Home Forums WWI Achtung! Englischer Panzer!

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  • #161014
    Robert Dunlop
    Participant

    This is a 28mm model of a German Flakwagen, mounting a 7.7cm anti-aircraft gun. One of the gunners has spotted a British tank near Cambrai. His colleague is bringing the gun to bear. The model was produced by Scheltrum.

    Truck-mounted flak guns were used (very rarely) by the Germans in a direct fire role. Fritz Nagel wrote about this in his book ‘Fritz: The WW1 memoir of a German lieutenant’. His gun team was involved in the battle to take Albert on March 27th 1918 (6 days into Operation Michael). One of the German Marine divisions was trying to take the town. During the previous day, the Marines had occupied the town but they could not push beyond it. In trying to do so, the 3rd Battalion had:

    ‘…suffered terrible losses. Many of the companies were now commanded by non-coms. Most of its casualties were caused by a machine-gun nest installed in a factory building about 400 yards in front of our line [very likely une sucrerie, a factory for converting sugar beet into sugar].

    [The Marines] had orders to attack again at 8 a.m. The captain could see only complete failure and very bloody losses ahead of him as long as that machine-gun nest dominated the sector. The windows of the nest were well protected by sand-bags and machine-guns had been placed in all six windows. Artillery was needed to knock them out [but] they did not dare shoot as long as the lines were so close together.

    If speed [of attack] was a life-saving factor [in assaulting such a position], then we would manage well because speed was our forte. I thought it best not to explain the plan in detail to the whole crew. The driver, however, had to play a major role. From the roof [of a nearby building] I let him see the road we had to travel. The house we wanted to demolish could be seen clearly, some 400 yds away and about 20 yds to the left of the road. Half way was a country crossroad. We had to advance there, but not farther, because we needed the crossroad to turn around. Arriving at the crossroad, we would have to fire point blank and hit the house quickly.

    The crew were ordered to set 12 shells at point-blank range. Each man of the loading crew was to have one shell under his arm ready to load at the utmost speed. The Nr.1 gunner was the one operating the sights. Our Nr. 1 was a quiet, dependable boy who never talked much. He did his duty like an expert. I often thought that his speed in getting a target into the sights was astonishing. It was his duty to get the house squarely into his sights before he shouted “Ready,” and he understood the importance of it. He knew we could not afford to miss at a range of 200 yards. I now believed our surprise attack would succeed, but I could not figure how we would manage to get back. After raising hell on that battlefield with the only gun on our side, we would be a target as big as a barn door.

    On the hour, the Marines started the attack and that was our cue. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Marines coming out of houses, foxholes and trenches in great numbers.

    The crossroad was reached very quickly and the gun was loaded. Shortly before takeoff I had told the Nr. 2 gunner, who pulled the trigger, to be careful and not shoot before the driver and I had jumped off the front seats.

    My feet barely had touched the ground when our first shell came screaming out of the barrel. The flash and crack almost flattened me. The crew reloaded, fired, reloaded, fired, reloaded and fired again with amazing speed. Nobody had time to watch the target except me. Glancing back, I saw the Nr. 1 gunner had been hit and fall from his seat, bleeding. But the gun sights had been set and new shells were jammed into the barrel before the recoils ended. By this time I already had seen that the very first shell had slammed right into the nest, as did every one of the following shots. Men could be seen jumping out of the windows. The house seemed to explode and started to burn. The target existed no more. It had been quite easy.

    [The gun team came under] small arms fire [which] reached a crescendo, I could not make out whether they were shooting at us, except that a rifle bullet had knocked off one of our gunners. Waving my arm to follow me, the crew jumped into a ditch, half carrying the wounded man with them. Tiny bits of flying earth and rock told us the rifle fire was still heavy, making it risky to try returning on foot.

    At that instant, Rupp the driver [a former racing driver] shouted something in my ear which I could not understand [Nagel had been deafened when the first shell was fired]. The next moment he cranked up the motor, jumped on and turned the truck around while the rest of us held our breath. As he came alongside, we jumped on board too. I never have understood why nobody got hurt on that wild ride [back to cover].’

    Rupp was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for his action.

    Later in the war, Nagel’s gun was upgraded to an 88mm AA version. It was the forerunner of the formidable 88mm Flak gun in WW2. Nagel never used his gun against tanks, though there is a description of this happening during the Battle of Cambrai. A truck-mounted Flak unit near the village of la Fontaine provided a last line of resistance against British tanks in November 1917.

    Robert

    #161031
    ian pillay
    Participant

    Fantastic model and an amazing account of its use. Necessity is the mother of all innovation. This action goes to prove that. Thank you for sharing.

    Tally-Ho! Check out my blog at…..
    http://steelcitywargaming.wordpress.com/

    #161046
    Robert Dunlop
    Participant

    Thank you, Ian. Much appreciated.

    Robert

    #161078
    Iain Fuller
    Participant

    Brilliant post Robert, great piece.

    But, isn’t that model a bit on the large size for you?

    #161082
    Robert Dunlop
    Participant

    Oh, the shame. Thanks, Iain. My sons are more into Bolt Action – at least that is my excuse… Plus I can use the dimensions to create a 3D model in 6mm

    Robert

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