What are 'Schürzen'?

I got this question from a member of my newly made Reddit community. And I’m also curious to find out myself. What are these metal plates often seen on StuG IV and IIIs and IVs? Are there any specific books or websites written about this topic?

They are Germans attempt at spaced armor, the idea is that explosive rounds explode too far from the main armor to do damage, and kinetic rounds tend to tumble after going through them so they do not hit the main tank armor tip first, reducing efficiency. It is more cost effective and lighter than just adding armor to the tank. Also they are easily replaced, and they (to some extent) conceal the weak spots on the tank.
Thoma shields are the same, but instead of plates they used mesh.

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Modern “Schürzen”:

Edit: See Kurts clarification below.

Thank you for replying so far.

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No “t” in Schürzen.

Thanks!
Corrected.

Here is a good article on the Schurzen: Add-on Armor

Shaped charge or other explosive rounds were not part of the considerations the Germans made when designing and adopting Schürzen. They were first used on the Panther to protect the remarkably thin lower hull sides from Soviet 14.5mm anti-tank rifles firing solid AP rounds. It was important enough that if the Schurzen didn’t work the Panther would have been redesigned.

The later mesh skirts were also meant to protect against light AP rounds, not HEAT.

Remember, spaced armor was used long before HEAT projectiles existed, both earlier in WW II on tanks and a half-century earlier on ships.

KL

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Well there you go. It was not for HEAT rounds at all, as I have always been told. Fancy that!

It should serve a purpose for heat rounds but as said above it was originally theorized as a measure to stop anti tank rifle rounds.

@modelbouwnederland Schürzen is german for apron, which really describes their placement than their purpose. You’ll see all kinds of devices designed to defeat Heat and HE rounds. My personal favourite are the chain style

image

Yes, I would with the concept that schurzen were originally to protect against anti-tank rifles, the anti HEAT use was a myth that I fell for like others for many years, perhaps by Centurion skirts being referred to as “bazooka plates”. The Russians continued with anti tank rifles and in large numbers long after other countries had given up on them (I believe I read somewhere they were manufactured from non-strategic materials, including in one instance, lead. Not sure how that would work!)The fact that they also worked against hollow-charge weapons like bazookas was useful, but of course the Russians didn’t use hollow charge weapons, it was the Western Allies who had bazookas. There was a German concept to build tanks, in particular, which were immune to their own weapons, presumably in case captured vehicles were turned on their former owners, hence Zimmerit to protect against magnetic mines; the Russians didn’t use them!

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Never assume that the enemy has less capable weapons than your own …

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More reading : https://balagan.info/why-were-schurzen-introduced-in-ww2

H.P.

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Postwar, they were intended for defense against HEAT and HEP, or HESH, as you probably knew them.

The Russians were given bazookas, 3,000 of them. It is believed that captured examples from the Eastern Front prompted the Germans to develop their own HEAT rocket launchers.

KL

Those behave differently than solid spaced armor that is meant to pre-detonate an incoming round. Slats are meant to catch or destroy the projectiles such that they cannot form a penetrating jet.

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Do you mean on the back of the tank? Is this a Merkava tank? Because the turret appears to be mounted backwards. Forgive if I’m wrong, I’m not into modern armor.

Wouldn’t you want to destroy your own tanks if they were turned against you? Otherwise, how would you be able to take out the enemy if your own weapons didn’t work against them?

Thanks for replying and providing these resource links to read on. And thanks for the information.

The Merkava has the turret at the rear end of the tank, the engine is at the front.
The mass of the engine and gearbox provides additional protection for the crew.
Ammunition is easy to load through the hatch in the rear plate.
Leave one or two ammunition bins behind and the Merkava can carry a few troops
in the vacant space.

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Yeah I’m talking about the chains on the back of the turret. They are meant to detonate an RPG before it can hit the turret. They are placed there becuase of the obvious weak spot