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German Weapons & Equipment
for Operation Sealion (Seelöwe)

German weapons that were available for Operation Sealion were basically those that had been available for the Invasion of France (Fall Gelb). These are so well documented that there is no need to cover them here. What I will describe is those special weapons that were designed for amphibious operations as well as any new weapons that arrived after the invasion of France started but which might have been available in time for Seelöwe.

 

Tank Support for the Amphibious Assault

After the collapse of the allied armies in France, the Wehrmacht started planning for the invasion of Great Britain. It was thought was that no amphibious landing would succeed without tank that could support the beach assault, so a number of amphibious and submersible conversions were tried. Tests were carried out with the Pz Kpfw II and 38(t) as amphibious tanks and the Pz Kpfw III and IV as submersible tanks.

An experimental tank company was formed on 13th July 1940 and by the end of the month four tank batallions were formed. These were named Tauch-Panzer-Abteilung A through D. These batallions were organised according to K.St.N.1107b and K.St.N.1171b dated 16th July 1940 and consisted of:

Battalion HQ (stab):

  • 1 Tauchpanzer III
  • 2 Tauchpanzerbefehlswagen III

Three light panzer companies, each containing:

  • Company HQ: 2 Tauchpanzer III
  • Light Tank Detachement: 4 Schwimmpanzer II
  • 1st Platoon: 5 Tauchpanzer III
  • 2nd Platoon: 5 Tauchpanzer III
  • 3rd Platoon: 4 Tauchpanzer IV

Tauchpanzer (Submersible Tank)

Conversion to submersible tanks was done to both Pz Kpfw III and Pz Kpfw IV tanks. These submersible tanks had all the external openings sealed with a waterproof compound and the space between the turret and the hull was made tight using an inflatable rubber loop. Rubber caps covered the commander's cupola, the gun mantlet and the hull machine-gun of hull. These could be removed from inside using an electric detonator. The driver's visor was made watertight using a special metal cover with a vision block.

Air was provided to the engine by a flexible 18m long "snorchel" pipe with an attached buoy allowing a maximum operating depth of 15m. The buoy also mounted the wireless antenna. The exhaust fumes exited the tank through by a large vertical pipe with a non-return valve. 

The tank could operate under water for 20 minutes and had a maximum submerged speed of 6km/h. 


Tauchpanzer III being launched from its parent vessel.

Tactics were developed to launch the tank from its parent vessel at a suitable distance from the shore using a hinged ramp. A gyro-compass was fitted for submerged navigation. Additionally, radio instructions from the parent vessel would be used to help the tanks navigate to the shore.

Tauchpanzer III

Between July and October 1940, 168 Pz Kpfw III tanks were converted to Tauchpanzer III. Of the 160 were fighting tanks of Ausf  F, G and H. The other 8 tanks were Panzerbefehlswagen Ausf. E command tanks. At least some of these tanks were armed with the 5cm KwK 38 L/42 gun which had not been issued in time to see service in France, but could have made a noticeable difference when faced by British armour.


A Panzerbefehlswagen - note the antenna on the rear deck.

Tauchpanzer IV

Starting in July 1940, 48 Panzer IV Ausf D tanks were converted to Tauchpanzer IV. 

Schwimmpanzer II

The Schwimmpanzer II or Panzerkampfwagen II mit Schwimmkörper was a conversion of the Pz Kpfw II with floatation tanks which permitted travel on the water surface. It was planned that they would swim ashore from their parent vessel lying offshore.

The flotation tanks were attached on extensions to the track return rollers, with propulsion being provided by a propeller taking power from the drive sprocket. The inside of the tank was divided into three watertight compartments. It had a top speed of 10 km/h afloat.

One advantage possessed by the Schwimmpanzer over Tauchpanzer versions was that it could use its guns during the landing.

 It was even planned for some schwimmpanzers to retain their floats after the landing to facilitate crossing of the Royal Military Canal; a 28 mile canal stretching from Hythe to Cliffend in East Sussex.

Schwimmpanzer 38(t)

Tests were also carried out to add floatation tanks to the Pz Kpfw 38(t) to convert it to an amphibious tank. It does not appear that any large numbers were so converted.

 

Panzergranate 40 (APCR)

The Panzergranate 40 was an Armour Piercing Composite Rigid shot with a sub-calibre tungsten core and a mild steel body with a plastic or alloy ballistic cap. The shot is of a lighter weight than the normal shot of the same calibre and thus has a higher muzzle velocity. However because the shot is lighter but still has the same overall size it has poorer ballistic qualities, and loses velocity and accuracy and penetration at longer ranges.

The only Pzgr.40 shot produced in time for the French campaign were 3,7cm for the 3,7cm L/45 KwK36 tank gun or the 3,7cm PaK 35/36 anti-tank gun. Reports by OKW show that 7,440 3,7cm Pzgr.40 rounds were fired out of a total of about 70,000 (i.e. approx 10%).

The 4,7cm PaK(t) on the Panzerjäger I received the Pzgr.40 in July 1940, the 2cm Pzgr.40 was not introduced until later in the year. Both of these could have been available for Operation Sealion. Other Pzgr.40 shot, such as the 3,7cm KwK(t) and 5 cm KwK, were not introduced until May 1941; too late for the Invasion of Britain.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the Tauschpanzer III and Schwimmpanzer II leading the beach assault would have been provided with a good proportion of Pzgr.40 shot.

A comparison between the performance of the Pzgr.40 (APCR) is shown below.

Gun Ammunition m/s  100m 500m 1000m 1500m 2000m
MG 34 SmK 785  8 3      
SmKH 785  13 8      
Panzerbüchse 39 SmKH 1265  34 14      
2 cm KwK 30 & 38 Pzgr 780  20 14 9    
Pzgr.40 1050  49 20      
3,7 cm KwK 36
3,7 cm PaK 35/36
Pzgr 745  35 29 22 20  
Pzgr.40  1020  64 31      
3,7 cm KwK 38 (t) Pzgr.(t) 741  36 31 25 22  
4.7 cm PaK(t) Pzgr.36(t) 775  54 48 41 35  
Pzgr.40  1080  100 59      
5 cm KwK 38 Pzgr.39  685  54  46  36  28  22 
7,5 cm KwK 40 K Gr rot Pz 385 41 38 35 32 30
Gr38 H1/A   450 70 70 70 70  
8,8 cm FlaK 18 & 37 Pzgr.39 773 120 110 100 91 84