Panzers Found in Norway
Post World War II the Norwegian Army took advantage of the huge piles of German material and supplies, including PzIIIs and StuGIIIs.
In 1947 the army established what was then known as “Army Light Troops.” These were intended for air-base defense, and their order of battle was to include three PzIIIs and one StuGIII, along with an additional spare of either type. The left-over German PzIIIs were refurbished by Norwegian army depots and the majority of them were Ausf N. How exactly this was implemented is hard to say. I’ve seen pics of PzIIIs in these units with the 5 cm KWK, and some units had only 1 spare StuG, no spare Panzers. Some of the PzIIIs even had the Schurzen while in army service. Four of these light units were established at different air-bases in Norway, but very soon the Marshall aid plan started to come into effect. By approximately 1951-52 the army took delivery of M-24 Chaffees, which replaced the German tanks in service.
Back in 1953 the army built a defensive fort at a hill very close to the airport of Bardufoss. The purpose was to have close range heavy weapons with the range to cover all entrances to the airfield and the airfield itself in case of enemy forces trying to take over the place. So these PzIIIs were half buried in defensive positions, using wooden covers for the turret as protection for weather only. All of the interior parts of the panzers are gone including the engine, transmission and almost everything in the hull. A hole was also cut into the bottom for use with a tunnel that would allow ammo to be hoisted straight up into the tank.
At a later stage in the 1960s these guns were rendered obsolete due to their limited range. New fortified positions in concrete were also built next to the PzIIs. Another opening was taken into the left rear side of the panzers so the ammo-tunnel could be used to bring ammo to the new guns. In this process the whole of the PzIIIs were totally buried These tanks were almost forgotten about until a few years ago. The whole fort was disbanded sometime probably in the 1970s or 1980s so therefore it wasn’t a problem getting the permits to release these PzIIIs.
We have now established with a 100 percent certainty that “our” panzers were indeed used by the norwegian army post World War II. We have interviews with crews of these tanks, and even one man who was part of the team digging them into the ground. We think that these were dug down around 1953.
The area I searched was inside the Air-Force perimeter at Bardufoss, and Bardufoss was one of the 4 places the army’s light troops were at.
I believe very strongly that these PzIIIs belonged to Pz Abt 211, that came from Finland to our area of Norway in the autumn of 1944. On the order of battles they are listed as of May 45 with a 4 PzIIIs with 7,5cm gun. PzAbt211 took delivery of 5 PZIII Ausf N in April-May 1944. This timeframe ties in with pz.gren.div. GD re-arming with heavier panzers post-Kursk, handing in their PZIIIs to overhaul by factory and upgrade to 7.5 cm infantry-support gun.
We have no records of the chassis-numbers with any units after the battle of Kursk. Only the last two we uncovered have the chassis-numbers intact, so we have no history at all on the first tank we uncovered.
Excavation was executed by the Heavy Engineering Bn of the Norwegian Army. The tanks were located inside a military area, on the Bardufoss Air Force Base. anks were stripped internally and dug down in 1953 (probably), for use as close defense at the AFB. ater these were replaced with 40mm Bofors guns, and fully covered with gravel (and concrete on the sides). The concrete is very visible on the last 2 tanks uncovered by the same crew of the same engineering Bn on 9th August 2007.
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