A Single Four-Company Panzer Battalion in LSSAH?

The LSSAH Tank Regiment on 1 October 1943 (courtesy of Niklas Zetterling)

I am still trying to imagine the composition for a single four medium panzer company and one heavy company panzer battalion in LSSAH on 4 July 1943. The division had 173 tanks, more than the other two SS divisions in the corps. These other two divisions both had two panzer battalions, one created from an antitank battalion. Das Reich had its 166 tanks deployed in 7 medium and light companies and one heavy tank company; while Totenkopf had it 165 tanks in 6 medium and light companies and one heavy tank company. LSSAH may have only had four medium panzer companies (the heavy panzer companies with 12 Tigers and 5 Panzer IIIs are ignored for this discussion).

A German panzer company’s maximum authorized strength was 22 tanks. Rarely do you see overstrength panzer companies. Rarely did you actually see a panzer company at full strength. For example, the Das Reich SS Division with its 7 medium and light panzer companies would have averaged around 14 tanks per company at the start of the offensive. The Totenkopf SS Division with it 6 medium and light panzer companies would have averaged around 17 tanks per company at the start of the offensive. For the four panzer company construct to work the LSSAH, they pretty much have to be at authorized strength. So 4 tank companies = 88 tanks.

The LSSAH had on 4 July: 79 Pz IVs, 9 Pz III Command, 9 Pz III long, 2 Pz III short, 4 Pz IIs and 3 Pz Is.

So 66 Pz IVs in companies 5, 6 and 7 (22 each) and 13 Pz IVs, 3 Pz III Command, 4 Pz III longs and 2 Pz III short in company 8 (22 tanks). This leaves 3 Pz III Command for the battalion command and for the regiment headquarters 3 Pz III Command, 4 Pz IIs and 3 Pz I (and the other 5 Pz III longs are with the Tiger company).

It works. Not sure this is what was done. The problem is that come the evening of 11 July we have LSSAH with 47 Pz IVs, 7 Pz III Command, 4 Pz III long, 1 Pz III short, 4 Pz II and 2 Pz I. Ribbentrop says his 6th company had 7 Pz IVs. So:

Company 5: 18 Pz IVs (guess)

Company 6: 7 Pz IVs

Company 7: 18 Pz IVs (guess)

Company 8: 4 Pz IVs, 1 Pz III Command, 1 Pz III short (guess…with Pz IV losses being proportional to the Pz III losses)

Bn HQ: 3 Pz III Command

Rgt HQ: 3 Pz III Command, 4 Pz II and 2 Pz I

Tiger Company: 4 Pz IIIs (guess) and 4 Pz VIs

I have two issues with this:

  1. Why would you put the weakened 6th company forward (7 tanks) and hold the healthy 5th and 7th companies in the rear?
  2. The division’s Pz IV strength had declined around 40% from 79 to 47.
    1. This means that 6th company lost 70% of its tanks while company 5 and 7 lost 20% or less. This seems odd.
    2. It also appears to put the 8th company with very high losses also (as they lost 4 of their 6 Pz IIIs and I assume a proportional number of Pz IVs).

It is also possible that they had removed all the tanks from the 8th panzer company and put them in the 5th and 7th. I believe this is Ben Wheatley’s claim. This would leave these two companies with 21 tanks and the 6th panzer company with 7.

On the other hand, if the 6th panzer companies losses were in equal proportion to the division’s losses, then a company of 7 tanks started with 12 tanks (79/47 = 1.68 x 7 = 12). If LSSAH had two battalions of 3 panzer companies each with 12-13 tanks then this equal 72-78 tanks. The 9 command tanks are split equally between two battalions and the regiment HQ. This is an organizational arrangement more in line with other two SS divisions.

So, we are back to the construct that either LSSAH had one battalion of four medium panzer companies or two panzer battalions of around six medium panzer companies. But regardless, it does not appear that the LSSAH had just one battalion of three medium panzer companies. It is debatable that there were only three medium panzer companies at Prokhorovka on 12 July 1943.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Christopher,

    There is no doubt that since 1st May 1943 LSSAH was officially ordered to be organised in a different way to Das Reich & Totenkopf (earlier as well but 1st May was the date it took its Citadel form) i.e. LSSAH had 4 medium companies in its II Pz battalion at the front – I Pz battalion was in Germany finishing its conversion to the Panther (it was almost ready for deployment to the front). To recap:

    The structure of the LSSAH & the II SS Panzer Korps panzer forces. See p.52 of Jentz, Thomas Panzer Truppen Vol.2:

    ‘On 1 May 1943, the panzer-regiments of LSSAH, Das Reich & Totenkopf were ordered to reorganize. Personnel from one Abteilung from both SS-Panzer-Regiment 1 & 2 were to be sent back to Germany to create two Panther-Abteilungen. The remaining elements of the Panzer-Regiments were to be reorganized and filled with 75 newly issued PzIV, so that: Totenkopf would have a Panzer-Regiment with two Abteilungen each with two mittlere and one leichte panzer-Kompanien, LSSAH would have a reinforced Panzer-Abteilung with four mittlere Panzer-Kompanien, and Das Reich would have one Panzer-Abteilung with two mittlere and two leichte Panzer-Kompanien and one Abteilung with two T34-Kompanien and one leichte Panzer-Kompanie’.

    It is also interesting to note that on 14 June 1943, the OKH GenStdH/Org.Ab. ordered the reorganization of the Panzer-Regiments and Panzer-Abteilungen of the Ostheers as follows: ‘It is expected that it will be possible to fill every Panzer-Abteilung in all Panzer-Divisions in the Ost-Heers with 96 Panzers (mostly PzIV, several PzIII lang) by December 1943. In addition, it is intended that a Panther-Abteilung be created in Germany for the majority of the Panzer-Divisions. Therefore, it is necessary to reorganize the Panzer-Abteilung in the Ost-Heeres’.

    So for the LSSAH: 96 tanks in 4 companies (its authorised battalion strength) 83 Pz IV (all long barrelled) & 13 Pz III. Plus the 13 Tigers in its separate company. 4 Pz II, 9 Command tanks (obviously some distributed amongst the companies) for Reg HQ. I presume you are counting the StuGs, Marders & Tigers in your 173 tanks figure – which of course would not have any bearing on the single main Pz Battalion strength of ‘just’ 96 tanks.

    Further, as a result (given the correct fit with the LSSAH authorised battalion strength of 96 tanks) I am unsure that the Tiger company still had a light company during Citadel (they like all other Tiger formations by this date were no longer authorised to do so), I know Töppel firmly believes that they did and states there is photographic evidence of this (which I have yet not seen – any information you have on this would be great). I may have just missed the evidence for this but would be keen to find out the truth. Also apparently some former members of the LSSAH were unaware of the existence of a light company for the Tigers during Citadel? So I remain sceptical.

    There was one other equivalent division to the LSSAH (4th Pz Division) in terms of having a sole Pz battalion (at the front) with four medium companies on the Eastern Front that perhaps helps us understand that the 96 format was in use as early as July 1943. Like the LSSAH the 4th Pz Div were already subscribing to the new 96 strong pz battalion organisation. It was structured on 3rd July 1943 thus:

    I./35. Panzer Battalion tank strength:
    Bn. Hqs: 2 Bef-Pz-III+6 Pz-IV(lg)+1 Pz-IV(kz)
    1. Co.: 17 Pz-IV(lg)+5 Pz-III(75)
    2. Co.: 17 Pz-IV(lg)+5 Pz-III(75)
    3. Co.: 17 Pz-IV(lg)+5 Pz-III(75)
    4. Co.: 22 Pz-IV(lg)

    The point being the 4th Pz Division had a battalion structure of 4 medium companies which were authorised (and did) possess 96 tanks. There is little reason to think the LSSAH did not do the same given it had a very similar number of tanks on hand and was authorised to do so (unlike the other two classic SS Divisions which were not yet authorised to be formed in this way).
    The other possibility is that the LSSAH was only utilising 17 Pz per company (i.e. only 17 Pz IV longs in each company). Due to anticipated productions issues units were authorised to be issued this lower number per company. Obviously this would mean that there was enough Pz IIIs for a Light company. However, I am swayed against this view for the following reasons; The fact that the 4th Pz Division had 96 strong structure at this time, the fact that Light Company’s for Tigers units were obsolete (and it was not authorised to possess one), and that in the LSSAH order to reorganise mentioned its Pz battalion at the front (of course its I Pz battalion was in Germany converting to the Panther) was to have a reinforced battalion (not mentioned in reference to Das Reich or Totenkopf who were to keep a rather outdated organisation).

    I know I am rather thinking allowed here but I thought I would share my thoughts.
    Incidentally, ‘Hitler and his Generals, Military Conferences 1942-1945’. Makes interesting reading on the subject as Hitler asks for the armoured strength for the LSSAH – there is mention of the 75 PzIV shipment to the II SS Panzer Korps. The conferences in May and July are the ones of interest, as the SS armoured build to Citadel is mentioned. Then there are quite of lot of discussions regarding the LSSAH withdrawal from the front in late July (who should get its tanks). There is a detailed discussion regarding the readiness of Panther detachments. LSSAH would have been ready prior to Das Reich (Das Reich’s entered combat on 22nd August) – highlighting the folly of not sending the LSSAH unit to the East.

    This folly is far more pronounced with 1st (Heer) Panzer Division which having been fully trained on Panthers was not sent to the East – as it was off to the Balkans it only got Pz IVs. The I./1. Panzer-Regiment had not been assigned to the 1. Panzer-Division since 5.03.1043 (nearly two month before the two SS units). It was at Grafenwöhr Training Grounds in Germany converting to Pz V Panzer tanks. On 11.07.1943 it was ordered to reconvert to medium Pz IV tanks.

    • “There is no doubt that since 1st May 1943 LSSAH was officially ordered to be organised in a different way to Das Reich & Totenkopf (earlier as well but 1st May was the date it took its Citadel form) i.e. LSSAH had 4 medium companies in its II Pz battalion at the front – I Pz battalion was in Germany finishing its conversion to the Panther (it was almost ready for deployment to the front). ”

      Well, this is the first clear indication I have that definitely had the 8th medium company as of 1 May. Is there a clear primary source for that date?

      The reference I have to the 8th company (commanded by Ost. Armberger) is from Rudolf Lehmann’s LSSAH division history (via Zetterling and Frankson). It may have been created in May or June.

      “I am unsure that the Tiger company still had a light company during Citadel (they like all other Tiger formations by this date were no longer authorised to do so), I know Töppel firmly believes that they did and states there is photographic evidence of this (which I have yet not seen – any information you have on this would be great).”

      I have no information on this. The only way the one battalion of 4 companies construct works is if five Pz III are with the Tiger company. If this is not the case, then there had to be more than 4 medium panzer companies. To drive home the point, tank strength on 4 July is: 79 Pz IVs, 9 Pz III Command, 9 Pz III long, 2 (or 3) Pz III short, 4 Pz IIs and 3 Pz Is. Four companies is 88 tanks, leaving 5 Pz IIIs unaccounted for. So either the Tiger company had 5 Pz IIIs or the one battalion of 4 companies construct does not work.

      “I may have just missed the evidence for this but would be keen to find out the truth. Also apparently some former members of the LSSAH were unaware of the existence of a light company for the Tigers during Citadel? So I remain sceptical.”

      There are lots of reason for skepticism. Ribbentrop states that he had a company that started at 22 tanks, was at 7 tanks on 12 July, and his battalion had three companies.
      1. The only way all three points are true is if there was an ersatz I Battalion.
      2. If the battalion had an 8th company, then this only works if the Tiger company did have 5 Pz IIIs.
      3. Otherwise you have to consider an ersatz I Battalion.

      By the way, in case this point got missed, there is a single reference in two places to an I Panzer Battalion on 8 July in the records. Specifically (to quote from an email exchange I had on this subject in 2018 with Niklas Zetterling):

      “Page 622 of my book does reference a I Battalion of the Adolf Hitler SS Panzer Regiment attacking at 0500 from Pokrovka towards Bolshiye Mayachki. I went back through my files and found the original report I got this from: the “Tagesmeldung” for LSSAH for 8/7/43 17.45. It states “Am 8.7.43, 05..00 Uhr, trat verstarktes I.Pz.Rgt.1 aus Prokrowka zum Angriff auf Bol. Majatschki…” (T354, R605, page 577). This was not a simple typo, for the same report is repeated in a “Presentation of Events” that states for 8 July: “05.00 Uhr. Angriff I.Pz:Rgt. “L-SS-AH” gegen Bol. Majatschki.” (T313, R368, note they use the Roman numeral I, which indicates battalion). So, either something or someone was serving as the first battalion of the regiment; or this is an incorrect report broadcast to two sources.”

      So, we are looking at three options here
      1. There was an ersatz I Battalion in LSSAH
      2. There was an 8th company and 5 Pz III with the Tiger company.
      3. There was an 8th company and a battalion headquarters consisting of 6 Pz III command, 2 (or 3) Pz III short, 4 Pz II and 3 Pz Is (15 tanks total). This seems very odd, especially as these tanks clearly took losses (losses include + 1 Pz III Short on 5 July, -2 Pz III Short on 6 July, -2 Pz III Command on 6 July, -1 Pz I Command on 7 July, -2 Pz III Command on 7 July…which would reduced this command group of 15 tanks to 9 tanks by 9 July, or 40% losses in the HQ).

      • 1. No any. The personnal of I./SS-PzRgt 1 had been used to created the PzRgt 12. The first AFV have been received in June. The Abt. was ready for action only in the end of July.
        2. It was existed but due to shortage the time the crews were distributed among the 5, 6 and 7 komp.
        Looks like because few Pz III from schw.PzKp have been used to equiped the Stb. RgtKp. & Abt. Stb.Kp.
        Very important that the LSSAH had sufficient AFV to be strong. 83 PzKpfw IV, 13 Pz VI, 10 Pz III, 34 StuG, 24 PzJg, 18 Pak 40

        • And in this structure they have 29 to 31 tanks in a company. I seriously doubt they started the operation with more than 22 tanks per company. Ribbentrop’s interview does state that he started with 22 tanks in his company.

          It very debatable that they started the battle only one panzer battalion of three medium panzer companies.

          • The KStN Panzer kompanie from spring of 1943 still was guided by staff of 1941 and ordered to have 14 AFV.(Gliederungs of PzDiv will have confirmed it) Only PzAbt which have been reformed in Germany or France had new staff of 22 AFV per kompanie. Of course a few PzDiv had only one PzAbt in 1943 on the East front and in this case they are were weak if the command wasn’t equipped them by additional Pz.
            The KStN from January 25 of 1943 has ordered to have in PzAbt Stab 3 Pz III and 5 Pz IV in rec. platoon.
            In LAH case – a few Pz IV were in Pz. Regiment stab(Nr. 055) and the regiment reconnaissance platoon(Nr. 062-065) – the photos are confirming that.
            RgtStab: at least one Pz IV – 055(known). + Pz III from schwPzKomp
            RgtStabKomp: at least four Pz IV – 062-065(known).
            PzAbtStab: ?
            PzAbtStabKomp: ? + Pz III from schwPzKomp
            3 PzKomp: 66 Pz IV.
            schwPzKomp 13 Pz VI + 5 Pz III.
            The BefPz have been distributed among RgtStab, PzAbtStab and NachrichtenAbt.

  2. —-response to OigenE—-

    In LAH case – a few Pz IV were in Pz. Regiment stab(Nr. 055) and the regiment reconnaissance platoon(Nr. 062-065) – the photos are confirming that.
    RgtStab: at least one Pz IV – 055(known). + Pz III from schwPzKomp
    RgtStabKomp: at least four Pz IV – 062-065(known).
    PzAbtStab: ?
    PzAbtStabKomp: ? + Pz III from schwPzKomp
    3 PzKomp: 66 Pz IV.
    schwPzKomp 13 Pz VI + 5 Pz III.
    The BefPz have been distributed among RgtStab, PzAbtStab and NachrichtenAbt.

    And the math does not add up. On 4 July I have LSSAH with:

    1 Pz I Command
    2 Pz I
    4 Pz II
    2 Pz III short + 1 in repair
    9 Pz III long + 1 in repair
    9 Pz III Command
    79 Pz IV long
    12 Pz VI + 1 in repair

    You simply cannot fit that many tanks into a single battalion of three medium panzer companies. You can only fit all the tanks into a single battalion with four medium panzer companies if the Tiger company has 5 Pz III. Ben Wheatley is saying that the Tiger companies has already given up their panzer IIIs by then.

    Try to work out a structure where this works. It really doesn’t quite fit. It is part of the reason I suspect there might by an ersatz I Battalion (and also because it is referenced twice in the SS records on 8 July 1943).

    It is clear that:
    1. The structure of one battalion of three medium panzer companies are not able to manage all these tanks.
    2. The structure of one battalion of four medium panzer companies is barely able to if
    …..a. You do not count the tanks in repair
    …..b. and indeed the Tiger company had 5 of the Panzer IIIs.

    • I suspect that you haven’t enough technical information concerning an AFV equipment in LAH PzRgt. Are you know that in the report from June 30 LAH counted available 67 tanks plus 16 in delivery (they have arrived in July 2-3)? Till the end of May PzRgt had received 15 Pz IV, 10 more have been delivered from June 20 to 30. The quantity of tank crews has increased double in size from the end of winter fights, it means that 50 % of tankmen had no battle experience. I doubt that have sent skilled, battle experience tankmen and I will agree that newcomers have passed a course in a PzRgt on the available AFV’s. Not all crews have been equipped by AFV’s therefore the crews of 8 company have been allocated as 4 platoons in 5, 6 and 7 companies. Aforementioned 16 AFV arrive on the eve of offensive, for them is necessary crew distribution, equipped and to carry out a maintenance. (If take into consideration your point of view – the AFV’s has arrived fully ready with the skilled crews, completely equipped, and technically serviceable, crews had experience by company trainings and battalion trainings).
      A question: would you began to unite three platoons (which have trainings in different companies) just arriving AFV’s in a separate 8 th company not having experience of joint trainings as a part of a company and battalion?

      Relatively of the 5 Pz III in schw.Pzkomp I know from I. M. Wood.

      • I suspect that you haven’t enough technical information concerning an AFV equipment in LAH PzRgt.

        Our counts were a compilation based upon the daily reports for LSSAH, their 10-day status reports, and the other miscellaneous reports. All from the division, corps and army files and the inspector general of armor. I don’t think my tank counts are very different than anyone else’s, certainly no more than a tank or two. If you have a substantially different count for 4 July, please provide it.

        Relatively of the 5 Pz III in schw.Pzkomp I know from I. M. Wood.

        Do not know who I.M.Wood is. The questioning of the presence of the 5 Pz III in the heavy panzer company was raised by Ben Wheatley in some of our discussions on this subject.

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