Poland also managed to capture a few of their own Panthers. In particular, the VIPudel turned out to be a key player in the insurrection of Warsaw in August 1944. The vehicle was stolen by the Polish Home Army, who used it tremendously in their capital city, first to destroy several German machine guns nests, and then by moving it against the Gęsiówka concentration camp, where the tank freed no less than 340 prisoners. After this heroic endeavor, the Pudel served in the streets of Warsaw, where it admirably held its ground against German forces.
Further west, in early 1945, the French 1st Mobile Reconnaissance Group received word of German armor abandoned in Normandy, leading Captain Guy Besnier, a former tank commander, to send a group of mechanics to recover the vehicles. It wasn’t a pleasant job—the recovery of some vehicles required removing their dead crew—but the group managed to claim a total of 17 vehicles: a Tiger 1, a Jagdpanzer, two Panthers (Ausf. A and G), 2 StuGs, and 11 Panzer IVs. Most received new paint jobs and were renamed after French regions and towns, such as the VIBretagne Panther , which would never fire a shot in combat. Instead it was used to train the next generation of French tankers.
French Tanks Don’t Speak German
However, not every capture is a coup. The Panther’s reliability was far from perfect, often breaking because of technical issues in the hands of both German and Allied crews. Nevertheless, it managed to find a use. The IVB1 , on the other hand, proved very troublesome.
Massive and heavily armored, this French tank was a terrifying opponent at the beginning of World War II. In one instance, it survived 140 direct hits and single handedly took out 13 Panzers. In the end, however, it was defeated by the speed and mobility of the German tanks operating under the Blitzkrieg doctrine. As a result, German troops occupying France claimed dozens of B1 tanks but had no idea how to make use of them.
Transforming these metal beasts, which were given the designation IVPz.Kpfw. B2 740 (f) , wasn’t as simple as working on light or cavalry tanks, even with the help of two occupied Renault and AMX factories. Unlike with the Czechoslovakian tanks, and especially the IIIPz.Kpfw. 38 (t) , the German weapon systems weren’t compatible with French standards. After several battles, the German command decided to turn the B2 into a flamethrower tank.
Germany already had experience with these kinds of conversions, having converted the Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf. D and Ausf. E. However, despite this knowledge, the B2 was still capricious and failed to meet the Wehrmacht’s needs. Then, the Germans decided to combine the B1’s massive hull with the heavy 10.5 cm leFH 18 howitzer, creating the V105 leFH18B2 . This same gun had proven reliable and maneuverable on the IIIWespe , but the B2 still refused to obey its new masters.
Interactive image. Slide between the two images to compare the standalone 10.5 cm leFH 18 howitzer and the gun’s integration with the B1 tank as the 105 leFH18B2.