Isn’t that a Bison?

…To be honest, no!

New writer Martin Turner brings us his look at an old favourite, the Bison SP Infantry Gun and how he bought it back to the table with some clever proxying…

Due to a post war blunder by a model manufacturer and several writers these self propelled guns (SPG’s) became known as the Bison II, though this was never their war time name and they aren’t really related to the original Bison. Even Battlefront called them “Self propelled Infantry gun – Bison” in the old North Africa book.

This is a Bison – he’s not really all that similar!

Their real name is the 15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf). They don’t have a common name at all but “Bison” is a lot easier and is what I will call them.

As this is a follow up on Lee’s excellent AAR ‘A tankies tale from the Desert to the Dneiper’, I’m going to give a bit of background history to these members of Rommel’s funnies and explain how, with a bit of lateral thought and research, it’s possible to field almost any model out there in FOW; you don’t always need Battlefront to include it directly in a force diagram.

Firstly, a bit of history.

With a need for heavy supporting infantry guns for his Afrika-Panzer Army Rommel wanted the heavy 15cm guns normally supporting the infantry divisions included in his forces but these normally needed a crew of 8, plus a team of horses, not to mention the accompanying quantities of supplies of food, forage and most importantly water. All not highly available in the arid conditions of the North African Desert!

So with a surplus of the now largely redundant Panzer II tanks and German engineering know how, it was decided to fit the 15cm infantry gun on to the Panzer II. After a bit of tinkering, namely removing the turret, widening and lengthening the hull and adding an extra road wheel the 15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) was born.


15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) in North Africa (photographer unknown)

It proved very effective in tests back home in Germany so it was decided to ship them out to North Africa, where it proved equally as effective, if a touch temperamental. Six were captured in December 1942 by the British in the retreat from Alamein.  Nothing unusual in that you might think, lots of stuff got abandoned and captured, but these were all in various states of mechanical disrepair in a tank workshop.

To utilize these new weapons the German Army Organisations-Abteilung ordered the creation of two new independent heavy self-propelled infantry gun companies: 707.schwere Infanteriegeschütze-Kompanien. and 708. schwere Infanteriegeschütze-Kompanien. Each company was issued with six  and were part of Rommel’s 90.leicht Afrika-Division and this is where we return to FOW and my inclusion of these in my list for “From the Desert to the Dneiper” and where Lee’s 3 R.T.R. encountered them.

Getting  the ‘Bison’ on the table

For the event I used the rules for a two gun battery of Lorraine Schlepper SPG’s to represent my much loved models. They have a broadly similar weapon, a 15 cm howitzer which is good start, so no need for changing the main weapons profile and neither had an MG. It was removed from the Panzer II hull to make more room for the commander.

The Schlepper’s stats courtesy of the Battlefront website

The hull and superstructure look very different between the two but, importantly, they are roughly the same size which is preferable when representing things with other models.

My Bison SPG – note the similar gun barrels!

The Schlepper, being based on the French Lorraine 37L ammunition carrier, has a much larger cargo compartment at the rear for the gun compared to the front mounted gun in the Bison however, both are based on a fully tracked armoured vehicles of similar size and performance. The Panzer II was slightly better armoured but in FOW terms FA1 or FA2 makes little real difference on a vehicle that shouldn’t be getting anywhere near the enemy, so that’s another area where I could be confident my “represented by” choice was OK and my opponents wouldn’t be concerned at me using these models.

The key differences in the two vehicles are much more subtle. The level of mechanical issues that the Bison suffered from particularly when on the move are not really relevant in game terms, they probably should have a worse cross rating than the Schlepper but, on balance, the reduction in front armour is balanced up by a little bit of a mobility bonus, which I used to full effect vs Lee to get my Bison back into concealing terrain when he got close. Not getting hit is always preferable to relying on an armour save roll.

Using the AA halftracks as ablative armour also works…

The other area of difference is in a lack of ammunition, the Bison could only carry 10 rounds and a good crew could fire 3 rounds per minute, luckily in FOW we don’t have to keep track of that.

Yeah… luckily – Lee

So, with all this thought through, I confirmed what I wanted to do and explained this in advance with the TO and off to Crawley I went, confident that there wouldn’t be any issues with my models. As it turned out everyone was rather interested in them and hence this article was born.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas about how you can include other models in your collections which do not have a specific unit card or it inspires you to produce your own unit cards and provides some ideas about where to start.

Category: BattlefrontDesertFlames of WarGermansMid WarV4

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Article by: martin turner