The need of command vehicles for tactical control of the Panzer regiments was realized from the inception of the armoured troops in 1935. More space was required than was provided by the kleine Panzerbefehlswagen, resulting in the adaptation of the Pz Kpfw III design for the grosse Panzerbefehlswagen (Large Armoured Command Vehicle). The external appearance was maintained as closely as possible to that of the Pz Kpfw III, so that the command vehicle would not unduly attract enemy fire. The initial order for 32 of Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf D1 was not completed because of production delays and the introduction of a better suspension design.
Panzerbefehlswagen Ausf E (Sd Kfz 266-268)
Radio: FuG6 + FuG2 (Sd Kfz 266)
Radio: FuG6 + FuG8 (Sd Kfz 267)
Radio: FuG6 + FuG7 (Sd Kfz 268)
Like the armoured car command variants these vehicles carried a distinctive loop aerial above the engine compartment, though this was replaced by the whip aerial in 1943. Armament was an MG 34. A dummy gun replaced the main armament.
The second order for the gr Pz Bef Wg was for 45 based on the same design and suspension as the Pz Kpfw III Ausf E. The series was not completed as quickly as originally planned because of material shortages early in the war.
The Ausf E had the same hull and suspension as the Pz Kpfw III Ausf E. The differences were: dummy main armament, turret bolted in place, additional vision and pistol ports on the superstructure sides, and a pistol port in place of the machine-gun on the superstructure front. The large frame antenna on the rear deck readily distinguished this vehicle from a Pz Kpfw III.
Sixty-four Pz Bef Wg Ausf D1 and E were available with Panzer divisions at the start of the Western campaign in 1940, with 8 sent in as replacements during the fighting. The Ausf E remained in service until the end of the war, being gradually phased out by attrition.
Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf D1 (Sd Kfz 267, 268)
The Ausf D1 had the same basic design and suspension as the Pz Kpfw III Ausf D. The differences were: thicker armour, dummy main armament, ·turret bolted in place, additional vision and pistol ports on the superstructure sides, and a pistol port in place of the machine-gun on the superstructure front. The large frame antenna on the rear deck readily distinguished this vehicle from a Pz Kpfw III.
From 1938 to 1939, the Stab (Headquarters) of each Panzer detachment, Panzer regiment and Panzer brigade, were to have one grosse Panzerbefehlswagen. With only 38 Pz Bet Wg Ausf D1 and E available on 1 September 1939, most units were short of the required number, and several units did not receive any. The Ausf D1 remained in service during the Western campaign in 1940, but had been retired by early 1941 because of their inadequate suspension.