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The Tobruk Panzerstellung

Discussion in 'Hitler's Atlantic Wall' started by Jim, Feb 17, 2007.

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  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Tobruks were the most common type of fortified position along the Normandy coast, and existed in a wide range of styles. More officially termed “Ringstanden” they were all characterized by a single circular opening for a weapon. There were two basic types, the Vf58c and Vf58d, which differed in construction details. The tobruks were most commonly used as machine-gun pits, armed with a wide variety of machine-gun types. The machine-gun tobruk seen in the background in the picture below is armed with an MG34 Another very common type, the Vf61a, was designed for 5Omm mortars, and had a small concrete platform in the centre for supporting the mortar. Generally tobruks offered a small shelter behind the ring opening to provide cover for the crew during bombardment. Access was through a door in the side or rear of the structure. Since the tobruks were only protected to Class B1 standards (1.5m or less) they were generally constructed flush to the ground so that the earth formed an additional layer of protection. In this configuration, they presented a very difficult target for Allied troops, as they were not easily visible and could only be knocked out by a direct hit. In some cases, tobruks were mounted along the seawall immediately along the water's edge. In these cases, the preferred solution was to construct thicker walls than the Class B1 standards, though there were many cases where the lesser standards were followed for the sake of economy.
    One version of the tobruk commonly seen on the Normandy beaches was the Panzerstellung, equipped with a tank turret. These were sometimes based on the standard Vf67v tobruk as seen here, but also on modified types including a common but non-standard U-shaped tobruk. These usually used turrets from captured French tanks and the two most common types in Normandy were the World War I Renault FT tank turrets and the later APX-R turret as seen here. The APX-R turret was developed by the Atelier de Puteaux in 1935 for the Renault firm, hence the APX-R designation. It was initially used on the Renault R-35 infantry tank, though it was later used on the Hotchkiss H-35 and H-39 cavalry tank as well. It was gradually upgraded with better visors switching from the initial binocular “fente Estienne” to the improved PPLRX-IBOP armoured periscope in the APX-R1 turret as seen here, which had a wide field of view.

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    There were three production/armament configurations of this turret, the L.713 with the initial 37mm SA IB, the L.739 turret with the slightly improved 37mm SA IB M.37, and the L.767 with the new long-barrelled 37mm SA 3B. However, the latter weapon was usually reserved for Renault and Hotchkiss tanks used by the Wehrmacht for anti-partisan fighting while the two earlier types of turret with the short S.A.IB were used on the tobruks as seen here. These turrets also had a coaxial machine gun, generally the 7.5mm Model 31. In some cases, the Wehrmacht modified the turret by cutting open the observation dome at the top and installing a split hatch in its place. Both the unmodified and modified turrets could be seen on the tobruks in Normandy, and this one is the unmodified French configuration.
    The turret was manned by a single gunner and in the original tank version; a leather strap seat was suspended from the turret ring. In some cases this was removed and the gunner simply stood. The standard Wehrmacht practice was to man these tobruks with at least two soldiers, the second of whom assisted the gunner by providing ammunition. There was no formal ammunition stowage in these bunkers; the ammunition was usually stored in its shipping containers, which in the case of French 37mm ammunition was a simple wooden box. There was an access hatch in the back of the turret, but access into the tobruk was usually through the bunker door.
     

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