Thursday, April 2, 2015

German Soldiers Posing with Captured French Tractors

The always popular photo, 'posing with captured war material', in this case French tractors and trucks, summer 1940. In the foreground, Renault UE 2 Chenillette tractors. During the Fall of France, about 3000 UE and UE2s had been captured by the German Wehrmacht. Most were employed unmodified, after an overhaul by the AMX (Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Moulineaux) factory under guidance of the German MAN-company, as tractors for the 37 mm, 50 mm and, ultimately, 75 mm and 76.2 mm anti-tank guns: the Infanterie UE-Schlepper 630(f), which also was used to tow light and even heavy infantry guns. They might also function in their original primary role of munition carrier, as Munitionsschlepper Renault UE(f), some of these had an armoured roof fitted above the bin, to protect the ammunition load against overhead shell airbursts. Chenillettes were however also modified into self-propelled guns: a German 37 mm PAK was fitted just in front of the bin. There was no room for the crew in such a small vehicle: the gun had to be operated while standing behind it. Nevertheless of this Selbstfahrlafette für 3.7 cm Pak36 auf Renault UE(f) about 700 would be built in 1941. A late modification from 1943 was the UE fitted with four Wurfrahmen 40 launchers for 28/32 cm rockets: the Selbstfahrlafette für 28/32 cm Wurfrahmen auf Infanterie-Schlepper UE(f), forty of which would be built in two versions, one with the launch frames at the sides of the hull, the other with a raised platform on the back. Other modifications included: the Mannschaftstransportwagen Renault UE(f), a personnel carrier produced in two versions; the Gepanzerte-MG-Träger Renault UE(f), simply a Renault UE fitted with a machine-gun in a superstructure above the commander's seat; the Schneeschleuder auf Renault UE(f), a snow plough, fifty of which were modified in 1942; the Schneefräser auf Renault UE(f), also a vehicle intended to combat heavy snow conditions on the Eastern Front, but in the form of a snow miller; the Fernmeldekabel-Kraftwagen Renault UE(f), a telephone cable-laying vehicle and the Panzerkampfwagen-Attrappe auf UE(f), a dummy tank for training purposes, resembling a Soviet T-34. More complicated rebuilds were the Sicherungsfahrzeug UE(f), an airfield security vehicle produced for the Luftwaffe which, besides the 7.92 mm MG 34 casemate on the right, had a special high armoured superstructure fitted on the left back in which a guard could sit armed with a 13 mm machine-gun and the Kleiner Funk- und Beobachtungspanzer auf Infanterie-Schlepper UE(f), a special radio and artillery observation vehicle, forty of which would be modified by the Beck-Baukommando in France to eventually serve with the 21. Panzer-Division.

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