Grouches in the Bulge

Here we see one Major Eberhard Lemor, 39, commander of Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 217, during the Ardennes offensive, some 75 years ago this month. If his trousers look odd, it is because he is wearing a recently-applied plaster cast over his broken left leg, one that he would sport throughout the campaign.

Behind the good major in the snow is a Sturmpanzer IV (Sd.Kfz. 166) a vehicle that, in an army of panzers named after sleek big cats such as the Tiger and Panther, was dubbed the Brummbär (ironically enough by Allied intel analysts, not the Germans) a word which roughly translates to sorehead, grouch, or grumbly bear depending on who you are talking to.

Mating a Panzer IV hull/chassis, complete with a big V-12 Maybach diesel engine, with a big ole thumping Skoda 150mm StuH 43 L/12 howitzer behind a 100mm steel frontal plate, the assault gun was ideal for knocking out hardpoints or waiting in ambush for virtually any armored vehicle or train ever fielded world.

Grouch indeed. The Germans typically referred to these vehicles as “Stupa” an abbreviation of Sturmpanzer. 

Just over 300 Brummbären were fielded in four dedicated Sturmpanzer-Abteilung (Stu.Pz.Abt.. i.e. assault tank battalion), numbered 216 through 219, between 1943 and the end of the war.

After a baptism of fire at Kursk, they were mostly used in Italy and on the Eastern Front– with the exception of Lemor’s unit.

StuPzAbt 217 was only formed late in the war at Grafenwöhr, just weeks before the Overlord landings, from tankers and panzer grenadiers of Panzer-Kompanie 40 and Panzer-Ersatz-Abteilung 18. Fielded piecemeal in company strength into attempts to stop the Allied advance through Normandy and Belgium, the unit was only able to operate as a full battalion for the last big German push at the end of the year.

A cane, cast and a Brummbar in a snowy Belgian field are all you need for a stirring leadership snap from “somewhere in the Ardennes.”

Thrown into the Wacht am Rhein offensive in the Battle of the Bulge on 19 December 1944 with 31 vehicles, the six-month-old battalion only managed to advance to St. Vith before they were stopped cold, (pardon the pun) ultimately falling back in January 1945 and later being destroyed in the Ruhr pocket.

Lemor would survive the war, join the West German Bundeswehr when it was formed, and go on to reach the rank of Oberstleutnant (lt. col), retiring in the 1960s as a NATO staff officer stationed in Brussels, an assignment ironically just 170km from St. Vith– or about four hours drive in a Brummbär.

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