Late model Hummel in Musee des Blindes in Saumur, France.
Based on the experiences gained in the early stages of fighting on the Eastern Front,in late 1941, plans were laid for the development of artillery support vehicles including howitzer carrier based on Panzerkampfwagen III‘s chassis. Its main role was to provide other units with mobile artillery support on the battlefield.
In early 1942, one prototype based on Panzerkampfwagen III‘s chassis and armed with 105mm leFH17 howitzer (with muzzle brake) was constructed. Its design was rejected in favour of using Panzerkampfwagen IV‘s chassis. This design was accepted and one prototype based on Panzerkampfwagen IV‘s chassis and armed with 105mm leFH17 was produced.
In late July of 1942, it was decided to replace the gun with more powerful 150mm sFH 18 L/30 howitzer (without muzzle brake) based on the special chassis by Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig designated Geschutzwagen III/IV. It combined components of both PzKpfw III (mainly Ausf J – driving and steering mechanism) and PzKpfw IV (mainly Ausf F – suspension, engine, cooling system). Originally, Hummel (Bumble-Bee) was planned to be another "interim solution" until especially designed gun platform / chassis will be developed.
In order to provide fighting compartment, chassis was slightly lengthened, engine was moved forward to more central location from its standard position at the rear. The same Geschutzwagen III/IV chassis was used by Nashorn 88mm anti-tank gun carrier. First Hummels were built in late 1942 by Alkett and Deutsche Eisenwerke. Their production continued until 1944 with total number of 666(724) and 150 Munitionstrager Hummel assembled by Deutsche Eisenwerke from 1943 to 1944 (chassis number 320001 to unknown).
On February 27th of 1944, Hitler ordered the name Hummel (Bumble-Bee) to be dropped as being inappropriate for a fighting vehicle.
Hummels suffered from small ammo storage (18 rounds), and in order to provide them with ammo, in 1943 Hummel ammo-carriers were built (approx. 157 made). Fighting compartment was fitted with special gun racks and opening for the gun was covered by a piece of 10mm armor plate. Munitionstrager Hummel was still able to carry the howitzer if needed and the conversion to gun mounts could be done in the field.
In early 1944, front superstructure and driver’s compartment was redesigned allowing more space for both the driver and radio operator. Also exhaust system was modified.
Hummel crews (commander, 4 gunners and driver) traveled in open-top high silhouette compartment (enclosed on all four sides by armor plates bolted to the hull) with all its weather-related disadvantages. Protection against the weather could be provided by canvas covers. Some vehicles were mounted with the frame skeleton over the fighting compartment covered with mesh wire. Hummels lacked a machine gun in the hull, so single MG34 or MG42 was carried inside the fighting compartment for local defense.
On November 4th of 1944, proposal was made to arm Hummel with 380mm Wurfgerate (launcher), but it was never realized in favour of Sturmtiger‘s production.
First 8 Hummels entered service in March of 1943 followed by 46 in April.
Hummels had their debut during operation "Zitadelle (Citadel)" in the Summer of 1943, when some 100 were in service.
Hummels were issued to Heavy Self-Propelled Artillery Battery of Panzerartillerie Abteilung of both Wehrmacht and Waffen SS panzer divisions.
Each Heavy Self-Propelled Artillery Battery had six Hummels and one Munitionstrager Hummel.
Hummels remained in service with Panzerartillerie units until the end of the war and proved to be a very useful "interim solution" weapon, but there were never enough of them to be supplied to frontline units.
Small number of captured Hummels was used by the Red Army during the fighting in Hungary in 1945. It is unconfirmed but probably few Hummels found their way to Syria after the war.
Today, Hummels can been seen in the Panzermuseum Munster (early model) and Auto und Technik Museum (late model) in Germany, Hummel in Musee des Blindes in Saumur, France (late model), Tank Museum in Bovington, England and in Aberdeen in USA.
Hummel of the 73rd Motorized Artillery Regiment
Hummel on its way to the frontline.