Question on the role of Aufklärung vehicles etc

Discussions on the vehicles used by the Axis forces. Hosted by Christian Ankerstjerne
Alex Dutt
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Joined: 02 Aug 2005 23:31
Location: Sydney, Australia

Question on the role of Aufklärung vehicles etc

Post by Alex Dutt » 23 Jul 2009 09:31

Hi folks,

I posted the following question on my favourite model building site, but I'm starting to think that perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask for help from the participants of this forum.

I was wondering if someone could please give me an outline of how the Aufklärung Abteilung interacted with/within the Panzer Divisions?

Furthermore I'm trying to get an understanding of the roles of support vehicles like the 253, 250/3, 250/5, 251/3, 251/6, 250/9, 234/1, 234/2, 263, etc.

I think that I get the gist of how beobachtung vehicles like the 253 and 250/5 operated - i.e. to interact and observe the operations of the armour and artillery and relay that information via radio back to the infantry?

But where exactly did the designated funkwagens like the 250/3 and 263 fit in? From the photo reference that I have it seems that these funkwagens mostly operated with the command staff and work with Befehlspanzers?

And lastly, how about the designated Aufklärung vehicles like the 250/9 and 234/1-2. Did they work closely with the Panzers or were their duties mostly performed outside of the 'jurisdiction' of the Panzers?

I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm trying to figure out the likelihood of any of these aforementioned support vehicles being in the same place as a gun tank at any given time. As a diorama builder I like the idea of combining vehicles into the one scene, but I don't want to do this at the compromise of accuracy.

For example, I have a photo of a KO'ed 234/2 Puma and Panther taken from the Normandy Battles. I'm trying to figure out if these two types of vehicles would work alongside each other as common practice or if perhaps it's just by chance that they were destroyed in close proximity to each other?

I understand that my question would involve a pretty long answer, but if you can advise any recommended reading or photographic material that would assist me with an answer that would be really helpful too.

Thanks for taking the time to read this! :)

Alex.

barbarossa28
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Location: Germany

Re: Question on the role of Aufklärung vehicles etc

Post by barbarossa28 » 23 Jul 2009 11:44

Hello Alex!

Your question is not easy to answer. You could write several books to answer your questions. But I will try...

At first, I wouln not call the mentioned vehicles "support vehicles". According to the tactics, all vehicles could be designated as support vehicles. The Germans introduced the tactics of combined branches. Therefore Infantry, engineer etc. units supported tnak units. But on the other hand, armoured units like tank units supported infantry and engineer units. The goal was the succes of the whole division. And every branch had their role in it. Therefore, most of these units had their own fighting vehicles. So the battle tanks were the fighting vehicles of the tank units, the armoured reconnaissance vehicles were the fighting vehicles of the armoured reconnaissance units, the armoured personnel carriers were the fighting vehicles of the armoured infantry units etc.
In these units special support vehicles existed. For exemple, tnak units had flame thrower tanks as support vehicles, armoured (motorised) infantry units had a whole range of support vehicles with heavier armament like Sd. kKz. 251/9, Sd. kfz. 251/10, Sd. Kfz. 251/17, Sd. Kfz. 251/21 etc.
Often, armoured infantry units and/or armoured engineer units opperated together with tank units. Combined operations with tank and reconnaissance units were not common, but I have photos with reconnaissance vehicles and tanks during action. In the normal case, the armoured reconnaissance units were the "eye" of the division. These units opperated as advance parties. Often, these advance parties consisted of tanks, reconnaissance units, engineers, Kradschützen and mororised artillery. These combinations were often seen during major offensives.
But in many cases, the reconnaissance units operated lonely far of the own lines to gain information. Therefore they had vehicles with long distance radio equipment like the Sd. kfz. 223 and 232. The reconnaissance patrols equipped with these vehicles reported their gained information to the staff of the reconnaissance units, which had often a Sd. kfz. 263.
The Sd. kfz. 253 was an observation vehicle of assault gun and motorised artillery units. The role was very similar. The Sd. kfz. 253 of the assault gun units observed the terrain to assigne targests to the assault guns.
Sd. Kfz. 253 of motorised artillery units often accompanied the attacks of tank units to control the fire of the supporting artillery batteries.
The Sd. kfz. 250/5 had the same role. It was used by artillery, assault gun, reconnaissance units, etc. In the reconnaissance units, it opperated more like an armoured reconnaissance vehicle and not like an artillery control vehicle.

Sd. Kfz. 250/3, Sd. Kfz. 251/6, Sd. Kfz. 251/3 (note that the Sd. Kfz. 251/3 was a towing vehicle for the 7.5cm leIG. The purpose was changed early in 1943 to its known role as armoured radio vehicle) and Sd. kfz. 260/261/263 were radio vehicles with differend radio equippment for different purposes. These vehicles were the connecting pieces betwee the fighting units and the staff. Because unit leaders often accompanied the attacks of the fighting units, these vehilces (mostly Sd. kfz. 250/3, Sd. kfz. 251/3 and /6) can be seen during attack together with other armoured units.
Some other variants like the Sd. Kfz. 251/11 and also the Sd. Kfz. 260/261/263 opperated more like armoured telephone relaying stations. So, these vehicles are not often seen during combar actions.

The armoured reconnaissance vehicles Sd. kfz. 221 / 222 / 231 / 234/1 and /2 and Sd. Kfz. 250/9 were the fighting vehicles of the armoured reconnaissance units. These vehicles were used like explained above. Reconnaissance parties consisted of armoured reconaissance vehicles with low range radio equipment (Sd. Kfz. 221 / 222 / 232/ 234/1 and 2) and vehicles with long distance radio equipment (Sd. kfz. 223 / 232 / 234/1 and 2) - not that there were versions of the Sd. Kfz. 234/1 and 2 with short range and with long range (with star antennas) radio equipment. Sometimes, supporting vehicles (Sd. kfz. 233, 234/3 and /4, 250/8 or 251/9) were also given to these reconnaissance parties.

During defensive operations, the remaining units often created armoured battle groups consisting of the remaining armoured vehicles of the whole division as a sort of rapid deployment force. These units could consist of many different armoured vehicles like tanks, hunting tanks, assault guns, armoured personnel carriers, armoured reconnaissance vehicles, armoured self propelled artillery guns etc.

Hope I could answer some of your questions.

Regards, Holger.

Alex Dutt
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Posts: 22
Joined: 02 Aug 2005 23:31
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Question on the role of Aufklärung vehicles etc

Post by Alex Dutt » 24 Jul 2009 13:13

Hi Holger,

Thanks very much for taking the time to provide me with such a detailed response. Your post provided me with some really excellent information - Much appreciated.

So I guess it's safe to say that as per standard practice the vehicles of the reconnaissance units would not be operating alongside the standard 'gun tanks' (outside of defensive 'ad hoc' style battle groups). It seems that the recon units for the most part stayed one step ahead of the gun tanks and had no reason to be physically in contact with the gun tanks instead being connected via means of radio.

Communication with the recon units would be received by designated radio vehicles which would work alongside/as part of the staff units. The staff units would at times accompany the gun tanks into combat so it would be probable to see a staff/radio vehicles (250/3, 251/3, 251/6) working alongside the gun tanks.

I have a series of photographs from North Africa that show a Sd.Kfz.263 operating with a Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf.H - Which based on your summary would indicate that the 263 is working as the connection between recon units (etc) and the Pz. III is a staff vehicle? Or would the 263 be the staff vehicle and the Panzerbefehlswagen III is a vehicle from the standard armoured fighting unit?

I guess my next question is now leading to me attempting to get my head around how the command tanks fit into the picture. Did the command tanks generally form part of the 'staff', or were these Panzerbefehlswagens operated by the senior members of the fighting units?

Sorry for so many questions, but now that I'm starting to get some perspective on how the units hung together I'm finding it really interesting. Although, I kind of feel like I've just started to pull on the end of a big ball of string!! :lol:

Thanks again for your excellent answer,

Alex.

Alanmccoubrey
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Re: Question on the role of Aufklärung vehicles etc

Post by Alanmccoubrey » 24 Jul 2009 14:09

The SdKfz 263 was used by the divisional signals battalion so would often be in use beside the Pz III command tanks.

barbarossa28
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Location: Germany

Re: Question on the role of Aufklärung vehicles etc

Post by barbarossa28 » 25 Jul 2009 13:20

Hello Alex.

Alanmccoubrey is right. The Sd. Kfz. 263 was also used by signals battalins. Later in the war, these battalions also had Panzerbefehlswagen.
The signals battalions had several tasks. They gained information from the enemy (collecting enemy radio messages etc), supporting the communication in the division and they linked the division command with higher staffs like the army comand or the Panzergruppe command and the air force.
During important operations, it was necessary that division command had permanent connection to the army command. Therefore, we often see a whole range of commanding and radio vehicles operating together. Often combat vehicles can be seen as well. German divisions were led from the front line. That means that commanders often joined the operations to gain all information promptly and therefore make dicisions wery fast.

How the reconnaissance units operated is dependent on the characteristic of the operation. For exemple in 1941 and 1942, widespred operations were made. Therefor, the reconnaissance units had the room for long distance reconnaissance operations. The situation was different in summer 1943. There, a good fortificated frontline was attacked. So, there was no room for long range reconnaissance missions. Informations were collected by test attacks on the enemy positions. I have a photo of that time showing Panzer 3 and 4, Sd. Kfz. 250 and 251 variants and a Sd. Kfz. 233 operating together (note that one company of the armoured reconnaissance battalions were equipped with Sd. kfz. 250's).

Panzerbefehlswagen were to be fount in Battalion staffs, regimental staffs and division staffs. These units also had armoured radio vehicles and command vehicles like Sd. kfz. 250/3, 251/3 and 251/6. The commanders of the battalions, regiments and division often joined the attacks. They often used the command tanks for such operations. Other commanders prefered standard tanks. For exemple, during the France campaigen Rommel often used a Panzer 38 (t) for his "recon" patrols early in the morning. He chose this type of tank because of its mechanical reliability. In North Afrika, he often used his Sd. kfz. 250/3 because of its speed and the open top.

What we can say to all aspects: Never say never. So, the best reference are waretime photos. When you are planning a diorama, firs make sure what "batte situation" you want to realize. Then you can think about what vehicle combination could be realistic. War time KStN's are a good reference waht vehicles a unit could have. On Sturmpanzer.com you can download such KStN's. But you will need some German skills to understand everything.

http://sturmpanzer.com/Default.aspx?tab ... em=3&sec=1

Hope that answeres further questions od you.

Regards, Holger.

Alex Dutt
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Posts: 22
Joined: 02 Aug 2005 23:31
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Question on the role of Aufklärung vehicles etc

Post by Alex Dutt » 27 Jul 2009 12:14

Hi Guys,

Thanks very much for the responses.

Holger - Thanks once again for going the extra mile and providing me with such a comprehensive answer to my question.

You make an excellent point about using photographic evidence when planning a diorama. Unfortunately it's often difficult to tell from a photo exactly how the vehicles in the shot are interacting (or not interacting for that matter - Are they merely passing by each other?). I guess the key to creating a realistic scene is to first understand the theory behind how the vehicles of the Pz.Div. were utilised. Once the theory is understood it makes deciphering the purpose of vehicle combinations see in photos that much easier to figure out. That's what I'm trying to work out at the moment and with the info that you've given me I'm well on my way! :D

Alex

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