Borgward IV – SdKfz. 301


Borgward IV – SdKfz. 301
by Thorleif Olsson


During the invasion of France in 1940, a new mine clearing / destruction of bunkers method was worked out by using a PzKpfw. I Ausf. B fitted with special equipment to place explosive charges instead of sacrificing the entire vehicle. 10 modified PzKpfw. I Ausf. B were used by 1. Panzer Division – Pioniereeinheits 3. Pionierekompanie. One found this very interesting and ordered the development of special purpose vehicle. In October 1941, Borgward was order to develop the B III VK 302 to a schwere ladungsträger – B IV SdKfz. 301 and from the experiences with the B I and B II a leichter ladungsträger Goliath SdKfz. 302.

Known as B IV it was designated by the Waffenamt as Sprengladungsträger (SdKfz. 301). Borgward IV SdKfz. 301 measured 3.65m in length, 1.8m in width and 1.19m in height. It weighed 3.6 tons and used the same engine as VK 302 giving it a maximum speed of 38km/h. It had a one-man crew, which drove the vehicle to the launch spot before engaging the enemy. Thereafter the 8mm protection plates around the driver was folded down to protect the radio and then the vehicle was radio-controlled towards the target. When engaging a 500kg explosive charge carried on the frontal armor plate was offloaded. The vehicle backed away and the explosive charge was set off with delayed detonation. Some 12 experimental vehicles were built in April 1942. Series production began in May 1942 and approx. 616 Borgward IV Ausf. A were built until June 1943, the Ausf. B being built in 260 examples until November 1943 and some 305 Ausf. C were built from December 1943 to September 1944. The Ausf. B only differed a little from Ausf. A, it weighed 400kg more, the radio antennae was moved and the radio-equipment had been improved. Borgward IV Ausf. C weighed 4.85tons, measured 4.1m in length, 1.83m in width and 1.25m in height. It carried thicker armor and used new tracks. The drivers position were moved from right to the left side. It also used a more powerful Borgward engine, providing some 78hp.

Some 56 Borgward IV were rebuilt to panzerjäger Wanze armed with six 8.8cm Panzerbüchsen 54 and used at the final stages of the war. At least single Borgward IV Ausf. B were rebuilt and tested with rudder, propeller and floating bulbs for swimming purposes. In 1943 single Borgward IV was fitted with a TV-camera with the purpose to sit in the control-tank and watch a simple TV-screen to see how one drove.


OPERATIONAL HISTORY

Control Vehicles: Three different control vehicles were used with Funklenk units. Originally it was PzKpfw. III 5cm but later also 7.5cm. (Ausf. J-N). – 10 x PzKpfw. III (5cm) and 24 x Borgward IV. Later on these are replaced by StuG III Ausf. F or G. In 1943/44 these are substituted against Tiger I heavy tanks – 14 x PzKpfw. Tiger (SdKfz. 181/182), 45 x Borgward IV.

Minenraum Abteilung 1 was reorganized and was designated Panzer Abteilung (Funklenk) 300. It had three companies built up as per orders of January 1st 1943(42?):

LEICHTE PANZER KOMPANIE f  
Kompanie Trupp: 2 x PzKpfw. III (5cm)
1. Zug: 4 x PzKpfw. III (5cm), 12 x Borgward IV
2. Zug: 4 x PzKpfw. III (5cm), 12 x Borgward IV

Panzer Abteilung (Funklenk) 300 was sent to the Eastern front and was subordinated to Heeres Gruppe Sud in May 1942. It has 2Before it was transferred to Heeres Gruppe Nord in September 1942, the active field unit was renumbered 301 and an experienced cadre returned to Neuruppin, the home of the Panzer Versuchs und Ersatz Abteilung (Funklenk) 300. The unit was remained with Heeres Gruppe Nord until December 1942. Early B IV served with the 15 first built Goliath with PzAbt. (Fkl) 300 for test purposes from April/May 1942 onwards, seeing action at Sevastopol where they accounted 36 bunkers and 11 guns destroyed. Panzer Abteilung (Funklenk) are back in action in 1943, and in late 1943 are ordered to pull back for rest and refit.

The next major service involving Borgward IV was at Kursk where the HQ of Panzer Abteilung (Funklenk) 301 subordinated to Heeres Gruppe Mitte with three new companies (312, 313 and 314). These independent companies were formed in January 1943, and was to be fully combat ready in May 1943. Instead of PzKpfw. III one were outfitted with StuG III Ausf. F or G for control and command. The independent Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 311-315, should be equipped with 14 StuG III Ausf. F or G and 31 B IV SdKfz. 301 after organization. These had a platoon staff of 2 StuG IIIs and a company reserve with 4 B IV SdKfz. 301. Three platoons of 4 StuG IIIs each, organized as 1 platoon leader and 3 StuG IIIs each controlling 3 B IV SdKfz. 301. To each platoon single SdKfz. 251 or 3-ton half-track SdKfz. 11 with extra chargers and personnel were issued. Panzer Kompanie (Funklenk) 312 had 7 StuG IIIs, 313 had 7 StuG IIIs and 314 had 9 StuG IIIs on July 5th 1943.

Panzer Kompanie (Funklenk) 312 was subordinated to s.Pz.Abt 505 with 31 Tiger Is and 15 PzKpfw. IIIs during the Battle at Kursk. The only detailed combat report of Borgward IV in action at Kursk comes from Pz.Kp (Fkl) 312. "One B IV was sent out 800m towards a PaK-nest with 2-3 PaKs and detonated, destroying the guns and the accompanying infantry. Another B IV was sent 400m against a T-34/76 which was destroyed as it rammed the B IV. Three B IV were sent 400-600m towards three concrete bunkers, destroying all of them. Two B IV was sent 800m towards a PaK-nest and an infantry gun-nest, destroying both of them. Another B IV reached a Soviet position and was set on fire by a Molotov Cocktail and it exploded along with the enemy position."

Panzer Kompanie (Funklenk) 313 belonged to 2. Abteilung / s.Pz.Jäg.Rgt. 656 subordinated to s.Pz.Jäg.Abt 654 equipped with 44 Ferdinand heavy self-propelled guns. Their roll was to blow a whole through the enemy minefields enabling further advance of the Ferdinands. Before one had reached the enemy minefields, 4 Borgward IV were lost to own mines, while another 4 makes it through and are sacrificed in favor of the Ferdinands which then were able to pass through the minefield. Later on three Borgward IV destroys two AT-gun nests and single bunker. Later in action with s.Pz.Abt 508.

Panzer Kompanie (Funklenk) 314 belonged to 1. Abteilung / s.Pz.Jä.Rgt. 656 subordinated to s.Pz.Jäg.Abt 653 with 45 Ferdinand heavy self-propelled guns. It used 12 Borgward IV to blow a hole through a deep enemy minefield. StuGs which were used as control vehicles rolled through, but the engineers could not mark the passage as heavy artillery fire pinned them down. Eventually some Ferdinand crew lost track of the passage and a number of vehicles were disabled, considerably delaying the attack. Later that day, two Borgward IV were sent to a woodline hold by the enemy. After detonation there was no enemy resistance existing. Companies under Panzer Abteilung (Funklenk) 301 lost 20 Borgward IV in four days. Only 4 Borgward IV didn’t reach their designated targets, either after being hit by enemy AT- or artillery-fire. Two of them were burnt out, while the other two were recovered. In general, the unit was very pleased with their performance, although the radio-control equipment was effective up to 800-1.000m instead of the desired 2.000m. The unit commander requested the StuG IIIs to be replaced by Tiger Is due to its thicker armor and higher profile, making surveillance of advancing Borgward IV easier. Later in action with s.Pz.Abt. 504.

All 3 companies suffered heavy casualties in the heavy fighting of Heeres Gruppe Mitte during July and August and was sent back to Germany for rest and refit by the end of 1943. A fourth company, Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 311 which were not operational in time for Kursk, were sent to Heeres Gruppe Sud in mid-August outfitted with 10 StuG IIIs and remained here until May 18th 1944 when one was sent back to Germany for rest and refit with Panzer Versuchs und Ausbildung Abteilung (Fkl) 300 in Eisenbach. The HQ of Panzer Abteilung (Fkl) 301 returned to Neuruppin and once again took command of its original three companies. In September 1943 the unit is issued 32 StuG IIIs. In addition, two new companies – Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 315 and 316 – were formed with 10 StuG IIIs each in August 1943. By the end of 1943, all Funklenk units except for 311 is located in training centers in West, with the following strength on December 31st 1943: 301, 31 x StuG IIIs, 311, 7 x StuG IIIs, 312, 2 x StuG IIIs, 313, 10 x PzKpfw. III Ausf. N, 314, 4 x StuG IIIs, 315 and 316 has 10 StuG IIIs. In response of the allied landings at Anzio in Italy, Panzer Abteilung (Fkl) 301 are sent to the front in January 1944 as reinforcement and remained here until March 1944.

A new phase in the deployment of Funklenk units came in December 1943 as Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 313 were subordinated to s.Pz.Abt. 508 and its 3. Kompanie. Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 314 is sent to s.Pz.Abt. 504 as its 3. Kompanie in January 1944 and Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) were subordinated to Panzer Lehr Abteilung. All three got Tiger I as control tanks as to KStN 1176f of February 1st 1944:

SCHWERE PANZER KOMPANIE "TIGER" (Fkl)  
Kompanie Trupp: 2 x PzKpfw. Tiger (SdKfz. 181/182), 9 x Borgward IV
1. Zug: 4 x PzKpfw. Tiger (SdKfz. 181/182), 9 x Borgward IV
2. Zug: 4 x PzKpfw. Tiger (SdKfz. 181/182), 9 x Borgward IV
3. Zug: 4 x PzKpfw. Tiger (SdKfz. 181/182), 9 x Borgward IV
Sondergerät reserve: 9 x Borgward IV

The 3. Kompanie der s.Pz.Abt 508 with 14 Tiger Is were sent to Anzio bridgehead in February 1944, and the 3. Kompanie der s.Pz.Abt 504 with 14 Tiger Is were sent to Italy in June 1944. Both units stayed here until October 1944, when the personnel were sent back to Germany for deployment with other units. Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 316 subordinated to the Panzer Lehr Regiment got the five first production Tiger IIs to replace its StuG IIIs in February 1944. When the allies landed in Normandy, these were in poor mechanical condition and it was decided to send them back to Germany. However, transport could not be arranged and the remained in France at Chateaudun where they were destroyed to prevent capture. The Funklenk company fought in Normandy with the Panzer Lehr Regiment, beginning with 9 StuG IIIs and 3 Tiger Is. 7 StuG IIIs were still operational in July 1944, shortly before the unit was withdrawn and handed over to the newly formed Panzer Abteilung (Fkl) 302. Panzer Abteilung (Fkl) 301 was built up with 4 companies with Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 312 as its 1. company. When the allies landed in Normandy, 301 was subordinated to 2. Panzer Division with an operational strength of 2 x PzKpfw. III, 32 x StuG III and 146 x Borgward IV. Organization was after KStN 1171f dating June 1st 1944:

LEICHTE PANZER KOMPANIE f  
Kompanie Trupp: 2 x StuG III
1. Zug: 4 x StuG III, 12 x Borgward IV, 1 SdKfz. 251/1
2. Zug 4 x StuG III, 12 x Borgward IV, 1 SdKfz. 251/1
Sondergerät reserve: 12 x Borgward IV

Panzer Abteilung (Fkl) 301 suffered heavy casualties during June and July 1944 and was withdrawn for rebuilding in August 1944. On August 19th 1944 301 was ordered to reorganize and re-equip as schwere Panzer Abteilung (Tiger/Fkl) 301. Each of the three companies were to have 10 Tiger Is and the HQ were to have 2 Tiger Is. 10 of these Tiger Is were acquired from a SS s.Pz.Abt. Some 36 Borgward IV were issued to each company. It served in the Ardennes with Heeres Gruppe B.

Panzer Abteilung (Funklenk) 302 was formed in June 1944 and was employed with 4 companies. Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 316 became the 1. Kompanie, 315 the 2. Kompanie, 317 the 3. Kompanie and 311 the 4. Kompanie. It was sent to Heeres Gruppe Mitte in August 1944 outfitted with 3 x PzKpfw. IV, 40 x StuG III and 144 x Borgward IV. As of December 5th 1944 there are still 38 StuGs operational, some 28 on January 15th 1945 while only 3 was available on March 15th 1945. The unit ended up fighting in Eastern Prussia.

The last independent company, Panzer Kompanie (Fkl) 319 was formed in September 1944 and sent to the west. It was equipped with 10 StuG IIIs and 36 Borgward IV. 319 took part in the Ardennes offensive as part of Heeres Gruppe B. As of January 15th 1945 they still had all 10 StuG IIIs operational. It was withdrawn from the front to help form a battalion sized Funklenk unit in February 1945.

Towards the end of the war, Panzer Abteilung (Fkl) 303 was formed using Panzer Kompanien (Fkl) 301, 302 and 319. It was issued 31 PzKpfw. IV Ausf. H / J but no Funklenk units on February 17th 1945 and named Panzer Abteilung "Schlesien". Probably the remaining Borgward IV from these units were kept in reserve. It served on the Eastern front as a regular panzer abteilung.

The last Funklenk unit formed was Panzer Zug (Fkl) 303. It was raised with men and equipment from Panzer Abteilung (Fkl) 303 and Panzer Versuchs und Ausbildung Abteilung 301. On February 18th 1945 this was ordered to be organized using 4 StuG IIIs and 12 Borgward IV. The unit was subordinated to the 35th Panzer Grenadier Division with Heeres Gruppe Mitte. The worth and effectiveness of these Funklenk units in the closing months of the war was minimal.


Sources:

- SPHF "Pansar" magazine, article "German remote-controlled AFVs" issues #3/97 & 4/97.
    Kjell Svensson, Christer Baadstöe

- "AFV-News", article "Funklenk Panzertruppen" issue Sept-Dec 1986.
    Thomas L. Jentz

- "Panzertruppen Volume 1. 1933-42 and Volume 2 1943-1945".
    Thomas L. Jentz


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