Dragon 1/35th Panther A Late “Black Knight” (Kit# 6524)
The Panther I Ausf A was the second production version of the Panther medium tank, and was very similar to late production Ausf Ds. No good reason can be found for the order of model letters used on the Panther. Most of the changes made to the Ausf A were designed to improve the poor reliability of the early Panthers. Amongst these changes were the introduction of a stronger running gear and drive train and better cooling for the engine exhausts. The number of bolts holding the wheels together was also increased
The most visible change was to the commander’s cupola, where the simple drum cupola of the Ausf D was replaced with a hemispherical (curved top) cupola, with armoured covers for seven periscopes around the top. A ring to carry an anti-aircraft machinegun was carried above the periscopes. The turret also featured an improved traversing mechanism, which could operate at two different speeds.
The turret had many modifications. In addition to the new cast commander´s cupola with seven periscopes, an episcope for the loader was provided on the right side of the turett roof. The small ammunition-loading hatch in the left side was eliminated, and during the production run, the turett side pistol ports were eliminated in December 1943 in favour of the roof mounted “Nahverteidigungswaffe” (close defense weapon), which wasn´t intoduced before March 1944, due to shortages and production faults. Many Ausf. As assembled in February and March had a circular plate held by four bolts to cover the hole in the turett roof for the missing Nahverteidigungswaffe. The seals behind the gun mantlet and the seals for the turret race were redesigned, the elevating gear for the gun was simplified, and a variable speed turret traverse drive based on the engine speed was introduced. Furthermore an improved “Rohrausblasevorrichtung” (bore evacuator) was introduced for clearing powder gases out of the gun. Another visible change on the Ausf A was the introduction of a ball mounted machine gun in the hull front. The mounting itself was protected by a circular bulge on the front of the armour.
Problems were experienced with blown head gaskets. As advised by Dr Ferdinand Porsche, this was corrected by installing copper rings pressed into grooves to seal the heads of Maybach HL 230 P30 motors starting with serial number 8321466 in September 1943. Other modifications were introduced at the same time including improoved coolant circulation inside the motor and a reinforced membrane spring installed in the fuel pump. In November 1943, starting with Maybach HL230 P30 motor number 8322575, the governor was already set at the factory for a maximum speed of 2500 rpm under full load and the motors were outfitted with a hand operated temperature control on the oil cooler.
The Ausf A began to reach the eastern front soon after the battle of Kursk. It operated alongside the Ausf D and later Ausf G in every theatre of the war. It dominated the Panzer forces in the middle of 1944, and most of the Panther detachments in Normandy were equipped with the A model to meet the Allied invasion of France in mid 1944 and many of them were still in service at the end of the war. About 2,200 Panther Ausf.A were produced by MAN in Fgst. Nr. series 210254-210899 (645), by Daimler-Benz in Fgst. Nr. series 121900-152575 (675), by Demag in Fgst. Nr series 158100-158150 (50), and MNH in Fgst.Nr. series 154800-155630 (830).
In late 1943, Ernst Barkmann was promoted to the rank of SS-Unterscharfuhrer. In early 1944, the entire division was transferred to Bordeaux area in southern France for rest and refitting as a panzer division. Following the D-Day (June 6 of 1944), 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was ordered to move northwards and was committed to battle.
In early July of 1944, Das Reich was moved to Saint Lo to halt the advance of the US Army’s 9th and 30th Infantry Divisions and the 3rd Armored Division. On July 8th, Barkmann’s Kompanie was a spearhead of Regiment’s attack on the advancing American units. On this day, Ernst Barkmann knocked out his first Allied Sherman tank near St.Lo. On July 12th, he destroyed two more Shermans while disabling the third one. During that engagement Barkmann moved his camouflaged Panther to ambush position and awaited for more Allied armor, knocking out three Shermans. After that Ernst Barkmann’s tank was hit by an anti-tank gun which caused fire. He decided to abandon his burning Panther and along with his crew he quickly put out the fire. After that engagement his Panther ended up in the workshop for repairs. After a day of rest, in morning of July 14th, Barkmann was ordered to recover four Panthers that had been cut off behind enemy lines. He succeeded in his task and added three more Shermans to his score. On the same day at noon, Ernst Barkmann was ordered by the Regimental Commander SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Tychsen to recover wounded German soldiers from their American captors. Once again he succeeded and in the evening his own Panther was returned to him from the workshop. On July 26th, Barkmann’s Panther suffered from engine problem and was sent to field workshop.When mechanics were working on it, field workshop was attacked by Allied fighter-bombers and Barkmann’s Panther was hit in the engine compartment. By the dawn of July 27th, his Panther was repaired but he was cut off from the rest of the Kompanie and was on his way to rejoin it. On his way back, near the village of Le Lorey, Barkmann was stopped by the retreating German infantrymen who reported that Americans were closing in. Ernst Barkmann decided to send two of his men to verify that report. They soon returned with news of American column made up of some 15 Shermans and other vehicles approaching. Then Barkmann moved his tank up the road to the crossroad where he positioned his Panther in the surrounding oak trees, awaiting the enemy. When the American column approached, Ernst Barkmann opened fire, knocking out two leading tanks and then tanker truck.Two Shermans tried to go around burning wreckage that blocked the road and one of them was knocked out followed by the other one.In the response, Americans retreated and called up the tactical fighter support and Barkmann’s Panther was damaged and some of the crew members were wounded. Using the element of suprise two Shermans attacked “wounded” Panther but were also knocked out.Barkmann and his crew repaired their Panther and knocked out single Sherman while leaving.His driver managed to moved their damaged Panther to the safety of nearby village of Neufbourg. During that brave engagement often called “Barkmann’s Corner”, Ernst Barkmann destroyed approximately nine Sherman tanks and many other various vehicles.
“Die Erzählung des Schwarzen Ritters”, translated as The Story of the Black Knights, is a popular comic book series set in WWII. The series follows Oberleutnant Ernst von Bauer and his 8th Tank Company known as the Black Knights. The series begins in the fall of 1943 on the Eastern Front, and follows the unit through the end of the war as they change vehicles several times (the unit uses Panthers, Panzer IVs, StuG IIIs, and even Jadgpanzers). The Panther A enters the story early on, after the unit loses their Panzer IV’s in a battle with the Soviets. By luck, they find several Panther A’s and fight back, repelling the “Reds”.
Each box has special comic inspired art work and includes a limited edition figure of the Oberleutnant for the commander’s copula, as well as a second full figure. The full figures can be joined together to make up the Black Knight tank commanders being inspected by the Oberleutnant. The kit itself is the Dragon premium edition of the Panther A, including photo-etch, DS tracks, and stamped aluminum side skirts. The construction of the kit went without issue. I will caution that some of the PE parts are very delicate and not easy to work with. The fitting of the major panels,tub,upper hull, and turret went very smoothly. It has very beautiful detail. For Ernst Barkmann’s Panther I added Atak Zimmerit – Panther A Late Type (35019 ). For the turret numbers I ordered Archer Fine Transfers German Turret Numbers (Black w/White Outline) for the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich (AFT-035038B). And now that my compressor went out ,I am only going to have to spray Red Oxide Primer “Rattle Can” Style”. Bye for now