Color profiles: Arkadiusz Wróbel, text and captions: Robert Wróblewski
Free decals for selected painting schemes in 3 scales.
In the summer of 1944, as the entire central sector of the eastern front began to crumble under the titanic pressure exerted by the Soviet Army, eastern Poland became a scene of some desperate and ferocious armour battles. The withdrawing Germans strove to halt the enemy advance at all cost, stripping other operational areas of manpower and armour, and rushing reinforcements to the front. Among them were also units hastily reorganized and re-equipped after they had been decimated in earlier battles. Hence, a great variety of camouflage patterns and markings was noticeable during that period. Although they were applied in accordance with operative regulations of that time, in most cases small differences in painting schemes and tactical codes make it possible to identify a particular unit.
German combat vehicles were fairly frequently repainted and re-coded. Camouflage schemes operative in 1944 were discussed in an earlier publication of the Topcolors series titled Pz.Kpfw. V PANTHER (by the same author). Hence, a few words on tactical codes. The general rule was as follows: a code ‘123’ identified the 3rd vehicle in the 2nd platoon of the 1st company, whilst a vehicle coded ‘531’ belonged to the 5th company, and was the first vehicle of the third platoon, which meant that it was a platoon commander’s mount.
There were exceptions to this rule, though. For example, Pz IV tanks of II Battalion, 29th Panzer Regiment, 12th Panzer Division used a continuous numeration, without identifying component platoons – e.g. vehicle numbers in 7th company ran from 701 through 715, hence the tank coded ‘711’ was not, as it might otherwise seem, the mount of the 1st platoon’s commander. Another interesting case is Tiger IIs of 505th Heavy Tank Battalion (Schwere Panzer Abteilung 505) – the numeral identifying a particular company within the battalion was larger and it was painted on the mantlet casing, whilst the remaining two digits of the code (the platoon’s number and the vehicle’s number within the platoon) were painted at the base of the gun-barrel sleeve. Thus, the same code on the right side (repeated on the turret’s rear) read ‘231’, whereas on the left side it was ‘312’. Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 259 came up with another solution, identifying companies by the colours of the numerals (in each company vehicles were numbered cosecutively from 1 to 14). Of further interest are codes seen on armoured carriers used by III Battalion of 9th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment ‘Germania’, 5th SS Panzer Division ‘Wiking’. Each of the four component companies (9th through 12th) used a different block of numbers: 9th company – 1xx; the 10th – 2xx; the 11th – 3xx; 12th – 4xx. In that way, a vehicle coded ‘331’ could be easily identified as being assigned to the commander of 3rd platoon in 11th company. Furthermore, the battalion headquarters section used the traditional Roman digit III to identify itself, and its vehicles by adding consecutive Arabic numerals (e.g. ‘III02’).
Generally speaking, other battalion headquarters sections followed the same rule, identifying the battalions they belonged to by Roman digits, and their vehicles by adding Arabic numerals in sequence: I01 – I Battalion’s commander; I02 – I Battalion’s adjutant (equivalent of the chief of staff), I03 – I Battalion’s signals officer. Tanks coded II11 through II15 belonged to II Battalion’s reconnaissance platoon. There were some exceptions, too. I Battalion’s headquarters section Panthers of Panzer Regiment ‘Grossdeutschland’ were marked with a letter ‘N’ (for Nachrichten – Signals). The vehicle coded N1 was the battalion commander’s mount. In case of the aforementioned Schwere Panzer Abteilung 505, the commander’s Tiger was marked with the Roman I, with the two other tanks of the battalion command section sporting II and III. In Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501, the battalion headquarters tanks were numbered 001, 002 and 003, and in Schwere Panzer Abteilung 507 they had the designation A, B and C. The tanks of regimental headquarters sections, in turn, featured numerals which were preceded by the letter ‘R’ (for Regiment), although this rule was not strictly followed, either.
The colouring of tactical codes was fairly consistent, with red, black and white being dominant. On the other hand, styles of code letters and digits were highly varied, as was their size. One rule seemed to be commonly applied – the width of the outline in code numerals was 10 to 12 mm, which was about one ‘finger’s width’.