15th Panzer Division (Wehrmacht)

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15th Panzer Division
15. Panzer-Division
15th Panzer Division logo 1.svg
15th Panzer Division Unit insignia
Country Germany
RoleArmoured warfare
Part ofAfrika Korps
Garrison/HQWehrkreis XII: Landau
EquipmentPanzer II[a]
EngagementsWorld War II
Walter Neumann-Silkow
Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck
Eduard Crasemann
Gustav von Vaerst

The 15th Panzer Division (German: 15. Panzer-Division) was an armoured division in the German Army, the Wehrmacht, during World War II, established in 1940.

The division, formed from the 33rd Infantry Division, fought exclusively in North Africa from 1941 to 1943, eventually ceasing to exist after surrendering in Tunisia in May 1943.


The 33rd Infantry Division, forerunner of the 15th Panzer Division, was formed in April 1936 and part of the German defences in the Saarland during the early month of the war. It participated in the invasion of France and remained there after the French surrender as an occupation force. It returned to Germany in September 1940 to be converted to a tank division.[2]

A Panzer II of the 15th Panzer Division. Note the faded insignia on the front, left of the handle and just below the turret.
Second Battle of El Alamein: 1st Armoured Division is counter-attacked by Littorio Armoured Division and 15th Panzer Division

The division was transported to Libya in April 1941, joining General Erwin Rommel's Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) as one of two German tank divisions in North Africa at the time, the other having been the 21st Panzer Division.[3] However, the Royal Navy intercepted and sank the ships carrying the division's Signal Reserve Battalion.[4]

The division took part in all major German operations in North Africa except the first, for which it arrived too late. It was part of the successful German defence against British attempts to relieve Tobruk, Operation Brevity and Operation Battleaxe. On 18 November British forces began Operation Crusader with the objective of relieving the besieged forces at Tobruk. The 15th Panzer Division was situated to the east of Tobruk, suffered severe losses and was forced to retreat west.[5]

The 15th Panzer Division was part of the German offensive in January 1942 that retook Benghazi. It participated in the battle of Gazala, the capture of Tobruk and the German invasion of Egypt which came to a stand-still at El Alamein. The division suffered severe loses at the Second battle of El Alamein in November 1942 and was forced to retreat along with the rest of the Afrikakorps.[5]

After the retreat of the Axis forces to Tunisia the 15th Panzer Division was part of the battle of Kasserine Pass against inexperienced US forces in February 1943. The division eventually surrendered alongside other Axis forces in Tunisia in May 1943 and was not reestablished.[5]

Survivors of the division who escaped the North African surrender by being in hospitals in Europe became part of the new 15th Panzergrenadier Division.[5]

Commanding officers[edit]

The commanders of the division:[6]


The organisation of the division in March 1941:[7][8]

  • 8 Panzer Regiment (I & II Battalions)
  • 15th Infantry Brigade
    • 104 Motorized Rifle Regiment (I & II Battalions)
    • 115 Motorized Rifle Regiment (I & II Battalions)
    • 15 Motorcycle Battalion
  • 33 Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 33 Motorized Artillery Regiment (I, II & III Battalions)
  • 33 Combat Engineer Battalion
  • 33 Antitank Battalion
  • 33 Divisional services


  1. ^ See the picture below


  1. ^ The hutchinson atlas of World war II battle plans, page 107
  2. ^ Mitcham, p. 124
  3. ^ Mitcham, p. 151
  4. ^ Macksey, M.C., K. J. (1972). Afrika Korps. London: Pan/Ballantine. p. 24.
  5. ^ a b c d Mitcham, p. 125
  6. ^ Mitcham, p. 126–128
  7. ^ "Organizational History of the German Armored Formation 1939-1945" (PDF). cgsc.edu. United States Army Command and General Staff College. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 December 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  8. ^ George F. Nafziger, The German Order of Battle: Panzers and Artillery in World War II, p 97-112