Sd.Kfz.135 'Marder I'

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Welcome to the suggestion post for the…ahem, 7.5cm Pak 40/1 auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) Sd.Kfz.135, or just Marder I for short. This was one of many German tank destroyers built during the war using a non-German chassis. You may be familiar with the Marder IIIs in-game. However, the Marder I is actually the first of the Marder tank destroyer family. Instead of a Czech-origin Panzer 38(t), the Marder I uses a French Lorraine 37L chassis, which is actually in-game already in the French tech tree. Unlike its French counterpart though, the Marder I uses the famous PaK 40 anti-tank gun, found on the Marder III H and a few other vehicles in the German tech tree. I do think that the Marder I could have a place in-game as a glass cannon, having a very weak chassis (compared to the Marder IIIs, anyway), but having an extremely solid anti-tank gun that punches well above its weight. Due to this, it could have a slightly lower battle rating than the Marder III H, such as at 2.3 or 2.7, where it not only would have other tanks for lineups, but would also bring something to those lineups, which is, of course, its gun. Now then, let’s head back in time, and find out more about the Marder I and its creation!

History

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German soldiers parade on the Champs Élysées, June 14th, 1940.

With the fall of France in 1940, Germany took over much of the country, and captured a large amount of military equipment. Among these was the French Lorraine 37L light armored vehicle, which had been used by the French as a munitions and fuel supply carrier. The Germans quickly took over 300 of these for their own use, designating them Lorraine Schlepper 37L(f). A year later, German troops would find themselves gearing up for the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa.

A German Lorraine Schlepper 37L(f) on the Eastern Front, 1942.

T-34/76 abandoned by the Red Army during Operation Barbarossa, July 1941.

Following the invasion of the USSR, German troops encountered T-34 and KV-1 tanks. While they weren’t as numerous as the older T-26 and BT tanks, and had their fair share of reliability and quality issues, they nonetheless made an impact on German troops, who realized their standard 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun couldn’t penetrate these tanks frontally. This spurred faster development of the 5 cm PaK 38 then in development by Rheinmetall-Borsig AG, but it was soon realized this gun wouldn’t cut it either. Luckily, since 1939, an even larger 7.5 cm gun had been in development by Rheinmetall-Borsig AG, albeit with low priority, which entered service officially in 1942 as the 7.5 cm PaK 40, but was issued to troops in small numbers towards the end of 1941. One issue immediately notable by anti-tank gun crews was that the PaK 40 was much heavier than the PaK 36 or PaK 38. Due to this, the idea floated around of mounting the new gun on an existing chassis, creating a mobile anti-tank gun that wouldn’t have to rely on a crew manually pushing it around when not being towed.

Major Alfred Becker would propose a solution by using the Lorraine 37L chassis, removing the original crew compartment to accommodate for the larger gun, and creating a superstructure to protect the crew. A number of these were built at Baustokommando Becker, and shown to Hitler in May of 1942. This would lead to a conference with Hitler and Albert Speer on May 23rd, 1942, where a decision was made to convert Lorrane Schlepper 37Ls into self-propelled guns. Two variants would use 10.5 cm and 15 cm howitzers, while the rest would mount the PaK 40/1 L/46 anti-tank gun as an interim solution to the need for a self-propelled anti-tank gun. Alkett utilized Major Becker’s design to design and produce the lower carriage, bridge mount, and armor shields for the Lorraine Schlepper 37L equipped with the PaK 40. Alkett was also contracted to assemble these superstructures for delivery to H.K.P. Bielitz and Baukommando Becker in Paris, where they would be mounted on the Lorraine Schlepper chassis.

Alfred_BeckerMajor Alfred Becker

Lorr gunThe gun separated from the chassis on a Marder I.

Official production goals were laid forth by Waffenamt on June 8th, 1942, where from June 18th through July 28th, 98 were to be assembled at H.K.P. Bielitz and 80 at Baukommando Becker, for a toal of 178. In reality, only 170 would be completed by August of 1942, not too far off the mark. Following testing and plans on July 10th, 1942, to outfit the 15. and 17. Infanterie-Division as well as 106. and 167. Infanterie-Division, along with 26.Panzer.Division with the PaK 40 Sfl. on Lorraine chassis, deliveries were made for the defense of the West. 17. Infanterie-Division reported a few issues with their vehicles, among which, nine of the designated drivers for them didn’t have licenses for them, and nine radio operators and three mechanics promised didn’t arrive!

German troops loading the gun of a Marder I from 15.Infanterie-Division, southern France, 1942.

The vehicle, now also known as ‘Marder I’, wasn’t just sent for service for troops defending Western Europe though, it was also attached to infantry divisions of Army Group Centre on the Eastern Front, and in small numbers in North Africa. Later on though, they would see service as part of the reformed 21st Panzer Division in Normandy. During Operation Overlord, the Marder Is saw their arguably heaviest combat, seeing some success, but ultimately all being lost with the German defeat in France. Near the end of the war, only the 719th Infantry Division had Marder Is remaining, with 3 operational out of 7 vehicles on January 27th, 1945. In the East, the Marder I proved to be a dangerous enemy for any tank, but was extremely limited by its old chassis, which struggled with the weather in the Soviet Union. There were also issues with low numbers and a lack of spare parts, which ultimately would lead to the development of the Marder II and Marder III, which would be built on the more reliable and sturdy Panzer 38(t) chassis.

A whitewashed Marder 1 attached to a unit under Heersgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre).

While ultimately the Marder I didn’t see as much combat or success as its successors, it began the start of a type of German tank destroyer that was well suited to German doctrine; a powerful gun on a mobile chassis. It also served its purpose, providing a mobile platform for the PaK 40, which even until the end of the war was Germany’s standard anti-tank gun, able to knock out nearly any tank it might face. Today, only one Marder I remains in France, at Musée des Blindés in Saumur.

Marder-I-SaumurThe last remaining Marder I, in Saumur, France.

Specifications

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  • Crew: 4
  • Length: 4.95 m
  • Width: 2.10 m
  • Height: 2.05 m
  • Weight: 8.5 metric tons when combat loaded
  • Main armament: 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 L/46
  • Main armament traverse: -20°/20°
  • Main armament elevation: -8°/10°
  • Engine: Delahaye 6 cylinder, water-cooled 3.56 liter gasoline, 70 hp at 2800 rpm
  • Power/weight: 8.2 hp / t
  • Transmission: 5 forward, 1 reverse
  • Maximum speed: 35 km/h
  • Maximum range: 120 km
  • Grade: 20 degrees
  • Trench crossing: 1.8 m
  • Step: 57 cm
  • Fording depth: 85 cm
  • Ground clearance: 30 cm
  • Ground pressure: 0.75 kg/cm2
  • Steering ratio: 1.94

Sources

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Pictures

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Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-297-1701-29,_Im_Westen,Panzer__Marder_I

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