The WWII German Panzerschreck RPzB 54
A Brief History*CLICK ON IMAGES TO OPEN LARGER PICTURES*
Officially known by the name Raketenpanzerbuchse, abbreviated to RPzB, which literally translated means Tank Rifle, it is more commonly refered to as "Panzer Schrek" meaning Tank Fear.
As the war progressed, and Germany was to fight a more defencive war on multiple fronts, it was seen as essential to supply the troops with better anti-tank capability. The RPzB 54 design was taken from the American M9A1 Bazooka, captured in Africa. Introduced in September 1943, the weapon would fire a 8,8 cm R PzB 54 rocket that could penetrate approximately 160mm armour at 100m range. The weapon system was typically operated by a loader and firer and when used in point defense, became a very effective weapon.
The weapon consisted of a main launcher tube, of lengh 164cm and diameter 9.1cm with an apporoximate weight of around 11Kg. There were 2 sights, front and rear for aiming, a shoulder rest, trigger grouping and cocking lever surrounder with a protective wood and steel bar. The rear of the tube had a welded on protective ring with the connection box for the rocket.
As opposed to the US Bazooka which used a battery to charge the rocket, the PzB 54 used a driving rod and spring arrangement. The spring was put under tension by the cocking the weapon and on pressing the trigger, the rod would be released and strike a generator which would produce the current required to ignite the rocket. This resulted in a weapon the would function in all weathers without depending on a battery that would require periodic re-charging.
The RPzB 54 fired a shaped charge, the Raketenpanzerbüchsegranat 4322 (RPzBGr 4322). This was a very effective missile, that could penetrate all known tank armour at the time.
The rocket was loaded from the rear and connection made to the rocket plug.
The RPzBGr 4322 rocket would leave a backblast requiring the gunner to wear a protective hood with gloves and a gasmask, without the filter in place.
Later, a protective shield was added, enabling the operator to dispense with the gas mask and hood and just wear a standard helmet or field cap. Also, a front rest could be added on the front of the tube to prevent dirt from entering the snow when the operator would go into firing position.
The shield had a small glass window to enable the operator to aim the weapon using the weapons sights. The glass had protective tape to avoid damage and a small compartment on the shield would hold a spare glass.
Effective firing range was 150m and the weapon was expected to last for around 1000 rounds before the tube was worn and deemed to be innacurate.
The example RPzB 54 shown in the pictures, was used by the Finns during WWII against Soviet Russian forces. The Schreck has some original tan paint remaining with the Finnish green over paint.
In 1944, Germany was to supply 1854 launchers and 18650 rockets to Finland for use by Finish forces supported by the 6th SS division Nord. Even though heavily outnumbered by Russian armour, the panzerscreck's and panzerfausts enabled the German's and Finns to keep the Russian forces at bay and achieve the defensive victories of 1944.