This is the fateful journey of three German Panther tanks during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
In the early morning hours of 2 August 1944, 3 Panzerkampfwagen V “Panther” Ausf. G of I./Pz.Rgt.27/19.Pz.Div. started out on a journey that would end in the capture of two and loss of the third. Their original destination was the Waverrma workshop in Fort Bema. Fort Bema was originally called Fort P (Parysów) built from 1886-1890. The name was changed in 1921 and from the years 1924-1939 it housed ammunition plant nr. 1. During the Uprising it housed German repair workshops for armored units as well as German military warehouses.
The Panther’s route started heading east on ulica Górczewska. At the railroad underpass they were most likely to have taken a left and start heading north, following the railroad tracks up to ulica Kozielska. From there they were to take a west bound route, following the rail line, that would lead them to Fort Bema. It seems that at the railroad underpass they continued on in an easterly direction, possibly due to a miscommunication between the commander of the lead tank and his driver, or a misunderstanding of the route issued to the commander. It is also possibly that they may have seen a small group of insurgents further to the east and decided to move in for a quick attack. Regardless of the reason, they continued to travel east on Górczewska. Since these Panthers were on there way to the repair workshop they were without infantry support.
Soon the Panthers reached ulica Młynarska. They may not have realized how far off course they were, if they realized it at all. They turned to the north and started traveling up Młynarska and soon reached the junction with ulica Smetna (Ulica Smetna ran between Cmentarz Powązkowski and Cmentarz Żydowski. Today only small traces remain of it in Cmentzar Żydowski.). For an unknown reason they turned east onto Smetna and continued moving. After travelling for a while they probably started to understand that they were not on the correct route and becomming lost in possibly hostile territory. They continued to follow Smetna as it traveled the path of the cemetery wall, turning around could be dangerous as there was a risk of becoming trapped in either soft graves or on tombstones, due to the low light of early morning. After rolling up Smetna for sometime they came to ulica Spokojna which in turn connected with ulica Okopowa. This is where a fateful choice was made.
Upon reaching Okopowa the column turned to the south, probably to try and return to their starting point on Górczewska, but having been in Warsaw for only a short time they were probably unfamiliar with roads. If they had know that the southern route they were aboutto take led into a much more built up area they probably would have turned to the north and turned to the east on ulica Powązkowska. After travelling south on Okopowa for about .6 km they passed the Pfeiffer tannery. I can only assume that insurgents in the area did not attack the Panthers because they were not expecting an armored column to come in from the north. The tanks continued moving down Okopowa until reaching ulica Wolska and turned to the west. Finding that they had gone too far south they moved west until they came to a cross street, ulica Karolkowa, and turned to the north.
At approximately 08:00 The Panther had their first contact with Polish insurgents at a barricade on Karolkowa, just past ulica Żytnia. The barricade had been erected the previous day and was manned by men of I Platoon of 2. Company, Battalion “Parasol”. As the Panthers approached the insurgents moved to positions behind the wall adjacent to the Domu Starców. He tanks rolled over the barricade, which was constructed of beams, trash cans, boards and furniture. The insurgents were not equipped with anti-tank weapons so as the Panthers passed their positions they threw Molotov Cocktails over the wall. The attack had no effect on the tanks, possibly due to the heavy rain that had started to fall. The Panthers kept moving on to the north. The men of “Parasol” decided not to follow as they had no way to defeat the tanks.
After reaching the corner of Karolkowa and ulica Mireckiego, near the gate to the Telefunken factory, the Panthers were again attacked by insurgents. Men of 3 Company of Battalion “Zośka” attacked with grenades and Molotov cocktails from the first floor windows with minimal effect. The Panthers turned the corner onto Mireckiego and entered a narrow corridor formed by the buildings and the wall of the “Skra” sports facility. As they passed the Telefunken factory, halfway down the street, they were again hit by an attack from the men of the Battalion “Zośka”, when more grenades and Molotov cocktails were thrown. The lead tank was slightly damaged by burning gasoline near the drivers vision slit. The lead Panther then started firing into the building with its machine gun at the unseen attackers. Upon reaching ulica Okopowa the column turned to the north.
The Panthers were now moving up Okopowa between the wall of the “Skra” facility and the ghetto fence. Upon reaching the wall of the Cmentarz Żydowski the attack on them was increased. Men from Platoon “Felek”, Company “Rudy” started throwing Molotov cocktails and grenades over the cemetery wall. The tanks kept moving as the grenades exploded around them, they were not able to see the attackers and kept moving north to escape the attack.
As they approached the Pfeiffer tannery they did not know they were entering an area heavily occupied by insurgents. Suddenly the engine of the lead Panther stopped and the tank rolled into a steel tram pole near the intersection of Okopowa and ulica Gliniana. Unable to restart the engine the crew quickly bailed out of the tank, knowing that they were in danger form the hidden insurgents in the area. The second Panther turned around to try and escape the ambush and started heading south on Okopowa. The third Panther had caught fire and ended up burnt out and a total loss.
The second Panther of the column had managed to turn south to try and escape the ambush, heading down Okopowa. After it had driven a few meters the Platoon commander of a Kedyw unit, Squadron 1806, 1st Rifle Regiment AK, managed to attach a 2 kg. improvised explosive to the Panther. As the tank continued south it passed the command post of the group “Radosław” and was hit by a PIAT in the back of the turret. The Panther veered to the right and smashed trough the wall along Okopowa, slid down a 1.5 meter embankment and came to rest in a wooden cottage. The crew was captured.
After this action the Polish insurgents had captured two serviceable Panther tanks. The Panther that hit the tram pole was renamed “Pudel” but informally called “Magda” by its crew and the other, which had crashed into the cottage, was renamed “Felek”
ulica translates to street.
Cmentarz translates to cemetery.
Mucha, Krzyaztof. “Pantery Powstania Warszawskiego Część 1.” Militaria, Feb. 2004, pp. 65-69
Mucha, Krzyaztof. “Pantery Powstania Warszawskiego cz. 2. Podróż w przeszłość” Militaria, Apr. 2005, pp. 64-77
Bączyk, Norbert. “Niemieckie wojska pancerne a Powstanie Warszawskie.” Poligon, Jan. 2013, pp. 8-23
Jabłoński, Rafał. “Najbardziej Smętna ulica w Warszawie.” zw.com.pl, http://www.zw.com.pl/artykul/6,252247.html. Accessed 21 October 2013