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The German invasion of Norway April 1940
"The Tale about the Neubaufahrzeug"
Diorama and models by Bjørn Jacobsen
The German ”Panzer” attack on Norway (April 1940) seems like a phoney event compared the invasion of other European countries.
Here is the story:
The Treaty of Versailles, forbid Germany to develop tanks after the WW One.
In 1933, however, the Reichswehr (the reduced
German army after WW1) ordered the development
of a heavy tractor (Grosstraktor) from Rheinmetall
To cover the development of the new tanks, they
gave it the codename Neubaufahrzeug, which means
"new construction vehicle".
They used stolen technical details of the British
Vickers A1E1 Independent, which was a two-turret
The Rheinmetall and Krupp designs resembled each
other to a great extent. Each had a main turret
armed with a 75 mm KwK L/24 main gun and
secondary 37 mm KwK L/45.
Rheinmetall's design mounted the second gun above
the 75 mm KwK L/24, while the Krupp design had it mounted next to the 75 mm KwK L/24.
Rheinmetall's design was designated PzKpfw NbFz V (PanzerKampfwagen NeubauFahrzeug V), and the Krupp design PzKpfw NbFz VI. It was intended that these designs would fulfil the role of heavy tank in the armoured forces, but the design proved to be too complex and unreliable for this role.
Nevertheless, development continued in order for the nascent German military to gain experience with multi-turreted tanks.
Rheinmetall built three prototypes with proper armour and the Krupp turret in 1935 and 1936.
The Neubaufarhrzeug were never placed in production.
They were used as a propaganda tool for Nazi Germany.
The Wehrmacht must have thought something like this:
“OK, we are going to invade Norway. They have no tanks and almost no army, so the invasion is no big deal, but we need to frighten the damn British a little, so they stay away. We need our tanks here, down in Europe, but we have the three obsolete, old Neubaufahrzeug. They are utterly useless, but we can send them to Norway to show that we have some bad-ass heavy tanks in case the British are thinking of interfering.”
On the 9th April 1940, Germany invaded Norway, and the three Neubaufahrzeug arrived in Oslo Harbour ten days later.
The Panzer Abteilung z.b.V. 40 (zur besonderen Verwendung - "for special purpose") was formed for supporting the invasion of Norway, and the three Neubaufahrzeuge were assigned to that unit.
The Pz. Abt. z. B. v. 40 also had some light tanks at disposal: 30 PzKpfW 1 and 15 PzKpfW 2.
The massive Neubaufarhrzeug tank represented an early attempt to create a heavy tank for the new Wehrmacht, but it was cumbersome and slow and did not fit in with the Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactics
developed by the Germans.
When they were deployed to Norway, its sheer weight caused problems on the narrow and dirt road they had to use.
The three heavy NbFz VI tanks were displayed for propaganda as soon as they landed in Oslo.
Norway had no tanks as of April 1940, and the Norwegian army was a mobilisation army, which had not been mobilised for fear of provoking Germany. Norway was therefore
utterly unprepared for the German invasion.
The only operational ground forces in the Oslo area was The Royal Guard and an infantry battalion.
The only tanks (or anti-tank guns) to oppose German tanks, were those of the Allies, which some days earlier had arrived in the west and north Norway.
As the German moved from Oslo (in the south), they had to use the roads through the valleys going north.
One of the Neubaufarzeug advanced north through the Østerdalen Valley, while the other two drove up the Gudbrand Valley.
The NbFz VI in Østerdalen and one of the two going up Gudbrand Valley soon broke down with mechanical problems.
Only one tank made it to the front and was immediately put in action when the German force ran into a British blocking position held by the 1st Battalion of Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at the village of Kvam.
The British Expeditionary Force had no heavy weapons except some 0.55-inch calibre Boys Anti-tank rifles which easily could penetrate the soft steel of the Neubaufahrzeug.
The British held their fire until the Germans were at the range of 150 yards and then opened fire.
The German attempted to manoeuvre the only NbFz they had into position, but it was quickly put out of action by one of the British anti-tank rifles, killing one of the tank crew.
The German advance stopped, and they called up the Luftwaffe to deal with the British.
The British managed to hold on until the evening of the next day before withdrawing.
The fighting in Gudbrand Valley was the first prepared battle between German and British soldiers in WW2.
None of the NbFz VI survived the war.
What was left of them were scrapped in 1941.
Overall the Neubaufahrzeug proved to be unsuited for combat but in many cases provided infantry with the only available support.
All that survives of these tanks is a small number of running gear parts, preserved in the Gudbrandsdal Krigsminnesamling (Gudbrand Valley War Memorial collection),
at Kvam in Norway.
The deployment of armour in the
mountainous terrain of Norway imposed a number of unique problems for the German Panzertruppe: Difficult narrow roads, weather, and terrain was made even worse by clever and skilful blocking techniques undertaken
The three Neubaufarhrzeug arrives in Oslo
…and immediately put on propaganda display
On the road up the Gudbrands Valley
One after another, the Neubaufarhrzeug broke down
The Norwegian roads were not made for heavy tanks
by the Norwegian defence forces. Road blockades of felled timber and huge stones slowed the German advance, and temporarily put the Panzers at a disadvantage.
The lack of an opposing tank force made the main task of Pz. Abt. z. B. v. 40 to support infantry operations, while themselves being supported by the Luftwaffe.
However, the experience of using tanks in mountainous and deeply wooded areas proved valuable in Russia and the Balkans, where similar conditions were encountered.
After its combat experience in Norway, Pz.Abt. z.b.V. 40 was transferred to Finland in the winter of 1941/42 and was incorporated into 25th Panzer Division in 1943.
The diorama shows the German troops advance up the Gudbrand Valley, stopping for reconnaissance while curious civilians onlookers are wondering what’s happening.
The German moves slowly with the NbFz VI in front, wondering when or if they will meet any opposition from the Norwegian army or the
British Expeditionary Force.
The dirt road is narrow, and the scenery is friendly. They probably do not expect much resistant from the Norwegian army, but they are a little anxious because the British might be in the area.
I have tried to make the diorama as realistic as I could with regards to the terrain, the civilians, and the German soldiers and vehicles.
Some of the elements I had to place in the diorama are typical Norwegian.
Building the Neubaufahrzeug (NbFz VI)
There are two different 1/35 Neubaufahrzeug kits from Trumpeter, one with Krupp Towers and one with Rheinmetall Towers.
The NbFz with Krupp towers is the one which was sent to Norway in April 1940.
The kit was easy to put together, at least when it comes to the chassis and towers.
The wheels also fit nicely together, even if there is a
lot of them.
On the box, it says 1120 parts! But almost all these parts are bits and pieces for the tracks.
Putting the tracks together with the track pins was
almost impossible, and I
gave up after a while and glued the tracks together.
Much easier and a less headache and swearing!
Pictures of the Neubaufahrzeug I am building show that the crew have placed two concrete blocks in front of the small front tower.
I have no idea why. It might be for extra protection. Anyway, I made these blocks from Styrofoam and placed them in front of the tower.
There are different opinions on the colour of the Neubaufahrzeug.
Some insist that they were painted grey and brown, and some insist that they were all grey.
The b/w pictures from April 1940, does not help much, but I believe they are monochrome grey.
The Elephant logo
I have not found any reason why they painted an elephant head on the Neubaufahrzeug.
The only reason I can think of is that the elephant symbols something very heavy and powerful.
I think they nicknamed the PzKpfw “Jumbo”, hence the elephant painting.
The large number on the turret.
When the Neubaufahrzeug were displayed in Germany, they had large white numbers painted on the turret.
These numbers were painted over when Neubaufahrzeug were shipped to Norway as part of Operation Weserübung (the attack on Denmark and Norway).
On tank no 8, however, the number is still visible through the grey paint.
Building the Panzer 1 (PzKpfw I) light tank
The 1/35 kit is from Italeri.
The Panzer 1 was a small, light tank.
The building is straightforward as this is
only a small vehicle.
Another six small bolt heads were added inside the front fenders also using the same method as above but are more noticeable than the
On the rear hull, the towing shackle was thinned down
for a more realistic appearance, and an etched chain added (not shown in photos).
The tracks were the only thing that caused a small delay because all the tracks had to be glued together. But it was relatively easy, and everything fit nicely together.
The hatch was made open so that I could place one of the crews in the tower.
The civilian figures are from MB 1/35 “Civilians, western region WWII”
Painted with acrylic colours.
Three of the men will be driving the civilian car, while the others will be onlookers from the farm.
Most of the Germans are from Tamiya 1/35 “Field Commander Set”, from “Wehrmacht Tank Crew Set” and some figures are some from old kits in my scrap box.
The German with bicycles is all from Tamiya.
The German motorcycle is from Zveda.
The old hut
The old hut is part of and old “seter” which is a place up in the mountain where the farmers let their livestock roam freely during the summer months.
The hut is made by wooden spatulas which was glues to a frame made of cardboard.
Painted with acrylic colours.
A skigard is a typical Norwegian fence
(a translation will probably be Hashtag Fence) which was made of thin tree trunks.
A cheap and efficient fence. I made the skigard by cutting wood spatulas into thin strips and painting it with acrylic colours
The spruce trees behind the skigard
was bought at a hobby shop, the leafless trees in front was made of withered weeds that I picked up outside my house. Several stems were put together to make a “tree”. The birch trees were made by gluing several stems together with sawdust in the glue to make a trunk.
The telegraph poles are from Italeri.
The civilian car is a 1/35 Opel model 1937 from Bronco Models.
This was a very common car in Norway in 1940.
Travelling on the dusty Norwegian roads, made the car rather dirty of course.
The car stopped when meeting the Germans, and the three men inside got out to see what this was all about.
This was very early in the occupation, and the German soldiers were friendly towards the civilians – they were, after all of the “Arian Race”, favoured by the Germans.
The base was rather large (50 x 95 x 37cm / 20 x 38 x 15in) and was made as simple as possible.
I used two Styrofoam plates (10cm and 5cm) (4 and 2in), cut out the sizes I needed and glued them together (with wood glue).
The road would be the top of the 10cm plate.
When the glue had dried, I put a layer of plaster on the road.
Dirt roads never have a smooth surface, and I added some fine sand in the middle and on the sides.
The terrain was covered with a thin layer of Papier Mache.
Some stones were placed on the slope against the road.
I used ordinary stones which I picked up outdoors. It is unnecessary to buy artificial stones, as long as there are real ones in nature.
I added some small stones to the edge of the road towards the slope.
This is typical for the Norwegian roads up in the mountain and is called “stabbestein”.
They would prevent vehicles from running off the road.
The next step was to paint the road and the terrain with acrylic colours.
When the paint had dried, I used artificial grass to cover the terrain, making sure the colour was mostly brown and yellow.
Then, it was time for the hut, the fence, the telegraph poles and the trees and bushes.
is an acrylic painting on cardboard
The only thing that remains now is the main characters: The vehicles, the civilians and the soldiers.
the Neubaufahrzeug in Norway