GA-18 Panzer I Ausf. A – Ambulance Version
Design of the Panzer I began in 1932 and mass production proceeded in 1934. Intended only as a training tank to introduce the concept of armored warfare to the German army, the Panzer I saw combat in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, in Poland, France, the Soviet Union and North Africa during the Second World War.
Experiences with the Panzer I during the Spanish Civil War helped shape the German Panzerwaffe’s invasion of Poland in 1939, and France in 1940.
The Panzer I’s performance in armoured combat was limited by its thin armor and light armament of two machine guns, which were never intended for use against armored targets, rather, being ideal for infantry suppression, in line with inter-war doctrine. Although lacking in armored combat as a tank, it formed a large part of Germany’s mechanized forces and was used in all major campaigns between September 1939, and December 1941, where it still performed much useful service against entrenched infantry and other ‘soft’ targets, which were vulnerable to machine gun fire.
Although it was quickly surpassed by more powerful successors, the Panzer I’s contribution to the early victories of Nazi Germany during WW 2 was significant.
As the war progressed new types of more modern and efficient combat vehicles were developed and built. The Panzer I’s quickly became obsolete and were relegated to secondary roles, both at the front and the rearguard. The Panzer I was used as a medical tank for casualty evacuation for the panzer units on the front. These tanks had no armament at all, with the turrets removed, and white circles with a red cross in the middle were painted on the sides and rear, to denote their assignment to frontline medical platoons.