Brief note on British attempts to capture an intact German Tiger I tank in Tunisia from “The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Action”, Military Review, Vol. 23. Presumably, this Tiger is #231 of sPzAbt. 501 which was initially captured by the British largely intact, but the Tiger was then destroyed. Reports differ as to whether the Tiger was destroyed by the Germans or the British.
The work of keeping the minefields clear of wreckage or of immobilized vehicles has already received considerable public notice; no less important nor less hazardous is the location and salvaging of damaged equipment in close proximity to the enemy, and many a tank and gun has been so snatched from under the very noses of the enemy. Sometimes much stalking and considerable planning has been rendered abortive by some adverse turn of fortune’s wheel, and amongst such abortive effects may be mentioned a plan, almost successfully completed, for taking intact one of the earliest German Mk. VI (Tiger) tanks to be knocked out in Tunisia. After a stalk occupying one night and a day’s lie-up awaiting darkness for the actual removal of the tank, the Light Aid Detachment party were denied their success during the last few hours of daylight through circumstances over which they had no control. More frequently, however, as is testified by the astonishing proportion (eighty-three percent) of tank casualties restored to their owners without evacuation during the difficult opening stages of the action at El Alamein, the stalking and the plans are alike successful.
The old Aberdeen Museum Tiger I tank is finally being shipped from RAF Alconbury, England back to the United States to the U.S. Army Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning, Ga. At the Fort Benning museum, the German Tiger I is scheduled for complete restoration. This particular Tiger I originally served with the German sPzAbt. 501 in North Africa. The Tiger was captured by U.S. forces in 1943, and sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds for evaluation.
One of the most feared and powerful tanks of its time is making its way to the United States courtesy of the 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron. The German Tiger 1, World War II era tank, is to be shipped from RAF Alconbury, England, to the U.S. Army Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning, Ga., for repair and full restoration….
“There are only six known Tiger 1s that are still in one piece that are left in the world,” said Len Dyer, Director of the Army Armor and Cavalry museum. “This particular one was captured by the British in Tunis, North Africa, in 1943. She has plenty of combat action and a few combat scars that have had repair work done them.”
Although the tank is now being broken down to be relocated, the battle scars that have since been patched can still be seen on several parts of the tank.
This unique task of moving this battle hardened tank came down from the U.S. Army to the 48th LRS.
“I received an email from the Secretary of the Army requesting whether we could support the moving of this back to the United States and talking to the 48th LRS commander we decided we would go ahead and try to help the Army get this tank home,” said Bill Pratt, 48th LRS Transportation Management Office chief of cargo movement….
This particular cargo is slated to be completely broken down, cleaned, and made ready to be taken back to the U.S. within the next month to join other pieces of military history at the Fort Benning U.S. Army Armor and Cavalry Museum.
The following correspondent’s report from the UP (United Press) describes the fighting at Hunt’s Gap in Tunisia in February-March 1943. Compare this account of the battle to the German commander Oberst. Rudolf Lang’s account and British observer Howard Marshall’s account.
BRITISH BOMBER SCORES AGAINST 6 GERMAN TANKS Northern Tunisia Fighters Receiving Allied Air Support
BY EDWARD W. BEATTIE
ON THE NORTHERN TUNISIAN FRONT, March 1.—(UP)—There were six enemy tanks—big boys, probably Mark VI’s—massed north of the Mateur-Beja road when a bomber went in and dropped two bombs squarely into the middle of them.
British soldiers threw their helmets into the air and cheered. And well they might, for troops in this area never before had such air support as they are now receiving.
The British bombers caught Rommel’s supply columns in a narrow valley above. Beja Sunday. There was a thick fog lying across the valley and it was not an ideal day for bombing.
But, starting at dawn, the Allied bombers made eight sorties low into the valley and when they got through, the hair-pin road along which the Axis transport was concentrated was pock-marked with bomb craters.
I talked to the returning pilots and they said most of the enemy vehicles were stationary and some of them immobilized by the fury of the Allied attack.
The Germans threw an attack against Allied lines above Beja Sunday, using about 10 Mark IV tanks. British Churchill tanks rolled out to oppose them and knocked out three and perhaps four of the Mark IV’s. A heavier enemy attack may come, however, because a force of about 30 German tanks was seen just off the Beja road.
Allied air power was thrown against the Germans as early as Saturday, and ground troops then reoccupied two important positions.
The British early Saturday morning took Fort McGregor—named after a young American lieutenant from Brooklyn—south of Medjez-El-Bab. The American garrison of Fort McGregor was withdrawn some time ago.
The Germans took it Friday. Crack German tank forces and other elements penetrated through a dry river bed to the south. The British surprised them with a counterattack, killed 40 and captured 60.
The British reoccupied Tally-Ho corner after the Germans withdrew into the hills east of the Medjez-El-Bab – El-Aroussa road during the night. When darkness came Saturday, the British were mopping up a few remnants halfway along the road.
The attack toward Beja made little progress Saturday, and was heavily bombed and shelled. The Germans sent forces of roughly a battalion (1,000 men) through the hills between the Beja-Mateur and Beja-Medjez-El-Bab road, intending to cut around the latter around over Zarga. By Saturday night, the battalion had not been in contact with the British, although artillery had shelled the Germans heavily.
Germans Use Planes
The Germans have been using their planes liberally to attack Allied positions and shoot up transport behind the front. They attacked Tally-Ho corner three times without much result.
Roughly, it was estimated the Germans threw 13 battalions (13,000 men), with supporting troops of two divisions (perhaps 30,000 men) into the action on the northern front, but paradoxically, fighting was more restricted Saturday than the day before.
Of an estimated 50 German and Italian tanks involved, It was estimated that at least 15 to 20 have been knocked out.
This wartime film shows black-and-white video of Villers-Bocage after the town’s capture by British troops in August 1944. British engineers search for mines around the wreckage of Tigers and Panzer IVs lost by the Germans in Villers-Bocage. In June 1944, Villers-Bocage was the sight of a famous battle between Michael Wittmann and the Tigers of sSSPzAbt. 501 and the British 7th Armoured Division.
When the Allied forces first encountered the Tiger II in Normandy in the summer of 1944, the panzer was briefly referred to as the “Pantiger”. The Associated Press picked up the name “Pantiger” in their article on August 19th:
Germans have thrown a huge new, heavily armored tank into action on both the Russian and northern French fronts in an effort to stem the Allied advances, but first reports denied it was a “super weapon.”
One of the new monsters weighing over 65 tons and with six inch armor plate—an inch and a half thicker than anything the enemy yet has put into action—was taken by the British on the Orne river front. The tank was a victim of a mechanical breakdown and never had fired a shot in battle.
Christened the “Pantiger” by its captors, the tank combines the best features of the Nazi Tiger and Panther tanks, which weigh 45 tons each. It is 23 feet long and over 11 feet wide, has an extra wheel on each side of its tracks and a huge, clumsy looking turret.
A new 67-ton German heavy tank—referred to variously as Pantiger and Tiger II—has been employed against the Allies this summer in France. Actually a redesigned Tiger (Pz. Kpfw. VI), it mounts the 8.8-cm Kw. K. 43 gun. On the basis of a preliminary report, the general appearance of the new tank is that of a scaled-up Pz. Kpfw. V (Panther) on the wide Tiger tracks. It conforms to normal German tank practice insofar as the design, lay-out, welding, and interlocking of the main plates are concerned. All sides are sloping. The gun is larger than the Panther gun, and longer than the ordinary Tiger gun. Armor is also thicker than that on either the Panther or the Tiger. The turret is of new design, with bent side plates. In all respects the new tank is larger than the standard Tiger.
“Snow Tiger” is an upcoming release from toy soldier company King & Country. Although King & Country have produced German Tiger tanks before, the “Snow Tiger” is a new improved sculpting of the famous Tiger. The “Snow Tiger” is painted with a winter camouflage scheme, and comes with two crew figures.
Video of captured Tiger II of sPzAbt. 506 at Gereonsweiler, Germany in 1945:
Transcript: At Gereonsweiler, a knocked out King Tiger tank is put back into working order. With the help of a wrecker, the turret is forced into line by men of Company B, 129th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, 7th Armored Division. The King Tiger tank weighs approximately 72 tons. It has 34 inch wide treads which spread the great weight over a large area. Top speed: 20 mph. Armor: up to 6 inches thick. It mounts the vaunted 88mm gun whose barrel is more than 21 feet long. The rebuilt tank will be used to familiarize our troops with the enemy weapon.
Combat Lessons, No. 3 described the fighting on Sicily between U.S. Sherman tanks, Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs of the Herman Goring Panzer Division, and Tigers of sPzAbt. 504. The Herman Goring Panzer Division lost heavily in the fighting around the Sicily beachheads in July, and sPzAbt. 504 suffered the disastrous loss of 14 of its 17 Tigers.
Tank Operations, Remarks by a Senior American Officer, Sicily: “On the morning of 12 July, at least a company of German tanks with numerous Mark VIs (Tigers) attached, attacked down the Niscemi Road. There was an observation post for our artillery just south of this road from which fire was placed on the tanks with great accuracy by an infantry battalion commander who was the only observer present. At the time he brought the fire down on the tanks they were within 300 yards of his position.
“While this was going on, a company of our Sherman tanks encountered enemy tanks and infantry moving west on the Gela-Ragusa Road and a sharp fight ensued. The Germans lost two Mark VIs, while we lost four Mark IVs (Shermans). The German tanks attacked ahead of the infantry, and without using smoke or reconnaissance. They were stopped by fire from our tanks and artillery.
“In both attacks the Germans followed the roads and were less successful than on the preceding day when they had been deployed and operated cross-country.
“On the Miscemi Road I saw four German Mark IV tanks and a number of Mark VIs and Mark IIIs which had been knocked out. Three of the Mark VIs had been stopped initially by a hit on a track. Another Mark VI had been ditched under conditions that indicated very poor driving and then put out of action by artillery shell fire while immobilized.”
Penalty of Carelessness: “The American tanks lost deserved their fate because they deliberately violated long-standing instructions. They had apparently moved down the valley until they reached a road and then successively moved out on the road to get a view. As soon as they got on the road they came under fire from German 88s at 1500 yards range.
“Had these tanks halted under cover on either side of the road and reconnoitered on foot, they would certainly have discovered the German guns which were and still are in plain view.“