The Panzer II is the common name used for a family of German tanks used in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen II (abbreviated PzKpfw II).

Although the vehicle had originally been designed as a stopgap while larger, more advanced tanks were developed, it nonetheless went on to play an important role in the early years of World War II, during the Polish and French campaigns. The Panzer II was the most numerous tank in the German Panzer divisions at the beginning of the war. It was used both in North Africa against the Western Allies and on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union.

In 1934, delays in the design and production of the Panzer III and Panzer IV medium tanks were becoming apparent. The Panzer I had no weapons capable of defeating armor and thus no chance of success against enemy tanks. Designs for a stopgap tank were solicited from Krupp, MAN, Henschel, and Daimler-Benz. Design work on the Panzer II began on 27 January 1934. The first experimental model was ready in February 1935. The final design was based on the Panzer I, but larger, and with a turret mounting a 20 mm anti-tank gun. Production began in 1935, but it took another eighteen months for the first combat-ready tank to be delivered.

The Panzer II was designed before the experience of the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39 showed that protection against armour-piercing shells was required for tanks to survive on a modern battlefield. Prior to that, armour was designed to stop machine gun fire and high-explosive shell fragments.

The Panzer II Ausf. A to C had 14 mm of slightly sloped homogeneous steel armour on the sides, front, and back, with 10 mm of armour on the top and bottom. Most of them were later given increased armour in the front of the vehicle, most noticeable by the changed appearance of the front hull from rounded to boxy shape.

Starting with the D model, the front armour was increased to 30 mm. The Model F had 35 mm front armour and 20 mm side armour. This level of protection was still only proof against small arms fire. This amount of armour could be penetrated by towed anti-tank weapons, such as the Soviet 45mm, the British 2-pounder and the French canon de 47.

Engine: Maybach HL62 TRM 6-cylinder petrol.

Read more: Tanks and fighting vehicles with Andrew Pantele ...