25 July 2014

Char B1 Flammenwerfer Before Operation Barbarossa


Image size: 1600 x 1190 pixel. 334 KB
Date: Monday, 23 June 1941
Place: Lwow Voivodeship, Poland
Photographer: Unknown

French-designed Char B1 bis tanks (Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B2 (F) in German service) of Panzerabteilung (F) 102 captured by the Germans in the Battle of France move up to the front during Operation Barbarossa. These tanks have been modified with the same flammenwerfer-Spritzkopf (flamethrower spray head) system designed for the Panzer II in the place of the hull-mounted 75mm (3-inch) main gun. The Germans took as much captured equipment as they could from occupied countries. Reichskanzler (Reichchancellor) Adolf Hitler, shown the plans for the Panzer II flammenwerfer, wanted a heavier armored vehicle for flame operations. The French Char B1 bis was already being used as a police tank around the German-held territories, and the Germans had taken over the maintenance facilities to paint the tanks in German colors and markings and repair them. On May 26, 1941, Hitler approved the formation of Panzerabteilung (F) 102 consisting of two Schwere Flammkompanie (Heavy Flame Companies) of 12 flammenwerfer tanks and three unmodified Char B1 bis with the 75mm gun still in place. This unit was to work closely with the German Pioneeren (combat engineers) reducing Soviet fortifications. Serving under Armee-Oberkommando 17, Panzerabteilung (F) 102 was attached to the 296th Infantry Division for the assault on Wielki Dzial Mountain, Poland (now Ukraine), one of many border fortresses established by the Soviets. On June 29, the flammpanzers, supported by 88mm (3.5 inch) flak guns firing depressed against surface targets, attacked the Soviet positions on June 29, losing three flammpanzers. On July 27, Panzerabteilung (F) 102 was disbanded, but sixty Panzerkampfwagen B2 (F) were modified with a new pressurized flamethrower system and served with Panzerabteilung 223 (Eastern Front); Panzerbrigade 100 (Western Front); and SS "Prinz Eugen" (Yugoslavia). Panzerkampfwagen B2 (F) flammpanzers were encountered by Allied paratroopers at Osterbeek during Operation Market-Garden.

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