MANUFACTURER(S): Daimler-Benz (Conversion Process) - Nazi Germany
OPERATORS: Hungary; Nazi Germany
Detailing the development and operational history of the SdKfz 265 Panzerbefehlswagen Command Tank.
Entry last updated on 3/31/2017.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Recognizing the need to better keep its field commanders informed during combat actions, the German Army pushed for a new tank designed around communications. Their first successful, purpose-designed example became the SdKfz 265 Panzerbefehlswagen ("Armored Command Car"), based upon the chassis of the Panzer I Ausf. B Light Tank production model. About 190 of the type were modified as command tanks and saw service from the start of the war in 1939 until the end of the war in 1945.
The conversion process for the new vehicles involved removal of the traversing turret (and standard armament) and, in its place, an all-new fixed superstructure was added with sloped sides. Internally, there was room for a crew of three - driver, commander, and dedicated radioman. A frame antenna network was arranged externally around the superstructure to help extend the ranges possible with the installed radio fits (FuG2 and FuG6). A 7.92mm MG13 ball-mounted machine gun was set at the right side of the hull superstructure for local defense and pistol ports were also built-in for the occupants. Additional internal fuel stores were added to help increase the vehicle's operating range. With these changes, the already tight crew quarters became that much more cramped and the vehicle exceeded the original Panzer I's operating weight.
The general form and drive function of the Panzer I ausf. B was left largely intact though the original Krupp engine of 60 horsepower was upgraded to a Maybach NL38TR 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine of 100 horsepower and this added a slight increase to the vehicle's road speed despite the added weight.
SdKfz 265 Panzerbefehlswagen (Cont'd)
Daimler-Benz was charged with modifying the Panzer I to the command tank forms and managed a total of 190 vehicles from the period spanning 1935 to 1937 - just in time for training maneuvers leading up to World War 2. The vehicle's first-actions took place during the Polish invasion beginning September 1st, 1939 and the SdKfz 265 stood as the standard command tank of Panzer formations into 1940 until they were given up for more modern solutions built upon the framework of the latest German tanks. The vehicle underwent the usual upgrades following their initial use such as added armor for improved survivability and some lost their ball-mounted machine guns altogether to help with the restrictive space in the fighting compartment. They were then used in the invasions of the Low Countries and France, leading to the Fall of France in June of 1940. From there, the tanks managed a service record in the Balkans and the North African campaigns during 1941 until the line was ultimately pulled from frontline service before the start of 1943. Those that remained functional were pressed into service as trainers and operated until the end of the war in Europe which came in May of 1945.
Hungary marked the only other operator of the SdKfz 265 Panzerbefehlswagen and this only in very limited numbers.
As finalized, the SdKfz 265 design showcased a length of 4.4 meters, a width of 2 meters and a height of 1.7 meters. Armor protection ranged from 6mm to 13mm across its various facings. A quarter-elliptical leaf-sprung suspension system allowed for cross-country travel and in keeping up with the rest of the mechanized forces. Operational range reached out to 180 miles and road speeds peaked at 25 miles per hour.