It must be emphasized that the selection of specific machines Krupp was determined not its tactical and technical characteristics, and the possibility of a frisky implementation of the project in the metal and in the development of low-cost mass production.
Construction of prototypes "agricultural tractors" 1 LaS Krupp was entrusted to the company Henschel, which in the summer of 1933 sent the first 5 prototypes to the landfill in Kummersdorf. Tests conducted here showed low reliability design of the tank, especially the box and chassis. Their revision was aimed at increasing the strength priemuschestvenno. As a result, three road wheels along with the sloth cemented total support and added three support rollers per side.
Hull and turret of a tank designed by the company Daimler-Benz, which is the first time they applied for a riveted-welded construction. The subsequent pre-production batch of 15 cars was going to have five factories: Krupp-Gruson, Daimler-Benz, Henschel, Rheinmetall-Borsig and MAN (three on each machine). It was made with a view to verbovaniya additional contractors and prepare these companies for future mass production of tanks and gain expertise in the development of new military vehicles.
First serial chassis made in December 1933 at the plant Krupp-Gruson. Subsequent party in February 1934, the company released Henschel (the first car left the company on February 3), and by the end of April were quite prepared 15 tanks. In September, they were given three Wrotham Kraftlehr Kommando Zossen (training unit auto troops in Zossen). A month later Kraftlehr Kommando transformed in the 1st Tank Regiment, and on the basis of similar parts in Ordurfe formed the 2nd Tank Regiment. So Makar was the beginning of the deployment Panzerwaffe. In the summer of 1935 cars of both regiments took part in the exercises near Munster.
Soon tank 1 LaS Krupp changed the title to Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A. At this time, was adopted and pass-through system of notation for all the mobiles Wehrmacht — Kraftfahrzeuge Nummersustem der Wermacht. Under this system, tank Pz.I and its following modifications were numbered from Sd.Kfz.101 to Sd.Kfz.120 (Sd.Kfz. — Sonderkraftfahrzeug — special purpose machine, special purpose vehicle), and the commander's option — Sd.Kfz.265.
Total production of 477 tanks Pz.Kpfwl Ausf.A (349 — Henschel factories and 128 — in the factories MAN).
Operation showed that the tanks version of "A" in need of modernization, priemuschestvenno in the substitution of the unit. It was natural that the power of 57-horsepower engine Krupp M305 is not enough. Did not help and equipment on a trial basis Pz.I Ausf.A Krupp M601 diesel engine with capacity of 60 liters. s. at 2200 rev / min. Managed to solve the problem of after installing a tank six-cylinder gasoline engine Maybach NL 38TR capacity of 100 liters. s.
Since this unit was noticeably more than the motor, had to lengthen the body by 400 mm. As a result, the chassis has another pair of rollers and idler was a little elevated above the ground level. In addition, changed back wall and roof of the engine compartment. Brought out through the exhaust pipe tailgate unlike Pz.I Ausf.A, who had two exhaust pipes on the sides.
On the first series of machines used machine guns MG13, which later changed to a more modern MG34. Since 1936, ammunition increment up to 90 stores. Tank got the latest radio transceiver Fu5. The supplies of fuel increased by 2 l. Still, his consumption compared with Pz.I Ausf.A increased from 100 to 125 liters per 100 km. In all other respects, both versions were actually similar.
Create tanks modified "B" was conducted at the plants Henschel, Krupp-Gruson at Magdeburg, and in 1936, and at the MAN factory in Nuremberg and Wegmann in Kassel. Their release lasted until mid-1937. During this time the company passed the 1016 Wehrmacht tanks Pz.I Ausf.B, and the company Wegmann in 1938 took another 22 of the body.
On the chassis modification "A" and "B" was created a huge number of special machines, including frequent and probably the most popular — Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen (small armored command vehicle). It was issued as the chassis 'A' and the chassis 'B' designation was Kl.Pz.Bf.Wg. (Modification 1KlA, 2KlB and 3KlB) or Sd.Kfz.265.
At the end of 1935, the company Daimler-Benz made 6 command vehicle chassis Pz.IA, two or three of them in September 1936, was sent to Spain. Tower from their missing, and body height has been increased by 250 mm. The crew was more on the 1st person — there was radio telegraphist. Initially, these cars were produced without armament, and then in the front of the housing is a machine gun MG13. Radio equipment — Fu6 radio transceiver with a range of 13-16 km acts and receiving radio Fu2.
From 1936 to 1938, the company Daimler-Benz produced the series with 2 cars on the chassis Ausf.V. 2KIB tanks armed with a machine gun MG34, established in the embrasure. The highest cupola on them from time to time absent. The thickness of the frontal armor compared with 1KlA increased from 13 to 14.5 mm. On 3KlB reservation was increased to 19 mm. The machine gun was located in the ball mount. The supreme commander's cupola was changed to a two-step lower hatch. In 1939-1940, some 10 s cars were Fu8 newest radio station with more than Fu6, a range of actions. Initially command vehicles had a tough antenna mast on the wood frame, which soon changed its loop antenna width of 2000 mm. Since 1939, more comfortable elastic mounted whip antenna.
In a tank battalion across the state was supposed to have two Kl.Pz.Bf.Wg., a tank company — one car (it was called Kompanie Chefpanzer — tank company commander) in the management of a tank regiment — three. Whenever the army commander's new tanks
of an old standard machines were responsible for support functions.
Baptism of fire in SPAIN
Panzer I became the first German tank, entered service Wehrmacht. Despite the fact that this machine intended for training Panzerwaffe, long enough it was destined to be the base of German tank fleet. Since mid-1934, along with the supply of combat vehicles for the army began deploying tanks and parts. Intensification of this process contributed to the purpose of the Third Reich Minister of War, General Blomberg, and the chief of the Office of the War Department — General Reichenau to adhere to modern views on the role of armored forces in the next war.
To this we must add that Hitler himself showed great enthusiasm for the automotive Army. Here he writes about it in his own "Memoirs of a Soldier" Heinz Guderian, received at the end of 1934, an invitation to show in front of Chancellor in Kummersdorf acts units mechanized troops: "I showed Hitler motorcycle platoon, an antitank platoon, a platoon training T-1, a platoon of light armored vehicles and armored platoon languid. A huge memory on Hitler made speed and accuracy shown by our subsidiaries at the time of their movement, and he exclaimed: "Here's what I need!".
And it's gone! By October 15, 1935 were formed three armored divisions: the 1st stationed in Weimar, commanded by General Weichs, 2nd, is located in Würzburg — Colonel Guderian, third, the location of which was Berlin — General Fessman. These compounds are mostly staffed by tanks Pz.I, because other combat vehicles available Panzerwaffe not actually there. Company "unity" could be only Pz.II, but the creation of the tank in 1935 was only beginning.
Baptism of fire Panzer I was in Spain. Adoption of Hitler solutions help General Franco led to the creation of the Legion "Condor", which included part of the Air Force and the Army.
First nine Pz.I Ausf.A entered the Legion in October 1936, they were followed by another 32 combat vehicles this modification. Part of the "Condor", armed with tanks, armored group received the title of "Drona» (Panzergruppe Drohne). Its commander was appointed Lieutenant Colonel Wilhelm Ritter von Tom. First, the group had subsequent company: headquarters and two tank companies on three sections each. In the section had 5 tanks plus one command vehicle. Support units included anti-tank artillery, flame-thrower and transport department, as a field repair shop. The personnel of the numbered 180 soldiers and officers — soldiers of the 6th German Army Tank Regiment, who arrived in Spain as tourists. It was assumed that a group of "Drona" will priemuschestvenno prepare Spanish soldiers, not to wage war. In general, the background of Tom immediately made sure that "Spaniards quickly learn, but just as quickly forgets what is learned," because in a mixed German-Spanish crews more responsible part of the Germans did.
First encounter with the set of Republicans USSR T-26 came out October 28, 1936. Pz.IA in this battle cavalry supported Franco and were completely powerless cannon tanks Republicans. Arriving in December, the first batch of 19 Pz.IB does not improve the situation. But nothing else in Franco was not a group of "Drona" transferred under Madrid.
To somehow increase the firepower of the German tanks, a little larger in height tower Pz.IA installed 20-mm gun Breda mod.35. How many cars have upgraded so Makar, hard to say. Usually, it is reported that a few. But as in the Russian and foreign literature published in the only picture of those years with a redesigned tank. Do not meet these machines and the later images.
In March 1937, the group of "Drona" included a tank company, armed with captured Russian T-26, and from August the band re-formed in the Spanish part. This process ended in March 1938, the creation of Bandera de Carros de Combate de la Legion, organizational and became a part of the Spanish Foreign Legion. "Bandera" consisted of 2-battalions, one was German tanks Pz.I Ausf.A and Ausf.B, the other — Russian T-26. Both battalions (1. And 2. Agrupacione de Carros) participated in the battles of Teruelem and Brunete, in the Basque Country, in the Battle of the Ebro and in operations in Catalonia in 1939. In the process of fighting the loss of the middle of the German tank crews were seven people. Their role in civilian war in Spain ended with a parade in Madrid on May 19, 1939. After that "tourists" come back to Germany. Tanks also Pz.I exploited in the Spanish Army has almost 10 years, until the end of the 40s.
"Unity" ON 2nd WORLD
In March 1938 Pz.I tanks took part in the Anschluss of Austria. 2 Panzer General Guderian two days has made 420-mile march. With all of this up to 38% of the cars out of service due to a lack of reliability and were left on the roadside. After which the "march" Guderian sharply raised the question of improving the system of evacuation and repair of tanks. During the occupation of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in October 1938, the situation has gotten better. By the operational areas of the tanks Panzer I and Panzer II delivered by truck, to somehow keep a small share of caterpillars.
By the beginning of the second World War, September 1, 1939 in the Wehrmacht in 1445, there were Pz.I, which constituted 46.4% of all combat vehicles Panzerwaffe. The number of them in a tank divisions differed significantly. For example, in a curb medium tanks of the 1st Tank Division was only 85 Pz.I all modifications, including a commander, in the 2nd and 3rd — noticeably more, 153, in the 5th Panzer — 150. In the 10th Panzer Division and Panzer Group "Kempf," who had odnopolkovoy up, there were 73 and 78 respectively Pz.I. The smallest "of ones" in the lungs, there were divisions: in the 1st — 54, 2nd — 47, 3rd — 47, 4th — 41.
Armor Pz.I just made its way projectiles 37mm anti-tank and a 75-mm field guns of the Polish army. Thus, the breakout point Volyn Cavalry Brigade under damp, for example, the 35th Tank Regiment, 4th Armored Division of the Wehrmacht had lost 11 Pz.I, against which the Poles successfully applied even wedgies. Machine-gun fire armor-piercing bullets and motor fuel tanks gave good results. In meetings with the same tanks 7TR "unity" and had quite tight. On 5 September, during a counterattack of the Polish forces under Piotrkow Trybunalski 7TR tanks of the 2nd Battalion of light tanks killed 5 Pz.I.
By the end of the Polish Campaign of service retired 320 Pz.I, 89 of them were lost irretrievably.
To combat operations in Denmark and Norway, on the basis of the 35th Tank Regiment, 4th Armoured Division was formed 40th Battalion for special purposes (40.Pz.Abt.zBv), the real part of it in the main were Pz.I.
By the beginning of the coming of the West May 10, 1940 1214 Panzerwaffe disposal tanks Pz.I, 523 of them were in a state of combat readiness. The number of machines of this type in the Wehrmacht tank connections markedly decreased. Most of all — by 106 units — they had a 3 and 4th Panzer
divisions, in other compounds — from 35 to 86.
A big fight with the role Pz.I occurred near the Belgian town of Namur. 12 and 13 May 1940 3 and 4 Panzer Division lost 64 there Pz.I. At "of ones" did not stand a chance in a collision with French tanks — tolstobronnymi armed and let weak, but all the same guns. Because despite the fact that during the Western campaign tank battles were episodic in nature, Panzerwaffe suffered very significant damage: 182 Pz.I.
In operations in the Balkans in April 1941 participated "unity" 2, 5 and 11 Panzer divisions. It is also worth mentioning that 25 Pz.I in the 5th Light Division Afrika Korps led war in North Africa.
On 22 June 1941 the Wehrmacht, there were 410 operable Pz.I, while armored units of the first band had only 74 such machines. Another 245 tanks were under repair or refurbishing. By the end of the year on the Eastern Front had lost virtually all involved Pz.I — 428 units. In combat units, they have almost never met and for all the subsequent 1942 Reddish army killed only 92 Pz.I. In the same year, "unity" was removed from service. The remaining machines in the main altered in ammunition belts. A certain number of them used in the police units in the battles with the guerrillas, and in Germany — for the training and education of soldiers.
Made first 30s (first for training purposes) light Pz.I German tanks had limited fighting capacity. On the one hand, it was caused purely by machine-gun armament, the futility of which was already yavna at the time and absolutely confirmed in the course of the war in Spain, on the other — a weak labor service and constructive lower compared with other German tanks, technical reliability, particularly in the chassis and power installation.
The radial width of 13 mm reservation only rescued by the fire with small guns. In tests of captured standard in the UK and the mask of the tower guns often jammed during firing, in particular burst, and the air intake engine supposedly was specially created for him throwing grenades. During the war in Spain was closed an additional sheet. In addition, the machine showed a very bad cross in the criteria for off-road.
Together, these so-fast and maneuverable tanks absolutely consistent with the idea of blitzkrieg — "lightning war." Specifically, the highest dynamic and innovative strategy have allowed the German tank troops, and even more than half composed of light tanks, achieve a frisky of success in operations of 1939-1941. Not exceeding (not counting the campaigns in Poland and the Balkans), the enemy of quantity and quality of combat vehicles, they replayed it tactically.