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Kampfgruppe Kausch of the 11.SS-PzGr.Div. "Nordland" & 27.SS-Grenadier-Div. "Langemarck", of III.SS.Pz.Korps in the Arnswalde Sector February 18th, 1945.
The twilight of the Third Reich-February 1945. The Eastern
Front has collapsed. The Soviet 2nd Belorussian Front (Rokossovsky) attacks
across the Narev Bridgehead into East Prussia. By the 15th the Red Army
captures Sagan in Silesia whilst shock troops, with unabated ferocity,
attack westward into the province of Pomerania. Under continues pressure
from the Russian Armies, the wasted remnants of the Waffen SS panzer armees
launch Operation Sonnenwende in a last ditch effort to prolong the inevitable.
All three Korps from the 11.SS-Panzer-Armee (XXXIX.Panzer, III.SS-Panzer,
and X.SS) prepare a counter-thrust through the Prussian province of Pomerania.
Here, in nightmarish conditions a Kampfgruppe from the 11.SS-PzGr.Div.
"Nordland" & 27.SS-Grenadier-Div. "Langemarck",
of III.SS.Pz.Korps attacks south towards Arnswalde (about 30-35 kilometers
southeast of Stargard).
The next day, February 16th on the Eastern front in Pomerania, the remaining units of the 11.SS-Panzer-Armee launch fully into Operation Sonnenwende, which in reality is a severely restricted counter-offensive to relieve the Kuestrin area.
11.SS-Freiw.Panzer Grenadier Division "Nordland", containing the sickly remnants of the SS-Panzer Grenadier Regiment 23 "Norge" and 24th "Danmark", SS-Panzer Aufkl.Abt.11, SS-Pz.Abt.11 "Hermann von Soza" (zeitw. Mits. SS-Panzer Abt.503 auch SS-Panzer Regiment 11), SS-Panzer Artillery Regiment 11, SS-Flak Abt.11, SS-tu.G.Abt.11, SS-Paner Jäger Abt.11, SS-Panzer Pioneer Batalion l.11th , and SS-Panzer Nachr.Abt. 11 fight delaying actions against
overwhelming Russian superiority in conditions totally unsuitable for armored combat, let alone retreat. The narrow roads in the Arneswald sector were particularly horrendous as not only were they unsuited for armored movement, they were also clogged with mud from early spring thaws, and infiltrated by advanced Russian shock troops carrying captured German equipment including the deadly panzerfausts. By the 18th, the Red Army encircles Graudenz on the Vistula, and the wasted troops of the 11.SS-Panzer-Armee are brought to a stand still.
With this action in mind came the primer for this diorama-the last functioning Panther in the region, heavily damaged by Russian Russian armor and AT, has somehow managed to remain in running order. Having rounded up stragglers, SS-Haupsturmfuhrer Kausch and his Panther attempt to regain friendly lines. Having caught a Russian unit armed with Panzerfausts on a narrow mountain road just before dawn, the IR capable Kampfgruppe Kausch has waxed eleven of twelve Russian shock troops. The twelfth, raising his arms in surrender, will not be spared as he carries kit made mostly of German issue.
Although there is no definitive proof of the Germans fielding IR solutions, the time frame does not preclude them either. Reports of IR equipped Panthers being used is supported by several texts. However, there is no solid evidence, at all, of IR Vampir gear being issued to troops. Still, I could not resist creating a Dantesque like diorama based on these experimental weapons.
I had wished to build a small based diorama for some time after languishing on a much larger scale for more than five years. I decided in November of 1997 to begin work on a diorama of manageable proportions to take to shows. It would contain a single Panther G and a "few" figurines. The hope was to complete it in time for AMPS 2000. In the end I finished it one month after that convention.
HISTORY of the PANTHER AUSF. G
An entire monograph could easily be written on the technology and development that led to the Panther. Suffice it to say, the Panther was certainly one of Germany's best main battle tanks of the war. For the purpose of this article I will only briefly delve into the final version of the Ausf G.
Following a directive from Hitler on 27 February, 1944, the designation for the Panther-PzKpfw V- was dropped, and the final production variant built between March of 1944 and April of 1945 was simply known as the Panther Ausf. G. MAN, Daimler-Benz and MNH all built the Ausf. G. with a combined total output of 2953 Panthers. To simplify production, the Ausf. G had modified superstructure sides, and hull sides increased in thickness to 50mm. The angle of slope was also altered. The headlight was repositioned from the left side of the glacis to the left fender and the engine deck was also redesigned and shortened.
The Kinnwalzenblende, or chin mantlet was also newly designed for the
main gun mantlet to eradicate a shot trap deflecting shells through the
hull roof. The driver's vision port was replaced by a traversing vertical
periscope since the fixed episcopes restricted vision. The tool racks
were also revised and some very late production vehicles had all-steel
resiliently sprung wheels of the type, but not size, fitted to the late
production Tiger and Tiger II. In very late production Ausf G's, the cylindrical
stowage box for the gun pull-through and cleaning gear was removed from
the port side and mounted across the hull at the rear of the engine compartment.
Ausf G's were no longer painted RAL 7028 (Dunkelgelb), instead leaving the factory in red oxide primer. In October of 1944 a raised heating tower over the rear portside circular engine fan was installed. Its purpose was to pull hot air from the engine radiator and direct it into the crew compartment. Beginning in December 1944 Flammvernichter, or exhaust flame suppressing mufflers were attached to a shortened exhaust pipe. This had a fan like grill in the outlet opening which killed flames or sparks from engine gases. These alterations to the basic Panther design were to be the last production modifications seen.
I few years back I purchased the Shanghai-Dragon "Pz. Kpfw. V. Ausf G "Night Fighting" Panther (#9045) with the intention of adding a complete set of Aber PE. Well, with a monstrous and frustrating diorama on my workbench the Panther collected dust. When I purchased this kit Aber was just coming on scene so I ordered from GP Hobbies in Krakow, Poland, the complete Panther photo-etch sets, of which there are three: "Panther Ausf. G (Sd.Kfz.171) General Details and Upgrade Set (#35 024)" which includes the lovely weaved look engine screens, the "Front Fenders and Side Supports for Panther Ausf. G/F and Jagdpanther (35 A24)" and "Side Skirts for Panther Ausf. G/F and Jagdpanther (#35 A24) containing the complete side skirts for the G. Now mind you the Aber set is intended for the Tamiya G, but, almost without exception, the fit on the Dragon kit is clean.
Shanghai-Dragon is an offshoot of Dragon (DML) proper. Typically
they reissue Dragon kits at a discount price. The Panther G was unusual
as it was released originally by Shanghai-Dragon. At least that is what
Dragon claims. Although this is marketed as "All New Tooling"
there is a lot of Gunze in this box. The engine hatch cover molded onto
the hull is reminiscent of the old "High-Tech" kit, and the
roadwheels are a dead give away. It really didn't matter to me, it is
a fine kit, and at $19.00 USD it is a good buy, particularly since you
also receive several sprues of parts meant for the Jagdpanther. Out of
the box this will build a very handsome Panther G and there is no need
to supplement any of it unless by choice. The 7.5cm barrel cleans up perfectly,
with care, and the included link to link caterpillars are very nice with
the obvious omission of the hollow guide horns.
As it happened I had a Tamiya "Panther G Late Version" (#35176) I intended to use for the On Track Models Bergpanther conversion so I had a few parts I could supplement just out of personal choice.