Considerations for the Installation of Rocket-Launcher Weapons in Anti-Tank Fortifications
By Michael Heidler
In face of the constantly improved armoured vehicles of the enemy, the Germans created very effective anti-tank weapons based on new technologies. A major step forward was the development of rockets with a shaped charge, ranging from the early Faustpatrone "Gretchen" (small Panzerfaust) to the Raketen-Panzerbüchse (rocket-launcher/bazooka) in calibre 88mm.
It seemed reasonable to install these weapons in fortifications for defending them against tanks. The preliminary planning phase began near the end of the year 1943. It was to find out which of the numerous more or less similar developments and weapon projects were suitable for installation in fortifications. After careful consideration, two weapons were left: Puppchen and Karola. In German language Puppchen means dolly. Both arms were parallel developments to the 88mm rocket-launcher 43 (also called Panzerschreck or stove pipe), but mounted on a carriage. They are somewhat similar to a small cannon.
The rocket launcher Puppchen had a single-axle wheeled carriage, a smooth tube without rifling and a protective shield. A traversing and elevating drive was missing, so the aiming had to be done by hand. The weight was 150 kg and the maximum firing range on armoured targets was approximately 230 meters. A high-explosive grenade for use against soft targets up to 700 m was still in development at the end of the war. The gun was manned by a crew of four men. When necessary, the Puppchen could be broken up for transportation into six loads with a weight of 20 to 30 kg each.
The device Karola on the other hand, only had a gun carriage with footrests and a tail ram. Its tube was also smooth and without rifling. Like the Puppchen, a traversing and elevating drive was absent. Because of the waiver of a protective shield the total weight was only 25 kg. However, the range dropped to only 120 meters. For operating the weapon only two men were needed.
Both weapons used the same ammunition, namely the 88mm rocket propelled anti-tank grenade 4312 with a weight of 2.7 kg. The grenade was able to penetrate 160 mm of armour steel.
On 26 January 1944, a demonstration of both weapons was organized by Wa.Prüf.2, Wa.Prüf.Fest and In.Fest (Heeres-Waffenamt) on the firing range at Kummersdorf. They investigated in particular the possible installation in fortifications:
I). Device Puppchen:
- The installation of the device in ring-stands is not possible because device and gunner are too high, the device is front-heavy, and the possibility of movement is very limited. It is almost impossible to pass through the ammunition. The cover/disguise is very difficult, and a redesign would be necessary to reduce the height by 150 mm.
- A use in the field is more suitable. Remote fortified shelter can be used to house devices and crews. Also Pak-pillboxes (bunkers for anti-tank cannons) can be used for this.
- It is proposed to use the Regelbauten 601 and 629 as shelters. These may house at least two R.W. devices, or by reduction one device with crew.
- Shelters with embrasures are not suitable for the weapon because of the impossibility of all-round fire.
II). Device Karola:
- Installation in a ring stand according to the enclosed appendix [appendix is missing] not possible in the usual ring stands (machine gun ring stand of 80 cm diameter) because of the limited space and poor pass-through option for ammunition. Also the construction of a new carriage is necessary.
- Applications Fortified placing of crew and weapons in the minimal shelter Regelbau 668. Remote fortified standard shelters for crews and equipment. Firing position left or right side next to the entrance. 3) Shelters with embrasures are not suitable for the weapon because of the impossibility of all-round fire.
The trial concludes with the statement that the Puppchen is already fully developed and that a production of 3,000 devices is planned. Karola however should fall victim to the standardization, whereby only one device was allowed to be developed further.
Thus it was clear which weapon should prospectively be installed in the fortifications: The Puppchen, made by the companies Wilhelm-Gustloff-Werke and Maschinenfabrik Donauwörth. It only remained to find out the most suitable type of installation. After further according trials, the department In.Fest submitted the final report “Installation of R-Werfer 43 (Puppchen) in Regelbauten" on 14 March 1944:
- Regelbau 601 (600 cubic meters of concrete). Shelter for 4 devices. Due to the almost ground-level floor the device can be brought out very quickly. The standard field firing position can be placed on the side or backwards (poorer because of obstructed view). Storage of ammunition in the shelter. Housing of the crew in the ready-room is somewhat cramped. After removal of the interior wall separating the storage- and equipment-room it is possible to house the entire crew.
- Regelbau 602 (810 cubic meters of concrete). Shelter for 4 devices. Firing position like number 1. The ammunition can be stored in the shelter. By adding a false ceiling made of concrete or wood the 3.50 m high space can be separated into 1.20 and 2.50 m. Housing of crew is cramped.
- Regelbau 604 (800 cubic meters of concrete). Shelter for 2 devices. Firing position like number 1. The ready-room is sized slightly abundant for housing the crew.
- Regelbau 629 (675 cubic meters of concrete). Shelter for 2 devices. Firing position like number 1. Ready-room is cramped. By omitting the temporary partition wall, the entire crew could be housed. Storage of ammunition below the devices in the storage room.
- Regelbau 672 (340 cubic meters of concrete, small pillbox). Shelter for 4 devices. Standard field firing position on the side or front of the shelter. Housing of the crew in a separate bunker. Same with the storage of ammunition.
Of the five shelters listed above, the Regelbau 629 appears as most suitable relating to the housing of the crews and the ammunition. Regelbau 672 could be built in addition to any group shelter in a narrowed form for two R-Werfer 43, where the internal dimensions could be shortened in length from 8.35 m to 3.3 m because of the smallness of the devices. The total concrete mass for this case would be 150 cubic meters. Because of the absence of any interior equipment, there would be no constructional difficulties (appendix 1).
II. Shelters with embrasures (Schartenstände)
- 625 Regelbau. Suitable for installation of one device. However, in order to shoot from the shelter the floor of the room has to be raised by 20 cm. The installation of an abutment for the tail spade would be required. Housing of crew and ammunition in the shelter.
- Regelbau 667. Shelter for one device. Here too elevation of the device or raising of the floor by 45 cm. The installation of an abutment for the tail spade would also be required. Housing of the crew and storage of ammunition in a separate bunker.
Of the aforementioned Regelbauten the installation of the device Puppchen in a Regelbau 667 appears as most suitable, since the cost of constructing materials is the lowest.
III. Ammunition facilities.
If the ammunition can not be stored inside the shelter or pillbox, like it is at Regelbau 672 and 667, it is recommended to build Regelbau 674 for storage purpose.
If the space is insufficient for housing the crew, it is recommended to build Regelbau 668 therefor.
Unfortunately, the documents do not tell us about the result of the plannings and whether the Puppchen was installed in fortifications or other solid defensive positions. In face of the low total production of only 3,150 units (1943: 2,862 pcs / 1944: 288 pcs), it seems rather unlikely. In addition, production ceased in February 1944 and the already manufactured parts of a 3,000-piece series were scrapped. The existing Puppchen were partly used by the German Volkssturm (Home Guard). When the war ended, there were still a total of 1,649 units in stock - scattered on all fronts.
Various further developments were stuck in the planning stage. Only the 88mm rocket-launcher 54 (short version of the Panzerschreck) was kept in production. Weapons like the 88mm grenade rifle (simplified Puppchen without mount), the "recoilless launcher 43" from Krupp or the 10.5-cm anti-tank launcher were either too expensive or did not offer sufficient advantage to justify a change of the running production.
Overall length including drawbar: 2.87 m
Total width: 0.99 m
Track width: 0.88 m
Height with wheels: 0.61 m
Height without wheels: 0.47 m
Weight with wheels: 149 kg
Weight without wheels: 105 kg
Traversing field: 60 °
Field elevation: +15 ° to -18 °
Max firing range against armored targets: 230 m
Max firing range against soft targets: 700 m
Rate of fire: 10 rounds / minute
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