15cm Schwere Panzerhaubitze auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf)
In 1942 the Waffenamt (Ordnance Department) saw a need for self-propelled artillery for the Panzer Divisions.
Initially a design for a 10.5cm howitzer mounted on a Panzer III/IV chassis was considered, but with the advent of the Wespe 10.5cm self-propelled howitzer on the Panzer II hull the design was changed to mount the 15cm howitzer. The new gun was based on a lengthened Panzer IV hull with some mechanical elements from the Panzer III.
The prototype was named the Hummel (Bumble-Bee). It was armed with the 15cm sFH 18/1 L/30 howitzer mounted in an open topped fighting compartment. It had a crew of 6, a driver and 5 men to serve the gun. It carried 18 rounds of ammunition but further rounds were carrier in a Munitions Fahrzeuge, which was simply a Hummel with no gun and an extra plate bolted over the gun space in the front of the superstructure.
The Hummel proved popular with crews and they generally lived with their Hummel. It was common to find personal stowage in and around the vehicle.
It went into production in late 1942 and by early 1943 the first batteries were in service with several Panzer divisions. Initially each Panzer division was to receive one battery of 6, but later some divisions received a second battery.
A total of 666 were produced, and a further 150 were made as unarmed ammunition resupply carriers (Munitions Fahrzeuge).
Their first major action was a Kursk where their heavy firepower proved valuable during the preparatory bombardment of the Soviet positions before attacks. It continued to prove useful providing mobile artillery support for advancing Panzer divisions until the end of the war.
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