Jagdpanzer 38t "Hetzer"
When I took this photo back in 1988 it was extremely unusual to get a 'German tank' at a show, even if it strictly wasn't German or a tank! This is how I was introduced to the ex Swiss Jagdpanzer G13, which had now been made over to look like a wartime Jagdpanzer 38t 'Hetzer'. The complete story can be read in 'Wheels & Tracks' issue 7. The photo above shows that since the article David Carson, the owner had removed the muzzle brake from the main armament. I understand this weapon to be a Pak 39, as was originally used in wartime versions.
The vehicle was originally produced by BMM Praga in the Czechoslovakian protectorate during late 1944 early '45. It would have ran with a Praga 7754cc OHV engine and mechanical brakes. After the war the Czechs continued to utilise the former Wehrmacht material until they were sold off to the Swiss Government in the late '40's early '50's. Little is known for sure regarding the early life of this particular G13 and although it is fitted with a wartime Pak 39 canon there is no evidence it saw service under the German Armed forces. Therefore our story begins with a long journey from Switzerland to the West country back in 1980 after alot of letter writing and diligent research. Below are some never before published photos of the G13 as it was upon arriving in the UK.
The pictures above clearly show the G13 equipment layout and characteristics; the vertically hung track links and spare wheel on the right hand side, the later aerial mount, welded crudely to the side, the elongated exhaust muffler on the rear deck. Below: the G13 begins it's transformation back to a wartime guise.
David Carson; "I removed the spare wheel and it's mount, the exhaust pipe, radio antenna, front and rear lights, telephone cable holder, commanders periscope and MG mount fixings (MG3). Later I removed the muzzle brake. I added an MG shield, notek blackout lamp, extra steel rings for camouflage, a jacking block, German antenna base and a German style dummy exhaust".
(Currently the Hetzer does not have a wartime scissors scope mounted nor an original radio). The David Carson Hetzer was subject to a a couple of interim tests of camouflaged paint before the final "ambush" scheme was decided upon.
A try out on the ranges and "under cover" back at base. At this stage the muzzle brake is still attached to the Pak39 barrel, the only noticeable clue to it's Swiss past.
David and his small dedicated team have now transformed the G13 back to it's guise as a Panzerjäger 38t belonging to the staff company (Stabs Kompanie) of an elite Panzer Unit. The Hetzer was featured in issue 18 the sadly lamented "Militaria Magazine" in 1995, as well as starring alongside Nicholas Cage in the wartime film "Captain Corelli's Mandolin", a small suspension of reality for the sake of Hollywood as no Hetzer was ever dispatched to the MTO.
The pictures above and below show the 'Hetzer' as it is today. I think that it is the best camouflage scheme I've seen. This is based on the so called "ambush" scheme, as used in the Ardennes campaign of 1944. Above left, the jack which sits on the right rear fender of the Jagdpanzer. Above right, a view of the top of the fighting compartment. For a WW2 era "Hetzer" the seating arrangments were as follows; the Commander sat to the right of the main armament and thus had the hatch on the left of the photo above to himself. The driver, gunner and loader would all enter the Jagdpanzer via the other hatch, behind the remotely operated MG34. The loader would operate this weapon as protection against attacking infantry.
Above, you are about to enter the Hetzer via the driver, gunner loader hatch. This is the one immediately behind the armoured shield for the MG34. The two seats you can see are for the gunner and driver respectively. The MG34 you can see wedged beside the breech is an excellent mock up made of alluminium!
Below left is the drivers position with the two very limited vision ports. In the event of this vehicle being set on fire it would be very difficult for the driver to escape. He has to climb back over his seat and out the hatch!
Centre: the breech for the Pak 39 and right is a wider view of the interior of the fighting compartment.
We have been asked to point out that as this is an ex Swiss G13 the seating arrangements were changed by them when in Swiss use. The Commander and loader swapped seats and the roof mounted MG was removed in favour of an improved sighting facility for the Commander. This particular example of the Jagdpanzer now resides in the Military College of Science in England. We acknowledge our grateful appreciation to them for letting us get 'close up and personal' with this AFV.
Thanks must also go to David Carson, the owner for providing such an authentically marked up example for the public to be able to see. I am indebted to Richard Gruetzner of the best "Hetzer" site on the net for suggesting that I clarify the layout of this Jagdpanzer. See more real "Hetzers" on his site. Currently for the 2009 season the Hetzer is off the road undergoing some maintenance due to a fuel pump problem.
If visitors have any original pictures of Hetzers in combat in 1944-45 we'd be pleased to display them.
No study of the Jagdpanzer 38t is complete without a good companion guide. We recommend the detailed study published by Publications MBI of the Czech Republic. For UK buyers this excellent book can be delivered to your door for £13.60 courtesy of the UK distributor by clicking on the image of the book below. Read the review here.
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