4 September 2013

Sad news for Wargamers: Don Featherstone Dies

Sad News for Wargamers

Donald Featherstone has died after a fall and a brief sick-bed. Was it not for him I would not be a gamer today.
One of the Godfathers of wargaming, he died at the age of 95.

If you play any wargame, you have been touched by this man's work, energy and passion - his "Skirmish Wargames" was one of the inspirations for Necromunda and he invented the saving throw.

He lived a full and productive life of considerable achievement. He went on the BBC TV in the 1960s & 70s to popularise wargaming as a hobby, at a time when it was virtually unknown.

His energy was such that he was still responding to letters from fans (always carefully typewritten and then signed) in 2013.

Today spare a thought for a pioneer of gaming and raise a glass in his honour.
To Donald Featherstone!


Donald F. Featherstone (born 20 March 1918) is a British author of more than forty books on wargaming and military history. He wrote classic texts on wargaming in the 1960s and 1970s.
Featherstone was born in London.

During the Second World War, Featherstone joined the Royal Armoured Corps; an account of his war experiences can be found in his book Lost Tales
Originally a physiotherapist,[Featherstone was first introduced to wargaming by reading HG Wells' Little Wars and his first opponent was Tony Bath in 1955. In 1960 the two of them began editing the UK version of the War Game Digest, a seminal wargaming newsletter started by Jack Scruby. Disapproving of a trend towards articles that were "attempting to spread an aura of pseudo-science over what is a pastime,"

Featherstone started his own periodical in 1962, the Wargamers' Newsletter. While in discussion late one night with Dr. Paddy Griffith (the well known military historian), Don had a Eureka moment when he came to realise that the hobby of wargaming could considerably aid understanding of military history .Featherstone appeared on the BBC to promote the hobby. In 1966 he organized the first UK wargames convention.

His extended bibliography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Featherstone_(wargamer)

I blogged on my own roots and introduction to wargames last year, using his rulesets, which are probably the basis of everything we use today, including FoW and WHFB:


26 August 2013

KWC refights Kursk: Prokhorovka

The Kapiti Wargames Club re-fought 

The Battle of Kursk's deciding battle, Prokhorovka, at the weekend:

Much like the initial stages of Operation Zitadelle it appeared that Army Group South may succeed in encircling the Soviets:

More photos and brief battle report on the KWC website:

16 August 2013

Soviet Female Soldiers - Snipers and more

WWII Soviet Female Soldiers and Fighter Pilots

While researching the role of snipers on the Eastern Front I came across some fascinating facts about the role women played, and the phenominal success some of the Russian female snipers and pilots had:
Women played a large part in most of the armed forces of the Second World War. In most countries though, women tended to serve mostly in administrative, medical and in auxiliary roles. But in the Soviet Union women fought in larger numbers in front line roles.

Over 800,000 women served their Motherland in World War II
Nearly 200,000 of them were decorated and 89 of them eventually received the Soviet Union’s highest award, the Hero of the Soviet Union. They served as pilots, snipers, machine gunners, tank crew members and partisans, as well as in auxiliary roles. Very few of these women, however, were ever promoted to officers.

Lydia Litvyak

August 18, 1921 – August 1, 1943 (age:21)

Also known as Lydia Litviak or Lilya Litviak, was a female fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II.

With 12 solo victories and either two or four shared, gained in 66 combat missions, she is one of the world’s only two female fighter aces.

After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Litvyak tried to join a military aviation unit, but was turned down for lack of experience. After deliberately exaggerating her pre-war flight time by 100 hours, she joined the all-female 586th Fighter Regiment (586 IAP), which was formed by Marina Raskova. She trained there on the Yakovlev Yak-1 aircraft.

She flew her first combat flights in the summer of 1942 over Saratov. In September, she was assigned, along with Katya Budanova, six other pilots, and accompanying female ground crew, to the 437th IAP, a men’s regiment fighting over Stalingrad. She flew a Lavochkin La-5 fighter, and on September 13, 1942, she shot down her first two aircraft over Stalingrad. The first victory, won during Litvyak’s second combat mission, was a Junkers Ju 88 bomber that she helped her regimental commander shoot down.

Minutes later, she scored the first solo kill ever by a female pilot, destroying a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2 “Gustav” piloted by an 11-victory ace, three-time recipient of the Iron Cross, Staff Sergeant Erwin Maier of the 2nd Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 53. Maier parachuted from his aircraft, was captured by Soviet troops, and asked to see the Russian ace who had out-flown him.

When he was taken to stand in front of Litvyak, he thought he was being made the butt of a Soviet joke. It was not until Litvyak described each move of the dogfight to him in perfect detail that he knew he had been beaten by a woman pilot.

On August 1, 1943, Lydia did not come back to her base of Krasnyy Luch, in the Donbass, from an escort to a flight of Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmoviks. It was her fourth sortie of the day. As the Soviets were returning to base near Orel, a pair of Bf 109 fighters dived on Lydia while she was attacking a large group of German bombers.

Soviet pilot Ivan Borisenko recalled: “Lily just didn’t see the Messerschmitt 109s flying cover for the German bombers. A pair of them dived on her and when she did see them she turned to meet them. Then they all disappeared behind a cloud.” Borisenko, involved in the dogfight, saw her a last time, through a gap in the clouds, her Yak-1 pouring smoke and pursued by as many as eight Me 109s. Borisenko descended to see if he could find her. No parachute was seen, and no explosion, yet she never returned from the mission.

Litvyak was 21 years old.

Roza Yegorovna Shanina

Born 1924 – January 28, 1945 (age: 21)

She was a Soviet sniper during the "Great Patriotic War"

She was responsible for 54 confirmed kills, including 12 enemy snipers, during the Battle of Vilnius

After attending Arkhangelsk Teacher’s Training College, she became a mentor in the kindergarten. Then, she voluntarily joined the Vsevobuch and later the Central Female Sniper Academy in Podolsk. On June 22, 1943, Shanina enlisted in the Red Army and on April 2, 1944, joined the 184th Rifle Division, where a separate female sniper platoon was formed. She was awarded the Order of Glory on June 18 and again on September 22, 1944.

Once, upon receiving a battalion commander’s order to immediately return to the rear, Shanina replied “I will return after the battle”. The words later became a title of the book From The Battle Returned by Nikolai Zhuravlyov. On December 12, 1944 Roza was shot in the shoulder, and on December 27, 1944 was awarded the Medal for Valor among the first woman snipers

Shanina died in a battle near Rikhau. Her battle diary and several letters have been published. Streets in Arkhangelsk and in the settlements of Shangaly and Stroyevskoye were named after her.

Katya Budanova

1916 – July 19, 1943 (age: 27)

Yekaterina Vasylievna Budanova was a female fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. With 11 victories, she was one of the world’s first two female fighter aces along with Lydia Litvyak.

She was born into a peasant family in Konoplanka village in Smolensk Oblast. Working in an aircraft factory in Moscow, she became interested in aviation and entered an aeroclub where she received her pilot training. She served as a flight instructor starting in 1937. She also took part in several air parades, flying the single-seater Yakovlev UT-1.

After the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, she enlisted in military aviation. She was assigned to the 586th Fighter Regiment. This unit consisted entirely of female pilots. She flew her first combat missions in April 1942 over Saratov. In September, she was assigned, along with other women (among them, Lydia Litvyak), to the 437th IAP, engaged in the fighting over Stalingrad. She soon became known for her aggressive attacking and high piloting skill.

She flew Yak-1 fighters. On October 6, she attacked 13 Junkers Ju 88 bombers by herself, shooting down her first aircraft. In November, she downed two Bf 109 fighters and a Ju 88. In the following months, she was credited with several more aircraft. In January 1943, she, along with her friend Litvyak, was moved to the 73rd Guards Fighter Regiment of the 8th Air Army. She soon was given the right of “solo hunting”. On February 23, she was awarded with an Order of the Red Star.

On July 19, 1943, during a solo combat with three Bf 109, she shot down one, but was shot down herself and killed near the town of Antracit in Luhansk Oblast.

There are different data as for Katya Budanova’s victory score in different publications, with no official tally. The most common quote is 11 kills (6 individual and 5 team kills). She was awarded the Order of the Red Star and the Order of the Patriotic War (twice). Although it was proposed, she was not awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union during the war. On October 1, 1993, she was posthumously awarded with the title Hero of the Russian Federation.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko

July 12, 1916 – October 10, 1974 (age: 58)

Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper during World War II, credited with 309 kills, and is regarded as the most successful female sniper in history.

In June 1941, 24-year old Pavlichenko was in her fourth year of studying history at the Kiev University when Nazi Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union. Pavlichenko was among the first round of volunteers at the recruiting office, where she requested to join the infantry and subsequently she was assigned to the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division; Pavlichenko had the option to become a nurse but refused “I joined the army when woman were not yet accepted”.

There she became one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army, of whom about 500 ultimately survived the war. As a sniper, she made her first two kills near Belyayevka, using a Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifle with a P.E. 4-power scope.

Pvt. Pavlichenko fought for about two and a half months near Odessa, where she recorded 187 kills. When the Germans gained control of Odessa, her unit was pulled to be sent to Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, where she fought for more than 8 months. In May 1942, Lieutenant Pavlichenko was cited by the Southern Army Council for killing 257 German soldiers. Her total confirmed kills during World War II was 309, including 36 enemy snipers.

She recorded 309 confirmed kills, including 187 in her first 75 days on the job during the fierce fighting at Odessa, before the Soviets were forced to withdraw. Among her total confirmed kills, she knocked off 100 officers and 36 German snipers, including supposedly one who himself was one of the more decorated snipers in history, recording over 500 confirmed kills according to a log found on his person. (No info on the name of that German sniper though and only a few reputable sources that cite him, so take that latter fact with a grain of salt.)

It should also be noted that Pavlichenko’s actual total number of kills was probably significantly more than 309 because in order for a kill to count towards her total, an independent party had to witness it. Her real total is thought to be closer to around 500.

Sniping being an extremely hazardous job, often with the sniper positioned in no-man’s land between the lines of friendly troops and the enemy (Pavlichenko often camped around 600-1000 ft. in front of her unit), Pavlichenko didn’t always come away unscathed. In June of 1942 during the siege of Sevastopol, she was seriously injured for the fourth time, this time by a mortar shell that had exploded near where she was hiding. Because at this point she’d become something of a celebrity and a public symbol, officials within the Red Army were unwilling to risk her being killed, so they put her on a submarine and got her out of Sevastopol and assigned her a new job as a sniping instructor and a public spokesman, with the rank of Major.

Pavlichenko was sent to Canada and the United States for a publicity visit and became the first Soviet citizen to be received by a U.S. President when Franklin Roosevelt welcomed her at the White House. Later, Pavlichenko was invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to tour America relating her experiences. The United States gave her a Colt automatic pistol, and in Canada, she was presented with a sighted Winchester rifle, the latter of which is now on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.
Having attained the rank of Major, Pavlichenko never returned to combat but became an instructor and trained Soviet snipers until the war’s end. In 1943, she was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, and was commemorated on a Soviet postage stamp.

American folk musician Woody Guthrie recorded a song in 1946 entitled “Miss Pavlichenko” as a tribute to her kill record, believed to have been written in late 1942. It was released as part of the Asch Recordings.

Pavlichenko died on October 10, 1974 at age 58, and was buried in the Novodevichye Cemetery in Moscow.

13 August 2013

Soviet Arms Production swinging into action

20mm Soviet Arms Race for Kursk

I have literally been beavering away at Soviet Forces with our Kursk Battle coming up in the next few weeks. I realised that I was seriously short of Soviet artillery and tanks, and have been feverishly building a Tankovy and Artillery Batallion over the last weeks.

Latest Arrivals from the factories:

Zis 3 Guns x 4 (PSC, built last night)
(Luckily my gun barrels were not as bent as those in the picture. Must be the heat on the Russian Steppe)

Armourfast T34/85s x 2 (Built last night)

Zvezda 122mm Artillery guns x 4 - To be built in short order

Zvezda 45mm Antitank guns x 4  - to be built in short order too

Zvezda 37mm AA Guns x 2 To be built in even shorter order

On my Workbench (All in the final finishing stages):

German IgG 33s x 2
SU 85s x 2
T34/75s x 2
T34/85 x 1
KV1s x 1

The Siberian (sigh) winter riflemen have been cleaned of excess flash and poor quality casting as far as possible, based and mounted, but now need painting (Ooops, out of black spray basecoat...)

The Strelkovy are all done, as are the heavy and light MGs and Mortars, all ensconced behind timber dug-outs

Waiting in the wings:
To be built:
Esci German 20mm Vierling Quad (part built) AA and Pak 40, Pak 38 (unbuilt)
Armourfast LeFH18 x 2
German Pionier Bridge layer halftrack
Tigers and Panthers (As if I don't have enough already)

9 August 2013

Kursk Order of Battle: Protagonists Part 2: The Russians

Kursk Protagonists Part 2: Soviet Forces 

Western Front 
(Vasily Sokolovsky)

50th Army (Ivan Boldin)
11th Guards Army (Ivan Bagramyan)
1st Air Army (Mikhail Gromov)

Bryansk Front 
(Markian Popov)

3rd Army (Alexander Gorbatov)
61st Army (Pavel Belov)
63rd Army (Vladimir Kolpakchi)
15th Air Army (Nikolai Naumenko)

Central Front 
(Konstantin Rokossovsky)

13th Army (Nikolay Pukhov)
48th Army (Prokofy Romanenko)
60th Army (Ivan Chernyakhovsky)
65th Army (Pavel Batov)
70th Army (Ivan Galanin)
2nd Tank Army (Alexei Rodin)
16th Air Army (Sergei Rudenko)

Voronezh Front 
(Nikolai Vatutin)

6th Guards Army (Ivan Chistiakov)
7th Guards Army (Mikhail Shumilov)
38th Army (Nikandr Chibisov)
40th Army (Kirill Moskalenko)
69th Army (Vasily Kriuchenkin)
1st Tank Army (Mikhail Katukov)
2nd Air Army (Stepan Kravsovsky)

Steppe Front 
(Ivan Konev)

5th Guards Army (Alexei Zhadov)
5th Guards Tank Army (Pavel Rotmistrov)
5th Air Army (Sergei Goriunov)

 Composition of forces: 

1. Western Front 
(Vasily Sokolovsky)

50th Army (Ivan Boldin)

 38th Rifle Corps (Alexei Tereshkov)

17th Rifle Division
326th Rifle Division
413th Rifle Division
49th Rifle Division
64th Rifle Division
212th Rifle Division
324th Rifle Division

11th Guards Army 

(Ivan Bagramyan)

8th Guards Rifle Corps
11th Guards Rifle Division
26th Guards Rifle Division
83rd Guards Rifle Division
16th Guards Rifle Corps
1st Guards Rifle Division
16th Guards Rifle Division
31st Guards Rifle Division
169th Rifle Division
36th Guards Rifle Corps
5th Guards Rifle Division
18th Guards Rifle Division
84th Guards Rifle Division
108th Rifle Division
217th Rifle Division

1st Air Army (Mikhail Gromov)

2nd Assault Air Corps
2nd Fighter Air Corps
8th Fighter Air Corps

1st Independent Tank Corps (Vasily Butkov)
5th Independent Tank Corps (Mikhail Sakhno)

2. Bryansk Front (Markian Popov)

3rd Army (Alexander Gorbatov)


41st Rifle Corps (Viktor Urbanovich)
235th Rifle Division
308th Rifle Division
380th Rifle Division
269th Rifle Division
283rd Rifle Division
342nd Rifle Division

61st Army (Pavel Belov)

Portrait of Colonel-General Pavel Alekseevich Belov

9th Guards Rifle Corps (Arkady Boreiko)

12th Guards Rifle Division
76th Guards Rifle Division
77th Guards Rifle Division
97th Rifle Division
110th Rifle Division
336th Rifle Division
356th Rifle Division
415th Rifle Division

63rd Army (Vladimir Kolpakchi)

5th Rifle Division
41st Rifle Division
129th Rifle Division
250th Rifle Division
287th Rifle Division
348th Rifle Division
397th Rifle Division

15th Air Army (Nikolai Naumenko)

1st Guards Fighter Air Corps
3rd Assault Air Corps

 25th Rifle Corps
186th Rifle Division
283rd Rifle Division
362nd Rifle Division

1st Independent Guards Tank Corps

3. Central Front (Konstantin Rokossovsky)

17th Guards Rifle Corps (Andrei Bondarev)
6th Guards Rifle Division
70th Guards Rifle Division
75th Guards Rifle Division

18th Guards Rifle Corps (Ivan Afonin)
2nd Guards Airborne Division
3rd Guards Airborne Division
4th Guards Airborne Division

15th Rifle Corps (Ivan Liudnikov)
8th Rifle Division
74th Rifle Division
148th Rifle Division

29th Rifle Corps (Afanasy Slyshkin)
15th Rifle Division
81st Rifle Division
307th Rifle Division

48th Army (Prokofy Romanenko)

42nd Rifle Corps (Konstantin Kolganov)
16th Rifle Division
202nd Rifle Division
399th Rifle Division
73rd Rifle Division
137th Rifle Division
143rd Rifle Division
170th Rifle Division

60th Army (Ivan Chernyakhovsky)
24th Rifle Corps
42nd Rifle Division
112th Rifle Division
30th Rifle Corps
121st Rifle Division
141st Rifle Division
322nd Rifle Division

Independent 55th Rifle Division

65th Army (Pavel Batov)
18th Rifle Corps
69th Rifle Division
149th Rifle Division
246th Rifle Division
27th Rifle Corps
60th Rifle Division
193rd Rifle Division
37th Guards Rifle Division
181st Rifle Division
194th Rifle Division
354th Rifle Division

70th Army (Ivan Galanin)
28th Rifle Corps (Aleksandr Nechaev)
132nd Rifle Division
211th Rifle Division
280th Rifle Division
102nd Rifle Division
106th Rifle Division
140th Rifle Division
162nd Rifle Division
354th Rifle Division

2nd Tank Army (Alexei Rodin)
3rd Tank Corps
16th Tank Corps

16th Air Army (Sergei Rudenko)
3rd Bombing Air Corps
6th Mixed Air Corps
6th Fighter Air Corps

Independent 9th Tank Corps

Independent 19th Tank Corps

4. Voronezh Front (Nikolai Vatutin)

6th Guards Army (Ivan Chistiakov)
22nd Guards Rifle Corps
67th Guards Rifle Division
71st Guards Rifle Division
90th Guards Rifle Division
23rd Guards Rifle Corps
51st Guards Rifle Division
52nd Guards Rifle Division
375th Rifle Division
Independent 89th Guards Rifle Division

7th Guards Army (Mikhail Shumilov)
24th Guards Rifle Corps (Nikolai Vasilev)
15th Guards Rifle Division
36th Guards Rifle Division
72nd Guards Rifle Division

25th Guards Rifle Corps (Gany Safiulin)
73rd Guards Rifle Division
78th Guards Rifle Division
81st Guards Rifle Division
Independent 213th Rifle Division

38th Army (Nikandr Chibisov)
50th Rifle Corps
167th Rifle Division
232nd Rifle Division
340th Rifle Division
51st Rifle Corps (Petr Avdeenko)
180th Rifle Division
240th Rifle Division
Independent 204th Rifle Division

40th Army (Kirill Moskalenko)
47th Rifle Corps
161st Rifle Division
206th Rifle Division
237th Rifle Division

52nd Rifle Corps (Frants Perkhorovich)
100th Rifle Division
219th Rifle Division
309th Rifle Division
Independent 184th Rifle Division

69th Army (Vasily Kriuchenkin)
48th Rifle Corps (Zinovy Rogozny)
107th Rifle Division
183rd Rifle Division
307th Rifle Division
49th Rifle Corps
111th Rifle Division
270th Rifle Division

1st Tank Army (Mikhail Katukov)
6th Tank Corps (Andrey Getman)
31st Tank Corps
3rd Mechanized Corps

2nd Air Army (Stepan Kravsovsky)
1st Bombing Air Corps
1st Assault Air Corps
4th Fighter Air Corps
5th Fighter Air Corps

35th Guards Rifle Corps
92nd Guards Rifle Division
93rd Guards Rifle Division
94th Guards Rifle Division

Independent 2nd Guards Tank Corps
Independent 3rd Guards Tank Corps

Steppe Front (Ivan Konev)
This order of battle does not show the complete composition of the Steppe Front.
 In addition to the units listed below, there are also 
the 4th Guards, 27th, 47th and 53rd Armies.

5th Guards Army (Alexei Zhadov)
32nd Guards Rifle Corps (Aleksandr Rodimtsev)
13th Guards Rifle Division
66th Guards Rifle Division
6th Airborne Guards Rifle Division
33rd Guards Rifle Corps (Iosif Popov)
95th Guards Rifle Division
97th Guards Rifle Division
9th Airborne Guards Rifle Division
Independent 42nd Guards Rifle Division
Independent 10th Tank Corps

5th Guards Tank Army (Pavel Rotmistrov)

5th Guards Mechanized Corps
29th Tank Corps

5th Air Army (Sergei Goriunov)
7th Mixed Air Corps
8th Mixed Air Corps
3rd Fighter Air Corps

7th Fighter Air Corps

1 August 2013

Pigs Heads and Tank Killers: Saukopfs and StuG IIIs

Of Saukopfs and  StuG IIIs

StuG III F /8 Survivor Belgrade

On the StuG and the pig's head or pig's snout mantlet:

The Stug III began its life as an infantry support vehicle . It went through quite a few changes during its production run .It began its career in the Battle of France and was used right up to the last days of the war. 

 Prototype manufacture was done by Alkett, which produced five prototypes in 1937 on Panzer III Ausf. B chassis. These prototypes featured a mild steel superstructure and Krupp’s short-barreled 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon. Production vehicles with this gun were known as StuG III Ausführung (version) A to E.

The StuGs were organized into battalions (later renamed "brigades" for disinformation purposes) and followed their own specific doctrine. Infantry support using direct-fire was its intended role. Later there was also a strong emphasis on destroying enemy armour whenever encountered.
As the StuG III was designed to fill an infantry close support combat role, early models were fitted with a low-velocity 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 gun(Kurz)  to destroy soft-skin targets and fortifications. After the Germans encountered the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 tanks, the StuG III was first equipped with a high-velocity 75 mm StuK 40 L/43 main gun (Spring 1942) and in Autumn 1942 with the slightly longer 75 mm StuK 40 L/48 gun.(Lang)  These versions were known as the Sturmgeschütz 40 Ausführung F, Ausf. F/8 and Ausf. G.

When the StuG IV entered production in late 1943 and early 1944, the "III" was added to the name to separate it from the Panzer IV-based assault guns. All previous and following models were thereafter known as Sturmgeschütz III.
The Stug G began production in December of 1942 and was used more and more as an anti tank weapon .
The cast mantlet was introduced in production in November 1943 in StuG III Ausf. G production, but StuG IIIs with the bolted "box" mantlet continued in production until the end of the war as production of the cast mantlet was insufficient to cover all of StuG production.  StuG IV production started in December 1943. 
It was used on the StuG III Ausf. G, StuG IV and StuH. from November 1943 to the end of the war. 
The saukopf mantlet began to appear in November of 1943,but never completely replaced the welded mantlet which was seen till the end of the conflict just because of the production requirements. The official  name for this new mantlet was Topfblende,but was commonly know as the saukopf by the crews, as it resembled a pig's head or snout.

So the answer to the question: "Which model of the Stug used the Saukopf mantllet?
The cast gun mantlet was used on 
  • all StuG IV (12.43-04.45) 
  • StuG III Ausf G (Alkett) from 10.43-04.45 (=end) 
  • StuH III Ausf G (Alkett) from 10.43-09.44 

but never on StuG III from Miag. So that is the reason the bolted mantlet was used up to the end of the war 

While the StuG III was considered self-propelled artillery it was not initially clear which arm of the Wehrmacht would handle the new weapon. The Panzer arm, the natural user of tracked fighting vehicles, had no resources to spare for the formation of StuG units, and neither did the infantry branch. It was agreed, after a discussion, it would best be employed as part of the artillery arm.

Beginning with the StuG III Ausf. G, a 7.92 mm MG34 could be mounted on a shield on top of the superstructure for added anti-infantry protection from December 1942. Some of the F/8 models were retrofitted with a shield as well. Many of the later StuG III Ausf. G models were equipped with an additional coaxial 7.92 mm MG34.

The vehicles of the Sturmgeschütz series were cheaper and faster to build than contemporary German tanks; at 82,500 RM, a StuG III Ausf G was cheaper than a Panzer III Ausf. M, which cost 103,163 RM. This was due to the omission of the turret, which greatly simplified manufacture and allowed the chassis to carry a larger gun than it could otherwise. By the end of the war, ~11,300 StuG IIIs and StuH 42s had been built

Overall, Sturmgeschütz series assault guns proved very successful and served on all fronts as assault guns and tank destroyers. Although Tigers and Panthers have earned a greater notoriety, assault guns collectively destroyed more tanks. Because of their low silhouette, StuG IIIs were easy to camouflage and a difficult target. Sturmgeschütz crews were considered to be the elite of the artillery units. Sturmgeschütz units claimed to have knocked out 20,000 tanks by 1944. As of April 10, 1945, there were 1,053 StuG IIIs and 277 StuH 42s in service.

The StuG assault guns were cost-effective compared to the heavier German tanks, though in the anti-tank role they were best used defensively, as the lack of a traversable turret was a severe disadvantage in the assault role. As the German military situation deteriorated later in the war, more StuG guns were built compared to tanks, to replace losses and bolster defenses against the encroaching Allied forces.


Production numbers from Panzer Tracts 23

StuG III prototypes (1937, 5 produced on Panzer III Ausf. B chassis): By December 1937 two vehicles were in service with Panzer Regiment 1 in Erfurt. Vehicles had eight road wheels per side with 360-millimetre (14 in) wide tracks, 14.5 mm thick soft steel superstructure and the 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24 gun. Although not suitable for combat, they were used for training purposes as late as 1941.

StuG III Ausf. A (Sd.Kfz. 142; January 1940-May 1940, 30+6 produced by Daimler-Benz): First used in the Battle of France, the StuG III Ausf. A used a modified 5./ZW chassis (Panzer III Ausf. F) with front armor strengthened to 50 mm. The last six vehicles were built on chassis diverted from Panzer III Ausf. G production.

StuG III Ausf. B: (Sd.Kfz 142; June 1940-May 1941, 300 produced by Alkett) Widened tracks (380 mm). Two Rubber tires on each roadwheel were accordingly widened from 520x79mm to 520x95mm each. Both types of roadwheels were interchangeable. The troublesome 10-speed transmission was changed to a 6-speed one. The forwardmost return rollers were re-positioned further forward, reducing the vertical movements of the tracks before they were fed to the forward drive sprocket, and so reduced the chance of tracks being thrown. In the middle of production of the Ausf. B model, the original drive sprocket with eight round holes was changed to a new cast drive sprocket with six pie slice-shaped slots. This new drive wheel could take either 380 mm tracks or 400 mm wide tracks. 380mm tracks were not exclusive to new drive wheels. Vehicle number 90111 shows older drive wheel with wider 380mm tracks.

StuG III Ausf. C: (Sd.Kfz 142; April 1941, 50 produced) Gunner's forward view port above driver's visor was a shot trap and thus eliminated; instead, superstructure top was given an opening for gunner's periscope. Idler wheel was redesigned.

StuG III Ausf. D: (Sd.Kfz 142; May–September 1941, 150 produced) Simply a contract extension on Ausf. C. On-board intercom installed, otherwise identical to Ausf. C.

StuG III Ausf. E: (Sd.Kfz 142; September 1941-February 1942, 284 produced) Superstructure sides added extended rectangular armored boxes for radio equipment. Increased space allowed room for six additional rounds of ammunition for the main gun (giving a maximum of 50) plus a machine gun. One MG 34 and 7 drum-type magazines were carried in the right rear side of the fighting compartment to protect the vehicle from enemy infantry. Vehicle commanders were officially provided with SF14Z stereoscopic scissor periscopes. Stereoscopic scissor type periscopes for artillery spotters may have been used by vehicle commanders from the start.

StuG III Ausf. F: (Sd.Kfz 142/1; March–September 1942, 366 produced) The first real up-gunning of the StuG, this version uses the longer 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43 gun. Firing armor-piercing Panzergranat-Patrone 39, StuK 40 L/43 could penetrate 91 mm of armor inclined 30 degrees from vertical at 500 m, 82 mm at 1,000 m, 72 mm at 1,500 m, 63 mm at 2,000 m, allowing Ausf. F to engage most Soviet armored vehicles at normal combat ranges. This change marked the StuG as being more of a tank destroyer than an infantry support vehicle. Exhaust fan was added to the rooftop to excavate fumes from spent shells, to enable firing of continuous shots. Additional 30 mm armor plates were welded to the 50 mm frontal armor from June 1942, making frontal armors 80 mm thick. From June 1942, Ausf. F were mounted with approximately 13 inch (334 mm to be exact) longer 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun. Firing above mentioned ammunition, longer L/48 could penetrate 96 mm, 85 mm, 74 mm, 64 mm respectively (30 degrees from vertical).

StuG III Ausf. F/8: (Sd.Kfz 142/1; September–December 1942, 250 produced) Introduction of an improved hull design similar to that used for the Panzer III Ausf. J / L with increased rear armor. This was 8th version of Panzer III hulls, thus the designation "F/8." This hull has towing hook holes extending from side walls. From October 1942, 30 mm thick plates of additional armor were bolted on to speed up the production line. From F/8, the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun was standard until the very last of the Ausf. G. Due to lack of double baffle muzzle brakes, few L/48 guns mounted on F/8 were fitted with single baffle ball type muzzle brake found in Panzer IV Ausf. F2/G.

StuG III Ausf. G (Sd.Kfz. 142/1; December 1942– April 1945, ~8423 produced, 142 built on Panzer III Ausf. M chassis, 173 converted from Panzer III): The final and by far the most common of the StuG series. Upper superstructure was widened: welded boxes on either sides were abandoned. This new superstructure design increased its height to 2160mm. Backside wall of the fighting compartment got straightened, and ventilation fan on top of the superstructure was relocated to the back of fighting compartment. From March 1943, driver's periscope was abandoned. In February 1943 Alkett was joined by MIAG as second manufacturer. From May 1943, side hull skirts (schurzen) were fitted to G models for added armor protection, particularly against Russian anti-tank rifles,it is also useful against hollow-charge ammunition. Side skirts were retro-fitted to some Ausf. F/8 models, as they were be fitted to all front line StuGs and other tanks by June 1943 in preparation for the battle of Kursk. Mountings for side skirts proved inadequate, many were lost in the field. From March 1944, improved mounting was introduced, as a result side skirts are seen more often with late model Ausf G. From May 1943, 80mm thick plates were used for frontal armor instead of two plates of 50mm+30mm. However, backlog of completed 50mm armors exited. For those, 30mm additional armors still had to be welded or bolted on, until October 1943.

A rotating cupola with periscopes was added for the commander for Ausf G. However, from September 1943, lack of ball bearings (resulting from USAAF bombing of Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission) forced cupolas to be welded on. Ball bearings were once again installed from August 1944. Shot deflectors for cupolas were first installed from October 1943 from one factory, to be installed on all StuGs from February 1944. Some vehicles without shot deflectors carried several track pieces wired around the cupola for added protection.
From December 1942, a square machine gun shield for the loader was installed, allowing an MG 34 to be factory installed on a StuG for the first time. F/8 models had machine gun shields retro-fitted from early 1943. The loader's machine gun shield was later replaced by rotating machine gun mount that could be operated by the loader inside the vehicle sighting through a periscope. On April 1944, 27 of them were being field tested on the Eastern front. Favorable report lead to installation of these "remote" machine gun mounts from the summer of 1944.

Later G versions from November 1943, were fitted with the Topfblende pot mantlet (often called Saukopf "Pig's head") gun mantlet without coaxial mount. This cast mantlet with organic shape was more effective at deflecting shots than the original boxy mantlet armor of varying thickness between 45mm and 50mm. Lack of large castings meant that the trapezoid-shape mantlet was also produced until the very end. Coaxial machine gun was added first to boxy mantlets from June 1944, and then to cast Topfblende from October 1944, in the middle of "Topfblende" mantlet production. With an addition of coaxial, all StuGs carried two MG 34 machine guns from fall of 1944. Some previously completed StuGs with boxy mantlet had a coaxial machine gun hole drilled to retrofit a coaxial machine gun, while Topfblende produced from Nov. 1943 - Oct. 1944 without machine gun opening could not be tampered. Also from Nov.1943, all metal return rollers of a few different types were used due to lack of rubber supply. Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating to protect vehicles from magnetic mines were used from September 1943-September 1944 only.

Flammpanzer conversion:

At the beginning of December 1942 an experimental production of a flame-thrower version of the StuG III was begun. Ten test vehicles were constructed in all.

Instead of a main gun an ejection tube with an inside diameter of 14 mm was installed This allowed a flammable mixture to be blown down the barrel by a  pump connected to a two-stroke DKW engine.
The device was able to spew flammable material over a distance of 55 meters.

All the prototypes were sent to the Panzertruppenschule I for testing in June 1943. The Flame-StuG never made it into production and the ten experimental machines were eventually converted back to standard assault guns between January and April 1944. No Flammenwerfer Stug was ever operationally deployed.