When and where did duel between the Panzer III and Valentine tanks take place?

The Valentine was the most produced tank of World War II in Britain and Canada. The Panzer III was Germany's most produced tank other than Panzer IV. Their duel lasted all two years of the long war in North Africa, from mid-1941 to mid-1943: first in Libya, then Egypt, back to Libya, and eventually Tunisia. This long period of coincidence spanned all the main campaigns, included all the main models, and took place across varied terrains and missions.


How did the Valentine tanks and Panzer III's long periods of service overlap?

The Panzer III and Valentine tanks were designed during the arms race that preceded WWII.  

Panzer IIIs fought in Poland in 1939, Western Europe in 1940, Eastern Europe from 1941, Greece and North Africa from 1941, and Italy from 1943.

Panzer IIIs and Valentines fought each other most intensively in Africa, from November 1941 to May 1943. At times, each was the predominant type on their respective side. Valentine variants continued to serve in Italy through the end of the war. Valentine XI command tanks served from late 1944 in Northwest Europe.

Some Panzer IIIs, despite the preponderance of later types of Panzer, continued to serve in Italy and France from 1943 through 1944. Panzer IIIs were still with neglected garrisons in Scandinavia and the Balkans at the end of the war.

Valentine tanks continued in Soviet service in Eastern Europe, in Australian and New Zealand service in the South Pacific, and in British service in India and Burma, through the end of the war.


How significant were the Panzer IIIs and Valentine tanks in terms of production?

The Panzer III was Nazi Germany’s longest serving and most produced tank platform, other than the Panzer IV. Panzer IIIs accounted for about one-quarter of the tanks produced in Greater Germany and Czechoslovakia during WWII.

The Valentine was Britain and Canada’s longest serving and most produced tank platform of WWII. Valentines and derivatives accounted for about one-quarter of all the tank platforms produced in Britain during the war, about one-quarter of those produced in Canada, and almost three-quarters of the tanks exported by Britain and Canada to the Soviet Union.

By the middle of the Second World War, the Panzer III and Valentine were the preponderant tanks on the German and British frontlines respectively.


How did the Panzer III and Valentine compare?

The Panzer III and Valentine were equivalent in many qualitative aspects. Their initial main armaments were almost of the same size. Although Valentine started with thicker armour, the Panzer III soon caught up. It received larger armaments during the same period, although belatedly Valentine caught up in lethality.

Panzer IIIs and Valentines first fought each other in Libya, during Operation Crusader, from 18 November through December 1941. Panzer 3Es led the counterattacks against Valentine IIs. They fought almost constantly as Axis forces advanced from Libya into Egypt, from January to August 1942.

Valentine IIs sought to recapture Ruweisat Ridge on 22 July 1942 in the largest concentration yet, only to be almost wiped out by towed artillery and about 20 counterattacking Panzer 3Js and earlier types.

They fought again when Axis forces launched their offensive against the Allied line at Alamein on 30 August 1942, and during British 8th Army’s counter-offensives of September and October.

On 23 October 1942, Valentine IIs led the assaults during the final Allied offensive from the Alamein Line. In subsequent weeks, Valentine IIs led assaults that liberated Egypt and carried the Allies into Libya in November, while the dwindling number of Panzer 3Js still led the counter-attacks.

Meanwhile, from November 1942, Panzer IIIs and Valentines were landed in Tunisia for a fresh duel in damp mountainous terrain.


Why was the Valentine tank the most produced British and Canadian tank?

The Valentine tank was the second predominant British type in Libya and Egypt by 1942 (behind the Crusader). The availability of the Valentine increased given its uniquely high volume of production (true in both Britain and Canada) and its exceptional reliability among Allied tanks.

British dependence in the field increased with the Ministry of Supply’s failure to upgrade the Matilda II (retired from frontline service in August 1942), and the ongoing remediation (since 1941) of the Churchill (the fourth and final infantry tank ever to be deployed).

The Valentine was the predominant British type in Tunisia from November 1942 to March 1943, as British formations switched from British to US tanks.


What was the high-point of the duel between Panzer IIIs and Valentines?

A little known battle was fought on 1 December 1942, the mid-point of the war, for Tebourba in Tunisia. More Valentine tanks than any other British type landed during British 1st Army’s invasion of Tunisia in November 1942. Valentine IIIs were deployed for the first time, with three men in the turret, as in all the Panzer III turrets, enabling faster operations than possible in the Valentine II’s two-man turret.

Yet the Germans were quick to respond. The nascent 190th Panzer Battalion, followed by a battalion from the reforming 10th Panzer Division, were sent from France, with mostly Panzer 3Js and 3Ls. Moreover, Panzer 3Ns fought for the first time, each armed with a short 75mm gun, in support to a few Tiger tanks, which arrived with the first of the nascent Heavy Panzer Battalions (501st). Thus, the latest marks of the preponderant tank platforms on the British and German sides were set for a duel that would decide the fate of Tunisia.

The Panzers were organized for the first German counter-offensive in Tunisia, on 1 December 1942. Would the Allies keep hold of Tebourba and advance down the few dozen miles of highway to Tunis, thus completing their conquest of Tunisia before the winter set in? Would the Germans drive the Allies out of Tebourba, stabilize the front until the summer of 1943, and delay any Allied invasion of Italy until too late in the summer to be decisive?

The opposing tanks were the latest in their respective series and more closely matched, with some interesting asymmetries. The long 50mm guns on the Panzer 3Js and 3Ls were larger than the 40mm guns on the Valentines. The short 75mm gun on the Panzer 3Ns was most effective as a close support weapon. The Panzer 3J’s armour is not as thick as the Valentine’s, but is face hardened. The Panzer 3Ls and 3Ns were assembled with thicker armour. However, the Valentines is smaller and stealthier. The Panzer IIIs are more powerful and faster, but the Valentines are lighter, longer in range, and better at crossing obstacles.

Who would triumph?


You can find out more in Valentine Infantry Tank vs Panzer III.