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"German Tank Maintenance and Recovery" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on German panzer maintenance and recovery in WWII was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 10, Oct. 22, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Some of the maintenance units attached to German tank regiments were discussed briefly in Tactical and Technical Trends No. 4, p. 10. More information is now available on these units and is presented here in a summary which involves some revision of the earlier material.

a. Organization

In the German armored divisions, the maintenance and recovery units are ordinarily organized as follows:

(1) Company Repair Section

Each tank company has a repair section consisting of:

1 NCO (tank mechanic), section leader,
3 NCO's, tank mechanics,
13 privates, tank mechanics,
2 privates, tank radio electricians,
1 private, armorer's assistant,
4 privates, chauffeurs.
     Total: 4 NCO's and 20 EM.

This repair section has the following vehicles:

1 small repair car (Kfz. 2/40),
1 medium cross-country repair truck, for spare parts and tools,
2 half-track vehicles (Sd. Kfz. 10) for personnel, capable of towing 1 ton,
3 motorcycles with sidecars.

(2) Battalion and Regimental Repair Sections

The headquarters of each tank battalion and each tank regiment has a repair section consisting of:

1 NCO (tank mechanic), section leader,
3 privates, tank mechanics (for a tank regimental headquarters),
5 privates, tank mechanics 7for a tank battalion headquarters),
1 private, motorcyclist, tank radio electrician,
1 private, chauffeur, tank radio electrician,
1 chauffeur.
     Total: for Hq, tank regiment, 1 NCO and 6 men;
            for Hq, tank battalion, 1 NCO and 8 men.

This repair section has the following vehicles:

1 small repair car (Kfz. 2/40),
1 medium cross-country repair truck, for spare parts and tools,
1 motorcycle with sidecar.

(3) Workshop Company

A captured German document gives the following detailed organization of a Panzer workshop company, as of September 15, 1941. It is believed that the organization given in this document is not that of tank units in a particular theater but has general application.

The document sets forth the organization of a workshop company in a Panzer regiment with six companies (as in Libya), but makes provision for added strength (as noted below) in regiments of eight companies, and in regiments of three battalions.

(a) Headquarters Platoon

1 cross-country truck (Kfz. 1) -- 1 chauffeur, 1 company commander (engineer), 1 officer for special duties (engineer), 1 clerk (draftsman). (One of the two officers may be other than an engineer officer.)
1 motorcycle -- 1 motorcyclist (orderly).
1 medium truck -- 1 chauffeur, 2 men for salvaging spare parts (M)*
1 light personnel car -- 1 chauffeur, 1 official (K-motor transport), 1 NCO for spare parts, 1 clerk (asst. chauffeur).
1 motorcycle with sidecar -- 1 motorcyclist (orderly), 1 foreman for motor transport equipment (Maybach Specialist).

(b) 1st and 2d Platoons

1 motor bus (Kraftomnibus)
1 chauffeur, 4 NCO's for workshop service (Vorh.W.=craftsmen?)
1 tank electrician and mechanic, 1 tank electric welder, 1 saddler, 1 tinsmith, 1 carpenter, 1 painter, 7 tank motor mechanics, 3 tank transmission mechanics, 1 automobile mechanic, 1 clerk.
5 medium trucks, for spare parts and assemblies
(each) 1 chauffeur, 1 tank transmission mechanic (asst. chauffeur), 1 automobile mechanic.
1 medium truck for spare parts and assemblies
1 chauffeur, 1 NCO in charge of spare parts, 1 depot chief (M).
1 truck with special workshop and trailer for arc-welding apparatus
1 chauffeur, 1 NCO for workshop service (vorhandwk), 1 tank electric welder (asst. chauffeur).
1 heavy truck, tools and equipment
1 chauffeur, 1 tank motor mechanic, 1 blacksmith.
1 workshop truck (Kfz.19), with trailer for heavy machine apparatus, Set A
1 chauffeur, 1 foreman (leader), 1 turner.

(c) 3d Platoon (Recovery Platoon)

1 light cross-country automobile (Kfz. 1)
1 chauffeur, 1 officer (platoon leader), NCO (Panzer-Wart, tank mechanic)
1 medium cross-country truck (Kfz. 100) for towing apparatus, with rotating crane (3 tons)**
1 chauffeur, 1 asst. chauffeur (automobile mechanic).
1 medium half-track prime mover (8 tons)
1 chauffeur, 1 assistant chauffeur (automobile mechanic).
2 medium half-track prime movers (8 tons) with underslung trailers (10 tons)
(each) 1 chauffeur, 1 asst. chauffeur (mechanic), and (for one only of these trucks) 1 NCO (tank mechanic).
2 vehicles (with apparatus)*** (6 tons, Sd. Kfz. 41)
(each) 1 chauffeur, 1 assistant chauffeur (automobile mechanic).
5 heavy half-track prime movers (18 tons), with underslung trailers (20 tons)
(each) 1 chauffeur, 1 assistant chauffeur (automobile mechanic), 1 steerer for trailer; one prime mover has in addition, an NCO (tank mechanic).
2 motorcycles with sidecars
(each) 1 chauffeur (tank mechanic), 1 NCO (tank mechanic).
(One of the NCO's is second in command.)

(d) Armory Section

1 medium cross-country automobile (Kfz. 15 m.G.)
1 chauffeur, 2 armorers (one is section leader), 1 armorer's helper.
1 motorcycle with sidecar
1 NCO armorer (0), 1 helper.
3 vehicles (not described), for armorer's tools
One with 1 chauffeur, 1 NCO, armorer (0), 1 tank electrician and mechanic (asst. chauffeur);
One with 1 chauffeur, 1 tank electrician (asst. chauffeur), 1 armorer's helper;
One with 1 chauffeur, 2 armorer's helpers (one is asst. chauffeur).
1 light cross-country car for supply of tools
1 chauffeur, 1 armorer's helper.

(e) Workshops for Communications Equipment

1 battery-charging truck (Kfz. 42)*****
1 chauffeur, 1 NCO mechanic (leader), 1 mechanic.
1 communications workshop truck***** (Kfz. 42)
1 chauffeur, 1 mechanic (asst. chauffeur).
1 light cross-country truck
1 chauffeur, 1 mechanic (asst. chauffeur).

(f) Company Supply

1 medium truck for rations and baggage
1 chauffeur, 1 NCO in charge of equipment (leader).
1 motorcycle with sidecar
1 supply sergeant (K), 1 clerk (asst. motorcyclist).
1 antiaircraft truck (Kfz. 4)
1 chauffeur, 1 NCO (in charge), 1 machine-gunner.
2 medium trucks for fuel
One, with 1 chauffeur and 1 tailor (asst. chauffeur);
One, with 1 chauffeur and 1 shoemaker (asst. chauffeur).
2 medium trucks for large field-kitchen stoves
One, with 1 chauffeur, 1 NCO in charge of rations (asst. chauffeur), 1 cook, 1 asst. cook;
One, with 1 chauffeur, 1 NCO (accountant), 1 NCO (cook), 1 asst. cook (asst. chauffeur).
1 light automobile
1 chauffeur (clerk), 1 master sergeant, 1 medical officer.

(g) Total Strength of Workshop Company 3 officers, 5 officials,****** 29 NCO's, 158 EM (total, 195 men) and 1 shop foreman for motor transport equipment (group leader).

(h) The document makes the following provisions for enlargement of the workshop company:

(1) For tank regiments with three battalions, add one workshop platoon (same organization as 1st Platoon above). Add to the Recovery Platoon two heavy half-track prime movers (18 tons) with 22-ton trailers, each to have 1 chauffeur, 1 asst. chauffeur (automobile mechanic), 1 trailer steerer. This involves additional personnel of 1 official, 6 NCO's, 49 EM - total, 56 men. The workshop company then has a total strength of 251 men.

(2) For tank regiments with 4 companies in a battalion (i.e., two battalions to the regiment), add:

To each of the 1st and 2d Platoons -- 2 medium trucks for spare parts, each with 1 chauffeur and 1 motor mechanic (asst. chauffeur).

To the Recovery Platoon -- 1 half-track prime mover (18 tons) with trailer (22 tons), and personnel of 1 chauffeur, 1 asst. chauffeur (automobile mechanic), and 1 trailer steerer.

(4) Light Workshop Platoon

According to pre-war organization, a tank regiment of three battalions had (in addition to the workshop company) a regimental workshop platoon. This unit comprised 1 officer, 2 officials, 3 NCO's, and 48 EM; the vehicles consisted of 1 automobile, 13 trucks (5 to 7 with trailers), and 3 motorcycles with sidecars.

There has been little available information on the workshop platoon since 1940. It is believed that the unit has been enlarged.

A captured document from Africa (1941) gives detailed instructions for a workshop platoon in a two-battalion tank regiment of the Africa Korps (which normally would not have this unit). In this case, an example of the flexibility of German organization, the personnel assigned to the platoon was obtained by breaking up the battalion headquarters repair sections of the two battalions. This workshop platoon was smaller than normal and was to operate, in place of the battalion headquarters repair sections, under command of the regiment.

The platoon was composed of:

1 sergeant mechanic (platoon leader),
1 Maybach specialist (for engines and Variorex gears),
2 NCO's tank mechanics (one an engine mechanic and electrician, the other to be also a welder),
2 tank mechanics,
1 car chauffeur,
2 motorcyclists (mechanics),
3 truck chauffeurs.

The platoon had the following equipment in vehicles:

1 light cross-country automobile (for platoon leader and Maybach Specialist),
2 motorcycles with side cars (for the two NCO's),
1 truck with repair equipment (for 1 mechanic, 1 tank fitter),
2 trucks with materials and spare parts (each for 1 mechanic, 1 tank fitter),
1 light two-wheeled trailer,
1 trailer with reserve of oxygen and acetylene containers.

(5) According to pre-war organization, each armored division had, as part of divisional services, 3 divisional workshop companies. These companies would, on occasion, presumably aid the workshop units of the tank regiments, but information on this function is not available.

b. Functions of Tank Repair and Workshop Units

(1) The repair sections (the available information apparently applies to both types of repair section mentioned above) are responsible for the general maintenance of the tanks, and of their armament and radio apparatus.

In camp and rest areas, they keep a check upon the serviceability of vehicles in the unit to which they are attached; during this period, mechanics are given advanced training through attachment to the workshop company or under master-mechanics transferred to the unit.

On the march, repair sections travel with the tank units and deal with any breakdowns in vehicles or equipment, in so far as these repairs can be effected in less than 4 hours and with field equipment. If a tank breaks down, the repair section leader inspects it and determines the nature of the damage. If the damage warrants it, the tank is handed over to the recovery platoon to be towed away; otherwise, a motorcycle with mechanics stays with the tank to effect repairs, while the other elements of the repair section go on with the column. In this way, one vehicle after another of the repair section stays behind; ordinarily the motorcycles, but, if damage is serious, a half-tracked vehicle. The repair automobile always goes on with the column, while the repair truck always stays with the repair vehicle left farthest to the rear.

In the assembly area, the repair sections thoroughly test all tanks and equipment as to fitness for battle. Any breakdowns are reported at once to the unit motor-transport sergeant.

In battle, the company repair sections are under the order of the battalion commander and are directed by a battalion motor-transport officer. As a rule they follow closely behind the fighting units and range over the battle area looking for broken-down tanks. If the tank cannot be repaired on the spot it is made towable and its position reported to the recovery platoon (of the workshop company).

In one tank battalion in Libya, an armor-repair section was added to the normal repair sections. The personnel was made up of armorer mechanics detached from other repair units, and included an armorer sergeant, an armorer corporal, and seven armorer's assistants. The equipment included an automobile, a motorcycle, and two trucks. This section was to follow the tanks in battle and to work with repair sections on weapons and turrets.

Repair sections are not allowed to undertake the welding of armor gashes longer than 4 inches. In battle, the regimental headquarters repair section is attached to a battalion.

(2) The armored workshop company operates as far as 15 to 20 miles behind the fighting tanks of its regiment, except that the recovery platoon works in the battle area, mainly to tow out disabled tanks.

The workshop company handles heavier repair jobs, up to those requiring 12 hours. Repair jobs requiring up to 24 hours are sent back to rear repair bases.

The workshop company has its own power tools, a crane, and apparatus for electric welding and vulcanizing. Its platoons may be separated, and may operate independently. According to one captured document, a workshop company dealt with 18 tanks in 17 days, under conditions where there was no shortage of spare parts.

(3) The light workshop platoon in the Afrika Korps tank regiment (discussed earlier) replaced the battalion headquarters repair sections and operated under command of the regiment as a connecting link between the workshop company and the company repair sections. Like the latter, it would handle work requiring less than 4 hours. In attack, this platoon would follow along the central axis of advance, in close touch with the recovery platoon of the workshop company.

The platoon was to carry out work as follows: on brakes, gears, and clutches of Mark II (light) tanks; on damaged gear-mechanism of Mark III tanks; and on valve defects of all types of truck and tank engines except Mark III and IV tanks. They were to remove electrical and fuel-system faults; salvage and tow wheeled vehicles; make repairs on wheeled vehicles; perform autogene welding and soldering work; and charge and test batteries and electrical apparatus.

c. Tank Recovery Methods

All observers stress the efficiency of the German recovery and maintenance units. The following points have been noted:

(1) The Germans will use combat tanks to tow disabled tanks in case of retirement; even during a battle, instances are reported, both from France and Africa, where combat tanks were employed both to protect towing operations and to assist in the towing. The recovery platoon, with its trailers, is not given the whole burden of this main job of salvage.

(2) The same principle of cooperation prevails on repair jobs in the field. Tanks carry many tools, spare parts, and equipment for repair work, and observers believe that the tank crews are trained to assist the repair crews as well as to service and maintain their own vehicles.

(3) Not only is the recovery of German vehicles very efficient, but units will often send out detachments to recover those of the enemy. For instance, a tank battalion may send out a detachment consisting of an officer, one or two NCO's, and six or eight men, transported in one or two cross-country vehicles and protected by one or two light tanks, to search for and recover disabled hostile vehicles.


* Here, and later, where the meaning of technical abbreviations is not certain, they are given as they appear in the document.

** A note on the document states that this apparatus will be delivered later.

*** The designation of this apparatus and the vehicle model number are not clear on the original document. The apparatus is designated as not yet available. The vehicles are apparently heavy half-track prime movers.

**** According to the document, there is a trailer attached to this truck, but no description is given.

***** An ambiguous note suggests that this equipment had not yet been delivered.

****** Only one official is designated as such in the preceding breakdown of the company's organization. If the foreman and depot chief in each of the 1st and 2d Platoons are officials, this would clear up the discrepancy.


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