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Pz.Kpfw. III

DML 1/35 Pz.Kpfw.III (3.7 cm) Ausf.F 'Operation Seeloewe' - Smart Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review January 2012 Manufacturer DML
Subject Pz.Kpfw.III (3.7 cm) Ausf.F 'Operation Seeloewe' - Smart Kit Scale 1/35
Kit Number 6717 Primary Media 854 parts (578 in grey styrene, 216 “Magic Track” links, 26 etched brass, 25 clear styrene, 4 steel wire, 3 DS Plastic, 2 pre-bent steel wire)
Pros Unique variant of early model Pzkw. III; use of DS Plastic hoses permits either stowed or “in action” poses Cons Kit does not come with DS tracks, which will disappoint a few modelers
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $77.95

First Look

As countries mechanized in the 1930s many soon came to the conclusion they would have to either deal with amphibious landings or water crossings. As the old farmer said, “cast iron sinks”, and so all of them understood as designed tanks cannot float. So each nation came to its own conclusions on how to address the problem.

The US and Japan opted for pontoons to allow the tanks to float, but this resulted in either having to have specially designed lightweight tanks (Japan) or enormous floats (US) to work. The USSR opted for very lightweight amphibious tanks, but they had minimal combat value other than reconnaissance. Britain opted for a retractable waterproof canvas skirt and propellers driven by the tracks, but this proved to be fragile and only really effective in light seas or calm water.

The Germans basically conceded that the tanks would sink, so their approach was to waterproof the tank and fit it with a snorkel system and pressure relief exhaust so it could operate autonomously under water. For their invasion of England that was planned for late 1940 (after the pesky RAF had been eliminated) the Germans converted 168 Pzkw. III Ausf. F tanks to use this system; these were dubbed “Tauchpanzer” or diving tanks.

The system consisted of a number of seals to prevent water leakage into the hull and a pressure relief exhaust fitting that prevented water backflow into the engine. A floating snorkel buoy was developed that was fitted with a rubber hose that could stretch up to 15 meters in length for air intake; to avoid taking in the exhaust gases which would bubble up and also to avoid problems with a high sea state there was an extended intake tube on top of the snorkel buoy, as well as a short radio antenna for communications. For navigation purposes underwater a gyrocompass was fitted for the driver.

The tanks were to be driven off a ramp from a landing ship into the water and then driven to land, where the seals would be removed so the tanks could then join in combat. But after the cancellation of “Seeloewe” at the end of September 1940 the tanks were then converted to a simpler system to provide for limited water crossing capability of only about five meters for use in the invasion of Russia. The best known use of the vehicles was on 22 June 1941 when the modified Pzkw. III tanks of the 18th Panzer Division crossed the Bug River.

The best solution for all concerned was later proven to be either dedicated landing craft to get standard production tanks ashore on landings or simply capturing or building bridges over rivers.

DML’s boutique affiliate has now produced an interesting kit of one of the original “Tauchpanzer” Pzkw. III conversions. They have modified their Pzkw. III Ausf. F kit (No. 6632) by adding 100 new parts to the kit. These include the depth gauges (apparently fitted for testing), the snorkel buoy and its hose, racks to stow them, and the mantlet and cupola flexible canvas seals.

As with all DML Panzer III kits the suspension begins with five of the original seven “mini-sprues” and three new ones provided for the early model “porthole” drivers and more complex idlers, plus newly molded shock absorbers.

The hull pan is one with the side hatches and other detail changes. It retains the full torsion bar suspension from the other kit and the detailed suspension components and muffler assembly. As with the earlier kits all hatches are separate with some interior details and can be positioned as the modeler chooses. All engine deck ventilators are spaced and mounted on separate frames to get the correct appearance and “lift” needed to give an accurate representation of the original. A completely new engine deck is provided for the early variants of the Pzkw. III with this kit.

The kit includes the rudiments of an interior, but unlike many Russian or Ukrainian kits the details they provide are highly accurate as far as they go. This should please the “after market boys” as there is more than enough room for a nice resin interior here and enough ports and hatches to see it. The gun follows most of the DML standard design concepts and faithfully replicates the internal mantlet as well as the rest of the small details of this petite weapon. But externally this one has a one-piece DS Plastic sealing cover.

This kit does not provide the early Pzkw. IV cupola but instead has a new cover and a DS Plastic flexible mount with clear styrene inserts for the commander’s cupola. The hatch covers are closed on this kit.

The kit comes with 36 cm “Magic Track” single-links, and while not wrong many modelers appreciate the DS plastic tracks as they speed construction.

The snorkel assembly includes the float and its transport mounts for fitting to the engine deck, the hose and mounts. No antenna is provided for the snorkel buoy, so the modeler will have to provide one on his own. Modification parts for the standard tank include fender tie-downs (parts V36/37) and headlight guards (Q20) as well as a fitting for connecting the hose to the turret (Q15).

Technical consultants are Tom Cockle and Gary Edmundson.

The kit provides one finishing option: a test version of the vehicle at the Puttlos Test Center in 1940 which is Panzergrau with the very colorful depth gauges fitted. Happily a set of Cartograf decals are provided for the latter.

Overall this is a truly unique conversion of the Panzer III and while expensive is a really interesting model.

Thanks to Freddie Leung of Dragon Models USA for the review sample.

Sprue Breakout:

  • A 91 Pzkw III hull details and turret mounting
  • A 53x2 StuG III Wheels and torsion bars (5 mini-sprues connected)
  • B 18 Pzkw III upper hull details, mantlets and fenders
  • B 46 StuG III Road wheel arms and lower hull details
  • C 8 Clear styrene
  • D 32 Pzkw III 3.7 cm gun and details
  • E 1 DS Plastic snorkel hose
  • G 52 Pzkw IV F - turret and hull details
  • G 15 StuG III OVM and light components
  • L 108 Magic Track - Left
  • K 34 Pzkw. III Ausf. J Initial Production engine deck details
  • 15 Pzkw IV F Clear styrene
  • P 1 Pzkw. III Early Model hull pan with side doors
  • Q 22x2 Seeloewe depth gauge and hose brackets
  • Q 22 Seeloewe seal and snorkel float
  • P 2 Clear Styrene
  • R 108 Magic Track - Right
  • S 41 Pzkw. III Early Model turret with 3.7 cm gun
  • T 4 Early model Pzkw. III drivers
  • V 61 Pzkw. III Early Model engine deck and details
  • W 2 DS Plastic mantlet cover and cupola shroud
  • X 6 Early model Pzkw. III idlers
  • Y 1 Pzkw. III Early Model turret shell
  • Z 4 Shock absorbers
  • MA 26 Etched brass
  • MB 4 Steel wire
  • MC 2 Pre-bent steel wire