Saturday, 12 November 2011

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Flakvierling 38 of Panzer-Grenadier Division Großdeutschland

Today's colourised image is a Flakvierling crew of the Großdeutschland Division in training, taken on 5th November 1943.

The Flakvierling 38 was a quad mount version of the 2cm FlaK 38 and was introduced in 1940. The single 2cm FlaK guns were planned to be phased out early in the war in favour of 3.7cm cannon, as the latter was able to engage targets at much greater range and with several times the explosive force. In order to keep the 2cm gun viable, the Flakvierling 38 (literally ‘quadruple anti-aircraft cannon model 38’) was introduced to increase firepower whilst utilising weapons and ammunition that were already in production.

The 2 cm Flakvierling 38 was used in several different roles, but was intended primarily for defense against Jagdbomber (fighter-bombers) as it had a maximum vertical range of only 2,200 meters, far lower than the flight ceiling of heavy bomber formations. It saw use in self-propelled mountings, on the Sd.Kfz 7 halftrack as the Sd.Kfz 7/1  and the Panzer IV as the Flakpanzer IV 'Wirbelwind'. These self-propelled vehicles commonly made up the Fliegerabwehrzug (anti-aircraft platoon) attached to Panzer Battalions. The weapon was also used by the Kriegsmarine on both U-Boats and other vessels, and heavily used by the Luftwaffe in fixed emplacements around high-value targets. There were 8 such guns mounted on each of the three huge Flakturm (flak towers) in Berlin.

As well as being used against aircraft, the weapon was commonly employed against ground targets, including infantry, emplacements and light vehicles. It was therefore equipped with a variety of ammunition types to facilitate its use in multiple roles.

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Panzer-Grenadier Division Großdeutschland was formed as an infantry regiment in 1939 from Wach Regiment Berlin. Over the course of the war it saw great successes and was increased in size until it was re-designated a full Panzergrenadier Division in the Summer of 1943. The division was the best-equipped in the entire Heer,with it's own organic Tiger I and Panther battalions and earned a reputation as a 'fire brigade' in the latter half of 1943 as it was used as a mobile reserve to reinforce the front wherever it was in danger of collapse.

This Flakvierling remains in the early-mid war Dunkelgrau base coat (RAL 7021), indicating that it was manufactured prior to 18th February 1943. This was the date that Heeresmitteilung (HM) number 181 went into effect, the order that all newly-made equipment was to be painted in a base coat of RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb. The weapon itself is missing the folding gun shields that provided some measure of protection to the crew.

Note the low boots and gaiters worn by the crew, with trousers folded behind the gaiters in the regulation fashion, a detail many reenactors miss!

The original photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.
Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-298-1759-25 / Scheck / CC-BY-SA