Iconic Panther to Début at Tankfest

The Musée des Blindés’Panther Ausf. A running outside of the Saumur facility. (VIA THE TANK MUSEUM)

THE EXCITING line up of guest armour continues to build for TANKFEST 2019 as the Tank Museum confirms the attendance of a rare running example of the iconic Panther.

One of just a handful in working order, the Musée des Blindés in Saumur has loaned its Panther Ausf A to the Dorset-based collection, with transport funded by TANKFEST sponsor, World of Tanks.

The infamous Panzerkampfwagen V Panther is frequently, despite its flaws, lauded as the best German tank of the Second World War – arguably, the best overall. Its main armament and front armour were very effective – the former could penetrate most Allied tanks at range and the latter could resist all but the heaviest shells fired back at it. Rightly, the tank was feared and respected in equal measure.

Even though it was one of the most produced and most important German tanks, the Panther had serious shortcomings. On paper its engine power, mobility and speed looked impressive, but the Panther’s combat début at Kursk, Russia, in 1943 was not promising.

Even after the myriad teething problems had been worked through it still had major deficiencies.

Reports from German officers highlighted poor cross-country mobility, manoeuvrability and a high silhouette. It proved difficult to drive, needed considerable maintenance, was susceptible to fires, was front heavy and featured appallingly thin side and top armour. The interleaved suspension was reliable but could be crippled by thick mud, and the overlapping wheels meant even slight battle damage could demand lengthy repair.

Curiously, the Panther’s service did not end with the surrender of Germany. Post-war, two French units operated Panthers. The 503e Régiment de Chars de Combat used the type until 1947, and 501e RCC kept it on strength until 1949.

Therefore, in a twist of fate, the French operated Panthers for twice as long as any German unit. While aware of the tank’s merits, they nevertheless cited problems such as unreliable turret traverse and gun-laying, an inability to fire on the move, and the lack of visibility for the gunner.

The Panther joins a Sherman Firefly VC and a pair of T-34-85s – two of its key wartime adversaries – and a Type 95 Ha-Gõ. Enthusiasts and armour buffs will relish the opportunity to see this legendary machine run alongside its contemporaries. Museum Director Richard Smith said: “The Panther is an exceptionally important vehicle and it will make a fantastic addition to our arena displays. This will be the first time one has run at TANKFEST and there are currently no other running examples in the UK.