Zimmerit a basic guide

Posted: May 28, 2015 in 15mm, Flames Of War, German, Wargaming, WW2
Tags: , , , ,

IMG_8950a

I have recently been doing a lot of reading

up on Zimmerit and the mystery surrounding its

limited time span of use.

Zimmerit was a non-magnetic coating produced for German AFV`s

during WW II for the purpose of combating magnetically attached

anti-tank mines. It was developed by the German company Chemische

Werke Zimmer AG and used from 1943-1944. It was basically a cement

type coating which provided small gaps and uneven ridges on the

outside of the tanks stopping magnetic mines being attached.

Strangely the Germans came up with the idea after inventing a

magnetic mine of their own(the Hafthohlladung 3 Mine) specially

to be used against tanks.

The picture below shows a Hafthohlladung courtesy of the

Bunderarchive.

bild-110

Unfortunately the Germans believed because

they had created such a mine the allies would surely follow and thus

the invention of zimmerit. In a strange irony the allies never did use

magnetic tank mines.

Zimmerit was applied to tanks as far as I`m aware at the factory and

not in the field. The following description of how zimmerit is applied

is taken from various factual sources including the Haynes Tiger Tank manual,

Military Classic Vehicles, the Bovington archive and the Mike Gibb stug

restoration project.

Zimmerit was made from zinc sulphide, barium sulphate,pine saw dust,

PVA,peeble dust,ochre and pine crystals. The process involves dissolving

the pine crystals in a large quantity of benzene(which is highly flammable and I will come back

to this at a later stage). This creates a sticky golden liquid which

when added to the other ingredients helps the PVA adhere and harden.

Next you are required to trowl on the material to the AFV applying

ridges in a set pattern(they are a number of different patterns). Firstly

a 2mm layer is applied and then from 5cm away a blow lamp is

used to harden and burn off excess moisture. This results in

significant fires. 4 hours or more later a second 4mm layer is

added in the same way. As an example a Stug would require 100kg

of zimmerit to cover it correctly.

Once dry(at least 72hrs) the surface can be painted.

Below is a picture of the zimmerit found on Tiger II.

IMG_8971a

This is zimmerit on a Stug III

IMG_8969a

The German high command decided in 1944 to stop applying zimmerit

to AFV`s for various reasons. The obvious being it was not needed

as the allies did not use magnetic tank mines , plus is was costly

and time consuming. A further,discarded reason was that

there were reports coming back from the front that zimmerit was

flammable ?

This is the point that interested me in the subject to start

with and has been frowned apon by the military forums for years

and to me it seemed strange. If reports are coming back from front

line units that zimmerit is flammable and is burning up tanks why

disregard the theory point blank,which is what people have been

doing right up until Mike Gibb put people in the picture.

The key to the issue is the benzene and temperature. The application

of zimmerit as described above only works if its warm. If its cold a

number of issues occur. Cold weather stops the benzene from hardening

properly(this cannot be seen by the naked eye or by touch). This un-

hardened surface is then painted over and the paint locks into the benzene

which has not evaporated. The result is a AFV being sent out into combat

just waiting for a round to ignite the benzene!

Now add to the boiling pot that most of the reports are coming back from

the Eastern Front in 43-44 of zimmerit fires where the temperature is hitting

minus 40 in the winter. Plus Germany is losing the war so the need to rush

tanks out of the factory faster and faster creates a time bomb waiting to

ignite, literally.

A number of nations tested the flammable zimmerit theory after the war

and were unable to get it to burn but they were unaware of the application

problem in cold weather and most likely used a correctly applied zimmerit

vehicle that had seen action. We will never know ?

One other thing about zimmerit that was not intended but was a pleasant

surprise noticed by German and Allied tank commanders alike was its

camouflage characteristics . It naturally created an anti-shine to any

tank that had it and broke up the outline of the tank.

Below is a link to the Weald Foundation and Wheatcroft Collection that

restore AFV`s and collected and tested the info on the zimmerit :

http://www.thetankchannel.com/sdkfzstugiii.html

http://www.wheatcroftcollection.com/

Hope you liked the brief explanation on zimmerit and please get

in touch if you know of any extra information. Its always good

to learn a little more. I would be especially interested in

any information on field application of the stuff as there are

a few suggestions on the net about it but no solid proof as yet.

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Comments
  1. AdvanceOp says:

    Reblogged this on AdvanceOp's Hobby Blog and commented:
    RL is crazy busy for me at the moment, so here’s a really excellent re-blog from The Model Warrior.

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