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Sturmpanzer II Bison – Support when it counts

Sturmpanzer II Bison – Support when it counts
with Adam Brooker

The release of the mid war North Africa Compilation brings you some new toys to play with as an Axis player, with new units for both German and Italian forces, as well as nicely bringing together a unified support diagram for North Africa, with all the formations that were previously in booklets or just as cards like the 90th Light Division, and finally giving us a use for the Wildcard Slot!

One of the additions that I am very happy that they included was the 15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf), or Sturmpanzer II Bison, which is called in game the Bison 15cm Infantry Gun Platoon. This is essentially a mobile infantry support gun, that is mobile enough to keep up with attacking infantry and tanks, and will not slow down a fast-paced assault. But let’s have a look at how and why these vehicles were designed and the battlefield need they filled.

After the invasion of Poland in the early stages of WW2 it was found the towed sIG 33 15cm infantry support guns given to the motorised infantry regiments to help destroy dug in positions or gun teams were too slow and cumbersome to keep pace with assaulting tanks and infantry. To solve this, they placed the 15cm gun on the chassis of a spare Panzer I, complete with carriage and wheels, instead of a turret and superstructure, and some thin armour plate to create an open topped fighting compartment. This created the 15 cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B or Sturmpanzer I Bison. While this vehicle was partially effective, in that it had the mobility to keep up with tanks, it had many drawbacks. There was no real protection for the crew except for the gun and the gunner himself, but the loaders were still vulnerable to small arms and artillery fire. 

Additionally, there was limited gun traverse (only 25 degrees) and no room to stow ammunition, so a separate munitions vehicle was also needed to supply it. The chassis was also overloaded, so breakdowns were frequent, as well as having difficulty in crossing any sort of rough terrain. Its conspicuous height also made it an easy target, but overall, it did its job and was sort of a proof-of-concept vehicle that was later improved upon. 

Sturmpanzer II Bison – Support when it counts

It should be noted that this filled a different and more specific battlefield need to the Sturmgeschütz III, and also had a slower firing and larger main gun, so it should not be seen as a precursor the StuG III. But you can see that the addition of the 10.5cm Howitzer armed StuH to the StuG artillery batteries was more than likely influenced by this early vehicle. The 15cm Howitzer armed Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B or StuIG 33B is more of a direct development from this vehicle, and was used in the close urban fighting in and around Stalingrad, with significantly more armour and protection for the crew. You can also find this vehicle in the list of Community Cards for Mid War if you are interested.

Sturmpanzer II Bison – Support when it counts


Thirty-eight Bison I were eventually converted and organised into six independent self-propelled heavy infantry gun companies for the invasion of France in 1940. They were successful there, given its limitations, and were then used in the invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The last vehicles appear to have been part of the 5th Panzer Division on the Eastern Front in 1943, and were in the 704th Self-propelled Heavy Infantry Gun Company. There is no information about these vehicles after 1943, should it should be assumed they were all lost.

The Sturmpanzer II Bison was an attempt to overcome some of the drawbacks of the Sturmpanzer I Bison, mostly by ensuring the vehicle was not overloaded, and reducing the vehicle silhouette.  The vehicle was based on an enlarged Panzer II chassis, which added an extra roadwheel, lengthening it by 60cm and widening it by 32cm, to accommodate the large 15cm Howitzer, but at the same time keeping a low vehicle silhouette. Additional armour was added (15mm) to the front and sides protect the crew from small arms and shrapnel, but the fighting compartment was still open, so the crew was vulnerable to mortars and overhead fire/blasts. The armour and crew protection was mainly focused to the front, as they were expected to be facing the direction of greatest threat, and also would not be assaulting a position without infantry support to protect its flanks. In addition, it was able to carry 30 rounds of ammunition, which is a significant improvement from the previous Bison I. 

In a way this was only a partial upgrade, as the crew was still very vulnerable, and it was not until the development of the StuIG 33B and later the Sturmpanzer 43 or Brummbar, that a fully enclosed and heavily armoured infantry support vehicle would be developed to assault dug in and urban positions. But by that time of the war, the Germans were increasingly on the defensive, so the weapons were rarely used for the purpose they were designed.

But still this vehicles role was not to directly assault enemy positions like a StuG, the front is too lightly armoured for that, it was supposed to move up with the assaulting tanks and infantry, and then stay back out of range as they assaulted the positions, with its fire arching over friendly forces heads, at targets directed by the assaulting forces.

Another great benefit in the desert to Rommel with these vehicles, was that normal horse drawn 15cm sIG 33 guns would have been impractical in the desert, the vast distances they needed to be covered would have been very difficult for horse or mules to traverse, especially given the need for water and feed. The logistics for each battery would have been a nightmare, with each gun needing 6 horses to pull them. 

Sturmpanzer II Bison – Support when it counts

Twelve Sturmpanzer II Bison were built in 1941 at the Alkett Factory, and in 1942 they were all shipped to North Africa, to form the Heavy Self-propelled Infantry Gun Companies 707 and 708, as part of the 90th Light Afrika-Division. The 707.became part of Schutzen-Regiment 155 and the 708. part of Schutzen-Regiment 200, where they acted as close support mobile artillery.

Interestingly another 15cm Howitzer armed infantry support vehicle came out of the African Campaign on the German side. The 15cm sIG 33 auf. F. Pz.Kpfw. III (Sf.), which is essentially as 15cm sIG 33 fitted onto the chassis of a Panzer III. Only one was ever built, and was assigned to the 708. Heavy Self-propelled Infantry Gun Company in Schutzen-Regiment 200. 

Sturmpanzer II Bison – Support when it counts

Both Companies fought through most of the battles in North Africa, until the German surrender in Tunisia in 1943.

It is very similar to the Sturmpanzer II Bison, with a 15cm Howitzer dropped into a damaged Panzer III chassis, and a modified gun-shield, and deeper fighting compartment. It also had racks fitted at the rear to carry supplies and ammunition. It was one of many experimental or unconventional vehicles used in North Africa that were known as “Rommels Funnies, like the Diana Tank Hunter or the Panzer-Selbstfahrlafette II 7.5cm half-track Tank Hunter. I think this would make a cool objective or conversion.


So now talking about the models use in game, it is very useful at providing support for your assaulting infantry, in pinning down defending infantry or gun teams, or in wiping out anti-tank or machine gun teams that may be hindering your advance. But as they don’t have much armour, you may need a spotter or HQ to direct the fire, to keep them safe from direct fire in return. 

Sturmpanzer II Bison – Support when it counts

To me they are a faster, and better armoured option, than just taking two Lorraine Schleppers, which may be cheaper by a point, but if your going to be attacking infantry, or machine guns, the enemy has a chance of knocking the Schleppers out, they can only bail the Bison. Besides they look cooler, and you can take both if you want…. And if you are going to take 2 Schleppers, then you should take 4….   

They will be a must take in my 90th Light Division force, got to help my Landsers take those British positions. Also, I think the model is excellent, providing some extra character and history to the Afrika Korps lists. So make sure you pick up a pair to add onto your Afrika Force.

Last Updated On Thursday, March 17, 2022 by Luke at Battlefront