Wanze – Borgward B IV Ausführung mit Raketenpanzerbüchse 54
Wanze – Borgward B IV Ausführung mit Raketenpanzerbüchse 54
by Thorleif Olsson
SdKfz. 301 Borgward IV Ausf. B rebuilt to Wanze.
The last battle of the schwere Ladungsträger SdKfz. 301 Borgward IV was as the conversion, known asWanze (Borgward B IV Ausführung mit Raketenpanzerbüchse 54), armed with a battery consisting of six 8.8cm Raketenpanzerbüchse 54/1. This was undoubtly one of the characteristic vehicles created by combination of newarms with already existing chassis. This resulted in more or less exotic "interimsolution" vehicles, created by the desperate situation and the lack of resourcesGermany suffered from in early 1945. Wanze was clearly an "interim solution"vehicle, built for the remaining ill-equipped troops of the German army. The basis fordeveloping such vehicle was a small and easy maneuvered panzerjäger which were to beissued to the troops defending industrial areas and cities classified by Hitler as"festungs" – fortresses. These were to be sent out against the never stoppingmasses of enemy armor advancing towards Berlin in the last months of the war. There was always ashortage of running panzerjägers, e.g in February of 1945 the kommandant of FestungBreslau (Wroclaw) had only single Jagdpanzer IV, eight StuG IIIs and few PzKpfw IIs in his firstkompanie der Panzerjäger Abteilung Breslau. The second, third and forth companies wereexclusively equipped with Panzerschreck and Panzerfausts.
Wanze - Berlin, 1945
Probably SdKfz.301 Borgward IV Ausf. C Wanze,
abandoned nearBrandenburger Tor, Berlin, 1945.
The Raketenpanzerbüchse 54/1was a 8.8cm recoiless rocket launcher and with its 3.3kg rocket, it was able to penetrate 220mm of armourup to 200 meters. As bombed out and shreded buildings often blocked streets and therebymade movement very difficult, sometimes not even PaK guns could be brought up where theenemy threatened to breakthrough, the only effective weapons carried by the infantry werepanzerschrecks and panzerfausts. Movement, however was not quicker than the infantry wouldmove, and something had to be done. Standard automobiles were rebuilt with benches for theinfantry and captured Universal Carriers were fitted with three panzerschrecks mounted over theengine compartment. In February / March of 1945, it was realized that one needed a light panzerjäger,but the production of a new vehicle was not an option. One mounted sixRaketenpanzerbüchse 54 to one unit and ordered this to be mounted on a wheeled or trackedvehicle. This vehicle were from a protective position to point its turnable battery on thetarget and then fire all six rockets simultainously. The VW Kübelwagen was a goodalternative and was eventually chosen as the wheeled vehicle, although selecting a trackedvehicle was more difficult. At first one tried to adopt the PzKpfw. I, which at the timeeither stood in depots worn down, or used as Fahrschulausbildungspanzer. Also, RenaultUE(f) were tested, they had previously been rebuilt as Munitionsschleppers.
Captured Wanze in use by the Russians in Berlin, 1945.
The vehiclethat was available in sufficient numbers and in such condition that a reconstruction couldbe considered was the schwere Ladungsträger SdKfz. 301 Borgward IV Ausf. C.Including the Ausf. A and B, there were some 318 held in reserve plus another 79 vehiclesserving in combat units as of January of 1945. (They were built as offensive weapons, notreally of any good use in the defensive battles of 1944/45). The SdKfz. 301 Borgward IVwas accepted, and approx. 56 were rebuilt to Panzerjäger Wanze. The vehicles were rebuiltin slightly different ways. In Borgward IV Ausf. B, one built in an extra seat for thegunner to the left of the driver, protected by an armored plate in the front. The rocketunit was then mounted to the left of the gunner. This rocket unit could be turned by thegunner through a shoulder support. On the rocket barrels a plate was attached to protectthe gunner from shrapnel whirled up by the rockets when fired. Ausf. Cs were rebuilt in thesame manner, with the exception for the driver being seated to the extreme left. AllWanzes had three smoke dischargers attached to their front plates, and these played animportant roll when attacking as the panzerjägers first rolled out from their hide-outseg. a street corner to get a free line of fire and then quickly targeting and firing atthe enemy and finally retreat whereby the smoke grenades were launched in order to protectthe vehicle and hide its movement phase. Well back in protection, one could reloadeverything for a new action. In April of 1945, a panzerjäger-versuchs abteilung fightingin Berlin. Its equipment consisted partially of VW Kübelwagen and Borgward IV equippedwith Raketenpanzerbüchse 54/1. Any larger massed operation were never made. There is photo evidence of abandoned Borgward IV in the area held by 11. SS FreiwilligenPanzergrenadierdivision "Nordland" in central Berlin. In Wilmersdorf, there were VWKübelwagen with Raketenpanzerbüchsen in combat with enemy armor of the Soviet 9th Mechanized Regiment and caused some casualties. After that, the traces of an "interimsoultion" disappear in the mess of shot up vehicles in the rubbles of Berlin, whereafter some time everything was cleaned up and scrapped. Eventhough, Soviet special unitswere looking for new technical solutions, the only evidence of a follow-up is the AmericanM-50 "Ontos", armed with 6 recoiless rocket launchers and issued to the USMC in1955, who used it in the early stages of the Vietnam war.
There were 56 "Borgward B IVAusführung mit Raketenpanzerbüchse 54" machines build in early 1945 from retireddynamite-carriers at drill ground at Grafenwöhr. They were armed with six-rocket-gun at the left of the driver (there are seldom photos of them).There are also some seldom photos showing wrecks of the "Wanze" near theBrandenburger Tor. *All* B-IV Panzerjäger were used by thePanzer-Vernichter-Abteilung 1 at the final fight in Berlin.
Above information provided by Andreas Staeding, Germany.