TIGER I gallery 3

In March 1943, after analyzing the first Tiger campaign reports, it was decided to change the layout of the Schwere Panzerkompanies and equip them with only 14 Tiger tanks. There were some unit commanders who did not see this composition as adequate, having to use the Tigers for all kinds of missions, with the consequent mechanical wear and implicit danger. However, an attempt was made to replace the Pz.IIIs with the same number of Sd.Kfz 250 and 251 half-tracks to carry out communications and reconnaissance missions mainly.
Because it was not manufactured in large numbers, the units that operated with Tiger tanks were quite limited. The complete list is as follows: -Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung 501, 502 (later 511), 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509 and 510  -Schwere SS Panzer Abteilung 101, 102 and 103 -Schwere Panzer Abteilung (FKL) 301  -Panzer Abteilung 500 “Paderborn”  -Panzer Abteilung “Kummersdorf”  -III Abteilung/Panzer Regiment “Grossdeutchland”  -13 (later 9) Kompanie/Panzer Regiment “Grossdeutchland”  -Schwere Panzer Kompanie 4 (later 13), 8 and 9 from SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 and 3 respectively)  -Schwere Panzer Kompanie (FKL) 1 and 316  -Schwere Panzer Kompanie “Humme”l  -Schwere Panzer Kompanie “Paderborn”  -Panzer Kompanie “Panther”  -Panzer Kompanie (FKL) 313 and 314  -Ersatz Brigade “Grossdeutchland”  -Tigergruppe “Meyer”.
The first German unit to have the new Tiger tank was the 1st Company from the Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung 502, which was sent urgently to the Leningrad area in August 1942. The first four tanks arrived on August 20, entering combat for the first time on 29 August. At the end of this day 2 Tigers were operational and the other two were recovered and put into service shortly thereafter.
Since the arrival of the Tiger, their enemies tried by all means to overshadow its performances and eliminate the halo of unbeatenness that was spreading little by little among the troops. In reality, the first Tiger tank was lost on November 25, 1942 when it sank into a quagmire without possibility of being recovered. The tank was blown up by Germans troops to avoid capture. In any case, the terrain of Leningrad was not the most suitable for the first deployment of a new tank model, whose behavior in combat was completely unknown.
Despite a very tough start on the Eastern front, early in 1943 the tables turned and the Tiger was able to prove its worth. During the Soviet advance, the Tigers of the Heeres sPzAbt 502 destroyed 160 Soviet tanks in two and a half months against a loss of only 6 Tigers, 3 of which were destroyed by their crews when they got stuck in the mud. And the other 3 suffered destruction of their drivetrains but no penetration in vital parts.
When Tiger could take advantage of its powerful gun, it was capable of hitting stationary targets up to 3 km away, and moving targets up to 2 km away. Its armour was also very effective and there is a documented case of a Tiger from the Heeres sPzAbt 503 that received 227 hits from an anti-tank rifle, 14 hits from a 57mm anti-tank gun and 11 76mm armour-piercing hits in six hours of fierce combat against the Soviets. Despite all these damages, the tank managed to travel 60 km under its own power, and was later sent to Germany for repair.
After its debut in Russia, the next destination was the burning sands of the North African desert, quite a contrast. At the end of November 1942 the first Tigers of the Heeres sPzAbt 501 arrived in Bizerte (Tunisia), under the command of Erwin Rommel. The battalion’s endowment would be completed at the end of January 1943, being composed by 20 Tiger and 25 Pz.III N medium tanks.
It seems that the first combat of the Tiger in North Africa took place on December 1, 1942 against M-3 Lee tanks in Tebourba (Tunisia). On this occasion they received fire from distances of no more than 100 meters without suffering considerable damage and managed to destroy two M-3 Lee.
The British destroyed the first Tiger tank in February 1943 during combat near Pont du Fahs (Tunisia). On that occasion a formation made up of 2 Tigers and 9 Pz.III and IVs were repelled by British 6-pounders (57mm) anti-tank guns that opened fire from 400 meters away destroying both Tiger tanks.
Although the Tiger‘s stay in North Africa was not very long, only until May 1943, in a period of 6 months the Tigers of the Heeres sPzAbt 501 and 503 destroyed around 170 Allied tanks against really low losses, since the number of Tiger tanks deployed there at the same time was never more than 30 or 35.
The real test came to the Tiger during Operation Zitadel, more specifically in the Battle of Kursk, the greatest armoured clash in Military History. For the first time, the Tiger was going to face large enemy armoured formations with a large number of anti-tank guns and with a favorable climate for large vehicles and troops movements.
On July 5, 1943, the day the German advance on the Kursk salient began, some 210 Tiger tanks were deployed, accompanied by about 260 Panther tanks and 90 Ferdinand heavy tank destroyers. Usually, Tigers tanks were used to form the spearhead in German attacks. The German tanks used in Kursk a triangular formation known as “Panzerkeil”. This formation consisted of the Tigers at the tip, the Panther tanks at the base and the lighter and more vulnerable Pz.III and Pz.IV tanks on the sides.
The Panzerkeil formation had mixed results, as there were battles in which the Germans managed to break through the dense Soviet defenses and other occasions in which the Germans were brought to a halt at the cost of enormous losses. In addition, in Kursk there were large areas mined by the Soviets, which depending on the assigned sector, could mean the success or failure of the advance.
The climax of Operation Zitadel occurred on July 12, the day the Battle of Prokhorovka took place. That day the II SS-Panzer Corps repulsed the onslaught of the Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army. The Germans had almost 300 tanks, (including 15 Tigers), and the Soviets almost 800, (including more than 500 T-34s and 30 Churchill tanks).
At the Battle of Prokhorovka, Pavel Rotmistrov as commander of the 5th Guards Tank Army, gave orders that his tanks should move forward firing at full speed to counteract the effectiveness of the Tigers gun. Contrary to what was intended, the first to be harmed by this tactic were the Soviet tanks themselves, which greatly reduced their accuracy and had serious communication problems between the attacking units.
In this action the German ace Michael Wittmann (on the image) led a platoon of 4 Tigers from the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division (LSSAH) in support of the 1st SS-Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion. In a combat that lasted 3 hours he produced severe losses to the Soviet 181st Tank Brigade firing at them from 1,000 meters forcing them to retreat. His platoon was undamaged and even Wittmann survived the collision with a burning T-34. During the Russian campaign he destroyed more than 100 armoured vehicles, most of it in March 1943.
Michael Wittman (on the image) became a legend after a series of actions carried out in his Tiger E tank with unquestionable courage and determination despite propaganda. The most spectacular action took place on June 13, 1944 in Villers Bocage. There, Wittman destroyed 10 tanks, 13 transport vehicles and 2 anti-tank guns of the British 7th Armored Division in only 15 minutes !!. During his 2 years of service with the Tiger he managed to destroy 138 enemy tanks and 132 anti-tank guns.
Finally, the battle of Prokhorovka saw the loss of more than 200 T-34 medium tanks, about 90 T-70 light tanks and 12 Churchill heavy tanks by the Soviet side against only 20 armored vehicles by the German side. Despite this clear Soviet defeat, the Germans could not penetrate further and manage to clear the Kursk salient, so it can be said that they were the losers of the battle, although that July 12, neither of the two forces achieved their objectives. Whether it was for this battle or not, Hitler ordered the end of Operation Zitadel on July 13 and it was the end of the German advance on the Eastern Front.
Although the German strategic objectives were held back by the capacity and determination of Soviet Forces, all Tiger units fought fiercely and caused enormous damage to the enemy considering the few Tiger tanks deployed. For example, the Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung 505 destroyed 164 Soviet armoured vehicles against losses of only 5 Tigers and similar figures can be found in the rest of the units.
Since 1944 the Tigers must have fought in retreat or in counterattacks in many of the combats in which they participated, they lost the initiative in large operations as in 1943. It may seem contradictory, but it was at this stage of the war that the Tiger was able to squeeze all its qualities to the fullest.
Sometimes a single Tiger had to face an entire Battalion of enemy tanks, so its chances of success were practically nil. On August 8, 1944 a Tiger from the Schwere SS Panzer Abteilung 102 under the command of Unterscharführer (Sergeant) Willy Fey destroyed 14 of the 15 Shermans of a British column in Normandy. Finally the German Battalion lost all its Tigers but in return, in just 6 months they destroyed 227 Allied tanks.
The Tiger tanks left an indelible mark in all actions which they performed, in very unfavorable conditions in many cases. The following story may or may not be true, but the case of a single Tiger tank that stopped the advance of an entire Allied Division is told. This happened in France in the summer of 1944, and before being destroyed, the German tank eliminated 25 enemy armoured vehicles.
Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung (sPzAbt) 501 was formed in February 1942 and received the Tiger tank in September of that same year. In mid-May 1943 it surrendered in Tunisia, but was rebuilt in September with new Tigers and sent to Russia in November, where it remained until July 1944, when it lost all its Tiger tanks. After its withdrawal from Russia the Battalion was equipped with Tiger II tanks and sent back to the East. It is redesignated as sPzAbt 424 in late November 1944, and again in February 1945 as schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 512 with Jagdtiger tank destroyers. Finally they surrendered to British Forces in May 1945. The kill ratio of the battalion’s Tiger tanks between 1942-1945 was 3.75:1, claiming the destruction of 450 armoured vehicles.
Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung (sPzAbt) 502 was formed in late May 1942 and was the first unit to receive Tiger tanks. In August 1942 it was sent to Leningrad with only 4 Tigers in the 1st Company, although the number was later increased to 45 in April 1943. It was in the East until the summer of 1944 when it was taken to the Western Theater. In January 1945 the Battalion was redesignated as sPzAbt 511 and remained in the fight until May 9, 1945. The kill ratio of the battalion’s Tiger tanks between 1942-1945 was the highest among all sPzAbt, reaching 13.8:1, claiming the destruction of 1,400 armoured vehicles and 2,000 guns.
Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung (sPzAbt) 503 was created in May 1942 and although it should have been sent to North Africa, it had to be deployed in Russia in January 1943. Then it arrived with only 20 Tigers, which in April increased to 45. In The entire Operation Zitadel only lost 8 Tiger tanks that were later replaced. It was in the East until the end of April 1944 and then was sent to France. In July it entered combat for the first time and suffered heavy losses that were replaced with Tiger II tanks in September. In October it was transferred to Hungary with 47 tanks, (45 Tiger IIs), where it remains until April 1945. Later, the unit retreat to Austria and in May it was in Bohemia when the war ended. The kill ratio of the battalion’s Tiger tanks between 1942-1945 was 6.75:1, claiming the destruction of 1,700 armoured vehicles.

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