November 1943. German forces were engaged in a desperate battle to retain control of the Crimean Peninsula. They faced assaults to the north on the Perekop Isthmus, to the east on the Kertsch Peninsula and a sea borne assault on Kertsch itself. One of the few armoured units still available to the Germans was the 191st ('Büffel') Sturmgeschütz (StuG) Brigade.
The Germans struggled to keep their forces resupplied with their lines of communication under constant air and sea attack.
Towards the end of November 1943, the German supply ship Sante Fe sailed in convoy Wotan from the Romanian port of Konstanza. The ship was carrying supplies and replacement vehicles for the beleaguered German forces, including the 191st Brigade. Only a few hours short of her destination a torpedo slammed into her. Torn apart by internal explosions she broke in half and sank. 1278 tons of vital military cargo had gone to the bottom including ammunition, fuel, 2 Jagdpanzer and 12 Sturmgeschütze assault guns (StuGs).
In 2002 an ambitious plan was hatched to recover some of the vehicles from the wreck. After considerable risk, effort, and expense, divers succeeded in recovering two StuGs.
We were determined to secure a StuG with German provenance given that the majority of survivors did not serve with German forces during WWII. One of the Sante Fe StuGs fitted the bill perfectly. This ticked the boxes of German service and was accompanied by a spectacular provenance - albeit somewhat short.
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